Punk! Rock! Respect! Catchphrases! Cookie Puss! FINALLY! The Rock! Has Come Back! To SmackDown! WWE Championship!
On April 29, 1999, SmackDown debuted on UPN. Rumored to be named after The Rock's wildly popular catchphrases, the show was originally planned to be an extension of the Monday Night Raw brand. The major storyline was that The Undertaker and The Ministry had abducted Stephanie McMahon that Monday (April 26), and Stone Cold Steve Austin would run in to make the save. The entire angle would end up with Vince McMahon as the secret leader of The Ministry, which still makes absolutely no sense.
T'was a simpler time. T'was a better time.
But I digress. A few years later, The Rock would no longer be the star of "his" show. In fact, he last stepped inside the ring on SmackDown in 2002. That is over ten years of "The Blue Brand" carrying on without the star of the show.
Tonight though, that all changes. Tonight, The Rock FINALLY comes back home.
With Rocky becoming a
part time seasonal worker, it's great to see him spread out over both Raw and SmackDown. We only get to see "The Great One" for a short time before he runs back off to Hollywood. It makes complete sense for WWE to book him on as many dates as possible.
Hell, why not put him on Saturday Morning Slam and/or Main Event? Lets spread the ratings bump to all of WWE's shows.
However, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. Lets focus on the next few weeks right now. The Rocky will be challenging CM Punk at Royal Rumble on Jan. 27 for the WWE Championship. I was initially worried these two might not have the best chemistry together. Although Rock vs. John Cena was a "once in a lifetime" event, I didn't really walk away from that feud impressed with either man's work.
After the promo Punk and Rocky cut on Monday (Jan. 7) though, I have no such worries anymore.
These are two men who understand the professional wrestling business. Their work on the mic may appeal to different demographics, but they work together far better than I expected. They know how to play off of each other, when to be dead serious and when to go all out with the immature humor. Each seem to be able to flick the switch at will, and fans are left wondering what will they do next.
This will be an exciting feud to watch.
Tonight we will see how Punk and Rock will continue this rivalry. Although the majority of their interactions will occur on Raw, it will be interesting to see how each utilize SmackDown. It's a fine line to walk between building up the angle and not overshadowing the rest of the show. It would be a shame if everyone else gets lost in the shuffle.
I have a sneaking suspicion though, that won't happen.
Show! Del Rio! Ricardo! Sheamus! Orton! Who's Up Next? World Heavyweight Championship!
Last week (Jan. 4) Sheamus and Randy Orton shared a few stare downs, indicating WWE will be pushing these two together for the foreseeable future, which I'm perfectly okay with. Both men have shown great work within the ring, and I cannot wait to see them work together. Fans have been demanding an Orton heel turn for years. It has seemed like he's been phoning it in recently. Matching him up against one of the promotion's top stars -- instead of leaving him to RKO the entire midcard -- will hopefully allow him to have some fun again.
On top of that, Sheamus will be forced to up his game and not rely on cheap pops to get over. Fans want to cheer Orton. If Sheamus doesn't bring the heat, he's going to be getting it from the audience.
Once again though, the World Heavyweight Championship is pushed down the card. The Big Show is doing some of his best work in a long time, but a trilogy of pay-per-view (PPV) matches with Sheamus has really failed to highlight how great he's been.
However, I'm actually really interested to see his work with Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez.
As strange as it is to say, Del Rio has won me over as a face. He has apologized to Ricardo for the years of mistreatment. "The Mexican Aristocrat" is finally turning over a new leaf and will fight for honor and dignity instead of pride and greed. This is a man who does not demand respect, but instead is willing to work for it.
It is also important to note that WWE is currently touring the Southwest. If WWE did not plan on using Del Rio to get a pop from the Mexican fanbase, then I don't know Vince McMahon like I think I do.
So it looks like Show and Del Rio will be battling for the World Heavyweight Championship while Sheamus and Orton go at it for respect. And, of course, one always has to keep in mind that Dolph Ziggler is still waiting in the wings with the Money in the Bank contract.
Right now, I enjoy how SmackDown is shaping up, but I wouldn't be too shocked if these five men start switching partners by the time WrestleMania season winds down. The title needs to be on the show's top stars. As much as I am enjoying Show and Del Rio, I don't think they really meet that criteria.
That being said, I'm really curious as to how WWE pulls this off.
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!