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WWE SmackDown Live preview (Mar. 20, 2018): Impaired

WWE’s next stop on the road to WrestleMania 34, is the same as the last one, as Team Blue takes up shop where Raw was last night for their Mar. 20 show - Dallas.

The Headliners

Fittingly, as it’s been the lead story for what feels like forever, SmackDown will continue to focus on Shane McMahon’s feud with Kevin Owens as we head toward New Orleans. The commissioner will be... unavailable... both because he announced he’d be taking a leave of absence last Tuesday, and because right after that, Owens and Sami Zayn got back on the same page long enough to send him to a local medical facility with a pop-up powerbomb onto a ladder that left him making really horrible noises.

That means General Manager Daniel Bryan will return to captain the ship. And not only is Bryan kayfabe torn between his job and his empathy for Zayn and KO’s plight as indie-guys-who-might-be-getting-the-shaft-from-a-McMahon, he’s also legitimately torn between his desire to wrestle again and WWE medical reportedly not clearing him to do so.

It makes for a fascinating ‘Reality’ Era stew...

Pro wrestling storytelling logic would be to turn the Owens vs. Zayn ‘Mania match into a fourway or tag that includes Shane and DB. It would be shocking if McMahon didn’t get added, but how will his GM factor into plans. That’s what has everyone on the edge of their seats. And we’ll be watching for signs of The ‘E’s intentions tonight in between scripted updates on Shane O’Mac’s condition, and the angle’s official preview is teasing - whether or not his attackers will be punished by Bryan for their actions.

The Title Scene

KO and Sami, and real and kayfabe injury, also factor into the WWE championship scene. AJ Styles’ defense against Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura has been set in stone for a while, but a legit injury which caused the Phenomenal One to miss last weekend’s house shows was explained in-story by an attack by the YEP-pers in Madison Square Garden last Friday. The on-screen angle has been that Nak and AJ are watching out for one another to make sure they’re 100% for their dream match in the Superdome on April 8. Obviously, Shinsuke didn’t do a great job protecting the champ in New York, but we’ll have to see how that, and whatever the doctors had to say about Styles’ injury, is dealt with on television.

The upcoming Women’s title match between Charlotte Flair and Rumble winner Asuka isn’t a rematch of a highly-praised New Japan bout, but it’s getting a similar build as the Styles/Nakamura. What’s different is that the ladies have a Money in the Bank briefcase in the mix, meaning Carmella could conceivably get involved at any time. And there’s a division full of wrestlers who might be feeling overlooked since the undefeated Empress jumped brands to challenge the Queen.

Bobby Roode just wanted to announce he’d be using his rematch clause to try and reclaim the red, white and blue belt from United States champion Randy Orton at WrestleMania, but Jinder Mahal stayed involved in their business. The Maharajah beat the Glorious One to continue his bad week, then ate a RKO. At least they’re not feuding over Bryan’s hopefully forgotten Top 10 list.

A partnership right out of the pages of a comic book between rivals Big E of New Day and Jimmy Uso of tag team champs The Usos wasn’t successful in stopping Bludgeon Bros reign of destruction. What’s it gonna take to cool off Harper and Rowan?

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- It’s not clear where else this show and the pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganze it’s building to will have time for much more than the above angles. But at least there are two ‘Mania battle royals! Expect a lot of women to declare for the don’t-call-it-The-Moolah over the coming weeks.

- And regardless of how much ‘smart’ fans love celebrating their holiday, or what NFL-ers they’re friends with, or how MmmGorgeous they are, look for the bulk of SmackDown’s men’s roster to end up in The Andre.

Three weeks until WrestleMania 34!

What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?

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