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WWE SmackDown preview (Dec. 10, 2021): Jeff Hardy will be very difficult to replace

SmackDown airs tonight (Dec. 10) live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. This is the third SmackDown episode during the six week build towards Day 1 on January 1, 2022.

Jeff Hardy will be very difficult to replace

Jeff Hardy has been released by WWE. Looking at that story from strictly the perspective of what it means for the blue brand, it’s apparent that the biggest flaw of the SmackDown roster has just been magnified.

SmackDown desperately needs top wrestlers for Universal champion Roman Reigns to feud with. Even though Hardy’s booking has been all over the place during the last year, he’s a former WWE champion and the audience consistently goes crazy for the guy. It would have been easy to slot him in for a pay-per-view (PPV) championship match or two against Reigns between now and WrestleMania 38, and that may have even been WWE’s plan.

The list of top stars in the men’s division on SmackDown, excluding the Bloodline, now includes Drew McIntyre, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Sheamus, Happy Corbin, Nakamura, and Shanky. After that, the next wrestlers in line are either low card jobbers like Ricochet and Mustafa Ali, or mid-carders who Reigns has already beaten like Cesaro and Sami Zayn. It’s really hard to see how WWE can stretch out Roman’s already very lengthy run as Universal champion by adhering strictly to the list of above names, unless the plan is to have McIntyre challenge Reigns at nearly every major event where Brock Lesnar isn’t available. With that in mind, the SmackDown roster could really use some help from a top Raw wrestler like AJ Styles or Bobby Lashley.

Speaking of Lesnar, he’s getting another title match against Reigns at Day 1. It’s usually safe to assume Lesnar will show up for a big angle to sell his next match when WWE is in Los Angeles, but none of the segments WWE has announced for the card tonight include Lesnar’s name. Will Brock even be in the building now that he already got what he wanted and has no reason to buy a ticket?

The rest of the title scene

SmackDown women’s champion Charlotte Flair will battle Toni Storm in Championship Contender match tonight. This is WWE’s attempt to make a non-title match sound more interesting than it actually is. If Storm can beat Flair, it doesn’t necessarily mean a thing, because WWE hasn’t been consistent in giving title matches to wrestlers who win these Championship Contender non-title matches.

SmackDown tag team champions Jimmy and Jey Uso lost against RK-Bro at Survivor Series last month. That was supposed to be the one night a year when the Raw and SmackDown champions go head-to-head, but it only took WWE a few weeks to violate that claim. Randy Orton and Matt Riddle are allowed to show up on the blue brand tonight, for some reason, and there will be a triple threat match between The Usos, the New Day, and RK-Bro. It’s purely about bragging rights. Jimmy and Jey are going to defend their titles against Kofi Kingston and King Woods at Day 1; will WWE have RK-Bro beat both teams prior to their big PPV match?

Shinsuke Nakamura is the Intercontinental champion and is trying his best to never defend the title. He is instead focused on tag team wrestling with Rick Boogs, and staying on cordial terms with the Viking Raiders while looking to get a piece of Los Lotharios.

Carmella and Zelina Vega are the Women’s tag team champions, but they have yet to show any interest in appearing on SmackDown to flaunt their gold and find new challengers.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- One of the authority figures on SmackDown screwed Drew McIntyre out of being able to participate in a Battle Royal two weeks ago, causing him to miss out on a potential Universal championship match. Sonya Deville told Drew it was Adam Pearce’s call, so Drew will be looking for answers from Adam tonight.

- Deville has her hands full with other matters tonight, as she is scheduled for a singles match against Naomi. Deville abused her power and turned it into a handicap match the last time this match was booked, and it’s not clear why she wouldn’t use the same tactic again tonight.

- After weeks of hype videos, Xia Li the Protector is set to debut as a babyface for the blue brand tonight.

- Happy Corbin was originally scheduled for a match against Jeff Hardy tonight, but Hardy’s release has nixed that plan. Maybe Corbin and Madcap Moss will get to beat up on Mansoor or Ricochet instead.

- Cesaro beat Sheamus’ lackey Ridge Holland two weeks ago, and Sheamus beat Cesaro last week. It might already be time to book a rematch here unless a new friend is planning to assist the Swiss Superman in this story.

- What happened to Shotzi? Her SmackDown run began with what looked like a feud against Sasha Banks, but Shotzi has been a total non-factor over the last couple weeks. Meanwhile, Banks has been more heavily involved in the feud between Naomi and Sonya Deville / Shayna Baszler.

- Poor Sami Zayn. I hope he’s okay after the pain and humiliation he suffered last week at the hands of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.

What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?

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