WWE Smackdown recap: Sheamus, Daniel Bryan building nicely to WrestleMania match

WrestleManiaWorld Wrestling Entertainment Inc.ConcertsMusicEntertainmentDavid OtungaSports

A significant portion of the WrestleMania hype has been built around a rematch between Triple H and the Undertaker, but in reality, that's not the only rematch fans will be treated to April 1.

This year's WrestleMania will see another repeat contest, though it's one viewers at home missed the first time around. At last year's show, Sheamus was scheduled to defend his United States Championship against Daniel Bryan.

The match was bumped from the pay-per-view broadcast and turned into a dark match. Not only that, the match broke down and became an over-the-top-rope battle royale.

When April 1 rolls around, Sheamus and Bryan will have a rare opportunity to show the world just what they can do on the grand stage with a second chance. This time, though, the World Heavyweight Championship will be on the line.

On tonight's live Smackdown, Bryan addressed the crowd, saying no one believed he would main-event WrestleMania, and now he's proved them wrong. Well, at least he's in a showcase match, if nothing else.

The two men are at very different places than they were a year ago, and both have been built as credible main-event contenders. They deserve this opportunity, and now it's up to them, as well as the booking team, to keep interest strong in the match.

Both men got off to strong starts this week. Sheamus defeated two former world champions in Mark Henry and The Miz, while Bryan definitively put down fan favorite Santino Marella and went toe-to-toe with CM Punk.

The match between the two is, at best, the fourth-most important match on the WrestleMania card, but hopefully these two rising stars will shine bright with whatever opportunity they're given.

Quick Hits

* World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan and WWE Champion CM Punk met in a champion-vs.-champion match, much as they did a few weeks ago on Raw. In that match, Chris Jericho interfered, and it was obvious this match wouldn't have a clean finish, either. The two wrestled a strong match that ended with Sheamus preventing Bryan from escaping and allowing Punk to score the victory, but Raw General Manager John Laurinaitis ordered the match to continue because of the outside interference. Bryan responded by scoring a pinfall by holding the ropes, but Smackdown General Manager Theodore Long ordered the match to restart this time. At this point, the two kicked it into high gear, elevating the match to the next level. In the end, both men's shoulders were on the mat during a pin, and the referee couldn't declare a winner.

This match worked on a number of levels. First, from an in-ring perspective, Punk and Bryan proved they are really two of the best and that they're capable of working well together. WWE would be making a mistake to not book a high-profile bout - or a series of them -- between these two superstars in the future. Second, it advanced the storyline animosity between Laurinaitis and Long. Some may complain about the show-ending angle involving two non-wrestlers, but in this case, it worked.

Punk's pre-match promo was great, as well. He drew on the comparisons between his straight-edge lifestyle and Bryan's vegan one to create a few lines that, if nothing else, brought a smile to the face of this fan. The line about AJ shaving her head was gold, in my opinion.

* The match between Sheamus and The Miz was really enjoyable for a television match, especially an opener. Reports have said that Miz has been in the doghouse for being unmotivated, but he seems to have re-lit a fire under himself in recent weeks, putting on solid performances. Hopefully, WWE comes up with something meaningful for The Miz to do at WrestleMania.

* The tag team match between the teams of Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler and R-Truth and Kofi Kingston was all right but nothing special. Ziggler won by using dirty tactics and pinning Kingston, which was a nice throwback to their seemingly never-ending feud a few years back. It was surprising to see Kingston and R-Truth, who just scored a non-title victory over the tag team champions on Raw, lose in their second match as a team.

* A match between Mark Henry and the Big Show turned into an angle when Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes interrupted the match to show clips of Big Show's collision with sumo wrestler Akebono at WrestleMania 21. Big Show left the ring and the contest, which wasn't as good as some of their previous encounters but wasn't horrible, to chase after Rhodes without even attempting to pin Henry. Could the rumors of  Big Show vs. Shaq at WrestleMania turn out to be false? Maybe we'll see a Rhodes and Henry vs. Big Show and Shaq tag match instead.

* In a rematch from Raw, David Otunga once again defeated Ezekiel Jackson with Laurinaitis and Long in the respective corners. This match was better than Monday's, but it was still far from great. The future doesn't look too bright for Jackson, who once seemed to be a pet project for WWE management but has now seemingly been relegated to jobber status.

* Drew McIntyre lost to The Great Khali. Has the whole angle of McIntyre being forced to step up his game to keep his job really gone this route? At this point, McIntyre should be begging Long to wish him the best in his future endeavors.

* Bryan's opening promo with The Miz and Sheamus was entertaining. As a huge "Rocky" fan -- the fourth is the best, by the way -- I loved the references, especially the celebration yell with AJ playing the role of Adrian. If Bryan drops the title to Sheamus, which seems inevitable at this point, I wouldn't be opposed to him actually forming a tag team with The Miz. Yes, it may be counter-intuitive to logic, given The Miz's torment of Bryan on NXT, but this is a case where overlooking the past could lead to a bright future.

Match Rundown

Sheamus d. The Miz

Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger d. Kofi Kingston and R-Truth

The Great Khali d. Drew McIntyre

Mark Henry d. Big Show by countout (presumably)

David Otunga d. Ezekiel Jackson

CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan went to a double pin with no winner declared

My Take

I thought tonight's episode of Smackdown was exceptionally strong compared with what the show has been offering. Part of that stems from the live nature of the show, compared with being taped, as WWE always goes big for these special events. Sure, the Khali and tag matches weren't spectacular, but they didn't bring down the show too much. Most of the nit-picky negatives were offset by the excellent wrestling and storytelling offered in the main event.

Comment of the Night

Due to my inability to watch the show live as it aired, there is no Comment of the Night. But be sure to join us again on Monday to enter the competition.

Share your thoughts on the show in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

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WrestleManiaWorld Wrestling Entertainment Inc.ConcertsMusicEntertainmentDavid OtungaSports
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