SmackDown airs tonight (Apr. 30) live from the ThunderDome in the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida. This is the third SmackDown episode during the five week build towards the upcoming WrestleMania Backlash event on May 16.
Say goodbye to Daniel Bryan
In an attempt to counter the NFL Draft, WWE has loaded tonight’s card with two championship matches. The big one is Daniel Bryan challenging Roman Reigns for the Universal championship. If Bryan fails, he faces banishment from SmackDown.
It would be strange for Reigns to lose the title on an episode of SmackDown, so I don’t like Daniel’s chances here. That means it’s probably time to say goodbye to Bryan on Friday nights.
Reigns can’t beat anybody clean, so who will cause Bryan’s downfall here? Jey Uso is too predictable for that role - he should be intercepted by Cesaro. But that could still leave the door open for someone like Edge or a returning Jimmy Uso to screw Bryan over. If Edge is the guy, he can easily move over to Raw for a feud with Bryan, because the brand split rules don’t apply to part-timers, I guess. Raw could desperately use Bryan and Edge right now, so that’s probably the best outcome (aside from Daniel actually winning the title, of course).
But it’s no sure thing that Bryan will immediately move over to Monday or Tuesday nights if he loses this match. Maybe he’s taking time off for a while. It sounds like Bryan doesn’t even know what his future in WWE looks like, so this could very well be the last time that we see Bryan wrestle in a WWE ring for a while.
The title scene
The other championship match on tonight’s show is a WrestleMania rematch, but with fewer Nigerian drums. Apollo Crews will defend the Intercontinental title against Big E. Large Epsilon left the champ laying last week when Commander Azeez briefly left Apollo’s side. It seems unlikely that Azeez will let that happen again during this match. But the bigger issue here might be, do we get a finish? Or is this just a setup for the rematch that actually matters at WrestleMania Backlash? That’s a question that has to be asked in WWE, unfortunately.
Given Sasha Banks’ sudden absence from WWE, Bayley has emerged as the top contender for Bianca Belair’s SmackDown women’s championship. These two adversaries didn’t exchange any physical strikes last week, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case tonight.
Rey & Dominik Mysterio defeated Alpha Academy in tag team action last week, which would seem to move them to the front of the line for a shot at the Dirty Dawgs’ SmackDown Tag Team titles. However, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins made it clear that they still want another championship match against Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler. The same four teams have been competing for these titles for months now, so in some sense it feels like none of the non-title matches really matter all that much.
Tamina scored a pin fall victory over Nia Jax one week ago in a singles match. Shayna Baszler blamed Reginald for the loss, while Jax blamed Baszler. The Women’s tag team champions just can’t get on the same page right now, and that’s good news for Natalya & Tamina.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- After Kevin Owens was attacked by a thumb last week, Sami Zayn danced all over Owens’ lifeless body. I can’t imagine that KO is just going to let Zayn get away with those humiliating antics.
- The return of Aleister Black began last week with chapter one of his story. That means we will presumably get to hear chapter two tonight. But you never know with this guy; perhaps he’ll live in a dark closet for months waiting for someone to challenge him to read the next chapter.
- Sonya Deville pulled a fast one on Adam Pearce on this week’s Raw when she reinstated Charlotte Flair from suspension. Now that Pearce has had a few days to let that sink in, how will he respond to Sonya tonight?
- Creative doesn’t appear to have anything right now for Shinsuke Nakamura, King Corbin, Carmella, the Riott Squad, Murphy, SLAPJACK, and RECKONING. Who will be the first one to escape from this creative purgatory?
Less than three weeks until WrestleMania Backlash!
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?