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WWE SmackDown Live preview (Dec. 18, 2018): Incremental change

More double tapings in Cali, as WWE heads to Fresno for SmackDown... and to try to adjust to life post-Vince McMahon “shake up”.

The Headliners

So much for those Draft rumors...

While we (and Paige) wait to see if the McMahon family reunion on Raw last night will be addressed tonight or just ignored like the Survivor Series sweep*, there’s one change that should immediately benefit the top of the blue brand’s card.

Asuka’s Women’s title at TLC is exactly the kind of thing WWE is notorious for immediately playing back due to a “contractually obligated rematch”. It’s been a staple of their storytelling, and something creative has had to work around in cases like this, for a long time. The benefits of a match where neither Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair had to take a pin or submit, and Ronda Rousey took the heat so the Empress could claim the crown without getting blamed for Lynch losing it? Those could all be lessened or lost entirely with a do-over.

Now, thanks to SmackDown commissioner and Gang of Four (or is it five, since Triple H insists we’re the authority now?) main roster ruling council member Shane McMahon’s edict that contractual championship rematches are no more, we don’t have to worry about that.

Asuka can move on to a new challenge - since Trips says I have one, Sonya Deville gets my vote. Their scene at the end of the battle royal was great, and enough proof for me that Deville is ready for an opportunity to at least be the champ’s pre-Rumble filler feud. Let’s kick that off during the new champ’s “coronation” tonight.

And while many of us wanted to see The Man & The Queen crash Raw last night to lay waste to everything and anyone standing between them and Rousey, we’ve got a long way until WrestleMania 35. There’s more than a month to Royal Rumble. The cross-show and social media bickering may not be for everyone, but I’m okay with keeping the 2 NXT Horsewomen away from the lead MMA Horsewoman as much as possible. It’s led to some pretty exhilarating moments so far. And I have about as much confidence in WWE’s ability to not wear out a hot feud via repeating scenes as I do that Vince’s promised change will actually materialize.

The official preview is pretty bare bones today, but it does promise responses from Becky & Charlotte. That’s all they had to say.

The Title Scene

With a stellar performance on Sunday, WWE champ Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles already ended their feud on a high note. We’ll see what’s next for each man, and how the new Daniel Bryan delivers a sustainable championship belt that honors the sacrifice of the creature which gave us the current one (if there’s not a “Thank You Daisy” chant tonight, I’ll be disappointed).

The Bar retained their tag team championship in another really good match with their long-time rivals The New Day & The Usos at last weekend’s pay-per-view (PPV). Look for Cesaro & Sheamus to start a new feud on tonight’s show. Probably with Jimmy & Jey or Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods. Maybe both.

Surprise! There’s no mention of United States champion Shinsuke Nakamura in the preview! But there wasn’t last week, either, and his feud with Rusev continued. The Bulgarian Brute picked up a win alongside Jeff Hardy over Nak & Samoa Joe. It was the old “collapse two feuds into one tag match” special, but we’ll take it.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Is Shane’s tag team with Miz still going to be a thing, or is that gonna be a casualty of his new responsibilities on Raw?

- Rey Mysterio picked up a big win over Randy Orton in a better-than-expected chairs match on Sunday night. We’ll see where either go from here, but hopefully Andrade “Cien” Almas is involved. If not with Rey, than with someone. We’re using our vote here, Clan McMahon!

- Mandy Rose & Naomi’s postoned match will happen. Unless it doesn’t

- Maybe some of the NXT call-ups will be here! Or more Cruiserweights! I already used my voice on the latter.

It’s the TLC fallout show!

What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?

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