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WWE SmackDown preview (Aug. 21, 2020): Not working

WWE SmackDown returns tonight (Aug. 21) from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. This will be our first introduction to WWE’s ThunderDome fan experience and it is the go home show for the SummerSlam pay-per-view (PPV) this Sunday.

The Headliner

The Universal title feud isn’t clicking.

And that’s a shame. Not just in the sense that it’s always disappointing when a big championship match at a Big 4 PPV isn’t clicking. But also in the sense that it should be a very good feud. Exploring the deep history between champion Braun Strowman and challenger Bray Wyatt makes for an intriguing story. But it’s just not hitting.

Much of that is because Braun Strowman seems unable to play this role.

The story is that after Braun was left in the swamps when the Fiend reemerged, he came back changed. He came back as more of a monster than a man.

Unfortunately, all of Strowman’s promos that are meant to convey that idea come off as more comical than intimidating. These are pretty much like all of his past promos - the same stilted cadence where he shouts the ridiculous things that are written for him. The big difference is you can hear him breathing out of his nose more.

It’s hard to take him seriously in this role at a time we absolutely have to.

Braun has never had many different gears. Whether heel or face, he’s not really different. He’s a big monster who shouts ridiculous stuff and performs insane feats of strength. There’s never been any nuance to that character. And while he didn’t need it in the past, this story does. Shouting “Everyone who encounters the Fiend comes out changed, including you Alexa!” isn’t nuanced. It’s beating people over the head with something that should just be implied.

It should be noted that he isn’t writing this stuff. So this is on creative as well. They need to craft this angle so it fits within his skills, so he doesn’t look like he still the same big goof he normally is.

We’ll see what the go home angle is tonight. As of now, the preview just promises “What does Braun have in store?” They’ve been using Alexa Bliss, who’s a very good promo, to help put over this angle. And Bray Wyatt is great in his role too. Unfortunately, Braun’s character work doesn’t seem to be pulling his weight of the feud.

The title scene

SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley learned last week that, much like her Women’s tag team champion partner Sasha Banks, she’ll have to face Asuka for her singles title at SummerSlam. The Empress of tomorrow has a chance to deliver a major blow to the Two Woman Power Trip in two days.

For some reason, AJ Styles is facing Jeff Hardy for the Intercontinental title tonight instead of SummerSlam. Perhaps they run an angle that gets that title match on the PPV card. Or maybe they just want to get some more eyes on SmackDown tonight. Hopefully, this means we’ll get more Joseph Park on TV tonight. I fully expect him to get super over in this small role.

Cesaro and Shinsuka Nakamura were taken aback last week when Kalisto returned to the Lucha House Party after a long injury absence. Tonight they have to defend their the SmackDown tag team championships against the newly reunited trio.

Other things to keep an eye on:

- This will be our first look at the ThunderDome viewing experience. Personally, I’m excited to see how it appears. I was getting tired of shows in the Performance Center so the entire change will be welcome, though it isn’t an answer to poor creative.

- Big E’s single run continues tonight against Sheamus. This should actually be a pretty great hoss match.

- Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville will take their blood feud to a hair vs. hair match this Sunday. This feud has actually be really strong.

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

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