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WWE SmackDown Live preview (Aug. 14, 2018): Spotlight

Team Blue finishes their (biggest) party (of the summer) prep in Greenville, SC.

The Headliners

We know if won’t go on last at SummerSlam this weekend, because... lol. But will this be the week AJ Styles and the WWE Championship finally close the show on SmackDown?

It’s quite possible that, especially in this age of YouTube views and on-demand content, we’re still a little too hung up on match order and traditional show structure. Still, there are enough folks who believe there’s a correlation between going on last and importance. So it’s at least odd that the brand’s top title is always occupying the opening or mid-point spots on Tuesday nights - even if WWE has data to support that decision.

As our video team noted last week, it’s been almost two months since any aspect of the WWE Championship program’s been featured in the last spot of the show:

The match we’re building to at the Aug. 19 pay-per-view, Styles vs. Samoa Joe, has been a solid angle built around Joe’s microphone mastery. Having a heel (who’s also a father who’s spent a not-insignificant amount of time on the road) question the babyface champ’s moral standing is a time-honored ploy. It’s drove The Phenomenal One to respond, and now he’s gonna respond again.

Hopefully, as’s official preview for the Aug. 14 epsiode insinuates, this is a sign Joe’s really gotten under AJ’s skin. As trite as pull-apart brawls can be when not executed almost perfectly, this might be a good spot to inject some physicality into their feud. There’s nothing wrong with a basic story, but combine that with very little suspense about the outcome (I’d love to see Joe win, but think there’s something to reports WWE wants Styles to reign even longer than the nine months he’s already had the strap), and this program needs something to remind us why the Joe/AJ rivalry is legendary.

Closing the show would be a good place to start.

The Title Scene

It’s also not terribly surprising Styles and Joe have been battling for time, because all of the blue brand’s other top programs are, like Hansel, so hot right now. You can argue the great things going on in the Tag Title scene are happening around or even in spite of the titleholders, the Bludgeon Brothers. Tonight may only strengthen that argument, as #1 contender tournament winners The New Day are advertised for a six-man against SAnitY. Something tells me Harper and Rowan might crash that, though...

Perhaps even more intriuing is the Triple Threat coming Sunday featuring Women’s Champ Carmella and best friends Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. Fans are invested in The Lasskicker getting a moment in Brooklyn, and share her mixed feelings about The Queen quickly earning a spot in the title scene. Mella has proven resilient as champ, too, and could use the tension between the Tea Timers to her advantage. We’ll get a better idea of everyone’s plans when all three are face-to-face tonight.

It had looked like we were headed toward another three-way featuring United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton, but then that scene got interesting for non-kayfabe reasons. WWE has no mention of that storyline in their preview for tonight, so they may still be deciding what to do about the harrassment allegation against Orton.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Another feud which has deservedly received the final spot of the night on a few occassions is Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz. Still wish there was some kind of stipulation behind The A-Lister flip-flopping on whether he’d take the match, but with fake-baby-throwing and security-guard-vase-shattering segments, this one has plenty of heat. Not that it really needed to do anything but show old Talking Smack clips...

- For a pre-show match, the Rusev Day, Zelina Vega and Andrade “Cien” Almas story is plenty intriguing, too. No matter how hard he tries, Aiden English can’t seem to do the right thing, and it looks like that means he’ll be split from Rusev and Lana soon. Ahead of the mixed tag between that couple and Vega & Almas on Sunday, Aiden will try to prove his worth when he faces Andrade one-on-one.

- Last week, R-Truth got a chance to remind fans what a fun performer he is. This week, General Manager Paige is vowing to give a shot to her former Absolution co-horts, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. Given all the whining they’ve been doing about the GM, it may not be the opportunity they were hoping for, though...

It’s the SummerSlam ‘go home’ show!

What will you be looking for on SmackDown Live tonight?

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