WWE SmackDown: 5 Things to Watch for During This Week's Show
Although many have found SmackDown to be repetitive in recent weeks, things are clearly starting to change on the blue brand. The World Heavyweight Championship feud is the same with Alberto Del Rio defending against Big Show, but with Mark Henry and Jack Swagger back in the fold, the product suddenly seems fresh and interesting.
In an effort to keep things feeling that way, the WWE is running an angle this week that involves SmackDown general manager Booker T "suspending" Del Rio. This stems from Del Rio's attacks on Big Show in a parking lot and at a hotel. Del Rio obviously isn't actually suspended, so I suspect that he'll play some role on the show regardless.
Henry and Swagger are also likely to appear as they attempt to impress Booker T. There are still three spots available in the Elimination Chamber match to determine the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. Henry and Swagger are obviously prime candidates to be included, so it will be intriguing to see how they perform this week.
Here are the top five things you should be on the lookout for while watching the upcoming episode of SmackDown.
Alberto Del Rio Suspended from Appearing
After separate incidents on SmackDown and Raw that saw Alberto Del Rio jump Big Show in a parking lot and a hotel room, SmackDown general manager Booker T has suspended the World Heavyweight Champion from this week's edition of the show.
While this suspension only exists in storyline terms, it does add a bit of intrigue to the episode as it is uncertain what role Del Rio will play.
I suppose that it's possible he could be left off completely, but I would imagine that he'll appear via satellite or something of that nature.
It wouldn't be feasible to leave the world champion off his show with just over a week until Elimination Chamber, but I don't mind the notion of keeping him and Big Show apart.
They have brawled every week for the past several weeks, so separating them is something different at the very least.
Next week's episode of SmackDown is most important in terms of building toward Elimination Chamber, so there isn't much reason for Del Rio and Big Show to lock horns again.
The Rock wasn't on Raw this week, and while a lot of fans seem to have a problem with that, it wasn't a big deal. The Rock and CM Punk have already done all they can do against each other, so saving their final confrontation before Elimination Chamber for next week was a solid plan.
The same should be true for Del Rio and Big Show. Their feud has been pretty good thus far, but I certainly won't be heartbroken if they don't have some kind of interaction this week. SmackDown often suffers from hammering the same thing into our heads time after time, so anything that deviates from the norm is positive in my book.
Who Will Be the Final Three Elimination Chamber Participants?
With the Elimination Chamber now just over a week away, final decisions have to made on SmackDown very soon with regards to the chamber match that will determine the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Booker T already announced on Raw that Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and Daniel Bryan would be in the match, so there are still three spots to fill over the course of the next week.
Right now it would appear as though the top three candidates are Jack Swagger, Mark Henry and Kane. Although Booker didn't make it an official stipulation, he basically said that the match would be for former world champions, and Swagger, Henry and Kane all fit that criteria.
Swagger has been impressive since returning, Henry decimated Mysterio and Sin Cara in his return on Monday and Kane's tag-team partner is already in the match, so it wouldn't make much sense to leave him out.
Some other possibilities include The Great Khali, Chris Jericho and Christian should he come back from injury. Obviously nobody wants to see Khali in the match, so hopefully that option is no longer on the table.
Jericho would be a fantastic addition, but there hasn't been any conversation about it and it seems more likely that he'll face Dolph Ziggler in a singles match. Christian is the true wild card as he could be ready to return, although I can't say for sure how severe his shoulder injury is.
With Swagger and Henry returning already, though, it would seem to increase the odds of Christian coming back as well. Even if he doesn't, the WWE has a nice base of superstars for the chamber match.
Swagger and Henry present something different as they have been gone for so long, and Kane is a veteran guy who should thrive in that environment. Regardless of who gets added, as long as it isn't Khali, I'm very excited for this match at Elimination Chamber.
What Impact Will Mark Henry Make?
Mark Henry hadn't been seen on WWE programming in nearly 10 months before his return on Monday night, but he certainly picked up where he left off. After Daniel Bryan defeated Rey Mysterio, The World's Strongest Man's music hit and he proceeded to wreak havoc.
Henry tossed Bryan into a barricade and then threw Mysterio around like a rag doll. Sin Cara attempted to save his tag-team partner, but Henry was too much to handle as he executed a World's Strongest Slam on both men.
Henry has been with the WWE since 1996, but it wasn't until the summer of 2011 that he really hit his stride. Henry had been misused for much of his career with the Sexual Chocolate persona serving as the best example of that.
