With just a couple days remaining until Elimination Chamber, this week's episode of SmackDown will surely be an extremely important one. The pay-per-view has a stacked card with four main-event-caliber matches, and many of those feuds will be furthered on SmackDown.
Perhaps the biggest news is that The Rock is advertised to appear in Little Rock, Ark. With The Rock in "The Rock," there is no telling what might ensue. The WWE Champion was embarrassed on Monday when CM Punk attacked him and stole his title, so that is likely to be a big topic of conversation on the blue brand.
If that isn't enough, the WWE still needs to tie up any loose ends when it comes to the World Heavyweight Championship rivalry between Alberto Del Rio and Big Show. There are several top superstars involved in the No. 1 contender's Elimination Chamber match as well, so each of them figure to play a part on this week's show in some capacity.
With all of that and so much more to keep track of, it appears as though this week's SmackDown is must-see television. Here are the top five things you should keep an eye on while watching Elimination Chamber's go-home show.
The Rock has already appeared on a couple episodes of SmackDown since returning to the fray and he will grace the show with his presence once again this week. The Rock hasn't been asked to do a ton since he beat CM Punk for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, but he and Punk got physically involved on Raw and it resulted in Punk executing a GTS before stealing the title belt that he believes is rightfully his.
There is no doubt that The Rock will address that on SmackDown, and I'm sure Punk and Paul Heyman will have something to say about it as well. Due to the fact that The Rock and Punk already brawled on Monday, I would keep them separated on SmackDown. Punk stood tall and is looking quite strong heading into Elimination Chamber, so there is absolutely no reason to change that.
I would be perfectly content with The Rock and Punk cutting promos on each other to hype their match, and it can be left at that. I also like the added dimension of Punk holding the physical title despite The Rock being the actual champion. I'd rather not see Punk surrender the belt back to The Rock before Elimination Chamber. Seeing Punk come to the ring with the title around his waist at Elimination Chamber would definitely generate plenty of heat.
Whatever the case, The Rock and Punk have pretty much done everything possible to build toward Elimination Chamber. If they give the fans one last reminder of how great the match promises to be, then that should be enough. The WWE wants Punk to look good since The Rock is almost guaranteed to win, and allowing Punk's GTS on Rock to be the final physical encounter between them will ensure that Punk has momentum.
Although the Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show feud has been decent and has only existed for roughly two months, I get the feeling that most fans are ready for it to come to an end. That may very well be the case come Elimination Chamber as Big Show will receive his second rematch in hopes of taking back the World Heavyweight Championship. Del Rio vanquished the giant at the Royal Rumble in a Last Man Standing match, and if he outlasts Big Show again at Elimination Chamber, the rivalry will likely be done.
There have been some interesting moments throughout the feud, such as Del Rio attacking Big Show in the parking lot and in his hotel room. Also, the segment in which Big Show duct taped Del Rio to the ropes and forced him to watch Ricardo Rodriguez eat a Knockout Punch was entertaining. The main issue, however, is that neither Big Show nor Del Rio is particularly good on the mic, so they are limited in what they can do from the perspective.
Due to the fact that Del Rio has gotten the last laugh to this point by ruining Big Show's bus and dumping orange paint on him last week, Big Show should get the rub prior to Elimination Chamber. Whether that means attacking Del Rio or looking impressive in a match with someone else is anyone's guess, but Big Show simply has to look strong or else fans will remember him dripping in orange paint and crying.
No matter what the WWE decides to do on SmackDown, Del Rio is going to beat Big Show yet again. The real intrigue involves Mr. Money in the Bank Dolph Ziggler. I can easily see Del Rio beating Big Show and then an angry Big Show assaulting Del Rio afterward. That would open the door for Ziggler to cash in and become the new World Heavyweight Champion. This could then lead to Chris Jericho becoming No. 1 contender to set up a fantastic feud and match at WrestleMania.
Despite the fact that Sunday's pay-per-view is called Elimination Chamber, there is only one chamber match on the card and it probably only ranks fourth in terms of importance. Even so, I'm very excited about the contest and I know a lot of other fans are as well. Even though the WWE likes to play the unpredictability angle with chamber matches, it's often pretty easy to predict what's going to happen. That simply isn't the case when it comes to the one on Sunday, however.
