Previously on SmackDown
Sheamus beat Damien Sandow in an Irish street fight that was too heavy on Gaelic charm, but should prove that the Duke of Decency can hang in a WWE main event. Thought we proved that last year, but...
We were treated to Paul Heyman as a guest on Miz TV, in a segment that served to keep Lesnar - Punk on our minds and remind us that the Intercontinental title is the duck-faced one's ceiling right now. He jawed with Curtis Axel and got jacked for his efforts.
Kaitlyn impersonated AJ and cost her a match. As well as these ladies could mimic the other, in retrospect, we probably all should have sensed that this feud was going off the rails long before Photoshop became a part of the story on Raw.
What looked like Daniel Bryan acting as a motivational coach for his buddy Kane ended up looking like a tease for a heel turn as DB shoved his former Hell No partner right into an RKO loss in his match with Randy Orton. It should comes as no surprise that "Dan" was great in both potential roles.
Ryback squashed Justin Gabriel and then was mocked by Chris Jericho as their feud became a real thing. Also from the "making things official" department, Vince McMahon slummed on down to Smackdown so that Teddy Long could announce his line-up for the ladder match to earn a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC). Also from the "squash" department - alright, it wasn't a squash, but...damn, did Christian and the Usos beat The Shield quick.
And just to mix up the "babyface crashes the heel's celebration" formula, and further the shades of gray in their double turn, Alberto Del Rio called out Dolph Ziggler, then bailed and let his buddy Ricardo Rodriguez take a beating while "little Ziggy" posed with the belt.
(NOTE: This show was taped on Tuesday for broadcast tonight. Previews are spoiler free, but results are available here)
From the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka!
Has the death of the brand split been greatly exaggerated? Or is CM Punk's "guest star" billing for tonight's show a tacit admission that the Friday night show plays second fiddle? Regardless, minus Brock Lesnar, expect Punk to build toward Money in the Bank and on his issues with "best friend" Paul Heyman.
In news that no one is more excited about than superfan #CC over here, Captain Charisma gets one more match against Randy Orton in a warm-up for the battle for the red briefase in a little more than a week's time.
A series of matches build off the fallout from Monday night, as Kaitlyn will get another shot at Alicia Fox and WWE is hyping Del Rio and the Showoff crossing paths again after Dolph cost ADR his champ vs. champ match against John Cena.
The Usos will look to get back on the track the were on last Friday night when they face Team Rhodes Scholars coming off their loss Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins on Raw.
Expect to pop for:
Christian. I hesitate to include him here, as anyone who's been around Cageside Seats for a while knows that I am the aforementioned superfan. But when I read that he'd be facing the Viper tonight, I was flooded with a wave of nostalgia for my favorite series of WWE matches in recent memory.
I won't argue that he should be carrying the WWE title, or even has the "it" that his former tag team partner possessed. But just a quick look at the ways that creative has been able to use him since his return a few weeks back should show why he was such a hot topic in Rumor Roundup for months.
Eat up airtime with a main eventer in a solid match with some history to it? Check. Slot into random tag matches? Check. Have the credentials to fill out a pay-per-view (PPV) spotfest made up of former titleholders? Check. Reliably work with younger guys and be willing to put them over? Check and check.
He's Jericho without the side projects. He was instantly a big part of the solution to mid-card face problem, even though he essentially only replaced Kofi Kingston. But Christian's an upgrade over the Wildcat, because of his place in history, his championship legacy and his promo ability.
Look, he's the pro wrestling equivalent of a good #2 starter in baseball, or a really good #3. As so-called smart fans, you don't have to love him, but you should respect the job he does.
The heat is on:
The blue brand. Just a little while ago, I was dreaming of a new golden age for Smackdown. But this "guest starring" business with the Best in the World and the general make-up of Long's MitB match have me wondering if the secondary show isn't getting shoved to the side.
I don't think that many of us would have too big of a problem if the Friday night mission statement became "the future" as Teddy described his plans for the PPV match featuring Ambrose, Sandow, Fandango, Antonio Cesaro, Jack Swagger, Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes. But I don't think the paymasters at SyFy would be okay with it, and that's why we get a bunch of hype about Punk's appearance.
Maybe it's all part of a strategy to create their own, lesser brand of competition - like they've done with the WWE title and the big gold belt. I like to assume that WWE has a strategy in mind, even when most evidence runs to the contrary. But at some point, when the show consists largely of rematches from a few nights ago or stars that they imply aren't that big of a deal, you wonder why you watch, you know?
The 'expect to pop for' section. I don't want to get too big of a head here, but the Smackdown preview kind of has its own Sports Illustrated cover jinx going on. First the "rise of Smackdown" I referenced above, and then Ricardo Rodriguez.
Yikes. Maybe I really shouldn't have written about my favorite wrestler in that section...
Is the Friday night show being ghetto-ized, or are they just burning off some slow summer weeks?
Give us your thoughts below, join our open thread tonight and have a great weekend, Cagesiders!