After an eventful Monday Night Raw that saw four new matches announced for the December 15 TLC pay-per-view, this week's SmackDown emanates from the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
WWE champion Randy Orton was left lying as Raw went off the air, having been put through a table by World Heavyweight champion John Cena. He kicks off this week's show but is interrupted by a familiar foe.
As advertised on Monday night, "Best in the World" CM Punk is in action against one of the three members of The Shield.
Intercontinental champion Big E Langston is in action just eight days from a big title defense against Damien Sandow, who is at ringside for the champion's non-title bout, while Tamina attempts to wear Natalya down ahead of the third-generation Diva's title opportunity against AJ Lee at TLC.
Rey Mysterio, Big Show and the Real Americans all see in-ring competition on the most star-studded episode of SmackDown in quite some time.
With the final pay-per-view of 2013 rapidly approaching, here is a look at everything that goes down on this week's broadcast, courtesy of our friends at WrestlingInc.com.
BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Michael Cole and John Bradshaw Layfield
- WWE champion Randy Orton addresses the crowd but is interrupted by Daniel Bryan. A match between the two is set up for the main event.
- Big E Langston defeats Fandango
- Bad News Barrett makes the first of several appearances throughout the evening
- Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio never happens as Del Rio attacks Kingston from behind
- The Shield cuts a promo and struggles to agree on who should face CM Punk later in the evening.
- Ryback and Curtis Axel defeat Goldust and Cody Rhodes in a non-title match
- CM Punk defeats Dean Ambrose
- A backstage segment involving Rey Mysterio, the Real Americans and Zeb Colter occurs, apparently setting up a match later in the evening.
- Natalya pins Tamina
- Rey Mysterio and Big Show beat the Real Americans
- A Michael Cole-Triple H interview airs
- Randy Orton pins Daniel Bryan following interference from the Wyatt Family
Bryan vs. Orton, Part 1,000
The main event of this week's show is the latest chapter in the never-ending Bryan-Orton series.
That is not necessarily a bad thing as the two have been known to deliver outstanding matches with one another. Even better is the fact that their best work has come on free television.
Bryan takes the loss thanks to interference from the Wyatt Family, which helps to further build to their upcoming handicap match, while Orton picks up another tainted win.
While it would be easy to jump aboard the bandwagon and berate the company for booking Orton so poorly, this writer will simply settle for the fact that the champion is a heel and heels cheat.
Tag Team Contenders
For the first time since winning the titles and going on one of the hottest streaks of 2013, Goldust and Cody Rhodes have been on the losing end of two consecutive matches.
The latest, to Ryback and Curtis Axel on this week's SmackDown, sets the former Heyman guys up perfectly for a title shot, at least in the eyes of the creative team, who have probably forgotten the fact that they lost to Big E Langston and Mark Henry on last week's Raw.
With nothing else for them to really do, Ryback and Axel could make for solid number one contenders and split up some of the repetitiveness that has encapsulated the tag division in recent weeks.
Even if those repetitive matches were often times awesome.
Punk Puts Ambrose to Sleep
There is an argument to be made that the creative team should put more focus on establishing the individual members of The Shield as legitimate singles threats so that, when the time comes to split them, the fans can easily buy them as top stars outside of the group.
With that said, Punk needs to look like he can stand up to, and knock down, the members of The Shield on his own. He needs to pick up a few victories over the individuals because if he does not, no one will ever believe he can beat the collective.
Without that hope, fans have no reason to care or want to buy the show.
So this is the one case where the established guy going over the young up-and-comer is a good thing.
Most notable about the above-mentioned match is that Ambrose is not accompanied to the ring by Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns.
A backstage promo results in arguing among the group as to who should face Punk, with Ambrose nominating himself and taking the match, regardless of whether his teammates agree.
It is the first time that any dissension, perceived or otherwise, has really affected the group's ability to work together to accomplish their goals.
It should be very interesting to see where things go from here.
Rey and Big Show Down the Real Americans
This match just seems like it would be awesome.
Mysterio has always thrived when teaming with a bigger opponent. His championship team with Batista was proof of that.
Big Show, on the other hand, has looked to be in less-than-stellar shape since returning to the ring and, at this point in his career, would likely work best in tag matches where he does not have to do the majority of the work.
The Real Americans have been outstanding as of late and the dynamic of the two teams, from the outside looking in, seems like it would make for some really fun tag matches.
Rey and Big Show winning was not necessary as Swagger and Cesaro could have greatly benefited from a victory over the two future Hall of Famers.
If the match lives up to its potential, however, one can only hope it is the beginning of a sustained rivalry between the two tandems.
Natalya Keeps On Rolling
It is surprising that, of all of the Total Divas cast members, Natalya has gotten the best of AJ as much as she has in recent weeks. After all, for being as talented as she is in the ring, she has always demonstrated a lack of charisma and has never really connected with the fan base at large.
But here she is, just over a week away from a title match in which she has as good a chance of winning as the Divas champion does.
She continues her winning ways on SmackDown, knocking off AJ's bodyguard Tamina via pinfall.
If the title switch does occur at TLC, which it should not, it would be at the expense of the most over Diva the company has produced in a very long time.
You can catch all of the action and drama of World Wrestling Entertainment SmackDown this Friday night on SyFy beginning at 8.
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