SmackDown general manager Booker T made sure to place only former World Heavyweight Champions in the chamber, so we will be treated with a field comprised of Mark Henry, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Jack Swagger, Daniel Bryan and Kane. All of them can be viewed as legitimate top stars with the exception of Swagger, but he has been extremely impressive since returning and could be going places with his new gimmick and manager Zeb Colter.
The two biggest favorites are likely Henry and Jericho, but it depends a lot on what happens with the world title. If Alberto Del Rio retains and Dolph Ziggler doesn't cash in, then I would give Henry the nod. If Ziggler does cash in, though, Jericho obviously becomes the odds-on favorite since they already have a rivalry in place. At the same time, Orton can never be counted out and there is a possibility that the WWE has huge plans for Swagger. My guess is that Kane and Bryan will hurt each other's chances, but it isn't crazy to think that Bryan could potentially win.
It will be tough for the creative team to put all six guys over heading into the Elimination Chamber, especially since it was already announced that Henry and Orton will face each other in a rematch on SmackDown, but the writers have to do the best they can in that regard. The hope is that all six combatants can be looked upon as though they're on equal footing so that a winner is hard to predict.
Ever since the Royal Rumble, Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and NXT rookie Bo Dallas have engaged in a bitter feud. Dallas earned a spot in the Rumble match by winning a tournament and he proceeded to impress many by remaining in the contest for more than 20 minutes. Dallas also shocked the wrestling world when he eliminated Barrett. The IC Champion was none too pleased with the turn of events, though, as he pulled Dallas over the top rope from outside the ring and delivered an emphatic Bull Hammer Elbow.
Barrett earned a chance to gain revenge the next night on Raw as he faced Dallas in a singles match, but Dallas once again caught Barrett by surprise and picked up the upset win. This further fueled Barrett's fire and caused him to attack Dallas in the backstage area. Dallas reciprocated on Raw by doing the same to Barrett. Since Barrett has no scheduled match for Elimination Chamber at this point, common sense would seem to point toward a bout with Dallas.
Although I haven't been particularly impressed with Dallas thus far, he hasn't been given the opportunity to do much, so I'm willing to give him a chance. He has a great wrestling pedigree as IRS is his father and Barry Windham is his uncle, so he knows what it takes to succeed in the business. I'm in favor of letting him face Barrett on the pay-per-view stage in order to see what he can do under the bright lights.
With that said, it wouldn't be wise to put the Intercontinental Championship on him yet. It isn't as if the WWE is doing anything worthwhile with Barrett, so the title isn't doing him much good, but he is at a completely different level than Dallas. Losing to a green rookie at Elimination Chamber would make Barrett look bad, and he already looks bad enough when the WWE has Randy Orton and Sheamus beat him every week. Ideally Dallas will have a good showing, but Barrett will go over and start to get on a roll.
When Jack Swagger initially returned on SmackDown a few weeks ago, it seemed as though he hadn't changed much. He did grow a beard and was sporting a scruffy haircut, but he was still a heel who wore the same singlet and had the same theme music. That wasn't a big issue for me personally since I've always been a Swagger fan, but he hasn't connected with the general audience since he lost the World Heavyweight Championship back in 2010.
As it turns out, Swagger's character is actually much different than it was prior to his five-month hiatus. Swagger has been vicious rather than comedic and he has been talking about being a "real American" instead of an All-American American. This ideal also led to the introduction of Swagger's new manager on Monday. Swagger was accompanied to the ring by Zeb Colter, who is best known as Dutch Mantel from his work in various other promotions.
Colter was also a part of the WWE back in the mid-1990's as Uncle Zeb. He managed The Blu Brothers and Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, but didn't ultimately achieve much success. His current character seems to have a lot more promise, though. Colter comes off as a typical Southern conservative and he cut a scathing promo on Raw that was critical of the United States. He was particularly hard on the country's immigration policy, which is certainly a hot-button issue.
It isn't often that the WWE delves into these types of political debates, so I'm absolutely intrigued. Colter is a good mouthpiece and should help Swagger immensely. Also, a gimmick change of some kind was needed in order for Swagger to become relevant again. As long as the creative team keeps booking him to win convincingly, he should be on the ascent.