Previously on SmackDown
It all seems so long ago.
Lone wolf Antonio Cesaro put on a great match in a losing effort when he faced Sheamus. Now that the Irishman has dealt with Damien Sandow on the Payback pay-per-view (PPV), could Cesaro and his new buddy Zeb Colter aim themselves at the Celtic Warrior?
A heel Dolph Ziggler was still World Heavyweight Champ (WHC), and keeping Teddy Long from his Hardees' cheeseburger earned him a tag team match with Big E Langston against Chris Jericho and a face Alberto Del Rio. There were no signs of the vicious attacks that ADR would level on the champ on Sunday, as a simple roll-up beat Ziggler last Friday.
Kaitlyn was still Divas champ, but there were signs of her meltdown - orchestrated by now champion AJ Lee via her secret admirer scheme.
Former Intercontinental title holder Wade Barrett was given a warning when Miz goaded him into going through with his match against Curtis Axel...another win for the Paul Heyman guy in a streak that would include his winning the belt at Payback.
Some guys who didn't lose their belts at the PPV were The Shield. But despite their opponents opening the show by almost killing each other, Daniel Bryan, Kane and Randy Orton pulled it together to hand the hounds of justice their first ever loss as a three-man team.
(NOTE: This show was taped on Tuesday for broadcast tonight. Previews are spoiler free, but results are available here)
A previously announced main event of Ambrose vs. Bryan was thrown by the wayside after HHH stopped DB's battle with the Viper on Raw due to a stinger. The Team Hell No member was apparently so irate that officials have approved a do-over on SyFy tonight.
Can Bryan prove to Orton, the COO and maybe most importantly, to himself, that he is not a weak link?
The Divas have been getting a renewed focus on all of WWE's shows, due to a great feud between the current and former champs (and an upcoming reality show on E!). Things were turned up a notch when the billion dollar princess, Stephanie McMahon, called the entire division to the mat this past Monday. Will tonight continue the women's time in the spotlight, or will they begin to recede back to cool down match status?
After their momentous double turn at Payback, the story of Del Rio and Ziggler only got a little bit of play at the end of the show Monday night. With the Show Off (kayfabe) not medically cleared to compete, Del Rio got some time to show off in a main event match-up with CM Punk. Once the Mexican Aristocrat removed himself from that bout, Dolph got a little payback himself when he jumped Alberto and chased him from the Arena.
Dolph owns a rematch for the WHC - will he be allowed to compete in Dayton, OH?
Expect to pop for:
A new Smackdown six? Early in the last decade, WWE's then Thursday night secondary program was known for it's emphasis on quality in-ring product. And much of that reputation came from the work of six men: Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Chavo Guerrero, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. Initially in a three-way feud for the WWE tag team championship and eventually in a variety of solo championship programs, those pro wrestlers made Smackdown the smart fan's show of choice for two-three years.
While Raw seems to be in a much better place than it was circa 2003, we're still on the verge of the Monday night staple featuring a storyline where HHH might stand in the middle of the ring and talk to us about his qualifications in 10-20 minute chunks - but this time without Ric Flair standing behind him.
The six men who main evented last Friday night's show have been carrying SD for the past month or so with a compelling storyline and phenomenal matches. With Bryan set to continue his program with Orton tonight, could we be seeing a similar pattern - feuding groups leads to years of quality wrestling - developing ten years later?
While the young trio of Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins don't look set to face each other just yet, that's not to say that there aren't a bunch of other potential pairs and singles match-ups that could make for great televised pro wrestling.
Kane's best days, especially as a soloist, are probably behind him, but there are other guys with plenty of time for program's on the B-show that could slot into a rotation. The United States champ is rumored to soon be feuding with the just returned Christian. The new Intercontinental champ's game needs some work, but not in the ring. And buzz is already starting to build about the return of a certain Dead Man who had a couple of special matches against The Shield this spring.
Maybe we'll need to call the 2013 incarnation the Smackdown Nine?
The heat is on:
The Shield. It's weird to pan them for anything immediately after naming them part of a new cadre of amazing performers, but I'm a little worried about the three newcomers. Not long term, but it's amazing how a few losses can make me give a little more credence to "they need some direction" arguments.
Hopefully Dean just doesn't have great chemistry with Kane, but their recent one-on-one duels have been some of the weakest of the US champ's career. And the tag team belts have transferred their powers of jinxing the men that hold them in one-on-one encounters.
But as I said, my concern isn't so much the loses. It's what's next. The names who have held the titles they now possess is not an illustrious list. Zack Ryder. Jack Swagger. Santino Marella. R-Truth. David Otunga. Evan Bourne. Their current role is not the end game for the hounds.
But, if the Brothers of Destruction rumors aren't true, the only names on the horizon for boys are the Uso twins and Christian. I like Jimmy and Jey well enough, and I LOVE Captain Charisma, but...those aren't feuds that will make anyone. And that's not even my biggest fear. Raw's scene with Mr. McMahon and the group could have just been their latest rub. But it could be the start of them becoming Vince's version of Three Minute Warning.
This is almost certainly just me being a big worry-wart. But sometimes, that's what being a fan is.
Are we on the cusp of a golden era of Smackdown? When every WWE show is on a roll, how high is the bar for Friday nights?
Start finding out tonight, and find out with the whole Cagesider gang in the live blog. We'll have the fallout from tonight and start getting you ready for Monday night all weekend long!