WWE ‘SmackDown’ Preview – [4/6/12]
It’s official, ‘WrestleMania XXVIII’ is over and done with and it was one heckuva show. Don’t believe me? Then make sure to check out my full write-up of the event.
But just because the biggest event of the professional wrestling year is now behind us, that doesn’t mean there’s not some great stuff brewing in WWE right now. In fact, this past week on ‘Monday Night Raw’ saw the return of not one, but two big, humongous, beefy wrestlers from the early 2000s: Brock Lesnar and A-Train (as Lord Tensai).
While this week’s ‘SmackDown’ doesn’t feature any UFC World Heavyweight Champions (that we know about), there’s definitely some stuff to look out for. Keep reading below to find out what it is, and please do remember that SPOILER WARNINGS are in full effect. Then make sure you tell us what you’re looking forward to in the comments and share the preview on all your sundry social media networks. Finally, follow me on Twitter for all my most up-to-date wrestling ramblings.
The Team Johnny Era of ‘SmackDown’
As of his team’s victory this past weekend at ‘WrestleMania XXVIII,’ John Laurinaitis is now the General Manager of both ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown.’ Since last year, the once and future Johnny Ace has really settled into his role as a goofy, bumbling, inept authority figure, breathing new life into the “evil boss” trope that always works so well in WWE. Laurinaitis’ on-screen persona plays off his obvious troubles with the microphone and connecting with the audience to produce a character that is as hateable as Mr. McMahon but in a completely different way. Where Mr. McMahon spoke to people who worked for sadistic egomaniacs, Laurinaitis speaks to people who work for folks that are just plain dumb and incompetent.
That’s why I’m thrilled to see Laurinaitis’ kayfabe job responsibilities extended to cover WWE’s Friday night show in addition to the Monday flagship. It’s not that I have anything well and truly against former ‘SmackDown’ GM Teddy Long, it’s just that his character felt too familiar and well-worn, and there’s no drama with a goofy, dancing boss that everyone likes. Also, there’s always the chance that former wrestler Laurinaitis might suit up and actually compete in another match, possibly even squaring off with ‘SmackDown’ star Randy Orton, whose RKO finisher is a renamed version of Johnny Ace’s Ace Cutter.
Skip Sheffield is now Ryback
If you think back to the inaugural season of ‘WWE NXT’ (or possibly even as far back as ‘WWE Tough Enough 4’), you might recall a guy by the name of Skip Sheffield. The heavily muscled wrestler looked impressive as hell, but tried to run a goofy, happy-go-lucky good ole’ boy gimmick, complete with his own wacky catchphrase. Trouble was, even when he was smiling – especially when he was smiling – Sheffield looked absolutely terrifying. Things looked to be on the up for him with the formation of the villainous Nexus stable, but an ankle injury in August of last year sidelined him for the rest of 2011.
Now, Sheffield is back and has returned to the gimmick he used in WWE’s developmental territory: Ryback, a “Terminator”-esque wrestler who shares a name with Steven Seagal’s character in the “Under Siege” movies. He’s wrestled a few dark matches in recent weeks, but this Friday sees Ryback’s television debut in a squash match against a jobber. I would have preferred he come back as an absolute monster-heel (like what they’re doing with Lord Tensai on ‘Raw’), but it will still be interesting to see what the wrestler can do when not running his goofy Sheffield gimmick.
YES! YES! YES!
One of the most fascinating things on this week’s ‘Raw’ was how much the Miami crowd has taken to Daniel Bryan in the wake of his humiliating loss to Sheamus at ‘WrestleMania XXVIII.’ Though WWE gave Bryan a chance to address the live audience after the dark main event, the promotion was clearly unprepared for just how over the grappler would be with the smark fans in attendance. Now, on Bryan’s homeshow, he’ll get his first televised opportunity to talk about losing the World Heavyweight Title.
Not surprisingly, Bryan blames his loss on his girlfriend A.J., who he took time to kiss right before getting his head kicked off by Sheamus. As a result, he breaks up with her on this week’s ‘SmackDown,’ which is not only a great heel move, but gives misguided hope to all the delusional weirdoes who like to publicly lust after A.J. on the internet. But according to reports about the ‘SmackDown’ taping, nothing Bryan did could keep the crowd from going absolutely bananas over him with incessant “YES!” chants. On ‘SmackDown,’ Bryan tries to play it off as if they were mocking him, but it will be interesting to see whether he can keep his heel heat. While I love cheering for Bryan, I’d hate to have him become face again since everything neat about him in WWE recently has been on account of his heel gimmick.
Another debut: Damien Sandow
Ryback wasn’t the only debut on this week’s ‘SmackDown,’ as the show also saw the first appearance of Damien Sandow. The wrestler has actually been kicking around the industry since 2001, with stints in OVW, ROH and WWC in Puerto Rico, and he’s even been seen on WWE television before. Sandow wrestled several matches on ‘Heat’ in the early 2000s before eventually making it to ‘SmackDown,’ where he competed briefly as Idol Stevens.
Now, after spending time in WWE’s developmental territory, FCW, Sandow is back with a new persona. He makes his first appearance on ‘SmackDown’ this week in a backstage promo, with what is described as an “actor gimmick.”
Alberto Del Rio is back!
Though he appeared this past Monday on ‘Raw,’ this week’s episode of ‘SmackDown’ features Alberto Del Rio’s first televised match since late last year. He’ll take on Sheamus, defeating the World Heavyweight Champion by disqualification to become the new No. 1 contender. Both Sheamus and Del Rio are great workers with a lot of charisma, so I’m looking forward to their developing rivalry.
That said, the news that ADR is the new No. 1 contender is a little bittersweet, as I was hoping for Daniel Bryan to stay in the World Title picture via a rematch clause. I didn’t mind his 18-second loss to Sheamus if it was throwing fuel on the fire of their feud, but if it was just to put Sheamus over, I’m less OK with. Additionally, as over as Bryan is right now in certain circles, it seems crazy to sideline him in favor of Del Rio, who while great in his own right, has often struggled to forge a really strong connection with the audience.