With Raw focusing on the big WrestleMania feuds such as The Undertaker vs. CM Punk, Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar and The Rock vs. John Cena, SmackDown will be responsible for bolstering the undercard rivalries, which is something that must be done effectively this week with WrestleMania XXIX less than three weeks away.
The main angle on the blue brand continues to be the World Heavyweight Championship feud between Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger. Their storyline has actually been in motion longer than any other one on the the WrestleMania card currently as it started back at Elimination Chamber. The buildup has been solid thus far, but it needs to continue moving forward.
There are also several other potential angles that need to get moving in order to generate interest for WrestleMania. One of them is Big Show's potential involvement in Randy Orton and Sheamus' feud against The Shield. In addition to that, Ryback vs. Mark Henry was announced as a WrestleMania match on Raw, so their rivalry figures to kick into another gear on SmackDown.
Here are the top five things you should keep an eye on while watching this week's edition of SmackDown with WrestleMania XXIX looming large.
Last week's episode of SmackDown came to a close with an entertaining match between World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 contender Jack Swagger and Chris Jericho. It was an exciting, back-and-forth affair, which resulted in Swagger prevailing due to a Gutwrench Powerbomb. Despite Swagger's victory, it was announced on Monday that Swagger and Y2J would lock horns yet again on the blue brand this week.
Swagger and Jericho don't necessarily have a feud going, but they do have some history. Swagger actually cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Jericho a few years ago to become World Heavyweight Champion. Also, Swagger and Zeb Colter are on a crusade to rid the United States of immigrants, and even though Jericho was born in the USA, he's Canadian as well, so Swagger believes that Y2J is part of the problem.
Based on the way things have been going, I have to believe that Swagger will once again come out on top this week as he is undefeated since returning to action. Jericho, on the other hand, has lost far more matches than he has won and is not currently embroiled in a main-event feud. Many of Jericho's fans appear to be a bit perturbed by Jericho's lack of success from a results standpoint, but there is no doubt that he has put on some spectacular in-ring performances.
As for Swagger, his new character continues to impress me and his wrestling has been solid as well. Once the "Real American" beats Jericho as expected, it will be interesting to see if Alberto Del Rio gets involved. My guess is that Swagger will try to break Jericho's ankle just like he did to Ricardo Rodriguez on Monday. Del Rio will then make the save to keep his feud with Swagger moving in an upward direction as WrestleMania draws closer.
The Shield has been a thorn in the side of many superstars since debuting at Survivor Series, but none have felt their wrath more as of late than Randy Orton and Sheamus. Because of that, it should come as no surprise that the super duo is set to take on Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. The issue, however, is that Orton and Sheamus have yet to settle on a partner, although that could be solved on SmackDown.
Big Show is another superstar who has drawn the ire of The Shield in recent weeks stemming from an incident in which he knocked out Reigns. The Shield has gotten revenge on Big Show a couple times since then by attacking him and hitting him with a triple powerbomb. Despite Big Show's desire to face The Shield at WrestleMania, Orton and Sheamus initially chose Ryback as their partner last week, but Ryback was removed from the match by Vickie Guerrero so he can face Mark Henry instead.
Orton and Sheamus are now backed into a corner and almost have to choose Big Show. The giant helped his own cause on Monday as The Shield tried to decimate Orton and Sheamus following their victory over 3MB. Before The Shield could enter the ring, though, Big Show ran down and stood beside his former enemies. Orton and Sheamus appeared to be both impressed by and appreciative of Big Show's efforts.
With that in mind, the odds seem pretty good that Orton and Sheamus will replace Ryback with Big Show on SmackDown. If it doesn't happen on SmackDown, then it will almost assuredly be made official on Raw. As much as I like The Shield, I'm not overly excited for this feud and match, but the addition of Big Show should add some intrigue to the proceedings.
It seems like an eternity has passed since the first vignette featuring Fandango aired on WWE programming, yet he still hasn't made his in-ring debut. Fandango has been appearing on Raw and SmackDown for the past few weeks, but he has refused to wrestle each time due to others not pronouncing his name correctly. It seemed like he was finally poised to compete on Raw as he came to the ring, however, he ultimately fled from The Great Khali.
