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WWE SmackDown preview (Dec. 24, 2021): You already know how this ends

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SmackDown airs tonight (Dec. 24) with a taped show from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. This is the fifth SmackDown episode during the six week build towards Day 1 on January 1, 2022.

Toni Storm is a massive underdog against Charlotte Flair

Toni Storm finally gets her title match tonight against SmackDown women’s champion Charlotte Flair. To say the challenger is an underdog is an understatement.

WWE has struggled to present Storm as a credible threat to the champ in the same way that Liv Morgan has been built up over on Raw. After Thanksgiving, Storm and Flair had an underwhelming pie-throwing angle that spanned a couple weeks and didn’t do anything to help Storm. Soon after that, Flair got herself intentionally disqualified in a match against Storm and then laid out Toni after the match.

Storm’s big moment came last week when she pinned Flair to the mat in a tag team match. Flair’s partner Shotzi was right there and could have taken the fall, but Storm pinned the champion. Yet something was amiss here, as Storm’s entrance wasn’t even televised. Sasha Banks got the star treatment during the entrances, making it clear where Storm falls in the pecking order. Sasha Banks is the one who is a serious threat to win the title, not Storm.

Unlike Liv Morgan, Storm hasn’t received much promo time to tell us her story and get the fans invested in her. That’s a big problem here, and certainly a factor in determining why Storm is so unlikely to get the win over Flair.

There’s really only one way that Toni Storm is winning this match, and that’s via disqualification/countout, where the gold stays around Charlotte’s waist. A win like that can give an excuse for a rematch, perhaps at Day 1 or Royal Rumble. But if this match has a decisive winner tonight by pin fall or submission, it’s going to be Charlotte Flair. You already knew that when the match was announced last week.

The title scene

Paul Heyman was fired by Universal champion Roman Reigns last week. Reigns then superman punched Paul and was about to do something much worse, but Brock Lesnar showed up to save the day and wipe out the Bloodline. Heyman will speak tonight and address this situation. Will the former Special Counsel slip right back into his longtime role as Lesnar’s advocate? Reigns and Lesnar will clash over the title at Day 1. Can Lesnar trust Heyman, or is there a swerve and/or screwjob coming Brock’s way?

Shinsuke Nakamura has been the Intercontinental champion for four months but has only defended the title one time on television. He’s going to have to dust the title off for another match soon, though, because tonight’s card includes a “12 Days of Christmas” 12-man gauntlet match to determine the next top contender for mid-card gold. The 12 participants include Sheamus, Humberto, Jinder Mahal, Ivar, Ricochet, Sami Zayn, Mansoor, Erik, Cesaro, Angel, Drew Gulak, and Shanky. Like most gauntlet matches, the luck of the draw will play a huge factor here, with competitors who show up later in the match having a much better chance to win. The gauntlet match can serve the dual purpose of filling a ton of television time while also putting the spotlight on a babyface’s toughness and resilience, even if he ultimately fails in the end. Who will be that babyface tonight?

SmackDown tag team champions Jimmy and Jey Uso just can’t figure out how to get one over on the New Day in recent weeks. The two teams fought in a tag team match last week that ended with Kofi pinning Jimmy after connecting with Trouble in Paradise. They will likely lock horns in one form or another tonight, as both teams make final preparations ahead of their championship match at Day 1.

Carmella and Queen Zelina Vega are the Women’s tag team champions, yet they don’t seem to have any interest in showing up on SmackDown. So I’m going to stop writing about them in this space until they finally do make an appearance.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Drew McIntyre pulled his sword out of the stone desk last week and proved that only he can wield the powerful flame-generating giant blade. He then stalked the backstage area, presumably looking to murder Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss. Corbin reacted by booking Moss in a match against Drew at Day 1. What a great friend!

- Shayna Baszler failed in spectacular fashion last week. She ambushed Naomi before their match yet still managed to lose the bout in a matter of seconds. Sonya Deville will need to find a better generic henchwoman in her war against Naomi.

- Natalya is pissed off about Xia Li debuting on SmackDown and getting involved in her business. I don’t think is going to end well for Nattie.

- Shotzi finally returned to SmackDown television last week, where she competed in a tag team match opposite Sasha Banks. Are these two wrestlers still rivals, or has Banks moved on to focus on more important matters?

- Next week’s episode of SmackDown is set to be a Best of the Year type of canned show, which means tonight’s episode effectively serves as the go-home show for Day 1.

What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?