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WWE SmackDown preview (Jan. 3, 2020): Rumblin’ season

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WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Jan. 3) from the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. It is the first new of the new year and is building to the Royal Rumble on Jan. 26.

The Headliner

With Rumble season in full swing, it’s time to take a look at who from the SmackDown side of things can possibly win their respective Rumble.

Let’s start with the men. There aren’t that many guys on SmackDown that are positioned for a top match at WrestleMania. So who could conceivably win the Rumble and go on to challenge the Fiend Bray Wyatt (or possibly Daniel Bryan, but less likely) for the Universal championship or presumably Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship?

The favorite has to be Roman Reigns. He’s been out of the title scene since having to relinquish the Universal championship because of recurrence of leukemia in October of 2018. He came back prior to WrestleMania last year but has been outside any championship scene since that time.

But Roman is a top guy in WWE, and there’s only so long he can feud with Baron Corbin. Challenging an old foe in Bray Wyatt for the title he never lost makes perfect scene. Plus, the Fiend is constantly targeting men who have bested or hurt Bray in the past. That leaves him as the most likely scenario if the winner were to come from the SmackDown side.

Kofi Kingston is another possibility. His singles run came to an abrupt end when he lost the WWE title in no time to Brock Lesnar on the first SmackDown on Fox. He never got a rematch, and he is fully back in the tag scene. But fan desire to see Kofi get one more shot hasn’t completely abated and there’s a story to be told with either trying to avenge that embarrassing loss or dealing with a Fiend that preys on those who are questioning themselves.

Braun Strowman is always a threat as a big man, but he’s just hasn’t been positioned as a big deal lately. (Though his size can always make up for that.) A program between him and Wyatt would be quite interesting as Braun used to be a disciple of Bray and at the same time, would pose the greatest challenge for the unbeatable Fiend.

Outside those guys, Baron Corbin is the closest to being positioned for a big match, but given both champs are probably going to be heels, he doesn’t work. Wrestlers like Mustafa Ali or Shorty G, while would be exciting for some, have not been positioned as men ready for a big WrestleMania title match.

Moving onto the other Royal Rumble, the women’s division is smaller and won’t have as many options. Assuming the plan for the Rumble is for Lacey Evans to face Bayley for the SmackDown Women’s championship, Lacey winning the Rumble is likely off the table since she’ll either have just lost a title opportunity or just won the championship. And if Bayley is champion, Sasha Banks winning is less likely. She could always move to Raw to challenge Becky Lynch, but they recently had a long feud and it’s probably a bit too soon to revisit that.

Carmella has been picking up some wins as of late, perhaps positioning her to win the big one. I’ve been hoping for a feud with her and Bayley at one point, though don’t think it’d be one they’d run at WrestleMania.

The clear favorite would have to be Alexa Bliss. Despite doing a good job building Lacey Evans as a top babyface on the brand, Bliss is the one sitting in that role right now. She’s functioning as a good gal and has the angle of being right all along about Bayley ready to go. Plus, the Goddess is often featured in a big way at WrestleMania.

There are weeks to go before the Rumble, but if you had to bet on someone from SmackDown to win, I’d put the money on Roman and Alexa. Though personally, I’d love to see Kofi try to avenge his loss from last year. We’ll see in the next coming weeks if they indicate any other favorites from the blue brand.

The Title Scene:

Shinsuke Nakamura is going to have his work cut out for him now that Braun Strowman is gunning for his Intercontinental championship. But with Cesaro and Sami Zayn in his corner, it’s possible that they can use the numbers game to prevent Braun Strowman from winning his first singles title ever.

The New Day are still seeking some legit challengers for their SmackDown tag team championships. They’ve beaten Cesaro and Nakamura enough that Sami’s boys need to get knocked down a bit. And the Revival have lost a couple times recently to Kofi and Big E. (Plus rumor has it their contract is close to expiring so they’re only going to be in angles that make them look foolish.) Heavy Machinery remains an option. Shorty G and Mustafa Ali were functioning as a team a bit, and they would have a great match with the New Day.

The Women’s tag team championships are a bit on hold for now. They were in the main event of TLC when the Kabuki Warriors defended successfully against Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. However, an injury to Kairi Sane in that match and Asuka now feuding with Lynch for her Raw Women’s championships means we’re probably not going to see those titles on SmackDown in the near feature.

Other things to keep an eye on:

- Before Roman can attempt to win the Royal Rumble, he has to put this Baron Corbin thing behind him. Last week, he cost the King a shot at facing Bray Wyatt at the Royal Rumble. Expect this dog food program to conclude in Houston.

- Sheamus will return sooner than later. What’s the big fella going to do and will he and his former tag partner Cesaro have some early interactions?

- There’s a little romance brewing between Mandy Rose and Otis. It may be affecting Mandy’s friendship with Sonya Deville.

What should we expect when SmackDown rolls into Memphis tonight? Tune in tonight at 8 ET PM on Fox to find out.

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