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WWE SmackDown Live preview (April 25, 2017): Lock, stock and barrel

Welcome to Iowa, Team Blue. Here’s what’s on the docket for Des Moines.

The Headliners

We haven’t seen him wrestle on the main roster yet - that’s been saved for getting live crowds to stay for 205 Live.

But we have been treated to a couple instances of Shinsuke Nakamura’s electric entrance and indescribable charisma. And we’ll get another dose of it tonight to kick off the show. And that’s great! But the big question isn’t will he continue to set-up an introductory program with Dolph Ziggler or anyone else.

No, it’s “are they serious with this ‘The Artist Known as’ crap?”

Aside from that, we can also look forward to seeing if Charlotte Flair can cash the checks her ego’s been writing since she came to Tuesday nights in the Shake-Up. The Queen has reason to feel good about herself. Aside from her pedigree and Raw record, Flair’s already earned #1 contender status by beating the champ in non-title action. She faces Naomi in a Women’s title match tonight.

Can the two-time champ make Charlotte feel the GLOW tonight?

The Title Scene

Much like it’s Monday night counterpart, SmackDown’s top title is kind of irrelevant at the moment. But unlike Raw, it’s not because the champ is absent. World titleist Randy Orton is around, and he even has a defense lined up for Backlash next month against suprising contender Jinder Mahal. But first he has a battle with Bray Wyatt this Sunday from which WWE has quietly removed the belt. And before that happens at Payback, Orton will have to outlast Wyatt’s disciple Erick Rowan in no disqualification action in Des Moines.

Also at Payback, we’ll find out for sure who will join the United States championship on the blue brand. Kevin Owens already brought it with him when he moved to Tuesday and named himself the new face of America, but he’s got to beat his old friend Chris Jericho in San Jose this weekend to make that official.

The pairs’ scene has been a bit of an afterthought on SmackDown, but maybe commissioner Shane McMahon is trying to change that. He’s starting by announcing a “Beat The Clock” challenge to determine tag champs Jimmy & Jey Uso’s next foes. Former titleholders American Alpha will be in the mix with the resurgent Colóns, The Ascension and Breezango.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- A countout win isn’t the kind of thing AJ Styles, the Face That Runs The Place (and #1 contender for the U.S. title), will let settle things. So he’s going one-on-one with Baron Corbin again this week in a rematch of a bout that ended with he and The Lone Wolf tangled up with KO and the fans to close last Tuesday’s show.

- His title match is a month away, but a lot of folks will be interested to see how Mahal, and his allies the Singh Brothers, handles his sudden push up the card.

- There’s a locker room of ladies who aren’t thrilled Charlotte’s shot to the top of their division. Will we see more from the unlikely team of Natalya, Carmella and Tamina this week?

- For that matter will we see Becky Lynch vs. James Ellsworth? We’d settle for any appearance from the Lasskicker.

- And not that we’re not all excited about the big NXT call-up at the top of this preview, but how ‘bout we give Tye Dillinger a program sooner rather than later, eh, Shane?

Four weeks until Backlash... and less than one until a SD title (or two?) are defended on Payback!

What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?

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