Show! Sheamus! Ziggler! Cena! Orton! Del Rio! Ryback SuperShow! Brand Unification!
Normally, I try to split up a show's storylines into multiple parts. Each angle and feud gets its own headline, followed by a brief description of what has transpired recently. I then go into an analysis of what has occurred and what I believe will happen next. I praise the good parts, criticize the bad, and all in all try to get people excited for the night's show. It is a formula that has worked pretty well over the past year.
The problem is that SmackDown has become a show without any defining direction.
The Big Show is the World Heavyweight Champion, and nominally that should make him the star of the "Blue Brand." While he's doing amazing heel work, everyone knows he's simply holding the title until Dolph Ziggler finally gets a chance to cash in.
Meanwhile, Sheamus has been pushed to the moon, but since losing the title he's been treading water. Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio continue to futz around in the midcard, while Wade Barrett has fallen to challenging for the Intercontinental Title. The tag team division continues to be a bright spot for the company, but it is stretched over Monday Night Raw and SmackDown.
The question becomes, "what makes SmackDown different from the seventeen other outlets for WWE content?"
There was a point when SmackDown was considered a " pro wrestling fan's" show, as opposed to Raw being a "sports entertainment fan's" show. The matches were longer -- and generally better -- and it gave the younger stars an opportunity to have the spotlight. With Raw expanding to three hours, though, I think that differentiation has gone by the wayside. We are able to get long matches on Monday night. We can see guys debut and grow on the main show instead of waiting for WWE's secondary show.
I'll ask again; what makes SmackDown different from everything else WWE offers?
I'm not trying to say the show is bad in anyway, it has generally been a fun show. But it has become empty in content. Nothing happens on Friday nights which anyone needs to see. Show and Sheamus will continue to do the same song and dance that they've been involved in for two-three months now. Ziggler looks to finally be getting a push, except the push is right into the maw of John Cena. Orton and Del Rio will continue to put on impressive matches, but fans -- at least WWE fans -- generally don't want to watch pure wrestling without any reason to care about it.
Somewhere down the line, SmackDown has become the breath mint of WWE. It gives you a cool burst of refreshment, but its only real purpose is to clean your wrestling palette at the end of a long week.
Maybe that is simply the way WWE wants it. The spoilers are out in the open -- in fact, they are right here -- and people can decide for themselves if they want to tune in. Even if you aren't the spoiler reading type, SmackDown has a decent track record of putting on an enjoyable show. You know exactly what to expect, and you rarely come away disappointed.
There is something to be said about that type of consistency in a business that relies on cheap swerves to build excitement.
So what can you expect tonight? The Big Show and Sheamus will set up their match at TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs in the same way they set up for the last two Pay-Per-Views (PPV's). Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton will have a match which will undoubtedly be amazing to watch. John Cena will show up and do his John Cena thing. The same can be said for Ryback. And the tag team division will continue to prove to be the best part of WWE week in and week out.
All told, it should be a fun show, even if no stories advance. Sometimes entertainment in and of itself is enough.
Hopefully, this has prepared you for the night's festivities. Leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to, and please join myself and the entire CSS Friday night gang in the live blog, right here.