In the last episode of WWE SmackDown before WrestleMania, we were treated to a pretty good show.
Various segments helped hype the upcoming pay-per-view contests, while there was also some exciting in-ring action to be enjoyed throughout.
It follows a strong showing from WWE Raw this week, suggesting that the the wrestling company is really getting into its stride at the perfect time, with the "Showcase of the Immortals" just days away.
With plenty to discuss, this article takes a look at five of the biggest talking points to emanate from WWE SmackDown this week.
At first, I felt The Rock’s in-ring segment was dragging a little. But if his story about the origins of his “candy ass” saying was true, then it's a pretty cool anecdote to begin the show.
But that’s not the main point here.
Naturally, the biggest talking point was the unexpected return of the bumbling John Laurinaitis.
I recently discussed some potential explanations for Big Johnny’s return in an earlier article, so I’ll cut to the chase here.
As much as I would like to see Laurinaitis return on a full-time basis, I get the feeling that this segment only took place to further hype the WWE title match at WrestleMania.
I wasn’t his greatest fan during his last run on WWE television, but having his involvement in the main event of WrestleMania would facilitate some interesting developments that could have a lasting effect on the company’s future direction.
But if the WWE were really bringing back Laurinaitis permanently, I feel they would have done it on Raw rather than SmackDown, and thus I can’t see this return being of too much significance.
Wouldn't you agree?
Putting Triple H’s career on the line at WrestleMania was something of an anti-climactic revelation—mainly because The Game is the overwhelming favorite to defeat Brock Lesnar after his defeat at SummerSlam last year.
However on SmackDown this week, Paul Heyman did a good job of building the mundane stipulation.
The former ECW chief explained the potential long-term impact of defeat for The Game, thus making his choice of stipulation appear a far more prudent move.
Suggesting that a loss could result in the demise of Hunter as a backstage authority figure adds a psychological aspect to the rivalry, giving it something of an extra dimension.
Sure, it’s not going to change the fact that Triple H remains the odds-on favorite to win, but at least it further augments the storyline behind this rivalry.
It may only have been a minor point, but the increasingly uneasy relationship between general manager Booker T and his assistant Teddy Long seemed to grow ever more fractious on SmackDown this week.
When introducing Ryback and Mark Henry prior to their bench press competition, Long interrupted Booker T, further aggravating the general manager.
Long then revealed that he had already determined who would participate in the competition first, which only further undermined the GM’s authority.
It’s a storyline that we have seen steadily building in recent weeks. and with the aforementioned return of John Laurinaitis to consider as well, perhaps we could be witnessing something of a power struggle in the WWE soon?
It may amount to nothing, but where do you think this potential rivalry is headed?
Speaking of SmackDown’s bench press competition, I thought it was a pretty neat addition to the rivalry between Ryback and Mark Henry.
At first I had my doubts, but the event itself turned out to be a fairly exciting spectacle. Most importantly, though, it tells us exactly why we should be interested in these two behemoths' imminent WrestleMania showdown.
This is a clash between two of the biggest and most powerful men in the company right now, something that was emphatically reinforced by either man’s speed and ease in benching 225 pounds.
While it’s arguable that Henry probably has some more impressive records to his name already, given his powerlifting pedigree, it was nonetheless a novel and interesting method of hyping his bout with Ryback.
This feud now looks good to go for WrestleMania in my eyes, but would you agree that the bench press competition was a welcome addition to their feud?
Having seen the seeds sown for this one in recent weeks, SmackDown gave us further reason to believe a potential Divas Championship match between Kaitlyn and AJ could well be in the cards.
The two clashed recently on Raw, while they were in inter-gender tag team competition against one another on Friday night.
Though it may have made more sense for Kaitlyn to have furthered her rivalry with Layla and Tamina, I wouldn’t be particularly averse to a WrestleMania title match between the two former friends.
The dissolution of their companionship means that this rivalry could well have a meaningful backstory behind it—providing the WWE manage to book it correctly.
It may be pretty late in the day, but there is still time to put together a Divas title match at WrestleMania that many people are invested and interested in.
As I mentioned earlier, I felt SmackDown put on quite a high-quality show this week.
On top of the talking points that were already discussed, we saw some further advancement of the increasingly bitter World Heavyweight Championship feud, while The Shield’s pre-recorded promo was as stellar as ever, and the evening's conclusion was a great way to go off the air.
As we enter the final week of programming before The Big One on April 7, let’s hope the WWE can continue the good work and build on its recently improving product.
But what do you guys think of this week’s show?
What involvement could Big Johnny have in the future?
Will Booker T and Teddy Long develop a more significant rivalry?
And did the episode get you even more geared up for WrestleMania?
Comment below with your thoughts on this week’s episode, as well as any opinions you may have on the article itself and the issues discussed.