SmackDown airs tonight (Feb. 25) with a live show from Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This is the first SmackDown episode during the six week build towards WrestleMania 38 on the weekend of April 2 and April 3.
Sasha Banks is missing on the road to WrestleMania
SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair is scheduled to defend the gold against Ronda Rousey in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. This is the same spot that Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair had on last year’s card.
The Boss has been absent from WWE television for much of 2022. After suffering an injury in early January that was supposed to put her on the shelf for up to two months, Banks made a surprise return on the go-home show for Royal Rumble. She competed in the women’s Royal Rumble match and was tossed out in about 10 minutes. That’s the last we’ve seen of her in kayfabe. Now that Elimination Chamber is in the rear-view mirror, it will be odd if Banks doesn’t show up very soon on SmackDown to secure her spot on this year’s WrestleMania card.
Even though Banks main evented WrestleMania last year, Rousey’s presence on Friday nights (combined with Sasha’s current absence) raises questions about Sasha’s spot on the WrestleMania 38 card. Banks is one of the very best wrestlers in WWE and should be featured in a high profile singles match on the biggest show of the year. But it’s really difficult for any woman to get a singles match at WrestleMania without a championship being on the line.
Take a quick glance at the SmackDown women’s roster outside of Rousey and Flair, and it’s hard to find a singles match for Banks at WrestleMania. Banks vs. Aliyah, Natalya, or Shotzi simply won’t cut it. Banks vs. Baszler is a viable match in a different timeline where Shayna wasn’t an ineffective henchwoman or scared of stupid dolls. Sonya Deville doesn’t appear in line for a singles match at WrestleMania after getting her ass kicked by a wrestler with one arm tied behind her back last weekend. That leaves...Naomi?
Even if Sasha Banks does return on tonight’s episode of SmackDown, she may very well need Asuka or Bayley to also return in order to give her a suitable opponent at WrestleMania 38. By getting paired up with Charlotte Flair, Ronda Rousey essentially took Sasha’s spot at WrestleMania 38, and The Boss might end up lost in the shuffle as a result.
The rest of the title scene
Universal Champion Roman Reigns and WWE Champion Brock Lesnar will compete against each other at WrestleMania 38 in a Title vs. Title Winner-Take-All match. They will sign a contract tonight to make it official. Vince McMahon has gone all-in on this match, sacrificing pretty much the entire men’s roster to make these two guys look as strong as possible heading into the fight.
Sami Zayn won the Intercontinental title last week against a Boogs-less Shinsuke Nakamura. This is Sami’s third reign with this belt, and he’s going to have a victory celebration tonight. WWE is teasing that someone will interrupt Zayn’s joyous occasion. Will that jackass Johnny Knoxville be on hand to set up a championship match at WrestleMania 38? Or will it instead be Shanky?
The Usos didn’t defend the SmackDown tag team titles at Elimination Chamber. They flew 18 hours each way on the Saudi Arabia trip simply to attack the Viking Raiders during their entrance and ensure the match was postponed. Maybe WWE will give us details tonight on when we can expect to see this title match happen, but it feels like it doesn’t really matter at this point. The Viking Raiders are total pretenders.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- After defeating Madcap Moss in Saudi Arabia and almost decapitating Happy Corbin in the process, Drew McIntyre will get his hands on Moss in a rematch tonight. I have no idea how Madcap is cleared after he was spiked on his head last weekend. The story to keep an eye on here is that Happy Corbin is undefeated in singles competition since adopting the “Happy” moniker last year. Happy and Drew are presumably on a collision course for WrestleMania 38.
- Ricochet actually defeated Sheamus last week and now seems to think he is destined for greatness in WWE. I guess he doesn’t realize that Vince McMahon is still the booker.
- Xia Li is still waiting to have her debut match on main roster television even though she made her debut appearance over two months ago. Natalya is her likely opponent if WWE ever decides to let her wrestle.
New Day Big E & Kofi Kingston traded wins with Los Lotharios during the build towards Elimination Chamber. Is there a rubber match on the way? And more importantly, what are the WrestleMania plans for these guys?
- Cesaro is gone from WWE and won’t be on SmackDown tonight. His absence changes nothing of significance with WWE’s creative direction for WrestleMania, because he’s been a total afterthought for months.
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?