The WWE Title Match for WrestleMania was finally solidified last week on SmackDown Live. The rest of the card, from this brand’s perspective, is also starting to come into focus. In last week’s preview, we knew the vast majority of what would be taking place on the show. This week, strangely, little has been announced. So let’s get right to five reasons to watching SmackDown LIVE.
1. Wyatt Responds?
Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton beat AJ Styles last week to reaffirm his status as the #1 contender for the WWE Title. Now we can get back to talking about that poor shack that was burnt down two weeks ago.
Bray Wyatt was curiously absent from last week’s show. But one would have to assume he’ll be back on TV in some form this week. We should be getting his response to this…
Hopefully, Orton also provides some storyline explanation for the timing of his turn. I was largely critical of the angle when it went down two weeks ago. I get that Orton was waiting to get the “keys to the kingdom”, but really, the only thing that made it a babyface turn was Orton getting cheered. Call me old school, but I still think that a simple RKO would have sufficed.
I also think that the far superior Jericho-Owens “Festival of Friendship” angle has had an effect on this program. SmackDown probably had to delay their big turn so that it didn’t come too soon after. Also, as I just alluded to, the RAW angle was just plain better. Still, there’s time to peak the Orton-Wyatt program right in time for WrestleMania.
2. More Mania Matches Made Official?
Say that three times fast.
While not “officially” announced (yet), the last several weeks have made clear that three matches are taking place at WrestleMania 33: AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon, John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse, and an Intercontinental Title Match between champion Dean Ambrose and challenger Baron Corbin. I expect all three to be made official by tonight, if not before the show (a la Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker Monday).
In case if you missed Talking Smack last week (big mistake!) or simply haven’t checked the news since last week, we saw this from AJ and Shane.
The mixed tag has been an obvious direction going back at least three weeks. Again, all we need is an official challenge.
Corbin used a forklift to injure Ambrose last week. I’d still like to have him brag about what he did but on Talking Smack to Renee Young. Not sure if they’ll give Ambrose the week off to “sell” the injuries (I really like how Daniel Bryan put over Ambrose’s schedule on last week’s Talking Smack!) or if he’ll be back to deliver some sort of physical response. Regardless, you can book that match for Orlando as well.
3. Any Other Challengers for Bliss?
You’ll notice SmackDown has announced Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss will defend against “all available contenders” at WrestleMania 33. This will obviously exclude Nikki Bella and Maryse, who are in the mixed tag. More interesting is the question of who it allows into the match. We know Becky Lynch, Mickie James, Natalya and Carmella are official. But it seems as if there will be a surprise too.
There’s a chance Naomi could be back to win the title in her hometown of Orlando. They could also bring Tamina Snuka back into the fold as she’s back working house shows. But that would be lame. More appetizing would be an Eva Marie return. But I’ve heard nothing to justify that rumor.
But here’s a name that could be the most surprising of all… Asuka. As we know, she showed up at Sunday’s live event at Madison Square Garden and also worked Monday’s SmackDown live event in Charleston. This could be much ado about nothing. But, Asuka could conceivably work WrestleMania were she to lose the NXT Women’s Title at TakeOver.
4. Could We Get The Tag Division Off The Milk Carton?
Three weeks ago, The Usos made a challenge to American Alpha. It was probably their best promo ever. We haven’t see either team – or any team in the SmackDown tag division for that matter – since.
I get that there’s not a lot to choose from among the SmackDown tag division lot. So they can’t do Alpha vs. The Usos too soon, especially if they plan on doing it at Mania. They can probably do the match once on TV, go to a non-finish, and set the rematch up for Orlando. But, let’s face it. If there is a SmackDown Tag Team Title Match on the Mania card, it might be destined for the pre-show. Still, Alpha vs. The Usos is the best we’ve got until The Revival (hopefully!) show up. (Also, whatever happened with those Hardys’ medicals?)
SmackDown can afford to hold Bray Wyatt off TV for a week because he’s over and there’s a clear storyline in place. But if Alpha has any hope of getting over, they need to be on TV. Give them squash matches at least to show off the moveset!
5. Watch Talking Smack
You’ll notice that I referenced Talking Smack multiple times in this preview. This is your reminder to watch this week. It is a fantastic show.
Daniel Bryan and Renee Young should be hosting a lot more together. They have tremendous chemistry. Heck, they even made Apollo Crews announcing himself for the Andre Battle Royal seem special. Last week’s show also featured the Shane-AJ angle and another tremendous Miz promo. It’s a shame that there’s no market for a new “Primetime Wrestling” because if interspersed with matches, Talking Smack could be that show.