Previously on SmackDown
Booker T returned, and thanked Teddy Long for keeping the General Manager's seat warm for him. But the Chairman himself, Vincent Kennedy McMahon appeared to install his new BFF, Vickie Guerrero, in the post.
Dolph Ziggler defeated his old tag team partner, Jack Swagger, when the Real American's manager, Zeb Colter, and new tag team partner, Antonio Cesaro were removed from ringside mid-match. He then did what any classy ex-boyfriend would do and ran down his ex, Divas champ, AJ Lee, before posing in the ring.
AJ was consoled by Big E Langston. Platonically. For now.
You could tell that Teddy no longer had the book, as when Dean Ambrose and Mark Henry got involved in the match between the tag champs and the Usos, it was not turned into a six-man on the fly. The new face and the twins stood tall as Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins fled through the crowd with the United States champion.
Paul Heyman was so slimy that he even disgusted a talk show during his appearance on Miz TV. He then distracted Chris Jericho long enough for Curtis Axel to defeat the departing veteran. Ryback officially sent Y2J on his way with a post-match beating.
The Intellectual Savior of the Masses tried to make peace with Cody Rhodes by naming him the "Protector" of his blue Money in the Bank briefcase. Cody said he hadn't earned it, with his fists and feet.
(NOTE: This show was taped on
Tuesday Wednesday for broadcast tonight. Previews are spoiler free, but results are available here)
Rob Van Dam returned to the Friday night staple on SyFy last week in a quick match against Darren Young, but he rises up the blue brand's card this week when he faces Alberto Del Rio tonight!
That's the only official match or segment that's being hyped on WWE.com right now, but given their busy week of tapings that's not surprising as they try to balance breaking news and keeping surprises.
Everything but Daniel Bryan, John Cena and the WWE championship is probably fair game for tonight. Sandow and Cody will most certainly continue to be a focus as they deal with betrayal and a briefcase. The contract in that case is for a WHC match - at title that is without a #1 contender for SummerSlam. Will RVD's contest with Del Rio tonight be prelude to a title match, or will rumored contenders like Sheamus or Christian stake a claim tonight?
What's next in the Langston/Ziggler/Lee soap opera? Does anyone even care enough to chase the US or Intercontinental belts anymore?
And after an unexpected night off on Monday, will either Big Show or The Wyatt Family make a surprise appearance?
Expect to pop for:
Rob Van Dam. Fan confession by way of an intro into some praise for the Whole F'n Show: I didn't watch a whole lot of wrestling in the 90s. First, I was in college, and this was before the heady days of the internet and being able to easily find other people who were obsessed with the same shit as you (I didn't have an email account as an undergrad - I'm OLD, okay!?!?). Then I graduated, and was making a little money and was able to get different women to talk to me...so other than peeping 'Mania and reading Apter mags at the drug store, I kind of slept on ittle things like the NWO, the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era.
In the late Spring of 2001, I was on business trip and I picked up a copy of Foley is Good at the airport. I was not loving life for a myriad of reasons, and the book piqued my interest as a college educated consumer of pop culture while also triggering a few watches of Raw and Smackdown that channeled my inner 13 year old mark.
I know, I know...cool story, bro.
Point being, I discovered RVD as a guy who wore outdated unitards and thought highly of his own splashy moves. His offense looked like it hurt him as much as other people. Too chunky and clunky, I thought, to really be the high flying acrobat he seemed to be trying to depict - I just wasn't buying. And while his popularity grew my esteem waned.
Then he blew his big championship push out in a puff of smoke, disappeared to indies I didn't really keep up with (save an appearance with Pro Wrestling Guerilla that only confirmed my "I'd rather not watch this guy wrestle" opinion of him) and showed up in TNA for a few years of particularly uninspired performances.
To say that I was not looking forward to his WWE return would be an understatement.
I'm still not buying the Rolling Thunder as anything that makes sense or that would add to the impact of a splash. But without benefit of having watched him live in his late 90s prime (I have seen a lot of ECW since - I'm a compulsive geek, after all) or having a nostalgic attachment to his role in wrestling history, I've been impressed with his still recent comeback.
The ladder match at Money in the Bank played to his strengths, but you could tell he was in a better professional place (literally and figuratively) than we'd last seen. His long match with Chris Jericho a couple of Raws back was well laid out and crisply executed; likewise his quick one on Smackdown last week with Darren Young (another guy I have been really enjoying lately). The bloom came off the rose a bit during his duel with Wade Barrett this past Monday, but even if he is a solid veteran hand whose match quality varies based on strength of opponent (à la Kane), that's much more than I expected from the 43 year old.
The heat is on:
Alberto Del Rio. RVD's opponent tonight, and it should be a good one. Even those who find the former luchador's ringwork on the "boring" side usually will admit that it's technically sound. Unfortunately, even for this Delegado Del Rio, that's about my ceiling for him these days - I know that a match with him probably won't suck.
Here's how bad it's gotten with ADR...I routinely forget that he's the WHC when writing about WWE. Some of that is on how badly devalued Big Goldie is, but it also speaks to the absolute vacuum that is the Essence of Excellence's character these days.
Rewind to this past January, and the man was on fire. Credit to Big Show for some flawless heeling, but a lot of people were digging Del Rio's turn and coming around on other aspects of his performance as a result. Enter Jack Swagger as an opponent, shoehorn the Mexican in as a patriotic American and...watch it all fall apart.
Can you imaging how things would be different had Mark Henry won the Smackdown Elimination Chamber match? Cast against another veteran enjoying a career rejuvenating run as a bad guy, Alberto could have built his giant killer character and we may have had a Tito Santana for the 21st century.
But here we are. And as the guy at the center of a big pile of "nobody cares", Del Rio has to shoulder some of the blame.
Who's fired up about a taped out of order show? Did anybody manage to avoid spoilers?
Chime in below with your thoughts - about Smackdown, or late 90s wrestling, or your undying love for all things EC-Dubya. Then join the live blog tonight as we roll down the road to SummerSlam!