WWE SmackDown emanates from Corpus Christi, Texas this week. The program was recorded on Wednesday, July 24, following a Monday Night Raw that was filled with some very entertaining moments.
Raw featured the WWE Championship contract signing between John Cena and Daniel Bryan. We also saw a verbal confrontation between two former best friends in CM Punk and Paul Heyman. Later in the program we saw Bryan face Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro and then Ryback in a three-match gauntlet main event.
Would SmackDown be able to follow all of that up with some drama of its own? Here are five things you need to know about the program so you can decide for yourself.
**WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD**
1. Cody Rhodes exacts a measure of revenge on Damien Sandow
The opening match of the night featured both Money in the Bank winners, as Damien Sandow faced off against Randy Orton. The bout itself is sure to deliver, as Sandow's work has gotten progressively better since his tag team with Rhodes first began.
Randy Orton is Randy Orton of course. He is an established veteran in the ring and is very accustomed to getting it done against a variety of opponents. His recent Money in the Bank win gives him more momentum than he has seen in a long time, and it's only a matter of time before he and Sandow each cash in.
This match was evidently less about Randy and more about the issues between Sandow and Cody Rhodes. Cody was at ringside for the match and actually took off with the briefcase, costing Damien the win and more likely his sanity.
Sandow spent the rest of the night trying to find Cody backstage, running into Sin Cara, Mark Henry and the Usos in the process. By the end of the program, he is back in the ring demanding that Cody return the case but is instead taunted by Rhodes on the Titantron.
Though this angle is oftentimes reserved for a heel as the thief, the fact is that Sandow will surely do his part to make this one entertaining. To see him stress out for the next few weeks would be great for his character and could very well lead up to a match against Rhodes, in which the case will perhaps be on the line.
2. The AJ Lee-Dolph Ziggler drama continues
WWE's power couple have come to an end, as Dolph Ziggler recently decided to break up with girlfriend AJ Lee. The only problem? AJ wasn't exactly ready for the relationship to end.
Since AJ is WWE's resident psychopath, the fact is that Dolph is not immune from her evil ways. She has him squarely in her sights and will likely not rest until he's out of commission.
AJ and Big E Langston entered the ring, and Lee verbally attacked her ex-boyfriend. She apparently even brought some of his belongings into the equation and decided to destroy them in the ring. This prompted Kaitlyn to come out, followed by Ziggler. The spot broke down in a physical confrontation between the four Superstars before it was all said and done.
The heat between AJ and Dolph is obviously far from over, and this rivalry could very well be leading to Ziggler facing Langston at the upcoming SummerSlam pay-per-view. Though that match could arguably not do much for Dolph, it would definitely be a good move for Big E. Win or lose, he would get the opportunity to hook it up with one of the company's best hands in the big event environment.
3. Alberto Del Rio faces Rob Van Dam
Alberto Del Rio was apparently inspired by the events of Raw, specifically the decision of GM Brad Maddox allowing John Cena to choose his own opponent for SummerSlam. Before the new SmackDown GM could make the call, Rob Van Dam decided to interrupt, wanting a shot at Del Rio's world title.
However, Alberto wanted Van Dam to earn his championship shot, and so the two Superstars had a non-title match. This match ended with a victory for Del Rio, after RVD was apparently distracted with the referee.
This is an interesting one for me. I honestly don't know how many fans felt Van Dam would come back to WWE and immediately be given a main event run. While he has certainly earned the spotlight he has been given over the years, the truth is that he is coming back to a company that has survived and succeeded without him.
Van Dam is a pro and understands that there is a pecking order in terms of who is holding the gold and that if he were to be inserted into a contender spot, he would surely have to get in line with other Superstars.
I for one believe that we could actually see RVD and Alberto working for the world title at SummerSlam. It would likely raise interest, which should be at an all-time high considering that Daniel Bryan is facing John Cena and CM Punk is facing Brock Lesnar.
Rob Van Dam challenging the World Heavyweight Champion on that stage would certainly be a nice addition to the event.
4. The Wyatt Family make their ring debut
For the first time since they debuted on WWE's main roster, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper worked in a televised match. They squared off against Tons of Funk and won the match with Bray Wyatt cutting a promo afterward.
Evidently, Kane was once again the object of Bray's attention, as the cult figure continued to speak in riddles to the Texas crowd. If there was any doubt before, it must be gone by now: The Wyatt Family is on WWE programming because of Kane.
Right now it's very hard to say what the endgame will be or what all of this has to do with Kane, but I do believe there is every possibility that the family could soon grow by one. As crazy as it may seem, I think that it's entirely possible we could see Kane lose the mask, change his gear and emerge on the upcoming Raw alongside Bray Wyatt as his newest believer.
The fact that Rowan and Harper have finally debuted in the ring is good for the Wyatt Family gimmick. Bray can continue to watch from his rocker as Luke and Erick carry out destruction in his name. WWE also now has a new tag team, two more fresh faces to not only keep the division relevant but to make it exciting for fans.
5. CM Punk works the main event against Fandango
CM Punk managed to set aside his personal problems with former best friend Paul Heyman in order to face Fandango in the main event of the night. This is an interesting one for me, especially since we are still seeing the development of Fandango in WWE.
The truth is that a Superstar can only grow if he works with guys better than he is. Punk's ability level is more advanced, and he has a lot more experience than Fandango, which gives the younger worker the opportunity to learn when they face off. Fandango can apply what he can do under the direction of Punk, who is surely calling the match and we will all see just how good he looks.
And keeping Punk active on TV is good for fans, as we are likely only going to see Lesnar very sporadically before SummerSlam happens on August 18. We can still see Punk do what he does in the ring while still keeping his heat alive with Brock through Heyman.
Giving Fandango the chance to main event on TV and keeping Punk in the ring as much as possible are both good moves in my opinion. This edition of SmackDown got it right on both counts.