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WWE SmackDown Live preview (April 18, 2017): Opportunity knocks


The Headliners

With more than a month until their next pay-per-view (PPV), commissioner Shane McMahon and General Manager Daniel Bryan aren’t waiting around to see how Bray Wyatt’s quest to regain the World championship from Randy Orton goes at Payback. They’re getting right down to the business of determining The Viper’s next opponent... because, let’s face it. Unlike the red, white and blue belt we’ll discuss more in our next section, WWE isn’t even doing a lot to try and convince us Randy won’t stay champ - even booking a number one contender’s match is a tacit admission Raw Superstar Wyatt isn’t leaving San Jose with the strap.

Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Mojo Rawley and Jinder Mahal. It’s a line-up which bolsters Shane’s oft-stated claim that SmackDown is the “Land of Opportunity”, but not full of names all but those men’s most devoted fans think is holding one of WWE’s top prizes any time soon.

It sure does look like a match you could spin a bunch of other feuds out of, though! Rawley and Mahal’s issues have been ongoing since the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and we need to see if the Hype Man can take out Jinder without his buddy Rob Gronkowski. Harper and Rowan are former brothers, with the former having been burned by Bray, while the latter still swears allegiance to the Eater of Worlds even though they’re on different brands.

Which leaves the former NXT and World champs. Dolph looked to be starting a program with Shinsuke Nakamura last week, while Sami came up short in another #1 contender multi-man.

It’s an intriguing field, in what looks to be a wide-open title scene.

The Title Scene

There’s not a ton of suspense surrounding the United States title, either, but at least we know Kevin Owens has to defeat Chris Jericho on April 30 to officially join the SmackDown roster. Once he does that (because, come on, we’ve seen Fozzy’s tour schedule and Y2J’s book tour line-up), we also already know who his first blue brand challenger will be - none other than the Face Who Built The Place*, AJ Styles.

* Mea cupla - I think I’m getting AJ’s self-given honorifics confused.

Her second reign as Women’s champ is just getting started, but Naomi has to be looking over her shoulder already. No official challenger’s been determined yet, but it’s a crowded field, especially now that her old partner Tamina’s joined the show - and of course, the five-time champ who dominated Monday nights, Charlotte Flair.

Having successfully defeated American Alpha again last Tuesday, tag titleholders The Usos are also looking for new challenges. The biggest team landed in the Superstar Shake-Up, The New Day, is reportedly on the shelf until Kofi Kingston’s ankle heals, so who (who? who?) will Jimmy & Jey deal with next? (Please be Breezango)

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Another team Daniel & Shane picked up in last week’s re-shuffle, The Shining Stars, went straight after Jason Jordan & Chad Gable. Watch to see if the Alphas respond tonight.

- After losing his Vaudevillains partner, Aiden English’s solo launch hit a snag when he was taken out by The Perfect Ten, Tye Dillinger.

- Kind of hard to imagine Baron Corbin is going to accept the Shake-Up taking away another Intercontinental title match and last week’s lose depriving him of a U.S. championship opportunity without kicking somebody’s ass tonight.

Five weeks until Backlash... and two until a SD title or two are defended on Payback!

What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?

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