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WWE SmackDown preview (January 7, 2016): The champ was here

New network! New announcer! John Cena!*

Spoilers for tonight's big relaunch on USA Network are here, since the show was taped on Tuesday in Laredo, Texas. And after last week's show without any announced main events, this week we have two title bouts going down for the blue brand's rebirth!

* This was written before news broke that Cena will be recovering from surgery by the time tonight's episode airs. At least now we know why he missed Raw, and only talks tonight. It will be worth watching to see if they plant seeds for his write-off, or just play it straight since he doesn't have a title to drop and isn't really in a major storyline so soon after his return from hiatus anyway.

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte (c) for the WWE Divas championship

After being the worst booked story in recent memory for however long Charlotte was feuding with Paige, many have argued that the Divas title picture is now a highlight of WWE programming (if you want to hear someone argue that, listen to any recent Cageside Live! My broadcast partner Geno Mrosko talks about it for approximately 100 minutes every episode).

The story is that both the crown and her father's legacy are pressuring Charlotte to remain on top by any means necessary. Ric Flair is the devil on her shoulder telling her she's the greatest and justified in whatever underhanded action she takes to prove it. Lynch is the angel giving her chance-after-chance and showing her friend there's a better way.

After weeks of slow-burn development, business picked up on Monday. The Lasskicker had been booked into a non-title match with Charlotte, a fact that neither the champ or her old man was thrilled about. In the "spirit of competition", the Flairs went ahead with the bout, but when Bex fought through interference from the Dirtiest Player in the Game to roll-up the Nature Girl for a win, both father & daughter lost their cool.

With a kick from behind, Charlotte clearly broke away from her old PCB partner. A distraught Lynch processed the betrayal and got ready for the rematch. Ric counseled his protege that she didn't have to explain anything to anyone.

Tonight, they'll do it again with the belt on the line. If there past matches are any indication, it should be good use of your time. If you're one of the many invested in Becky Lynch's heroic journey, however, you may have to wait a little while longer for her to truly vanquish the sister who broke her heart. A story that is actually getting WWE fans to appreciate women's wrestling as something other than T & A deserves a bigger pay-off than SmackDown...even an historic one like tonight's.

Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose (c) for the WWE Intercontinental championship

KO wasn't the only one surprised when he lost the IC belt to Ambrose at TLC. The Quebec-native was riding high, winning matches and getting plenty of microphone time. So when a guy a lot of folks have written off as the goon of the Shield pinned the prizefighter in Boston, quite a few jaws dropped.

Perhaps none more than Owens', though. Finding himself without a title for only the second time in his brief WWE career, Kevin has become more and more unhinged since the last pay-per-view (PPV). He's vowed to drive Ambrose, a man whose merchandise declares him to be unstable, to the insane asulym as part of his quest to regain the Intercontinental strap.

Along the way, both men have tussled with Dolph Ziggler, and Owens has experienced a couple of losses to another former NXT champion in Neville. The high-flying Brit defeated KO in the Slammy voting for Breakout Star of 2015, and used the bigger mans erratic behavior against him to secure a quick victory in the ring last week.

This past Monday, Big Kev got his win back from Neville, and wanted to take a bit more after the match. But Ambrose (who just so happened to be on commentary) wasn't having it, and laid into Owens. A suicide dive and elbow drop on the table should have gotten the point across, but KO doesn't scare easy.

In earning a one-on-one shot to regain the white-and-gold belt, Owens is going right back to fighting for what he believes is his. With two unpredictable wrestlers in an increasingly personal feud with another PPV just weeks away, this one is probably more likely to break down into chaos than produce a title change.

Should be fun either way. You'd be crazy not to want to see this.


In addition to the pre-announced main event, get prepared for Thursday Tuesday night by checking in briefly on wrestlers who came out of Monday night looking good, and those that didn't.


Roman Reigns - He outsmarted (I guess?) the McMahons once again and still has his WWE title. The Big Dog has also pissed Vince off so much that he's put Roman and the belt in the Royal Rumble match. That one's okay, because Romey likes to overcome stuff. Threatening Stephanie probably doesn't sit too well with the still-recuperating Triple H, and that likely means he's gonna have to overcome the Cerebral Assassin in the not too distant future.

Alberto Del Rio - Not only did he and Rusev pick up a win over the Slammy-carrying Usos, but because Cena wasn't on Raw - presumably because he can only work one TV show a week - the United States champ still has his title.*

The 'Creative has nothing for you' crowdHeath Slater is leading a faction that consists of Adam Rose, Bo Dallas & Curtis AxelThey have a win over former World Heavyweight champ Dolph Ziggler. What a time to be alive.

The Wyatt Family - Not only are they all in the Rumble following a decimation of Big Show & Ryback, but Bray's history with Roman will allow all of us to think they have a chance at being relevant again heading into WrestleMania.

Cool dads - As long as you've never worn a vest with no shirt under it on national television, your children will never be as embarrassed as Chris Jericho's were this week.


Sheamus - You've already forgotten he was WWE champ last month, haven't you?

The New Day - When you're asked to do five minutes of stand-up comedy every week, some nights will be better than others. Most nights are better than the material they gave us on Raw. Then they had D-Von Dudley jump forehead first into their nethers for the 8,000 straight time.

Vince's right-hand - Seriously. It's freakishly smaller than the left one.

Damien Sandow - The former Mr. Money in the Bank can't even get into the Social Outcasts.

(Note: I know some folks have come looking for a more definitive match listing - that will be posted behind spoiler text in the comments. If releases more information on anything that's officially going to take place on tonight's show, that'll be updated here)

Winners. Losers. All are welcome to watch tonight's SmackDown with your friends here at cSs!

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