With multi-man matches for the Intercontinental Championship and the Tag Team Championships set for WrestleMania, as well as the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, much of this week was spent establishing a wide field of competitors for these bouts.
In some cases that made for very short bouts that didn't really do that much in the ring—but elsewhere it produced very engaging competition. Here are the matches to catch if you're just looking for the very best in-ring action from the past week.
The wrestling week started with a couple of excellent bouts to build to the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at WrestleMania. First, Bad News Barrett took on Daniel Bryan in a match that was as good as you would expect from the previous times we've seen these two square off.
Then, Dean Ambrose took on Stardust in a pairing that we've seen much less of, but which proved to be just as fruitful. It's easy to imagine these two engaging in a very entertaining feud somewhere down the line—perhaps once Cody is brought back to the real world.
Elsewhere, Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze had an excellent match on NXT to continue their feud. Itami's slow start in NXT was well documented, but he's well into his stride now. Every movement he makes in the ring is done for a reason, and there are few wrestlers on the roster quite as crisp as he is in that sense.
However, that's not to take anything away from Breeze. Prince Pretty demonstrates that you don't need to be a big star from the independent scene to excel in NXT—based on both his excellent character work and his ever-improving in-ring abilities, Breeze has a very bright future ahead of him.
Match of the Week for Week of Mar. 8: Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose vs. Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper and Stardust on SmackDown
A six-man tag team match is the default main event for SmackDown at this point, and as a result it's become a little bit stale. However, the competitors involved this week managed to produce something truly exciting—and it's no surprise, considering all six men are among the very best in-ring talents in the company.
In-ring ability is the reason that this group has been selected for the Intercontinental Championship, and based on this bout, there's plenty to be excited about as their Ladder Match at WrestleMania draws closer.
Obviously intended as a preview of that bout, this tag match demonstrated just how varied the field is. Barrett is well cast as the defending champ, Harper excels in his role as the big man and Stardust adds an element of the strange.
Meanwhile, Bryan adds some star power to proceedings, Ambrose can turn things into a brawl and Ziggler—as ever—is perhaps the best underdog the WWE has at present. They're a creative bunch even in this setting, so it's difficult to predict what lengths we'll see them go to with a ladder involved.
Whatever you think of the title-stealing build that has dominated this feud, it's difficult to argue that the match quality that it has already produced has been well above average. The upper midcard finally seems to be taking shaper around the Intercontinental Championship, as its seemed poised to for so long.
It's great to see that the belt is finally being returned to some level of prestige, and it's even better to see so much talent vying for prominence. Athletes of this calibre wrestling regularly with such good competition is providing excellent matches like this across WWE television—and that's what a secondary title should be all about.
Daniel Bryan's fans are likely still disappointed that he's not competing for the world title, but in truth there's no better outlet for his skills than the current Intercontinental Championship division. If the pack that are chasing the title now continue to do so for a while, it could easily be the most compelling thing in WWE.
What was your favourite match of the week? Were you floored by Curtis Axel vs. Rusev? Blown away by Naomi vs. Natalya? Or riveted by Erick Rowan and Ryback vs. Big Show and Kane? Let us know in the comments section below.