The Valentine’s Day edition of WWE SmackDown created a thick fog along the road to WrestleMania 33.
Thanks to Randy Orton swearing allegiance to Bray Wyatt, a WWE Championship match that seemed certain just days ago is now up in the air. The blue brand may be poised to move major chess pieces around ahead of The Showcase of the Immortals.
Is SmackDown simply toying with its audience? Could a dark horse emerge as Wyatt’s challenger?
These are the biggest questions Tuesday’s SmackDown left lingering.
The future of James Ellsworth and Carmella’s relationship is uncertain, as well. Tuesday’s show also left fans wondering about the narrative arc of Nikki Bella vs. Natalya and Luke Harper’s position on the SmackDown food chain.
The blue brand did well to create intrigue, as it left many a question unanswered. Let’s dive into each of them, with an eye on WrestleMania’s impending approach.
Will Falls Count Anywhere Match Be the End of Natalya vs. Bella?
Two days after Natalya and Bella couldn’t settle things in the ring, they began to brawl backstage in front of SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan.
Bryan had seen enough. These women have been fighting all over the arena for weeks.
The GM announced that Bella and Natalya would battle in a Falls Count Anywhere match next week.
That’s the kind of bout that effectively caps off a feud. Are we nearing the end of this rivalry? Or will the enemies find a way to continue their personal war?
If Natalya vs. Bella was a WrestleMania-worth match, perhaps the Falls Count Anywhere bout would only be a precursor to something bigger.
Bella, though, likely has something else ahead for her. Her collision with Maryse backstage at the Elimination Chamber, combined with John Cena pinning The Miz that same night, feels like the beginnings of a rivalry between couples.
If that’s the case, Bella will finish Natalya off once and for all next Tuesday, allowing her to begin her WrestleMania story.
How Will Harper Impact WWE Title Scene?
Before Wyatt took on Cena and AJ Styles in Tuesday’s main event, an old ally ambushed him. Harper pounced on the WWE champ until referees pulled him off.
This followed a loss on Sunday to the man who replaced Harper in Wyatt’s crew—Orton.
It’s clear Harper isn’t done tangling with what’s left of The Wyatt Family.
Is Harper going to be disruptor from this point forward? Will he cost Wyatt the title out of spite? Will he himself be the one to challenge his former leader?
Regardless, it looks like Harper is set to be a part of SmackDown‘s main event picture. Miami Herald columnist Scott Fishman among those glad to see Harper in this spot:
Hopefully, this isn’t a short-term situation. Harper has been due for a push for a long while. He’s a big bruiser who excels in slugfests—an emerging star in need of a major opportunity.
That was clear on Sunday’s pay-per-view, when Harper thrived in a loss to Orton.
The smart move would be to slide Harper into the WWE title match at WrestleMania. His history with Orton and Wyatt would make for quite the storyline.
What Does Carmella Have Planned for Ellsworth?
Ellsworth continued to dote on Carmella on Tuesday. He flirted with her and fought for her honor when Dean Ambrose ran his mouth.
She couldn’t care less. Her disdain for him has grown clearer in recent weeks. She told him on Tuesday to take it slow and keep things professional, obviously delaying things with him.
What’s her endgame? How will Carmella use her hold over Ellsworth? Will she break his heart for the sport of it, or is this all part of a master plan?
If it’s the latter option, it’s hard to tell what WWE has in mind.
Ellsworth isn’t exactly flush with money or influence. The only thing he can really offer is to be her sacrificial lamb.
What began as a seemingly throwaway story is starting to develop some legs. Hopefully, WWE doesn’t end this in fizzling fashion and instead finds a way to craft Carmella an unforgettable heel moment.
Who Will Face Wyatt at WrestleMania?
Orton winning the Royal Rumble and Wyatt retaining the WWE title on Tuesday made it feel certain that WrestleMania was assured a clash of Wyatt Family members. That may not be the case.
After Wyatt outlasted Styles and Cena, Orton approached the champ. He refused to face him, bowed down before him and promised subservience.
There goes SmackDown‘s top WrestleMania match. Or does it? Is WWE really shifting plans or adding drama to what we expected all along?
On Tuesday’s Talking Smack, Bryan booked a No. 1 Contender’s Battle Royal for next week. That will at least open the door for another challenger to step up.
What a Maneuver brought up the idea of all Wyatt Family Triple Threat match:
That’s the ideal move if WWE is going to shift away from its Wyatt-Orton idea. There will be so much story to tap into with that battle. Plus, this would be the biggest match of Harper’s career, helping to further the bruiser’s career, win or lose.
WWE isn’t likely to scrap its WrestleMania plans but instead adjust them for the better.