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WWE SmackDown preview (Jan. 8, 2021): So, who’s next?

WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Jan. 8) from Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida. They are building towards the Royal Rumble pay-per-view (PPV) on Jan. 31.

The Headliner

The end of Monday Night Raw threw a little wrench in our WrestleMania predictions for Roman Reigns.

The prevailing rumor prior was that Goldberg would return to face Roman Reigns for the Universal championship at the Show of Shows in April. It was the match that was supposed to happen at last year’s WrestleMania but Roman understandably took time off when the pandemic hit, and Goldberg ended up having an underwhelming match with Braun Strowman instead. So it would make sense for them to come back around to it this year.

Then Goldberg showed up on Legends Night last Monday, cut a promo that made zero sense, and challenged Drew McIntyre for the WWE title at the Royal Rumble. That makes him challenging Roman for the Universal title a couple months later less likely. So let’s this space to speculate on who may face Roman, who very likely still be champion, at WrestleMania. It probably won’t be Kevin Owens, who Roman is still feuding with, so he won’t be on this list.

Daniel Bryan

He’s the favorite. He’s the favorite when you look at what they’ve done, and he’s the favorite if you actually want to wager on it. He declared he is entering the Royal Rumble and told Paul Heyman on Talking Smack that if he wins, he’s coming for Paul’s client.

Daniel Bryan is the top babyface on SmackDown right now, and it would make sense to pit the top babyface against the top heel at the biggest show. Plus, these two would tear it up.

Big E

While Big E’s singles run was slow to get off the ground, it’s finally picked up steam in the last few weeks. He won the Intercontinental championship from Sami Zayn on Christmas. He was about to straight up squash King Corbin last Friday before Sami interfered.

E has all the tools to challenge for (and win) the Universal title. He had a moment with Paul Heyman on Talking Smack planting seeds for a Reigns feud like Bryan has. It’s a program that will happen eventually.

However, E is very early in his latest singles run. He just won the Intercontinental championship. Losing it so soon just to set him up to face Reigns could hurt a bit. I think it may be more likely that Large Epsilon takes the secondary strap to WrestleMania and defends against a big name like Seth Rollins. He can challenge for the top prize a little further in the future at a show like SummerSlam.

Drew McIntyre

This is a match that we saw at Survivor Series, and it whet our appetite for the real deal down the road. But with Drew still holding the WWE title, it seems less and less likely that it would happen in April.

However, there’s a not insignificant chance that he loses the strap to Goldberg at the Royal Rumble. It seems ridiculous, and odds are in the Scot’s favor, but we didn’t think Goldberg was going to with the title from Bray Wyatt last year either. When Bill’s concerned, nothing is impossible.

While that would be a horrible decision, it would free up McIntyre to challenge the Tribal Chief, giving us that rematch that we eventually want to see. It’s not what I want to happen because Drew should not be losing to Bill Goldberg, but it’s on the table.


Why not? Why can’t the WCW legend challenge for both titles in a matter of months?

Challenging for the WWE title means it less likely that he challenges for the Universal title, but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Bill is 54 and has only so many years left in him. If this is a match that WWE really want to have this year, then they’re going to have it.

I wonder what the combined length of both of those matches would be? Ten minutes?

The title scene:

Sasha Banks is very likely going to have to defend her SmackDown women’s championship against Carmella given the Staten Islander pinned the Boss in a tag team match last week. Sasha has defeated Carm before so should be in a good spot unless she starts taking wrestling tips from her cousin.

While we can speculate on when Big E will get a Universal title shot, he can’t. He needs to focus on his first Intercontinental title defense against Apollo Crews tonight. Crews accepted an Open Challenge prior to the champ even getting the entire sentence out of his mouth last week. He’s eager. Maybe a bit too eager?

The Street Profits will defend their SmackDown tag team titles tonight against the Dirty Dawgs (Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Roode). It’d be embarrassing to lose to a team with such a bad name.

The Riott Squad are on a bit of a win streak, which has nothing to do with Billie Kay. They’re setting themselves up for a Women’s tag team championship, shot and the champions of Charlotte Flair and Asuka are more eager to travel to SmackDown than the prior champs.

Other things to keep an eye on:

- Rumor has it Damian Priest was supposed to debut last week. However, the story didn’t make sense, and it sounds like Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns shot that down. He’ll still likely show up on Friday nights eventually. Hopefully the creative will be a bit better this time.

- Sonya Deville is back! That’s a huge boon for the women’s division.

- Otis picked up another win last week, this one alongside Daniel Bryan against the Artist Collective. Things are looking up for the big man.

What will you be looking for when SmackDown returns tonight at 8 PM ET on Fox?

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