What you need to know
Uh...it's the holidays?
As you all know, Christmas went off as scheduled on Wednesday. And, if we listen to Stephanie McMahon, that was because Mark Henry defeated Damien Sandow on Raw. No word on the effect of the Team Total Divas latest victory in a Twelve Women-a-Tagging match or Santino Marella and The Great Khali vanquishing 3MB from the Carol-Off, but I have to think those landed a few people from Creative on the "Naughty" list.
The mid-winter taping schedule also means that a lot of mid-carders are getting moments in the spotlight. These may or may not mean anything later, but some, like the winning streak of Sin Cara, probably do. Others, like Ryback (or anyone) beating Kofi Kingston, probably don't.
One that seems like it would matter is Fandango defeating Dolph Ziggler for a shot at the Intercontinental title. But given how current IC champ Big E Langston seems to be feuding with The Shield, and has had heavily hyped moments with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in the past week, I don't see Summer Rae's beau winning the white and gold strap any time soon.
Daniel Bryan's issues with The Wyatt Family seem to have shifted back to Bray Wyatt trying to recruit The Beard, as he, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have refrained from pummeling the fan favorite too much in their recent run-ins. They have shown no such restraint in dealing with The Rhodes Brothers and, in fact, may be close to taking the tag team titles from Cody and Goldust.
And while WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton had a Christmas break courtesy of The Authority, CM Punk and John Cena stayed in pursuit of HHH's inner circle with multi-man matches against The Hounds of Justice on recent shows. Cena is still due for a rematch from the unified champ, while Hunter still owes Punk a win from 2011.
What to look out for
This episode was actually filmed last week in a time before Christmas, in a land called Corpus Christi. Previews are spoiler-free, but you can read them right here.
Yay! We are being promised a speech from John Cena. Given his wounded wing, that might be all we get from the leader of the Ce-Nation. But a role in another six-man tag with The Shield might not be out of the question, either.
What can we expect from Orton now that he is not only rested, but seemingly back in the good graces of The Authority?
The WWE.com preview brings us...Main Event continuity? The Real Americans have beef with the tag champs after Goldy defeated Jack Swagger and then Cody fought off his partner in crime. Tonight, Antonio Cesaro goes for revenge against the younger Rhodes.
The brothers will probably want to keep an eye on Harper and Rowan tonight, as The Wyatt Family faces The Usos. Bray's clan has their number, and their sights are set every bit as much on the bronze eagles as they are on Daniel Bryan...
What they should do
Stop pissing away golden opportunities to make Wade Barrett a star - or at least a useful character.
The first season of NXT and the Nexus angle should have cemented Barrett as a main event player. Almost as much as current "face of the WWE" Orton, he looked like what people expected when you said pro wrestler. Even more than The Viper, he was a polished speaker. Now we can blame the booking of his faction's feud with John Cena. Or the rumors that he's a bit disinterested backstage and doesn't fight for a push. But from the Corre to the most non-eventful Intercontinental title reigns in history to what we've seen on the Raw and Smackdown over the past month, they are running out of chances to make use of a 6' 7" athlete with a deep voice and a deeper personal history from which to mine character gold.
The transition of the Bad News Barrett gimmick from web series The JBL and Cole Show to television has been lazy at best and embarrassing at worst. Rather than continuing what we saw on YouTube with interesting interactions with other Superstars and WWE personnel, they've given him a podium and asked him to deliver his dire messages to the ether. That would also provide a bridge to actual wrestling feuds, something that we'll hopefully get at some point, but not something Creative seems to be in any hurry to get to.
Instead of taking the character anywhere new, like as a mouthpiece for The Authority - where he could occasionally deliver good news in keeping with their (un)reality era straddling of face and heel - they've relied on the old "insult the town we're in" cheap heat antics. One of the many problems with that is, Barrett is no Ted DiBiase, and impersonating a Salvation Army bell-ringer ain't The Basketball Challenge.
They need to think outside of the box on the gimmick and/or get him into a feud quick. Otherwise, they might as well scrap the whole thing until after WrestleMania, because air time is about to be a precious commodity.
Of course, it may not even matter. Audiences may have already given Wade Barrett his last shot - and found him to be...Bad News.
What we're afraid they will do
Not really afraid of anything. Smackdown has been a show that has relied heavily on putting the wrestling product first and foremost lately. If they keep that up tonight, we'll be just fine.
The last Smackdown of 2013 graces your screen tonight at 8PM Eastern on Syfy - who's watching?
Watch along with your CSS pals in the open thread, and feel free to chime in with Good or Bad News ahead of time in the comments below!