Previewing the Feb.1, 2013 episode of WWE "SmackDown", the fall-out show to "Royal Rumble"; featuring the retaining World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, a surprise return of a WWE Superstar, and MORE!
Del Rio! Show! Ricardo! Beat Downs! Blood Feuds! World Heavyweight Championship!
What a great few weeks for SmackDown's main event, no?
Three weeks ago (Jan. 11), Alberto Del Rio won the World Heavyweight Championship from The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match. It was a glorious battle that ended with Del Rio tipping the announce table onto Show. It was a clever ending to a great match, and helped put over Del Rio in a huge way.
Then last Friday (Jan. 25), The Big Show managed to get the better of Alberto Del Rio by tipping the announce table onto the champion. It's that little bit of psychology that makes Show so amazing. When Del Rio did it, it was a shrewd way to fall a giant.
When Show does it, it's a bully trying to humiliate the underdog.
The same scene played out over Royal Rumble (Jan. 27) and Monday Night Raw (Jan. 28). Del Rio tied Show's legs to the rope using a roll of duct tape. It was an ending almost identical to Extreme Rules 2010 when John Cena duct taped Batista's legs to the ring post in a Last Man Standing Match.
Although it spits in the face of the "Seven Year Rule," the ending worked far better this time around. It makes a lot more sense for someone of Del Rio's stature to use the gimmick instead of "Mr. Never Give Up" having to resort to such tricks.
On the following night, The Big Show tied Del Rio's hand to rope using -- you guessed it -- duct tape. This allowed "The World's Largest Athlete" to layeth the smackdown on Del Rio's personal ring announcer and his mejor amigo, Ricardo Rodriguez. Again, Show used Del Rio's own tactics to humiliate the champion. This is how you get monster heel heat. This is how you create a babyface that the crowd roots for.
This is how you take a regular feud and make it mean so much more.
"The Mexican Aristocrat" is being positioned as a Latino hero. In a promotion with an ugly history of racial humiliation, I fully support this gimmick. Why not give a large part of your audience someone to connect with? Why not promote a minority representative to the highest threshold?
This is not to say that Del Rio needs to rely on his ethnic background; quite the opposite, actually. Del Rio is an amazing talent that has been squandered so far in WWE. The man has the in-ring ability to bring it every match. His promos need a little bit of work, but he has the natural charisma to hide any flaws.
And it looks like he's getting better each and every show.
The changes to his character are subtle, but enough to make the average fan want to see him win. He's no longer the arrogant jerk who demands respect. He is fighting for honor. He is fighting for his friend.
He is fighting for the WWE Universe as a whole.
Now it looks like Del Rio vs. Show will continue for at least one more pay-per-view (PPV). Depending on how the Elimination Chamber match shakes out, I wouldn't even be too shocked to see it go into WrestleMania 29. My only fear is if Del Rio holds the strap uninterrupted the whole time. It wasn't fun seeing Sheamus pick up win after win -- after win after win -- against Del Rio. Although Show is a far better heel, and Del Rio is proving to be a far better face, it's just a storyline that does not lead itself to repetition.
I will admit, though, that I can see myself being pleasantly surprised. If there's a pairing that could get enough mileage out of an extended feud, this would be it.
As always, we have to remember that Dolph Ziggler is still "Mr. Money in the Bank." At any moment, he can run down into the ring and be granted an automatic World Heavyweight Championship Match. Since winning the briefcase at Money in the Bank 2012 (July 15), I have been begging Ziggler to cash in. I want to see how well he does with the title. I want to see if he has what it takes to be champion.
Now, though? I'm actually content to let him wait in the wings. Let's see WWE build up it's new babyface. Ziggler has five more months until the contract runs out. I'm in no rush to see him waste it.
One! More! Thing!
Rumor has it -- read: spoilers -- that a certain WWE Superstar will be making his BIG return tonight. Who will it be? Let me just say that it will be a very, very "interesting" surprise.
Hopefully this has prepared you for the night's festivities. Leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to, and please join the entire CSS Friday night gang in the live blog TONIGHT!