The weeks following WrestleMania have traditionally been a time when WWE calls up talent from developmental, giving them a chance on the main roster.
This year has proven to be no different, though not all of this week's debuts were superstars new to the main brands.
Lord Tensai, a returning A-Train with a new gimmick, returned on Raw, while former Nexus member Skip Sheffield made his comeback on Smackdown, repackaged as Ryback.
Damien Sandow, who has been talked about as a standout in WWE's developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling, also made his debut, albeit in the form of a pre-recorded promo.
Ryback's match, much like Tensai's on Raw, was a squash. His opponent was a local independent wrestler, appearing under the name Barry Stevens.
An unfortunately timed injury sidelined Sheffield early in his tenure on the main roster, so it's nice to see him get a second chance. This was a bit awkward, though, as Stevens insulted the crowd, but Ryback certainly didn't play to them.
Hopefully there is a plan in place for something more than just squash matches, as it seems Tensai is on the same path on Raw. Just as Brodus Clay appears to be moving up, two new jobber squashers are making their way onto the roster.
Regardless, it's nice to see an influx of new talent, as WWE needs to focus on building new stars.
As for Sandow's promo, it was a strong debut for him on Smackdown, as he presented his character -- that of an upper-class snob, though in a different presentation than someone like Alberto Del Rio -- well.
It will be exciting to see what happens with Sandow. Seeing new talent debut is a cool feeling because even new fans can watch someone's career develop -- or flounder -- before their eyes.
With so much talent waiting in the wings of FCW, guys like Sandow, Ryback and Tensai aren't the top choices of many fans, but patience is the key. WWE cannot rush the rise of too many stars, but everyone's favorites will have their chance to prove themselves worthy of the promotion.
Seeing promise in so many developmental stars makes me want to check out episodes of FCW online, and I'd encourage others to do the same. The stars in Florida today will be the stars of Raw and Smackdown in the coming years.
* Del Rio earned a future World Heavyweight Championship title match by defeating Sheamus on Friday night, though it was by disqualification. Del Rio brought a chair into the ring, but when Sheamus grabbed it to toss it out, the referee saw him with the chair. Del Rio pulled an Eddie Guerrero and acted as if he'd been hit, so the ref would disqualify Sheamus. The match itself was given ample time and was a good television main event. After the match, the champ delivered a Brogue Kick to the official, showing hints at his mean side once again. While I think a Sheamus-Del Rio feud has potential, I hope to see Bryan claim his rematch, as well.
* Randy Orton and Kane met in a WrestleMania rematch that managed to top their contest on Sunday. The no-disqualification rules helped, and it seemed as if they had more time, but they worked a really good match. Orton's victory almost guarantees there will be a rubber match, likely at Extreme Rules later this month. It will be curious to see what stipulation that match will have, given the no-disqualification nature of their match Friday night.
* Daniel Bryan cut one heck of a promo, officially kicking AJ to the curb and ending their relationship. The oh-so-compassionate crowd responded by giving AJ the patented "hey, hey, goodbye" chant. WWE apparently still wants to keep Bryan a heel, though the crowd seems adamant against it. They chanted "Daniel Bryan" and "Yes! Yes! Yes!" Bryan did his part in responding, saying if the fans really supported him, they wouldn't have chanted that during The Rock's promo on Raw. I've loved Bryan's heel run, but the people clearly want to endorse him.
* Newly appointed Smackdown general manager John Laurinaitis continued his crusade against superstars who supported Teddy Long by pitting R-Truth against the tandem of David Otunga and Mark Henry. The match was fairly short and pedestrian, as R-Truth had a chance to shine a little against Otunga, but once Henry entered, it was all but over. In the end, Otunga demanded Henry tag him in, so he could earn the pin, and Henry told Laurinaitis' right-hand man, "You owe me one." Could Otunga repay the favor by getting Henry a rightful rematch against WWE Champion CM Punk after the events of Raw?
* The feud between Intercontinental champion Big Show and Cody Rhodes seems poised to continue. Big Show once again showed pictures of their match at WrestleMania before his match with Heath Slater. The match was a squash and a set up for the post-match angle, which saw Show call Rhodes to the ring, knock out Slater and scare the former champ to the back. This was the smart play at this point in the game, to keep the two physically separated for a while. Hopefully they have a blow-off match at Extreme Rules and both men move onto better things.
* Laurinaitis' plans to punish Nikki Bella, who supported Long, backfired as she defeated Divas champion Beth Phoenix in a non-title match because of a distraction from Kelly Kelly. Laurinaitis gave Brie Bella, who supported his team, the night off. Nikki Bella still seemed to playing the role of a heel, so it will be interested to see if the oft-teased Bella break-up will actually become a reality this time around.
* My hopes that Laurinaitis' victory at WrestleMania would be the last we saw of Long seem to be going unfulfilled. Under threat of losing his grandkids' college trust fund, Long admitted Laurinaitis is better than him (it's the truth) and accepted an unspecified job in his foe's administration. I would much prefer if Long rode off into the sunset, as this seems to be setting up some embarrassing segments of Long doing backstage chores in the coming weeks.
* Smackdown next week will air live Tuesday night and feature a "Blast from the Past" theme. The commercial said nothing like this has ever been done before. Did we forget about that "old-school" episode of Raw a year or two ago?
David Otunga and Mark Henry d. R-Truth
Randy Orton d. Kane in a no-disqualification match
Ryback d. Barry Stevens
Big Show d. Heath Slater
Nikki Bella d. Beth Phoenix
Alberto Del Rio d. Sheamus via disqualification
Friday night's episode of Smackdown was a strong follow up to an exceptionally good Raw. Coming out of WrestleMania, the show featured two really strong matches in Kane vs. Orton and Sheamus vs. Del Rio and planted early seeds toward Extreme Rules feuds, both new and continuing. This has been a strong week for WWE, and I'm hoping they can continue to ride the momentum.
Ring Posts’ Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents and All American Pro Wrestling to bring you "From the Rafters Radio," a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun