Viva Las Vegas.
We’ve wondered about this before, but seriously... what the hell with this Shinsuke Nakamura United States championship reign?
It’s almost been five months since he won the belt at Extreme Rules. I’ve not gone back to check, but it feels like he’s been on SmackDown five times since.
He might be on the show tonight (Dec. 11), but you wouldn’t know it from the official preview on WWE.com. That makes no mention of Nak. You also wouldn’t know if from the jam-packed by U.S. title-free card for this Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view (PPV). The red, white and blue belt is one of three main roster championships not represented among the 11 matches booked for San Jose on Dec. 16. But the Universal title is a unique case, and at least factors into the storyline for the planned Braun Strowman/Baron Corbin bout. And the red brand’s tag belts just changed hands on their ‘go home’ show. Hopefully Shin’s strap at least gets a mention tonight.
What’s extra-confusing about this is that we actually have the makings of a hot feud between Nakamura and Rusev. The Bulgarian Brute nailed his full-blown babyface promo last Tuesday, which was in response to the low-blow Artist’s attacking him before thier scheduled match could start the week before.
Seems like a good time for one of the blue brand’s two face authority figures to force him to defend his title, but they’re busy, I guess. General Manager Paige with a contentious Women’s scene and commissioner Shane McMahon with... being the best in the world. Maybe they’re secretly spending all their every free waking moment figuring how to respond to Raw’s Survivor Series sweep*...
The silver lining is, hopefully a Rusev/Nakamura feud can get a little more shine after TLC is finished. Though it will probably ensure his first main roster title reign will be looked at as disappointing, that program should end with a Rusev Day celebration, followed by an Andrade Almas feud.
But that’s just fantasy booking. In our defense, it’s all we have on Nakamura and the U.S. title right now, since there doesn’t appear to be any actual booking going on.
The Title Scene
There’s no mention of WWE champ Daniel Bryan in the official preview for this episode, either. But the New version of Aberdeen, Washington’s favorite son has been on our screen plenty - including cementing his heel turn by labeling the WWE Universe “fickle” and destroying #1 contender AJ Styles to end the show. Expect the Phenomenal One to respond in some way before their bout this weekend.
After their Paige-mandated attempt at teaming up ended in a loss after they both hit one another with kicks, Asuka and Charlotte Flair will have a WrestleMania 34 rematch tonight. That sounds great and all, but it’s lost some of its luster without the Empress’ undefeated streak still intact. It should provide a nice building block en route to their TLC Women’s title match against Becky Lynch this weekend - and hopefully a last bit of filler until The Man is fully cleared.
The Usos and The New Day’s rap battle was the stuff of legends. As they gear up to challenge for tag team champions Cesaro & Sheamus on Sunday, the teams will try to recapture that magic when Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods host a lyrical showdown between Jimmy & Jey and the titleholders. We’re confident New Day can fill Wale’s role, but do The Bar have bars?
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Samoa Joe has been intent on ruining Jeff Hardy’s life over the past couple weeks, constantly taunting the 20 year WWE veteran about the failings in his personal life. Hardy responds to last week’s “public service announcement” from Joe... a video which gave Randy Orton an opening to RKO the Charismatic Enigma one more time.
- The Viper’s program with Rey Mysterio went on a back burner last Tuesday, so we may be waiting until after this weekend’s show to pick up on Mysterio’s quest for revenge on Randy for unmasking him last month.
- He spent last week facilitating the Bryan/Styles feud, but Miz still wants his “partner” Shane O’Mac to focus on being best tag team in the world.
- They spent the weekend taking Eva Marie’s name in vain on Twitter, so now Mandy Rose & Noami will settle things in the ring tonight.
It’s the TLC ‘go home’ show!
What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?