SmackDown airs tonight (Jan. 7) with a live show from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. This is the first SmackDown episode during the four week build towards Royal Rumble on January 29.
Brock Lesnar’s part-time schedule has never been this busy
After missing Day 1, Roman Reigns has been medically cleared to return to WWE tonight. He’ll have a face-to-face confrontation with Brock Lesnar. These two men have unfinished business after their match at Day 1 was canceled due to Roman’s positive test for COVID.
Lesnar’s WWE schedule has been unusually busy since the start of the new year. He wrestled at Day 1 and won the WWE championship from Big E. He showed up on Raw two nights later to reunite with Paul Heyman. He’s scheduled for a confrontation with Roman tonight, and he’s being advertised for next week’s Raw to properly kick off his championship feud with Bobby Lashley. Part-timer Brock is working every single WWE television show of 2022 so far, and it’s weird. It’s also great, of course, because Brock is a very entertaining man, and his storyline with Heyman and Reigns is the best thing going in WWE today.
Tonight’s angle with Roman will continue where they left off in December, now with Paul Heyman firmly on Brock’s side. Roman still owes Brock a shot at the Universal championship after their title match at Day 1 was canceled, so we should find out tonight if that match will be happening on SmackDown television before Royal Rumble, or if WWE is going to wait until Saudi Arabia or WrestleMania to book that match. It doesn’t seem likely to happen at Royal Rumble given Brock is defending his belt against Lashley on that night.
So, who will Roman face at the Rumble? With Drew McIntyre’s status in doubt, the only other possible SmackDown stars who could plausibly get a match with Roman include Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, but even that feels like a stretch. WWE may very well need to bring over some reinforcements from Raw, because SmackDown’s fatal flaw right now is its terrible depth on the babyface side of the ledger.
There’s an alternate reality where babyfaces Ricochet, Mansoor, Mustafa Ali, or Cesaro can be quickly elevated to a championship program when the injury bug strikes, but that’s not how Vince McMahon’s fantasy land operates. Those guys are all much closer to being jobbers than they are to being championship material, unfortunately.
The rest of the title scene
SmackDown women’s champion Charlotte Flair beat Toni Storm in a title match two weeks ago, and Storm is now gone from WWE. Flair did not compete at Day 1, and she will need a new story and new challenger. Sasha Banks is usually a good candidate for that spot, but there are question marks right now about her health, and WWE might prefer to hold that match off until WrestleMania. Could newcomer Xia Li already be looking at a championship program in the next month? Will Shotzi go back to being a babyface and pursue Flair’s belt? Will Naomi briefly move her focus away from Sonya Deville and onto the champ? There are a lot of ways this can play out.
Shinsuke Nakamura is the Intercontinental champion, and he’s going to defend the gold at some point against Sami Zayn. That’s because Zayn drew the lucky final spot in a 12-man gauntlet match to determine the number one contender, and of course he pinned that jabroni Ricochet to win the match. Nakamura has not wrestled since a house show match on Dec. 18, so let’s see if he and Rick Boogs even appear on the show tonight. In the meantime, it’s very understandable if you want to get giddy about the highly anticipated rematch of the Zayn/Nak classic from TakeOver: Dallas in 2016.
SmackDown tag team champions Jimmy and Jey Uso successfully retained their belts against King Woods and Sir Kofi at Day 1 with a big assist from the Dudley Boyz all-time great finishing move. It’s not clear why anybody should take the Viking Raiders or Angel & Humberto as serious threats to the champs, so perhaps New Day will keep pursuing the gold this month.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Drew McIntyre is dealing with a neck issue and might be off television for a little while. After defeating Madcap Moss at Day 1, he was later written out of kayfabe with a backstage attack from Moss and Happy Corbin. The two heels will presumably need to find a new babyface to torment while Drew is out.
- Naomi defeated Shanya Baszler in about 30 seconds a few weeks ago, and Sonya Deville continues dodging a match with her. This feud has been dragging out for a while now. Maybe this is the time for Naomi to take a quick detour to focus on a different goal, such as winning the Royal Rumble match.
- Natalya is upset with Xia Li for attacking her during her SmackDown debut appearance. Li has yet to wrestle on SmackDown, and it looks like Natalya will be her first opponent. Li has been trading wins with Shotzi on house shows, so perhaps a win over Natalya isn’t a 100% lock. It’s also possible that The Protector has incurred the wrath of Sonya Deville for thwarting her plans to destroy Naomi in December.
- After Ridge Holland’s nose was shattered at Day 1, Sheamus was forced to battle Ricochet and Cesaro all by himself. It was no sweat for the Celtic Warrior, who was able to overcome the odds and beat the babyfaces with a Brogue Kick. This result wiped out any positive momentum that Ricochet got from his performance in the gauntlet match, and emphasized just how far Cesaro has fallen since his days in the main event around May 2021. He’s back to being a complete pushover on the SmackDown roster.
- The rumor going around is that Mustafa Ali hasn’t been on television because creative has nothing for him. Can you imagine being so creatively bankrupt that you can’t come up with anything for Ali, or you simply don’t think he’s worth putting on television? I’m looking at you, Vince McMahon.
- The Royal Rumble matches are coming up later this month. Johnny Knoxville and a few other participants are official, but WWE has a long way to go to fill out all 60 spots across both matches. More names should be announced tonight. Watch out folks, this could be the big push we’ve all been waiting for Shanky to receive. Well, I’ve been waiting for it, anyway.
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?