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WWE SmackDown preview (July 24, 2020): Are they really listening?

WWE SmackDown returns tonight (July 24) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. This is the fallout from the Horror Show at Extreme Rules pay-per-view (PPV) from last Sunday.

The Headliner

Last week, many fans and some wrestlers took to Twitter to show support for Naomi with a #NaomiDeservesBetter hashtag campaign. This came after her consecutive loss to Lacey Evan, this time in a manner that made Naomi look the fool. Lacey tied Naomi’s hair in the ropes and then clocked her with the Woman’s Right after the referee freed her. That booking is less “Lacey is cheating” and more “Naomi lost in a fairly humiliating manner.”

Fan’s frustration is understandable. Naomi is loaded with talent but has been under utilized on SmackDown in a division that has been pretty thin lately. This isn’t saying they should put the title on her, but she should be featured way more than she is. Watching the finish to last week’s match elicited an audible “Seriously?” from me.

And I’m saying this as someone who enjoys her work but is not a super fan. I qualify that to get across the point that these aren’t just super marks whining their favorite isn’t getting pushed enough. This is fans upset that someone as talented as Naomi who has a strong following and connection with her fans isn’t being used well at all.

WWE is turning this into an angle tonight when Naomi is a guest on MizTV. The preview for this segment mentions that the Miz and John Morrison have “the finger on the pulse of sports-entertainment,” and refers to the social media response, so this will be the topic at hand.

Booker T can poo poo hashtags all he wants, but fans effected a small amount of change because this was not going to be booked this way without them. Hell, after two weeks of losing to the Sassy Southern Belle, there’s a chance she wouldn’t be on TV at all. But is this going to be the start of WWE featuring Naomi more often? Is tonight just breadcrumbs to satiate a frustrated fan base? Could this be something she even pays for later?

That last question feels overtly skeptical. But there is definitely some truth to the idea that WWE doesn’t like when people get over on their own. Obviously, Zack Ryder in 2012 is the biggest example of someone getting punished for that.

Now I don’t think WWE is going to be bold enough to do that to one of their female talents as her fans are closely watching. But in general, WWE is going to push who they want whether fans like it or not. If they want Lacey Evans to get over, they’re going to go with that plan.

This is why tonight’s segment is going to be interesting to watch. Where is Naomi when it’s over? Is there an obvious program or plan where she will be featured more? Or will it end up being a quick segment that’s meant to try and appease some unhappy fans?

We’ll find out tonight. But either way, for one week, her supporters on Twitter voicing their frustrations and showing her support has led to a featured segment tonight. Now she’ll have a chance, to paraphrase a good point from Booker, to perform in a way she can’t be denied. Or at least earn herself that next opportunity next week.

The Championship Scene

It’s been five days, and I’m still not sure who won the Swamp Fight between Universal Champion Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt. Was there a winner? Given the Fiend emerged from the swamp at the end, I guess Wyatt won? I don’t know. What I’m more confident about is that a title match at SummerSlam between the Fiend and Strowman is the plan.

Bayley Dos Straps successfully defended her SmackDown Women’s championship at Extreme Rules. She also still holds the Women’s tag team championships alongside Sasha Banks. The big question is: Is WWE going to go with Bayley vs. Sasha at SummerSlam? Sasha still needs to finish up her Raw Women’s championship business with Asuka next Monday before that could get started. For tonight, they address the championship landscape on SmackDown.

AJ Styles successfully defended his Intercontinental title against Matt Riddle last week. Now he needs a new challenger. It won’t be Paul Heyman, though. He hates that guy.

Cesaro really is a tag team specialist. On Sunday, he won tag team gold with his third WWE partner when he and Shinsuke Nakamura defeated New Day to win the SmackDown tag team championships. Shinsuke joins Tyson Kidd and Sheamus as men who have held tag gold with the Swiss Superman. Unfortunately, the tag scene on SmackDown has felt very thin as of late. That means they’ll likely draw out this feud for awhile longer.

Other things to keep an eye on:

- Tonight may be the end of the Sheamus/Jeff Hardy feud (please?) when they meet up in a Bar Fight. This is the big match for this week, and I feel I should say more about it. But I just don’t have it in me.

- Matt Riddle is now feuding with King Corbin, who laid the Bro out after his loss to Styles last week.

- Is Nikki Cross OK after her loss on Sunday? She seemed to be cracking after the losses to Bayley. Could this be a return to a more unhinged Nikki that we saw in NXT?

What will you be looking for when SmackDown returns tonight at 8 PM ET on Fox?

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