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WWE SmackDown preview (Jan. 24, 2020): The perfect foil

WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Jan. 24) from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. It is the last episode prior to the Royal Rumble in Houston this Sunday.

The Headliner

The Bray Wyatt character needed this feud with Daniel Bryan.

The introduction of Bray Wyatt got off to an excellent start. From the Firefly Fun House videos, to the first reveal of the Fiend, to his exciting debut match against Finn Bálor at SummerSlam last year.

But then the build faltered. His feud with Seth Rollins was a bit of a dud. Both of their matches, taking place under an obnoxious red light, were finisher spams that were over done and just not entertaining. (I’d argue this applies to not just the Hell in a Cell match but their match at Crown Jewel, though Wyatt winning the Universal title overshadowed a second match consisting of finisher spam and portraying the Fiend as too unstoppable a monster.) It didn’t help that during this time, Seth Rollins’ babyface character was being generally rejected.

That’s why moving to SmackDown and working with Daniel Bryan was so important. Wyatt needed a good feud and Bryan was the perfect choice.

Daniel Bryan is extremely creative and is rumored to have more creative control in his stories than most. He’s a character that has gone through many changes, something that the Fiend plays upon and that they were able to use in this story. Plus, rumor has it that it was Bryan who pushed against having an immediate rematch with Fiend at TLC after losing at Survivor Series and wanting to stretch this feud longer. That’s when they slotted the Miz in TLC, which was a good, short program that actually ended up being a great catalyst for the Miz’s next chapter involving John Morrison.

(This is not to give Bryan full credit for a good story with Wyatt as there was a new creative team at the helm as well given the move to Friday, and surely Bray is very involved too.)

Their first match together was arguably the best match Wyatt had as the Fiend. While Wyatt is a good wrestler, they struggled (and are possibly still struggling) to book this specific character’s matches in a way that makes him seem like a monster but doesn’t make him too unstoppable or too campy. That match with Bryan at Survivor Series, despite the annoying red light still present, was the best to find that balance. It wasn’t a finisher spam like Wyatt’s matches with Rollins. It was put together so Wyatt would look strong but it wouldn’t go too far to lose the thread.

The second chapter of their story has been strong too. Bryan returned sporting an old look claiming that while Wyatt changed him like he has everyone else, he actually changed Daniel for the better. He’s sold that in his promos. Hell, he even made a their strap match stipulation for Sunday make sense using a backstage interview last week claiming he’s tired of the Fiend running from him when he has the upper hand.

They’ll stand face to face tonight before they fight for the Universal championship on Sunday at the Royal Rumble. And surely they will both sell us on their finishing touches.

Bray Wyatt has come up with a great vision, one that could become a staple of WWE for a long time. But after a stumble that followed a strong sprint out of the gate, it was working with one of the best minds in the business that helped it get back on track.

Now if only Bryan could do something about that red light.

The Title Scene:

Bayley’s loss to Lacey Evans last week set up their SmackDown women’s championship match at Royal Rumble. Because beat the champ to get a title shot remains one of WWE’s favorite tropes. Throughout all of this, Sasha Banks has avoided having to take a loss to Lacey Evans.

Braun Strowman will surely get an Intercontinental title match against Shinsuke Nakamura. He beat the champ non-title, and what did we just say? (Seriously, WWE, please stop with this overused build to title matches.) It’s not listed for the Royal Rumble, and on an already busy card with two Rumble matches, maybe they should settle it another time.

The Miz and John Morrison defeated Kofi Kingston and Big E in respective one on one matches. Surely, this will lead to a SmackDown tag team championship match. And despite just hoping that the Intercontinental title match won’t make the Royal Rumble, this is a match I’m excited enough for that I kind of hope it does get added on.

Other things to keep an eye on:

- The Bloodline (Roman Reigns and the Usos) will face Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, & Robert Roode as they exhaust all the different ways they can match these guys against each other. Luckily, after Roman and Baron fight in a Falls Count Anywhere match at Minute Maid Park, they’ll be going their separate ways. Right?

- Shorty G will be facing Biggie S at Royal Rumble because Sheamus doesn’t like short people?

- Maybe a couple women will actually declare for their Royal Rumble match.

What will SmackDown give us as WWE takes off towards the Royal Rumble? Tune in tonight at 8 PM ET to find out.

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