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WWE SmackDown preview (Apr. 22, 2022): There is no rush to find Reigns’ next challenger

SmackDown airs tonight (Apr. 22) with a live show from MVP Arena in Albany, New York. This is the third SmackDown episode during the five week build towards WrestleMania Backlash on May 8.

There is no rush to find Roman Reigns’ next challenger

There are only sixteen days between now and WrestleMania Backlash, yet WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns still has no obvious challenger lined up for that event. The latest reporting suggests WWE is indeed planning to feature the Tribal Chief in the main event of that card, so what’s taking so long to settle on an opponent?

To put it bluntly, it’s because WrestleMania Backlash is WWE’s least important premium live pay-per-view (PPV) event over the next several months.

WWE has a stretch of four consecutive stadium shows on PPV between July and October. This includes Money in the Bank, SummerSlam, a UK show in September, and a Saudi Arabia show after that.

Those stadium shows are the big priority; WWE needs to save Roman’s best opponents for those cards. That could include Cody Rhodes, Drew McIntyre, Randy Orton, and a part-timer or two.

A less important show like WrestleMania Backlash simply gets the leftovers. Therefore it doesn’t matter which mid-card wrestler WWE feeds to Roman at this event, such as Shinsuke Nakamura or Ricochet. It’s just a placeholder opponent for the Tribal Chief until the bigger stars come out for those stadium shows.

Will tonight’s episode of SmackDown finally include an angle to set up Roman’s match at WrestleMania Backlash? It doesn’t really matter, now does it?

The rest of the title scene

SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair made an example out of Drew Gulak last week, forcing him to tap out and scream the words “I quit!” Ronda Rousey should be back on SmackDown tonight, so Flair will have consequences to pay if she tries a similar stunt.

Intercontinental Champion Ricochet defeated Jinder Mahal last week. Which heel will come looking for mid-card gold next?

The Usos and RK-Bro will unify the SmackDown tag titles with the Raw tag titles at WrestleMania Backlash. In the meantime, each team is trying to assert their dominance on weekly television. Orton and Matt Riddle didn’t do such a good job of that this week on Raw when they were distracted by the Usos’ theme music and lost against the Street Profits. Will Jimmy and Jey be distracted by RK-Bro’s theme music tonight?

Sasha Banks and Naomi retained the Women’s tag team titles on Raw against Rhea Ripley and Liv Morgan. Now that Ripley and Morgan are split up, the women’s tag division is once again hanging by a thread.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Drew McIntyre fights Sami Zayn tonight in a Lumberjack match. Sami won’t be able to run away this time from Drew or his giant flame-generating sword.

- BUTCH is still a feisty lil’ fella who needs to learn to harness his aggression. He got loose in the back last week and caused a chaotic scene when he attacked the New Day.

- Gunther is squashing jobbers to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with on the main roster.

- Raquel Rodriguez is still waiting for her first main roster match on television. She is at least appearing in backstage segments each week, which makes her more relevant than Shotzi or Xia Li, at the very least.

- Lacey Evans is returning to WWE, likely as a babyface, but first she is telling her sad life story across multiple weeks. We’ll probably hear part three of her story tonight.

- Madcap Moss defeated Humberto last week. Angel wasn’t too happy with his tag partner for losing to a joke, but I bet he suffers the same fate tonight.

What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?

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