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WWE SmackDown preview (April 23, 2021): Roman Reigns still needs a new opponent

SmackDown airs tonight (Apr. 23) live from the ThunderDome in the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida. This is the second SmackDown episode during the five week build towards the upcoming WrestleMania Backlash event on May 16.

Roman Reigns still needs a new challenger

Cesaro stepped up to Universal champion Roman Reigns last week. This was a natural progression of things considering Cesaro’s big win over Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 37. By the end of the night, however, Rollins made it clear that he’s not done with Cesaro. It’s wise to expect that Cesaro and Seth will continue their feud before the Swiss Superman gets a shot at the Tribal Chief, especially because WWE’s hype video for tonight specifically says that Roman needs a new challenger now that Cesaro’s focus has been “stolen” by Seth.

So who is left to challenge Roman Reigns? I can think of a few names:

  1. Edge and/or Daniel Bryan - They are Roman’s most recent rivals, and neither man appeared on television last week. WrestleMania Backlash is all about rematches, so WWE might just play this one in a very straightforward manner.
  2. Shinsuke Nakamura - If Edge and Bryan instead incur each other’s wrath, the path could be wide open for Nakamura to obliterate Jey Uso and jump up the card.
  3. SLAPJACK - He’s reportedly a SmackDown superstar now, so he should obviously be a top contender for Reigns.
  4. Keith Lee - Mia Yim is also apparently a SmackDown superstar now, which introduces the intriguing possibility that Keith Lee might not be locked down on the Raw roster. We have no idea what Lee’s availability is given that he’s been off television since February, but what better way is there to re-introduce the big man then having him take out Roman Reigns?
  5. Aleister Black - He’s another superstar who hasn’t been around in a long time, but rumor has it that WWE is filming vignettes for his return. Black will probably require more of a slow burn push whenever he returns to television given how irrelevant he’s become, so it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be Roman’s next challenger. But crazier things have happened.

The title scene

Last week, Bianca Belair celebrated the fact that she won the SmackDown women’s championship at WrestleMania 37. She thanked Sasha Banks for making history with her, but her words offered no solace to the former champ, who is clearly upset with the current state of things. Then there’s Bayley, who mocked Belair for crying on the big stage and made it clear that she’s coming for the gold. Are we heading to a triple threat match at WrestleMania Backlash, or will Sasha and Bayley have to fight each other one more time to determine Bianca’s first challenger?

The Dirty Dawgs once again retained the SmackDown Tag Team titles last week, this time in a match against the Street Profits. Given Rey Mysterio’s singles win over Otis, it seems like a pretty good bet that Rey and Dominik Mysterio will be next in line for a title shot against Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode.

Of course Shayna Baszler suffered another very quick loss at the hands of Natalya last week, because Baszler is apparently a terrible singles wrestler. With Tamina attacking Nia Jax after that match was over, it looks like the Women’s tag team champions have their hands full on Friday nights.

Intercontinental champion Apollo Crews introduced Dabba-Kato Commander Azeez to WWE fans last week, and put over the Nigerian Nail. Big E was nowhere to be seen as a result of this devastating maneuver. Will Big E return to confront Crews and Azeez tonight, or will some other poor sap be introduced to the Nigerian Nail?

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Sami Zayn was humiliated once again by Kevin Owens last week. Will both superstars head in a new direction starting tonight?

- Can we please get the Riott Squad some television time?

- Will SLAPJACK and RECKONING join T-BAR and MACE in ditching their silly masks this week?

- Adam Pearce should be wary of Sonya Deville. I think she’s losing patience with his ineffective form of leadership.

Less than four weeks until WrestleMania Backlash!

What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?

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