On the heels of an attack suffered by Daniel Bryan at the hands of Kane on Monday Night Raw, the goat-faced Superstar rolled into the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for SmackDown and wasted no time calling out his former tag team partner and current director of operations, Kane.
How would the Big Red Monster respond?
With his win-loss record against Elimination Chamber opponents at 0-1, Randy Orton entered Friday night needing a big win to restore the faith the Authority has in him as the face of the WWE. His opponent? One of his greatest rivals in "Captain Charisma" Christian.
Could the Toronto native build on the momentum he gained from earning a spot in the Chamber, or would The Viper striker and improve his record to 1-1?
With The Shield's upcoming war with The Wyatt Family on the horizon, would Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns coexist long enough to down the team of Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston? Conversely, would Bray Wyatt be able to fend off the bizarre Goldust? What would the trios have to say to one another this week?
All of these questions would be answered as WWE presented Friday Night SmackDown, just weeks from its annual February spectacular known as Elimination Chamber.
What was good, great and awesome about the show?
Let's take a look.
Sheamus vs. Ryback
Criticisms about his character aside, Sheamus may be the most underrated wrestler on the WWE roster. Ryback has been under great scrutiny for his sloppy work as of late but, on Friday night, was as crisp and good as he has been in months. The result of these two Superstars working together was a match far better than anyone could have expected.
Sheamus picked up a hard-fought victory heading into his WWE title match at Elimination Chamber, as one would have expected, but Ryback looked really good in defeat. A feud between the two may not be the worst thing in the world after the company gets beyond WrestleMania and into the meat of 2014.
Alexander Rusev: Super Athlete
For the second straight week, a video package hyped the impending television debut of Alexander Rusev, who was dominant during his short stint in the 2014 Royal Rumble match.
Dubbed the "super athlete" by spokeswoman Lana, he cut another imposing promo that served as a warning to the rest of the WWE roster.
A Bulgarian brute with impressive speed, size and agility, he is reminiscent of the late Umaga, who looked like a performer who would be a terrible wrestler but was one of the better big men in WWE history.
While it is unknown whether Rusev can live up to the lofty standards set by the Samoan Bulldozer, he proved that the bright lights of pay-per-view were not too much for him as he turned in an impressive performance.
Goldust vs. Bray Wyatt
So Goldust and Bray Wyatt had a match on this week's show. While there was nothing truly wrong with it, it was a bit disappointing given some of the performances both men have been responsible for recently.
Wyatt won the match, while Goldust and brother Cody Rhodes continue to lose the momentum they built for themselves over the past six months. The real meat of the entire segment was the post-match promo by The Shield, as WWE continues to build to the big six-man tag match in a few weeks at Elimination Chamber.
"We hugged it out!"
The opening promo of this week's show featured Bryan calling out Kane about the attack he suffered at the hands of the Big Red Monster on Raw.
Bryan recalled the history between the two of them in Team Hell No and attempted to get Kane to drop the corporate facade and put his mask back on. Kane responded by quoting Triple H, telling his former partner, "In this business, you can either make friends or you can make money."
He continued by making a match between Bryan and Antonio Cesaro for the broadcast.
The segment set up a potential program between Bryan and Kane, as well as one of the night's main events. Very effective 10 minutes to kick off the show.
Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston vs. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns
The dark abyss known as the WWE midcard nearly exploded Friday night as Ziggler and Kingston teamed up.
It was the equivalent of Batman and Superman teaming up.
If Batman and Superman lost all of their fights.
Yep, the two longtime rivals, and most talented losers in recent WWE history, did what they do best by delivering an above-average tag match and making The Shield's Reigns and Ambrose look excellent ahead of their upcoming match against The Wyatt Family.
Speaking of Reigns and Ambrose, they continued to show hints of dissension among them while teammate Seth Rollins, who really should have been given the opportunity to compete in front of his hometown crowd, tried to dispel rumors of problems within the trio.
A great way to kick off the in-ring portion of the evening's broadcast.
The post-match promo by The Wyatt Family was, as has become the norm, outstanding.
The upcoming six-man tag match between the two trios is easily the most anticipated match of the February 23 Elimination Chamber event.
Daniel Bryan vs. Antonio Cesaro
Is there any doubt that this match would ultimately land in this section of the article?
Did not think so.
Bryan and Cesaro are two of the finest workers in all of wrestling. Their time in Ring of Honor helped them develop the skills they now showcase in front of millions of fans on a weekly basis. Their match Friday night was a preview of some of the great matches fans can expect in the years to come.
Bryan won to continue rolling into Elimination Chamber, but Cesaro looked every bit his equal throughout.
After the match, Kane appeared, distracting Bryan and allowing Cesaro to lay him out. The Big Red Monster delivered a chokeslam and set off his ringpost pyro before making his way to the back.
The post-match activities continue to point to Kane being the intermediary rival of Bryan between Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania. With Triple H only taking to the ring at the big events, it will keep Bryan busy between pay-per-view events.
The Prime Time Players Explode
Wait...WWE is focusing on a midcard program between feuding former tag team partners?
Titus O'Neil cut a great, entertaining promo with the assistance of Renee Young before Darren Young came from out of nowhere and attacked his former partner.
Young showed great intensity, while O'Neil was perfect as the cowardly heel who covered up rather than trying to fight back.
The impending match between the two, if given time to unfold, should be fun to watch.
Christian vs. Randy Orton
Captain Charisma and The Viper are seemingly incapable of having a bad match with each other, and Friday night's main event was no exception.
The countermoves and holds really fueled the match, and the springboard dive into the RKO by Orton to end the match was spectacular, if not repeated from Orton's title win over Christian on SmackDown back in 2011.
The win helps Orton recover from Monday's loss to Bryan, while the loss really does nothing to hurt Christian, who no one really buys as a threat to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship anyway.
A really good match to close out a solid night of wrestling.