SmackDown airs tonight (Dec. 23) with a taped show (spoilers are available here) from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois. This is the fourth SmackDown episode during the nine week build towards Royal Rumble, which takes place on Jan. 28.
Raquel Rodriguez has incredible healing powers
SmackDown Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey needs a new challenger, so WWE is running a gauntlet match tonight to determine which woman is next in line. The six wrestlers competing for that spot are Liv Morgan, Xia Li, Emma, Raquel Rodriguez, Tegan Nox, and Sonya Deville.
It’s not too hard to narrow the field down to the two most likely winners. Rousey recently defeated Emma, so she can probably be crossed off the list. Rousey beat Morgan for the title back in October, and their feud was a dud, so it’s best to not revisit it one more time. Li and Deville are heels who rarely ever win, so they don’t make sense as a number one contender to Rousey either. Seriously, as far as I can tell, Xia Li hasn’t won a match on TV since her main roster in-ring debut back in February.
That leaves Rodriguez or newcomer Nox as the leading ladies to survive the gauntlet. Last week’s episode established Xia Li as a new foe for Nox, whereas Rousey has been directly targeting Rodriguez (and her allies) in backstage attacks. It seems pretty clear that WWE is setting up a future match between Ronda and Raquel.
There’s just one glaring problem with Rodriguez winning this match. Rousey and Shayna Baszler broke Raquel’s arm and dislocated her elbow less than one month ago, on the Nov. 25 episode of SmackDown. Rousey and Baszler struck again last week, attacking Raquel’s already injured elbow backstage and leaving her writhing in pain on the floor.
Is it really plausible for Raquel Rodriguez to be recovered in time from her major injuries to compete in this match? No, it isn’t, unless she suddenly has Wolverine-like healing powers.
Is it plausible that Raquel can defeat the field with just one good arm? Not really, unless the luck of the draw is in her favor and she gets the final spot in the gauntlet against an exhausted opponent.
The idea that Raquel can go out there and beat three or more women with one arm is a tough sell, unless WWE doesn’t care too much about making the rest of the women in this match look bad. If that’s where this is headed, maybe WWE really will play it off like Raquel is nearly 100% recovered from her injuries, despite last week’s attack.
Or maybe my assumption about Raquel being the favorite to win this match is bad, and her arm / elbow injuries will understandably lead to her downfall, setting up Tegan Nox for a championship match with Rousey. It wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong about something in pro wrestling, that’s for sure.
There’s only one way to find out who wins, and that’s by tuning into SmackDown tonight. Okay, actually there’s a second way to find out, and that’s by reading the spoilers.
The rest of the title scene
Jimmy and Jey Uso are scheduled to defend the undisputed WWE tag team titles tonight against Hit Row. Top Dolla and Ashante Adonis are in way over their heads against the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history, and it would be a huge upset if they find a way to win. It might be considered a small victory for Hit Row if they manage to get through the match without another spectacular botch from Top.
After defeating Ricochet last week, it looks like Intercontinental Champion GUNTHER will have to deal with Braun Strowman fairly soon. Strowman and Ricochet are teaming up tonight for a Miracle on 34th Street Fight against GUNTHER’s underlings in Imperium. This is WWE’s annual holiday themed street fight with various comedy spots that probably won’t go so well for the heels.
WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns is in the building, and he is still trying to figure out how to deal with his Kevin Owens problem. Reigns is teaming up with Sami Zayn next week to take on Owens and John Cena. The Tribal Chief may need to have a talk with the Honorary Uce and explain how the result of the Cena match could affect Zayn’s future in The Bloodline. Will Cena show up again via satellite with another message for Reigns?
WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions IYO SKY and Dakota Kai took care of business last week against Tegan Nox and Liv Morgan. With most of the SmackDown women’s division occupied in tonight’s gauntlet match, there isn’t much left for Damage CTRL to do on this episode other than obnoxiously run their mouths.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Karrion Kross wants to end the legendary career of Rey Mysterio. Mysterio hasn’t wrestled since October due to injury, but he should be back soon, setting up another daunting challenge for the underdog babyface to deal with.
- Lacey Evans posted some dumb and bad shit on her social media earlier this week, and it’s not clear yet if this will affect her latest repackaging where WWE claims she is going back to basics.
- It turns out that Bray Wyatt and Uncle Howdy are two different people, much to the surprise of LA Knight. Does Knight really believe what he saw with his own eyes last week, or does he still think Wyatt is playing twisted games with him?
- The Brawling Brutes and Shinsuke Nakamura did not appear on last week’s live episode, which could be an indication that they also won’t appear on tonight’s episode that was taped last week.
- The New Day are the current NXT tag team champions. Will the Viking Raiders or Legado del Fantasma pursue those belts on Friday nights?
What will you be looking for on SmackDown?