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WWE SmackDown preview (June 12, 2020): Controversy

WWE SmackDown returns tonight (June 12) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. It is the go home show for Backlash this Sunday.

The Headliner

Coming into tonight’s SmackDown, rumor has it that we’re going to get a really controversial segment between Jeff Hardy and Sheamus during their contract signinn. Surely, that has some fans apprehensive.

Controversy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some even say it creates cash. But when it’s used in a story that involves a man’s real life personal demons, it has to be done in a certain way and achieve certain goals to be worth it. In this case, if they are going to use Jeff Hardy’s real life addiction issues, issues that he’s less than a year removed from struggling with, they need to make sure of a couple things to ensure this isn’t just a cheap ploy.

They need to make sure that Jeff is obviously the hero and Sheamus is the villain. To their credit, they’ve been very clear in doing that. They also need to portray Jeff in a way that is realistic and sensitive to others with addictions. To do that, they need to give him a ton of input on a story that is based on his real life struggles. Ideally, it should also give Jeff a platform to open up about his struggles and how he’s proud that he’s kept fighting in a way that may motivate others dealing with similar issues.

But most importantly, they need to have a plan to end it.

Personally, I haven’t been outraged with what they’ve done so far. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be. Art is subjective. But they portrayed that hit and run frame job in a way that you knew from the start that Jeff was set up and let us know definitively within 12 hours that that was the case. His promo last week touched some on the work he’s put in and what that meant to him.

However, word that tonight is going to be the most controversial yet gives me pause. And it gives me worry that it’s going to be controversy for immediate buzz without any thought for the full term story. Because controversy for controversy’s sake isn’t good. If they don’t have an endgame in mind, they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

Remember when Paige invoked the name of Charlotte’s late brother Reid with no plan to go forward? That was bad. It didn’t add to the story and was needlessly difficult for the Flair family. If they pull some ridiculous stunt tonight without it servicing an actual plan, that will be bad too.

In the end, this should elevate Jeff as the top babyface, who is open about his struggles and his drive for redemption. It should elevate Sheamus as a top villain given all the stuff he’s done. (If it is Sheamus - it’s still possible we learn a third party was involved, which is OK but again... needs a plan.)

If there’s a plan to do all that, and this isn’t just blatantly tasteless, then it’s OK to tell an uncomfortable story that has lofty goals. If this is just to hype a match that happens in two days and then forget about it, then don’t do it at all.

The title scene:

The Universal title scene consists of Miz and John Morrison playing pranks and breaking the law by destroying Braun Strowman’s property, in this case his car. While Miz and Morrison are entertaining in this role, this feud is clearly just filler. Tonight the champ will team with Heavy Machinery, which includes Money in the Bank holder Otis, against his Backlash challengers and Dolph Ziggler.

The SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley is also one half of the Women’s tag team champions alongside Sasha Banks. It’s the latter accolade that’s going to keep her busy at Backlash, defending the tag straps in a triple threat against the IIconics and Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross. But it’s possible being partners with Sasha will eventually lead to her feuding with her.

We should be in for a banger of a match tonight between Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles to crown a new Intercontinental champion. Rumors have it that this bout brought life to a crowd of NXTers who had been on their feet all day playing the role of audience.

The SmackDown tag team champions don’t have a feud for Backlash so they’ll probably be sitting Sunday out. The team they were perhaps going to eventually feud with, the Forgotten Sons, didn’t even have their normal video package last week. Perhaps it’s because of the nuclear heat that Jaxson Ryker found himself.

Other things to keep an eye on:

- Shorty G is back on TV again and feuding with the Artist Collective. I wish they’d at least call him Chad Gable again.

- Mandy Rose cost Sonya Deville a match last week against Lacey Evans, showing that this feud is not over yet.

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

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