The best role for him was clearly that of a monster heel, and he certainly embraced it when given a chance. Henry went on a rampage and took out many of the WWE's top stars. It ultimately led to him winning the World Heavyweight Championship and holding it for a couple months.
His title reign seemed to end a but prematurely, but it was entertaining nonetheless. I never considered myself to be a fan of Henry until his most recent run.
I was extremely excited to see him back on Raw and I can't wait to see what impact he'll have on the product moving forward. I have to believe that he'll announce his intention to enter the Elimination Chamber match on SmackDown, just like Jack Swagger did the week before.
If that is the case, then he'll likely have a match to prove himself as well. Henry isn't a particularly good in-ring worker, but his vicious character covers that up pretty well. I could watch him attack smaller wrestlers all day long.
He is exactly the type of unstoppable heel that the WWE has been missing and he will add another dimension to SmackDown. Big Show has been filling that role as of late, but Henry is simply better at this point and will be a breath of fresh air.
Will Team Hell No Work out Their Problems?
Team Hell No has never been the most cohesive unit in wrestling history, but things have really gone south for Kane and Daniel Bryan over the past few weeks. Although they managed to retain their Tag Team Championships against Team Rhodes Scholars at the Royal Rumble, things went downhill from there.
Bryan eliminated Kane from the Rumble match, and when Kane had a chance to save Bryan from elimination, he instead opted to drop him on the floor as well.
Things have been touch and go for Team Hell No since then and that was certainly apparent on Raw. Bryan told Kane that he didn't want him in his corner for his match with Rey Mysterio, but after Mark Henry attacked him, Bryan chastised Kane for being absent.
Bryan then showed up during Kane's match with Sheamus. He distracted Kane and it led to Sheamus executing a Brogue Kick for the victory.
Since Bryan is already in the Elimination Chamber and Kane is still trying to get added, I anticipate their feud continuing. Perhaps Kane will have another chance to impress Booker T, only for Bryan to ruin it for him once again.
I have to believe that Kane will be in the Elimination Chamber match since his partner is already in it, but I suppose it's possible that Bryan will sabotage things to the point that he gets left out.
It will be very interesting to see how much longer Kane and Bryan hold the titles. If the plan is to have them face each other at WrestleMania, then they could very well drop them to Mysterio and Sin Cara in the weeks following Elimination Chamber.
I would keep the titles on them heading into 'Mania so we are treated with a meaningful tag-team match, but I can't imagine that they will be champions much longer than that.
Team Hell No has been great for the past several months, but Kane and Bryan are ultimately singles competitors. All good things must come to an end eventually, and that includes Team Hell No.
Will Jack Swagger's Roll Continue?
Prior to taking a leave of absence five months ago, Jack Swagger had reached the low point of his WWE career. He was mired in a three-month-long losing streak and had essentially become a jobber to the stars.
It was quite the fall from grace for the former World Heavyweight Champion, and it was clear that he needed to make some changes. Swagger returned on last week's edition of SmackDown, and although the changes weren't immediately noticeable aside from his new beard, Swagger has been a different animal since coming back.
Rather than being a big, goofy guy who loses to everyone, The All-American American now appears to be a force to be reckoned with. Swagger took out Kofi Kingston last week and easily defeated Santino Marella on Raw.
He is back to being a vicious competitor and there is no question that a serious streak suits him well. Swagger has a ton of talent from an in-ring perspective and he has had success in the past, so building him back up should be a no-brainer for the WWE.
I have always been a big fan of Swagger and I still believe that he has what it takes to get back to the main-event scene. His promo skills certainly aren't on par with the likes of CM Punk and John Cena, but he is vilified unfairly.
He cut a fantastic promo as World Heavyweight Champion in 2010 that involved him talking about all the trophies and awards he won in his life. It was only one promo, but it showed that he has plenty of personality. Swagger was never really given a chance to shine like that on the mic again, and I can't blame him for that.
Swagger was also booked to look incompetent as World Heavyweight Champion, so he was destined to fail from the start. Swagger has been mishandled ever since he won Money in the Bank, so even though he only has a couple wins since returning, it's a lot better than the direction he had previously.
Swagger has been pushing to be placed in the Elimination Chamber match, so hopefully that comes to fruition this week. Swagger has been impressive and the WWE can't afford to squander his momentum yet again.