What you need to know
There may be too many cooks in The Authority's kitchen. With HHH and Stephanie McMahon on vacation, Raw General Manager Brad Maddox and new Director of Operations Kane couldn't get on the same page, so Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero booked WWE champ Randy Orton in a handicap match against the tag champs on Monday night. When the Viper decided to walk away from his bout against the Rhodes brothers, The Big Show put him through the announce table.
Curtis Axel is still Intercontinental champion, and he's still affiliated with Paul Heyman. Ryback, on the other hand, is not - as he was
buried scapegoated by the advocate for CM Punk's victory at Hell in a Cell. Then the big guy got rolled up by R-Truth. Make of that what you will.
Total Divas-mania is running wild, brothers and sisters! The Bellas continue to circle the Divas champion, AJ Lee, and her enforcer Tamina Snuka. Meanwhile, the "Workhorse", Tyson Kidd is mixing return pop with "you're married to that chick from that reality show" pop to...still really only impress smarks in a mini feud with Fandango (that may be more about Summer Rae vs. Natalya, anyway).
World Heavyweight Champion (WHC) John Cena will defend his belt against the man he won it from at Survivor Series. The champ is capable of defeating multiple opponents at once, and Alberto Del Rio typically attacks his surgically repaired arm after he does so.
Former WHC and WWE champs Punk and Daniel Bryan have been targeted by The Wyatt Family and The Shield. At the November pay-per-view (PPV), they'll get their shot Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Earlier this week, they had the Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Luke Harper on the ropes when Bray Wyatt lead his troops to the ring. After some ruthless aggression-fueled confusion between the two young heel groups, they turned their attention to The Best and The Beard. But our heroes were rescued by Goldust, Cody Rhodes and The Usos.
What to look out for
WWE stayed in Manchester and taped the show that will air on SyFy tonight here in the States. So spoilers are out there (Cageside has them for you right here), but the preview you're reading was prepared without any knowledge of them.
Who's in charge? If the Smackdown GM can make matches on Raw, can we expect Maddox or The Big Red Exec to take the reins tonight?
Natalya's latest shot at AJ's butterfly belt came Wednesday on Main Event, and ended in typical fashion when Tamina kicked her in the head. Tonight, the Queen of Harts will get a chance to payback her fellow legacy Diva when they go one-on-one.
The Usos Monday night save may not have translated into jobs on a traditional Survivor Series team (yet?), but the twins have been rolling. That roll includes a win over Harper and Rowan a few weeks back, a feat they will get the chance to replicate in Manchester.
That stuff I said above about Heyman, Axel and Ryback? All of that stuff did happen - just a few days ago. But it might not matter, since Paul E may be gone for a while, and the IC champ and Mr. Back are teaming up to battle DB and the Straight-Edged Savior.
Plus, John Cena and ADR will re-enact the
Sylvester Stallone Terry Funk classic, Over the Top.
What they should do
Well, the easy answer is, "GIVE US A DAMN TEAM ELIMINATION MATCH"!
We'll find out soon enough if WWE is trolling us a little bit by announcing the Indie Powers tag match instead of the Meta Powers team match. So, let's chew on another internet wrestling community (IWC) sawhorse...the mid-card titles.
Now, don't get me wrong. The United States title looks fabulous on Dean Ambrose's shoulder. But it doesn't even seem like it's going to be used as a reason to break up the Hounds of Justice (not that I'm advocating for that yet). At least not in any way that couldn't be accomplished later with his saying, "you guys lost your belts way before I lost mine". That's a better weasel-y heel argument anyway, and I don't think anyone is clammoring for babyface Dean.
And as much as it pains this card-carrying McGillibuddy to say it, his father's title isn't doing anything for Curtis Axel right now, and vice versa.
But Big E Langston has some buzz going for him right now, and he has outstanding issues with the holders of both mid-card belts. Why not have him take the Intercontinental belt from Axel at Survivor Series...then set his sights on Ambrose's belt to get some real excitement around him heading into WrestleMania season?
I've given up on hoping they'll unify the titles or somehow do away with one of them. The powers-that-be seem to like having four singles titles around. But Langston collecting straps? It's a good story that they haven't done lately, even in the "singles champ who holds a tag belt" way that they usually like to tell it. Plus, Big E wearing carrying multiple belts on the way to the ring, a la friend of the WWE Floyd Mayweather is just a cool visual.
They're props, right? Use them.
What we're afraid they will do
They lost me at "arm wrestling contest". That's always scintillating television...
Smackdown has been feeling very much like filler lately - why do I think tonight won't reverse that trend?
Get ready for tonight by talking about what you would do with the mid-card titles, or your most effective arm wrestling techniques, below. Then join the gang in the Open Thread for more rousing Smackdown talk!