SmackDown airs tonight (June 17) with a live show from Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is the second SmackDown episode during the four week build towards Money in the Bank, which takes place on July 2.
The part-time champ is back for his monthly visit to WWE
Roman Reigns is finally gracing us with his presence tonight. He hasn’t been on WWE television since he helped the Usos unify the Raw and SmackDown tag team titles on the May 20 episode of SmackDown. Roman will put the WWE Universal championship on the line against
Matt Riddle in tonight’s main event. This match is happening because Sami Zayn was on the losing side of last week’s match against the Original Bro. It will be Reigns’ first title defense on TV or PPV since he unified the WWE championship and the Universal championship over 70 days ago at WrestleMania 38.
It’s a little strange that this title match is happening on SmackDown television rather than the upcoming Money in the Bank premium live pay-per-view event. Reigns vs. Riddle was originally rumored to take place at that event, but then WWE decided to move Money in the Bank to a smaller venue, and Roman was pulled from the card.
The stipulation here is that if Riddle loses, he can never challenge Reigns for the WWE Universal championship again. And it’s hard to believe that any other outcome is possible in this match. Reigns has held championship gold for almost two consecutive years. He’s beaten top part-time stars like Brock Lesnar, Edge, Goldberg, and John Cena. Meanwhile, Riddle was often the guy taking the falls in RK-Bro’s tag matches when they lost. Hell, he was just pinned by Reigns in Roman’s last match (excluding house shows) in May at WrestleMania Backlash. Riddle’s push has gotten stronger ever since Randy Orton went down due to injury, but it remains very obvious that he doesn’t stand a chance against the Tribal Chief.
Does that matter? These guys can certainly go out there and have a hell of a match. Part of their job as pro wrestlers is to get you to buy into the false finishes. That job becomes more difficult when everyone knows that Riddle has no chance to win, but it’s not impossible to pull off.
Meanwhile, this is Roman’s first live appearance on WWE television in the month of June. Given the likelihood that he won’t be competing at Money in the Bank on July 2, Reigns can probably return home for the rest of the month after he fulfills his obligation to WWE by defeating Riddle tonight.
The rest of the title scene
Natalya has earned a title match against SmackDown Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey at Money in the Bank. Rousey was briefly booed last week when she said Natalya’s sharpshooter that was stolen from Uncle Bret pales in comparison to Ronda’s armbar that she learned from her mom. Natalya made the champ pay for that foolish trash talk by locking her in the sharpshooter. Ronda isn’t listed in the advertising on the events page of WWE’s web site for tonight, so it’s not clear if she’ll be in the building seeking payback on Natalya.
The Street Profits defeated The Usos by count out in a non-title match on the June 6 episode of Raw. That seemed to put Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins in line for a shot at the WWE tag team champions, but then Jimmy Uso defeated Montez Ford in a singles match on Raw earlier this week. If the Street Profits aren’t willing to make the trek over from Monday nights to the blue brand tonight, it’s not clear which SmackDown team might be next to step up to the dominant champs. Then again, the priority for the Usos tonight is to ensure that Roman Reigns retains his gold against Riddle, so they might just put their own belts on the backburner.
Gunther defeated Ricochet to win the Intercontinental championship last week. My best guess is we’ll see a rematch between these two guys before Gunther is ready to move on to a new opponent. Ricochet might also have his eyes set on qualifying for the Money in the Bank ladder match.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Madcap Moss is supposed to take on Happy Corbin tonight in a Last Laugh match. It’s not clear what the rules are for such a match, but it might not even matter, because this bout is no longer listed on WWE’s official preview for tonight’s episode.
- Max Dupri was supposed to reveal the first client of Maximum Male Models last week, but it was delayed when he ran into travel problems. That means the big reveal will happen tonight. Who could it be?
- Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus didn’t have a winner in last week’s Money in the Bank qualifying match. Both men have argued to Adam Pearce that they should be put into the ladder match on July 2. SmackDown’s lack of depth means that’s how this will probably shake out, but WWE might need to stretch out their story with another TV match or two before making it official.
- Lacey Evans qualified for the Money in the Bank ladder match with a win over Xia Li last week. Will any other SmackDown women qualify for Money in the Bank tonight? I’d bet that smiling babyface Raquel Rodriguez has a pretty good chance to be next.
- Shinsuke Nakamura is nowhere to be seen since the Usos took him out a couple weeks ago.
- WWE aired a video package for the Viking Raiders last week that ended with the phrase “Coming soon.” I guess someone in WWE forgot that Erik & Ivar already arrived on SmackDown last October as part of the WWE Draft? And they’ve challenged for the SmackDown tag team titles as recently as March?
- Skyscrapin’ Shanky didn’t appear on last week’s episode of SmackDown. WWE wisely decided not to overexpose their future WrestleMania main event star in a meaningless segment.
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?