WWE heads to Birmingham in what is undoubtedly a very happy state of Alabama on the day after The Crimson Tide rolled to another college football national championship.
A few weeks back, I was downright bullish on the blue brand’s managerial drama. And I still find it interesting the way they’ve painted both commissioner Shane McMahon and General Manager Daniel Bryan as neither completely good or completely bad guys. But when it continues to overshadow, well, everything on the show...
Take the WWE championship program. AJ Styles is a once-in-a-generation talent, getting a chance to run with the proverbial football (sorry for another reference so soon after your Dawgs lost that heartbreaker, AJ) atop the blue brand. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are pretty darn entertaining foils, capable of delivering good-to-great matches with The Phenomenal One as needed, and their Yep Movement and complaints about broken promises in “The Land of Opportunity” even reinforce what could be a good subplot about the clashing authority figures.
Instead, Bryan vs. Shane is once again the cliffhanger our teaser ends on for this week’s show.
Not that I don’t care about mounting tensions between the bosses, but AJ IS NOW DEFENDING HIS TITLE AGAINST TWO PEOPLE! AND NOT IN A TRIPLE THREAT, BUT AN HONEST TO GOODNESS TWO-ON-ONE HANDICAP MATCH!
Fortunately, the official written preview on WWE.com at least leads off by asking how Styles will react before more pondering of the GM’s decision-making skills. Because I’m a little more interested in what the champ has to say about his Rumble defense than what DB and Shane O’Mac will do next.
Unless, of course, what they do next is announce that Bryan’s been cleared by WWE Medical.
Then it’s a tie.
The Title Scene
We’ve only got one first round match left in the tournament to determine who will claim the United States title vacated by Dolph Ziggler. We know Zack Ryder can define “Killer Instinct”. Now can he find it in order to take out his former Hype Bro Mojo Rawley and advance to face Bobby Roode?
It’s not something Bryan or McMahon did directly, but Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin are not happy after their latest controversial loss while trying to take the tag team championship from The Usos. Chad had Jimmy pinned 1 - 2 - 3, but then the referee realized, whoops, neither was legal. Seems a little more reasonable than a two-on-one handicap defense, but expect it to be grounds for another rematch in this feud.
While Women’s champ Charlotte Flair is focused on getting her Mixed Match Challenge partner to “WOO” properly, the rest of the division is focused on the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match. Flair’s tea-sipping friend Becky Lynch doesn’t know who her MMC partner is yet, and that’s not the only distraction the Lasskicker has to deal with ahead of the Rumble. She’s also looking for revenge against The Riott Squad for taking her out (aka writing her off to go film Marine 6), and that starts when she faces Ruby Riott tonight.
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Styles, Gable and Benjamin aren’t alone - there are lots of SmackDown Superstars questioning official decisions. Xavier Woods has already moved on to campaigning against his second round opponent, Jinder Mahal. But has Rusev Day’s Aiden English conceded defeat from last week yet?
- After a couple of weeks worth of sending their best friends out to face destruction at the hands of the hammer-wielding Bludgeon Brothers, its Konnor and Viktor’s turn. The Fashion Police booked The Ascension to face Harper and Rowan tonight.
- Baron Corbin joined Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton last week, but SmackDown’s men are still a little under-represented in the Rumble. Look for that to change tonight.
Three weeks until Royal Rumble!
What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?