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WWE SmackDown preview (Apr. 29, 2022): Roman Reigns finally has a direction for WrestleMania Backlash

SmackDown airs tonight (Apr. 29) with a taped show from MVP Arena in Albany, New York. This is the fourth SmackDown episode during the five week build towards WrestleMania Backlash on May 8. Spoilers for tonight’s show are available here.

Roman Reigns finally has a direction for WrestleMania Backlash

WWE has been in no rush to find a WrestleMania Backlash challenger for Roman Reigns. Last week I suggested this is because they have to save his bigger opponents for the upcoming stadium shows starting in July. But there might be another factor that explains Roman’s complete lack of direction - what if his next opponent is still wrapping up a four week storyline with Sami Zayn?

Drew McIntyre and Sami Zayn will fight each other in a steel cage match tonight. This is the fourth consecutive episode of SmackDown where these two men will face each other, which is a bit much even by WWE’s frequent rematch standards. There is a logical reason for all of these rematches, though, and it’s because Zayn has run away from every single match thus far. The idea tonight is that the steel cage will finally keep him from escaping Drew’s wrath and sword.

So what does any of this have to do with Roman Reigns? All it took was a simple backstage exchange between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton last week to let us know that Roman was getting involved in this story:

McIntyre: “Randy, I saw what happened last week. As far as I’m concerned, anyone that stands up to the Bloodline’s BS is good in my book.”

Orton: “ and me? We’re good.”

Zayn was delighted when he overheard McIntyre calling out the Bloodline’s bullshit. He immediately snitched to his Tribal Chief, seeking assistance in his fight against Drew. Naturally, Roman didn’t take too kindly to learning that his good name was disrespected by McIntyre.

He sent the Usos to take care of the problem last week, but it likely won’t end there. Look for Roman Reigns to take a more direct approach in dealing with Drew McIntyre tonight, potentially setting up a match for the WWE Universal championship at WrestleMania Backlash.

You might ask, wouldn’t it make more sense to hold off on Reigns vs. McIntyre until WWE’s UK stadium pay-per-view in September? Yes, it would. But McIntyre could be facing Tyson Fury on that card, or maybe WWE doesn’t want to book Drew to lose in the United Kingdom. And you know he will lose against Roman whenever the match happens. There is also the possibility that they just book a screwy finish at WrestleMania Backlash and do a rematch with a higher stakes stipulation between Roman and Drew at one of the upcoming stadium shows.

The point is, last week’s show put Drew McIntyre in Roman’s crosshairs. There is nobody else for Roman to face at WrestleMania Backlash. So if the report about Reigns main eventing that show is true, then it pretty much has to be against Drew McIntyre. There just isn’t enough time left for it to be anyone else.

The rest of the title scene

Ronda Rousey and SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair will have an “I Quit” Beat the Clock challenge tonight. That means they will each wrestle against a different opponent and try to win (by submission) with the fastest time. This is where some of the women in WWE who don’t get much television time might get called on to quickly tap out to Flair or Rousey.

Intercontinental Champion Ricochet defends his title against Shanky tonight. Shanky surprised Jinder Mahal by stepping up and requesting a title shot. Does Mahal feel a bit threatened by his very tall underling showing some initiative and ambition? This could be the start of Shanky’s long-awaited push to the main event of WrestleMania.

Sasha Banks and Naomi have new challengers for their Women’s tag team titles in the form of Natalya and Shayna Baszler. It’s not clear if the title match will go down at WrestleMania Backlash. Regardless, typical WWE booking (and the utter lack of women’s tag teams) probably means you can expect singles matches between members of these teams over the next couple weeks.

The Usos and RK-Bro will unify the SmackDown tag titles with the Raw tag titles at WrestleMania Backlash. Matt Riddle has pinned each member of the Usos in singles matches over the last two weeks on SmackDown, while Orton pinned Jey Uso in an 8-man tag team match earlier this week on Raw. I’m pretty sure the unverified law of reverse momentum means the Usos are now the current favorites to bring home all the gold on May 8.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Did Xia Li turn heel last week? I’m pretty sure she did when she said there is nobody worth protecting and that she’s only looking out for herself from now on. That sure came out of nowhere. Li’s main roster rollout continues to be a head-scratcher, but maybe WWE actually has a plan for her this time.

- The pugnacious, rabid, ferocious, feisty, and nefarious BUTCH has lost both of his matches against Xavier Woods. He snapped after last week’s loss and stormed off through the crowd. Do we know if Sheamus or Ridge Holland have managed to find their lil’ fella yet? Or is BUTCH still out on the loose, violently roaming the wild?

- Gunther is in the earliest phase of his main roster push where he is squashing local jobbers each week. This is much better for him than the earliest phase of some other NXT call-up pushes that involve losing right away and/or wearing a dumb helmet and/or losing their manager and/or getting a worse gimmick and/or being released.

- Speaking of local jobbers, one of them might just be doing the favors for Raquel Gonzalez Rodriguez tonight, because WWE is advertising that tonight is her TV debut match.

- Lacey Evans is returning to WWE and they really want you to root for her. They are doing so by telling chapters of her tragic backstory over the last few weeks. Don’t you feel inspired by all the struggles she’s had to overcome in life?

- Madcap Moss has kicked off his babyface turn by defeating Los Lotharios in separate singles matches over the last couple weeks. He’s officially booked in a match against Happy Corbin at WrestleMania Backlash. Things have been going a little too well for Madcap lately, so maybe this is the week where Corbin covers him in dog food or something.

What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?

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