For all intents and purposes, Friday's edition of Smackdown was the blue brand's go-home show for next weekend's WrestleMania.
With a series of events scheduled to begin in Miami next week, Monday's Raw will be the last show taped before the big night next Sunday. That means there will not be a new episode of Smackdown next week.
At least not a regular show. In recent years, WWE has used those final hours of television to highlight the WrestleMania week festivities and build final hype for the show.
With all that in mind, it was interesting to see a Smackdown episode filled with contestants in the 12-man tag team battle of the general managers and people not even booked into WrestleMania feuds at this point.
Team Teddy Long members R-Truth, Zack Ryder and The Great Khali faced off with Mark Henry, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler, respectively. Each team would earn one definitive win, and a countout victory by Khali would push the show's outing into Team Long's favor.
Outside of those three matches, AJ faced Brie Bella and Brodus Clay returned to action against Heath Slater. There have been teases of AJ receiving a divas title match after WrestleMania, so it's actually a good thing to see her push beginning now, rather than one week before her title match.
The remaining matches on the show featured Big Show and Kane facing each other in a rematch from Monday's Raw and a high-caliber main event between WWE Champion CM Punk and Sheamus and World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan and The Miz.
At first glance, the line-up for Smackdown seems weak for the go-home show for WrestleMania, advancing only three feuds for the biggest event of the year - the general managers showdown, the Intercontinental Championship bout and the World Heavyweight Championship match.
But as addressed last week , this year's WrestleMania isn't about Smackdown - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. While Raw is being crowded with the top-tier talent, a whole other crop of superstars are being granted the opportunity to shine on Smackdown and to develop their characters.
While Friday's Smackdown may not have set the world on fire as far as go-home shows go, the show successfully added fuel to the three Smackdown-based matches at WrestleMania, as well as the cross-brand battle between Randy Orton and Kane.
Next week's show should be a fun look at some of the WrestleMania activities and it won't sacrifice too much to forego another episode of Smackdown. Monday's Raw will be the final stop on the Road to WrestleMania.
- The main event tag match was good, as is to be expected with the four current and former world champions in the ring. From the beginning, Miz was clearly there to take the fall, but all four put in a solid effort. The match build toward Bryan vs. Sheamus at WreslteMania, gave more tease to Bryan vs. Punk and helped further Miz's losing streak angle. What more can you ask for in a match like this?
- AJ being allowed time on the microphone to open the show was great on a number of levels. First, it allowed her the chance to develop her character more. Second, it made Bryan look like the controlling and manipulative man he has become. It wouldn't be surprising to see AJ help Bryan retain the world title at WrestleMania to set up a true "golden couple" angle as she chases the Divas Championship, but of course, she'd only be doing what was best for her man. Regardless, WWE has allowed women like AJ and Eve time to develop personas, which is more than we've seen from the divas division in years.
As for AJ's match with Brie Bella, it was probably one of the better divas matches we've seen recently. This mini-feud with the Bellas, who used to long for Bryan, has been good for AJ. Seeing her use submission moves shows that Bryan has been working with and coaching her, which fits with their story. Also, Bryan once again stealing AJ's thunder during the post-match celebration was great. Anyone who still says this man has no charisma is obviously blind. For those "in the know," it's also funny seeing Bryan's on-screen girlfriend mix it up with his real-life beau.