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Smackdown: The champs are here
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling


Two title matches are on the card tonight, one featuring a last chance for a legend, and one providing a first chance at retribution for a giant. Add in a non-title tag match, and there are plenty of title implications to open the gates on the new year.

The broadcast opens with a recap of Orton’s injury in the stairwell from last week, treating his tumble at the hands of Wade Barrett with much seriousness. We go from there to our first title match.

Match #1 – Booker T vs. Cody Rhodes (champion) – for the Intercontinental Championship

The challenger is all smiles and confidence, despite Rhodes controlling things early on. Booker T fights his way in with a high back drop, then by chasing Rhodes to the floor. The champ drops Booker T neck-first onto the security barrier before the first break.

Coming back, Rhodes hits a moonsault off the second rope that turns into a clothesline. After Booker T kicks out, he misses a scissors kick, only to have another chance after Rhodes also misses a Beautiful Disaster kick. Booker lands his scissors kick but only get a two-count. Missing a third, very tired looking attempt at the kick, Booker T is left open for a successful Beautiful Disaster and Rhodes gets a clean win.

Winner via pinfall and STILL Intercontinental Champion: Cody Rhodes

After the break, Rhodes is strutting backstage when his brother Dustin finds him. The occasionally bizarre one congratulates Cody, but the champ still wants nothing to do with him.

In Teddy Long’s office, Ryder officially resigns as Assistant GM and Santino enters to pitch himself as the replacement. Since Drew McIntyre is also in the office, Long does what all hiring committees should do: he makes a match between them, with the stipulation that Santino will get the job with a win. If McIntyre wins, then maybe he won’t be fired tonight. Aksana tops off the moment by securing a dinner date with Long.

In one last backstage bit, Alicia Fox and AJ are talking about the latter’s date with World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan the night before, and Bryan arrives in time to awkwardly hear their doubts regarding his chances against Big Show.

Match #2 – Hornswoggle vs. Heath Slater – Over the Top Rope Challenge

Hornswoggle ducks and runs as best as he can, and when Slater catches his cross-body off the ropes he grabs a handful of red hair and manages to send Slater over the top to the floor.

Winner via elimination: Hornswoggle

Predictably, Slater isn’t happy and returns to the ring to do what he apparently couldn’t in the match: he roughs Hornswoggle up. Making the save tonight is Justin Gabriel, who drops his former partner and finishes him with a 450 Splash.

Match #3 – Ted DiBiase vs. Hunico (w/ Camacho)

A ground-based fight at first, until DiBiase lands a dropkick and knee-lift off the ropes. Hunico pulls it out with an impossible-to-escape submission/slash pinning combination.

Winner via pinfall: Hunico

After the break, Wade Barrett comes to the ring to deliver the news on Randy Orton. Namely, he says his career is done, and this leaves the Royal Rumble wide open for Barrett to win. Sheamus comes down to promote his own chances at winning, as does Jinder Mahal. All this talk breaks down into a fight, one which Sheamus wins.

Match #4 – Santino vs. Drew McIntyre

McIntyre lands a snap suplex, but he is soon afterwards knocked off the ropes while setting up a superplex. This leaves him open for The Cobra, and he suffers a clean loss.

Winner via pinfall: Santino

McIntyre meets with Long backstage and is informed that the loss was “strike two”. Santino, on the other hand, celebrates his win and new position.

Match #5 – Epico & Primo (w/ Rosa Mendes) vs. Air Boom (Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne) (champions)

Kingston is an early recipient of a boot to the head from Primo on the apron, leading to a double-team assault. Kingston escapes with a cross-body on Primo, making it to his corner and bringing in Bourne. Primo is soon set up for Air Bourne, but Epico pulls his partner to safety and Primo gets the pin on Bourne after he crashes and burns.

Winners via pinfall: Epico & Primo

Matt Striker is backstage with a very confident Big Show, but Daniel Bryan interrupts with his cockier-by-the-minute attitude. Big Show more or less asks Bryan not to force him to make tonight painful.

Match #6 – Natalya vs. Tamina

Both Jim Neidhart and Jimmy Snuka get a video package before this one, which unfortunately overshadows the match. Natalya and Tamina go down after a double-cross body, but Tamina is up first and plants Natalya with a Samoan Drop. She chases this with a Superfly Splash for the win.

Winner via pinfall: Tamina

Match #7 – Big Show vs. Daniel Bryan (champion) – for the World Heavyweight Championship

Mark Henry is at ringside for this one while Bryan enters to a somewhat mixed reception. As the champ keeps his distance, he finds an equalizer in the steel steps outside, running Big Show into them and following with kicks back in the ring. The challenger responds with a spear, then lifts Bryan up for a chokeslam. Bryan turns that into a guillotine choke followed by the LeBell Lock, but Big Show powers out of the hold.

Bryan slides to the floor to escape a WMD, whereupon he gets into Henry’s face. Henry shoves the champ down, and Bryan urges the ref to call for the bell as a result of outside interference.

Winner via disqualification: Daniel Bryan

Bryan celebrates with great gusto, but not to great cheers, while Big Show stares down incredulously at Henry.

Dave Hillhouse is ready to start his annual Royal Rumble retrospective on video; it’s still the most wonderful time of the year.