With Night of Champions set for Sunday, this week will mark the go-home edition of SmackDown as the WWE tries to tie up any loose ends and head into the pay-per-view on a high note. SmackDown has admittedly been a bit stale as of late, but there are plenty of intriguing things to be addressed on the show this week.
Things figure to revolve around the World Heavyweight Championship, as Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio prepare to do battle again. Most fans have grown tired of the feud, but the added wrinkle of Sheamus' Brogue Kick possibly being banned is likely to be a hot topic.
Also, the Night of Champions undercard is still coming together, and SmackDown will probably be a big part of this week's show since CM Punk and John Cena were the main focus on RAW. A pay-per-view can't be great without great supporting feuds and matches, so SmackDown will be vital in that regard.
Here are the top five things you should be looking for while watching this week's edition of SmackDown ahead of Night of Champions.
Sheamus has dominated his feud over the World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio thus far, but over the past couple weeks, the writers have finally decided to make Del Rio look like a threat. Del Rio has scored wins over both Randy Orton and John Cena, and now the chips are stacked against Sheamus as his finishing move, the Brogue Kick, has been temporarily banned.
Sheamus injured Ricardo Rodriguez with the move last week, and with David Otunga acting as the legal counsel for both Rodriguez and Del Rio, SmackDown general manager Booker T banned it. Sheamus ignored that on RAW, as he used the Brogue Kick on Otunga, and that prompted Booker to say that if Sheamus uses the move again, he will be stripped of the title.
It will be interesting to see if Booker's ruling stands or if the move will be reinstated prior to Night of Champions. Either way, with so many things going against Sheamus, it seems obvious that he is going to retain. At least the creative team is finally trying something to make this stale feud worthwhile, though.
There was once a time when the Intercontinental Championship was rivaled only by the WWE Championship in terms of importance and prestige, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I had high hopes when The Miz won the title that he would help build it back up and that it would catapult him as well, but the IC title remains forgotten and is rarely even acknowledged at this point.
That notion is backed up by the fact that an Intercontinental Championship match still hasn't been announced for Night of Champions. This particular title should be part of an important angle at all times, but it is little more than an afterthought. Considering the fact that Miz interfered in a match between Rey Mysterio and Cody Rhodes on Monday, they figure to be his opponents on Sunday.
Also, Sin Cara has been teaming with Mysterio and going up against Rhodes quite a bit lately, so I'm anticipating a fatal four way at Night of Champions. I would have preferred an actual feud between Miz and Mysterio, but hopefully Rhodes wins the title to help himself at this point and Miz loses it so he can move on to something more substantial.
It was announced last week that Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton would face each other at Night of Champions, but their match is currently the only one on the main card without a title on the line. Not every match at Night of Champions needs to be for gold, as evidenced by last year's main event of CM Punk vs. Triple H, but it wouldn't surprise me if a stipulation is added prior to Sunday.
Ziggler is Mr. Money in the Bank, after all, so why not have him defend the contract against Orton?
Perhaps that would make it obvious that Ziggler would win on Sunday, but it would also make him look stronger if he wins with the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line. Rather than losing to Chris Jericho at SummerSlam and beating him with the contract on the line the next night, Ziggler would have been much better off defending it at the last pay-per-view and winning that match.
He has been booked poorly since nabbing the briefcase, though, so I'm not particularly optimistic about how things will play out between Ziggler and Orton. If the contract isn't on the line, then I have a sneaky suspicion that Orton will be given the win for no reason other than to put the fan favorite over. Because of that alone, I'm hoping that Booker T puts forth a stipulation on SmackDown.
Wade Barrett made his long-awaited return to WWE programming last week as he defeated Yoshi Tatsu in a squash match and then declared that he was "open for business." I thought Barrett's return would be saved and used in a more meaningful manner on RAW or a pay-per-view. Regardless of that, Barrett is finally back and will likely be a major part of SmackDown moving forward.
The big question for this week is, what will he do on SmackDown this week as an encore performance?
He said that he wasn't interested in meaningless matches, so that may mean that he won't have another squash match this week. At the same time, though, I don't anticipate him facing a big-name guy on SmackDown this week, particularly because he doesn't even have a match scheduled for Night of Champions.
Despite Barrett's comments, I suppose he probably will have one more squash match this week against a guy like Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kidd or Alex Riley.
Barrett's true coming-out party will be at Night of Champions, though, because I fully expect him to attack Sheamus after retaining the World Heavyweight Championship. Barrett said that he wants to be in the world title picture immediately and that would be the way to ensure that he is.
Dr. Shelby and RAW general manager A.J. Lee finally took a step toward managing the anger issues of Kane and Daniel Bryan, as they were forced into becoming a tag team. The odd couple defeated The Prime Time Players on Monday to become the new No. 1 contenders for the Tag Team Championships, and they are now scheduled to face Kofi Kingston and R-Truth at Night of Champions.
Kane and Bryan may have won on RAW, but they were far from harmonious, as they were victorious thanks to Kane chokeslamming D-Bry on top of Darren Young. Kane did raise Bryan's arm after the match, however, so it's hard to say how they'll co-exist on Sunday.
Kane and Bryan have been appearing on both RAW and SmackDown as of late, so I would imagine that they'll do something on SmackDown this week.
I could see them having a match against a team like The Usos to work out the kinks, and they'll either continue to have problems or work in synchronicity like a well-oiled machine. I haven't been interested in the tag-team division in a very long time, but Kane and Bryan have already changed that despite wrestling in one match together. Hopefully they play a role on SmackDown this week and take the tag titles at Night of Champions.