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WWE SmackDown preview (Jan. 17, 2020): Wise to wait

WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Jan. 17) from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. We are only a little over a week away from the Royal Rumble in Houston.

The Headliner

Maybe a month back, prior to TLC, I wrote in this spot how they were rushing the Lacey Evans face turn. That it was too soon to put her in a SmackDown Women’s title match so close removed from being a heel without the crowd really clamoring for a babyface run.

That was written under the assumption that the match would eventually be added to that TLC card. An assumption I defend because how often does WWE show patience with a feud and not rush to get it on a full PPV card already?

But they opted not to run that match on TLC and instead, invested more time in getting Lacey where she needs to be to make this a match work. And by and large, I think they’ve done a good job of that.

Lacey has been able to find that fire as a babyface focusing on the things that could make her a good hero - being a mother and former marine. It’s really the former that’s allowed her to start clicking as Bayley and Sasha Banks have made Evans’ family a target of their villainy.

That’s the other piece of this puzzle. Bayley, and especially Sasha, are very good heels. Bayley is doing a good job of making herself completely unlikeable in every sense. Meanwhile, Sasha just works heel on another level. That’s needed when trying to get someone who was former disliked as a bad gal now cheered as a good one. Banks can’t be so obnoxious and so despicable that it makes it easier to support who opposes her.

Lacey Evans is finally going to face Sasha Banks tonight and a victory would probably open up an opportunity to face Bayley at the Royal Rumble. And while your mileage may vary on how into babyface Lace you are right now, it’s definitely better that they waited before pulling the trigger on the title match.

The Title Scene

Last week, #1 contender Daniel Bryan got a gift from the Universal champion Bray Wyatt - a mutilated Ramblin’ Rabbit puppet that was a bit too pro-Daniel Bryan earlier in the night. The mind games continue and Bryan still doesn’t have an answer for the Fiend.

With Big E facing John Morrison in JoMo’s first match back, it looks like a Miz & Morrison vs. New Day match is in our future, probably for the Royal Rumble, surely for New Day’s SmackDown tag team championships. That should be quite the match between a couple great tag teams.

Braun Strowman defeated Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura one on one last week, so that title match is now inevitable.

Other things to keep an eye on:

- Robert Roode and Roman Reigns meet in a tables match, meaning Bob Roode is about to be put through some pine, or whatever wood tables are made of.

- Sheamus is kinda doing his typical Sheamus thing, but at least he doesn’t look like Jack Gallagher.

- Now that Elias has signed a contract, can we get something more than crappy recap songs each week?

Will SmackDown earn a thumbs up or thumbs down from the Coliseum tonight? Find out tonight at 8 PM ET on Fox.

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