With SummerSlam 2013 just over two weeks away, this week's Friday Night SmackDown will hit the SyFy airwaves from Houston, Texas. As the hype surrounding the summertime spectacular reaches its heights and the feuds and stories that will climax at the show continue their builds, Friday's show could very well prove to be a major step in determining who will enter the Staples Center in Los Angeles on August 18 with the momentum on their side.
This week's show is over a week old, thanks to a touring schedule that has seen the WWE Superstars and Divas performing for fans overseas. That does not mean there will not be several intriguing developments and potential show-stealing matches featuring the likes of CM Punk, Randy Orton and Rob Van Dam.
Without further ado, here is a look at this week's show, sans spoilers, of course.
Del Rio's SummerSlam opponent revealed!
Much in the way that John Cena was allowed to choose his next challenger, Alberto Del Rio will be given the same opportunity. A cunning, conniving and villainous World Heavyweight champion, it is unlikely that the Mexican aristocrat will be as noble and crowd-pleasing as his fellow champion.
Will he reach into his bag of tricks and pick a Superstar who will assure him that he leaves Los Angeles as champion? Perhaps he selects someone like Hornswoggle or Jinder Mahal who, with all due respect to both men, pose no threat to him or his title.
Whoever he selects, the question remains whether the choice will be met with any resistance by general manager Vickie Guerrero or any of the Superstars in the locker room.
Cody Rhodes vs. Jack Swagger
Cody Rhodes has had former tag team partner Damien Sandow in his sights since Money in the Bank, where Sandow cost Cody the opportunity to finally realize his potential by capturing the briefcase and the opportunity to challenge for the World Heavyweight title. With a potential SummerSlam showdown against Sandow awaiting him, Rhodes rolls into SmackDown and a date with Jack Swagger.
Swagger and fellow "Real American" Antonio Cesaro have suffered disappointing losses in recent weeks and are looking to rebound. A win for the former World champion over someone as hot and surging as Rhodes would help recover some of the momentum Swagger enjoyed earlier this year.
Lurking around the arena will be Sandow, who will likely be looking to gain a measure of revenge on Rhodes for dumping the Money in the Bank briefcase into the Gulf of Mexico and humiliating the "Intellectual Savior of the Masses" on the July 26 broadcast.
What role he plays in the match, if any, remains to be seen.
Sin Cara vs. Big E Langston
The weekly saga involving Langston, Divas champion AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler will take a break on Friday's show, as Big E is showcased in a one-on-one competition against the high-flying Sin Cara.
Can the lucha libre veteran derail Langston prior to his potential SummerSlam showdown with Ziggler, or will Langston add to Sin Cara's disappointing 2013?
CM Punk vs. Fandango
On the July 26 broadcast, CM Punk was in the middle of delivering a message to Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar ahead of his match with Lesnar at SummerSlam when he was interrupted by Fandango, who was accompanied by the always-lovely Summer Rae. Punk wasted little time in destroying the flamboyant breakout star before dimming his lights with the Go To Sleep.
Seven days later, Fandango will have the opportunity to gain revenge against the self-proclaimed Best in the World by defeating him and creating doubt in his mind entering his colossal SummerSlam clash.
In an interview with WWE.com posted early on Thursday, Punk said of his SmackDown opponent:
He knows how to wrestle. Guy’s been with the company for a very long time and he got a break doing something flamboyant and I think it’s great. But, over time, you’re going to find out that he can go. Bell to bell, he can wrestle. You’re going to find that out.
Will Fandango prove the former WWE champion right? Can he deliver a performance that will silence his critics and serve notice to the Superstars, Divas, management and the WWE Universe that he is a performer to be reckoned with?
More importantly, will CM Punk be able to stay focused long enough to dispatch of his opposition, or will he be so focused on destroying Paul Heyman that he slips up and allows Fandango to steal an upset win?
Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee for the Divas Championship
Kaitlyn and current Divas champion AJ Lee have produced several quality title bouts in recent months, including a phenomenal match at Payback and a second solid outing this past Monday on Raw.
Kaitlyn's win four days earlier has earned her another shot at her former best friend and the title she once fought so hard to win. With AJ emotionally unstable following her breakup with Dolph Ziggler, she may be leaving herself susceptible to defeat.
A title win for Kaitlyn would go a long way in solidifying her status as Diva of the Year for 2013 and would crush AJ to the point of a potential psychotic breakdown. A successful defense for the champion, however, would likely bring to an end any chance Kaitlyn has of regaining her title.
At least for now.
With the SummerSlam card taking shape, where does that leave the likes of Randy Orton, Rob Van Dam and Christian, all of whom play a major role on Friday night's broadcast? Will any of their paths to the annual August pay-per-view extravaganza become clearer by the time SmackDown concludes, or will their immediate futures remain status quo?
With JBL absent from the announce position, who will join Michael Cole to call the action?
These questions, and more, will be answered as World Wrestling Entertainment presents SmackDown this Friday night at 8 p.m. on SyFy!