Fandango may not have wrestled on Raw, but he did have an interesting interaction with Chris Jericho. Fandango randomly interrupted Y2J's backstage interview, which resulted in Jericho purposely mispronouncing Fandango's name numerous times. This clearly upset Fandango as he threatened Jericho before walking away. Since Jericho has no feud in place, it seems very likely that he'll face Fandango at WrestleMania XXIX.
While that match isn't set in stone quite yet, the odds of it happening seem fairly good. It's not an ideal rivalry as Jericho should be facing somebody a bit more important, but Y2J could potentially put Fandango over in a big way. I am intrigued to see whether or not Fandango actually wrestles in a televised match prior to WrestleMania. In one respect, somebody making their debut at WrestleMania is a fairly rare occurrence, and it might be pretty memorable, but at the same time it wouldn't really be fair for Fandango to make his debut while several others are left off the card.
I can't say for sure whether or not Fandango will compete before WrestleMania, but it probably won't happen this week. If it does, then it likely won't be until the week before the show. Until then I fully expect to see more instances of Fandango bowing out of matches, including during the next episode of SmackDown.
Ever since their stare down on the old school edition of Raw a few weeks ago, Ryback and Mark Henry have become increasingly agitated with one another. It was supposed to come to a head last week on SmackDown as they had a scheduled match, but it was interrupted before it ever really got going as The Shield interfered. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns beat down Ryback as they have done many times in the past. Henry cleaned up the scraps, though, by hitting Ryback with three World's Strongest Slams in the aftermath.
Ryback was originally set to team with Randy Orton and Sheamus against The Shield at WrestleMania, but that changed on Monday. After Ryback defeated David Otunga in a squash match, Henry began walking to the ring only to be stopped by Teddy Long and Vickie Guerrero. Vickie then announced that Ryback was being removed from his WrestleMania match against The Shield in favor of a singles encounter with Henry instead.
Most fans fully expected this from the very moment that they first acknowledged each other, but now that it is official the feud can actually begin. The WWE will probably try to keep Ryback and Henry away from each other as much as possible from a physical standpoint, although Ryback kind of has to get the better of Henry this week after The World's Strongest Man attacked him last week.
We certainly won't see something like Ryback hitting Henry with Shell Shocked on SmackDown as the WWE wants to save that for WrestleMania (if it's even possible), but perhaps Ryback can unleash some quick offense on Henry and knock him out of the ring in order to stand tall. Whatever the case, this is one of the more intriguing mid-card feuds on the WrestleMania card, so hopefully the creative team turns up the heat moving forward.
It is no secret that the WWE struggles to book its mid-card these days, particularly with WrestleMania on the horizon. The writers have done a nice job with some of the main-event feuds like The Undertaker vs. CM Punk and Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar, but the rest of the card has been neglected for the most part. That is especially true when it comes to the Intercontinental and United States Championships as the WWE has yet to set a match for either of those titles at 'Mania.
The WWE did focus a bit on the IC title on Raw at the very least as Wade Barrett retained against The Miz and Chris Jericho after weeks of losing. Since Jericho appears to be engaged in a feud of some sort with Fandango, that leaves Barrett and Miz as a de facto feud as well. The entire basis of their rivalry is that they're both in movies, which is pretty awful in its own right, but I like both superstars and feel like they can do some good things together.
As for Antonio Cesaro, he is stuck in limbo right now. He is coming off a feud with The Miz that never really reached a proper conclusion. It seemed like Cesaro and Miz were building toward something at WrestleMania as The Miz took on the role of an American hero, however, Miz lost at two consecutive pay-per-views and is suddenly vying for the Intercontinental Championship again. As of right now it looks like Cesaro may not even be on the WrestleMania card, although there is still some time to change that.
SmackDown should be used to further the mid-card titles, particularly the United States Championship, since it has no purpose right now. I'm not confident that it will happen, but I would like to see a feud between Cesaro and Sin Cara stemming from Sin Cara's win on Main Event a few weeks ago. At the very least the match could take place on the WrestleMania pre-show, so the writers ought to kick start the feud this week.