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WWE Smackdown preview (May 2, 2014): Kinda bent, but we ain't breakin'

Dean Ambrose defends his US title for the first time in a long time, while we try to figure out what John Cena and Ric Flair were talking about on Monday night. Plus, an idea for refreshing the mid-card and 'go home' shows in the WWE Network era.

What you need to know

He may have the whole wide world in his hands, but John Cena still wants to know why you, the WWE Universe, would book him in a three-on-one handicap match against The Wyatt Family.  He'd probably also like to know who let their children's choir hang out with Bray, and if WWE Shop has any sheep masks left after those kids bought fifty or sixty of them.

Don't worry though, children (at least, the children who haven't joined Wyatt's creepy cult), Unca Jern was a little scared, but then he came up with a great anecdote about buying a donkey for his Extreme Rules opponent and now he's his old confident self again!  I didn't really understand the whole burro story, but I think it means that Bray's message won't escape the steel cage.  And possibly that a donkey will be sodomized.

Jey Uso fought through a bad ankle, or maybe it was a hamstring, to retain the tag titles with his brother against Curtis "The Axehole" Axel and Ry "The Big Guy" Back.  This was a fun match despite some controversy about Jey's injury, but it somehow isn't scheduled for Sunday's "special event".  Because we need room for Alexander Rusev vs. Xavier Woods and R-Truth, who combined could only knock the Bulgarian from the ring.  That should be great...

And really there's not much more that could be done with tag teams at ER anyway, with The Rhodes Brothers breaking up, 3MB and Los Matadores locked up with their dueling minis, and...there aren't any other tag teams, are there?

Bad News Barrett will challenge Big E for the Intercontinental title after beating RVD with a little help from Cesaro and Jack Swagger in the finals of the #1 contender tournament.  The newest Paul Heyman guy dislikes Van Dam for having defeated him and for dissing his manager.  The Real American has beef with him for turning down an alliance with Zeb Colter.

Paige may have killed Alicia Fox, but before that happened she almost had another successful title defense on Raw.  She was battling Brie Bella in a match that was an olive branch of sorts to Brie and her husband, Daniel Bryan, for Kane's attack of the WWE World Heavyweight Champ the week before.  But, darn that Big Red Monster, the Divas bout ended in a no contest when Kane emerged through the canvas and tried to drag the Total Divas star to hell.  I hate when that happens...

Ric Flair returned to WWE television to talk about how dominant his former stablemates Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton are - SWERVE - no he didn't!  Naitch awkwardly put over The Shield, but it didn't look like it would help Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins when the beatdown came during Reigns one-on-one match with The Viper.  But a flying knee from Rollins turned the tide.  An aborted steel chair attack by The Animal prevented them from triple powerbombing The Game, but our final visual from Raw was Evolution beating tracks like proverbial scalded dogs.

What to look out for

The blue brand made it's way to the other city in Missouri on Tuesday night.  We're spoiler-free here in the Previews department, but you can read up on what went down right here.

Someone has managed to wade through the sea of paperwork required to book a United States title defense, and Dean Ambrose will defend it in a Fatal 4Way against Alberto Del Rio and Rybaxel.  Conveniently, those three men are all part of the jobber 11 that Hunter has deployed against The Shield the past few weeks.

That, and...the usual treading water we get from the last Smackdown before a pay-per-view (PPV) special event?

What they should do

What I'll do is eschew my normal schtick (although, Paige is kind of posing like a bird, is she not?) and bullet points for a new kind of plea for mid-card story development.  Because Cesaro vs. RVD vs. Jack Swagger isn't exactly what I meant.

WWE hasn't been very good at the 'last show before a PPV' for a while now, and Smackdown in particular has been little more than a placeholder on weeks where they have a show scheduled for Sunday.  Now that we're in the "special event"/WWE Network era, where many of the customers for those shows will already have purchased them with their Network subscription, now is a perfect time to re-evaluate the very nature of 'go home' shows.

Top workers - your Daniel Bryans, John Cenas, Paiges and the like - are always going to be booked for the events.  But look at the folks left off of the Extreme Rules card: Sheamus, Mark Henry, The Big Show, The Bellas, and the tag champs, The Usos.  Why not use the Friday night before a Sunday show to build a program for those names?  You'd still have plenty of time for Bryan or Cena to cut a promo about their opponent and hype opponent for the weekend.

The smaller beef you start building tonight can take the place of the triple threat or handicap match on next month's Payback card, while Rusev is building up his Money in the Bank feud.  With a slew of call-ups from NXT already planned or soon to be announced, there will be a reserve of guys and gals who can rotate in and out of those spots, getting needed experience and exposure without being shoved down our throats too soon.

Now is the perfect time to treat the year-long schedule as a continuous story, not a series of stories that concludes every month.  It only makes sense to utilize the whole roster in that longer tale, and in a way that serves the characters and the audience by keeping things fresh.

What we're afraid they will do

Let Cena talk.  Or Flair.  But as much as I cringed during Naitch's promo from Raw, I think I'd still rather hear him give an encore.

Let's celebrate the first US title defense of 2014 with a renewed focus on the mid-card, shall we?

Hang out in tonight's open thread while you watch the show, and stick with cSs all weekend long for all the Extreme Rules coverage you could ever need!

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