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WWE SmackDown preview (Dec. 15, 2023): Randy Orton is next in line to lose to Roman Reigns

SmackDown airs tonight (Dec. 15) with a live show emanating from Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is the third episode of SmackDown during the nine week build towards Royal Rumble 2024, which takes place on January 27.

Randy Orton is next in line to lose to Roman Reigns

After sitting out the previous five episodes of SmackDown TV, part-time WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns finally returns tonight to “handle some Tribal business,” according to WWE’s web site. More specifically, the site says “With the Royal Rumble just around the corner, The Head of the Table will need to lock down his tribe and figure out how to navigate his Road to WrestleMania.”

Roman is only booked for a few dates between now and Royal Rumble, so WWE will need to officially name his challenger for that event in short order. There are three candidates who come to mind: Randy Orton, LA Knight, and AJ Styles.

LA Knight lost against Reigns the last time we saw the Tribal Chief, so the megastar probably won’t get a rematch at Royal Rumble. But he’ll definitely be involved in whatever story WWE is telling with The Bloodline in general, as Knight is still getting loud pops and going at it with Solo Sikoa and Jim Uso.

Randy Orton is the hottest babyface on SmackDown right now, fresh off his WWE return at Survivor Series. The main reason why Orton signed an exclusive deal with SmackDown was to make Reigns and The Bloodline pay for putting him on the shelf for 18 months. Orton has never challenged Roman for the belt on PLE during Roman’s 3+ year run on top, so it’s the obvious match to book at the Rumble. Orton may have to beat Knight in order to earn that spot, though.

Finally, the wild card in this picture is AJ Styles. His return has been rumored for several weeks and could very well happen tonight. The Phenomenal One was taken out by The Bloodline in September and will be coming back for revenge whenever he does show his face. Maybe he’ll wait his turn for a match against Reigns in Australia in February?

Roman could end up interacting with all of these men tonight, before WWE finds a way for Orton to officially earn the title match at Royal Rumble. Now, the more pressing issue is, do any of these men have a chance to beat the Tribal Chief for the belt at Royal Rumble?

Of course not! Barring a major injury, Roman isn’t losing the gold at any event that’s not named WrestleMania. We all know this by now, even if it is sometimes tempting to think otherwise.

One other thing worth keeping an eye on is if Roman Reigns or his wise man Paul Heyman name drop CM Punk tonight. CM mentioned both of them last week, teasing a feud sometime down the line, and I don’t expect the Tribal Chief to stay silent about it.

The rest of the title scene

The next challenger for part-time United States Champion Logan Paul is being determined in a tournament. The opening round wraps up tonight with Kevin Owens vs. Austin Theory and Carmelo Hayes vs. Grayson Waller. Will KO’s broken hand be his downfall? Will Carmelo shine in his main roster debut?

WWE Women’s Champion IYO SKY is in the crosshairs of former champion Bianca Belair. Bayley may have redeemed herself in the eyes of SKY and Damage CTRL last week when she helped Asuka defeat Charlotte Flair. Can Bayley similarly find a way to thwart the EST of WWE?

WWE Tag Team Champions Damian Priest and Finn Balor probably won’t show up on SmackDown tonight because they are preparing for a title defense on Raw next week against the Creed Brothers.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Chelsea Green and Piper Niven are also defending the gold on Raw and don’t have a reason to appear on SmackDown tonight.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Karrion Kross finally made his shitty return to WWE TV last week, jobbing out to Bob Lashley in a tournament match and looking like a total chump in the process. Will Karrion see the writing on the wall and try to create an even shittier stable in hopes of turning his luck around?

- Santos Escobar must be full of himself after eliminating Dragon Lee from the United States title number one contender tournament last week. Will Escobar and Lashley cross paths tonight ahead of their upcoming showdown in the next round of the tourney?

- Are Lashley and the Street Profits babyfaces or heels? It seems to change from week-to-week.

- What will Pretty Deadly be up to tonight now that the Brawling Brutes are out of the picture and the WWE tag team champs aren’t showing up on SmackDown?

- Will WWE provide an update on Charlotte Flair’s health after she suffered a legitimate knee injury last week?

- Zelina Vega and Mia Yim helped run off some Damage CTRL members last week. Will one of them pay for their actions tonight, perhaps in the form of a match against Kairi Sane?

- Is SmackDown GM Nick Aldis prepared to confirm any new entrants in the Royal Rumble match? If not, will he announce some Rumble qualifying matches?

- I believe WWE is also taping next week’s episode of SmackDown tonight. Whenever WWE has a double taping like this, I always expect there to be a couple of longer matches to fill time, or to see low carders who typically struggle to get on TV (like Cameron Grimes) finally get something to do on screen.

- Where the f*** is Omos?

What will you be looking for on SmackDown?

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