SmackDown airs tonight (Apr. 14) with a live show from Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. This is the second SmackDown episode during the five week build towards Backlash, which takes place on May 6 in Puerto Rico.
Shinsuke Nakamura is back in WWE
Shinsuke Nakamura returns to SmackDown television tonight for the first time in 2023. That WWE is hyping up Shinsuke’s return makes me wish we could have Pat McAfee and Rick Boogs on hand to rock out with the King of Strong Style during his entrance. Nakamura got over in a big way with McAfee’s antics during his entrance in 2021, and it just won’t be the same without that missing element. That being said, Shinsuke is oozing in charisma, so he has the tools necessary to capture everyone’s attention all on his own.
Nakamura hasn’t really been around much during Triple H’s time running WWE creative, which may or may not even be a thing depending on whether Vince McMahon is backstage. Shinsuke’s lengthy absence gives WWE the opportunity to hit the reset button on him creatively and push him hard as an upper card guy right out of the gate.
Maybe tonight he starts with a win over a low card guy like Madcap Moss. But in the bigger picture, I wouldn’t rule out Shinsuke as a potential challenger for Roman Reigns next month in Saudi Arabia. Like usual, the part-time WWE Universal champion isn’t advertised for tonight’s show. But someone new needs to step up and establish himself as being worthy of a title shot now that Cody Rhodes is preoccupied with Brock Lesnar. Why can’t it be Shinsuke?
The rest of the title scene
WWE Tag Team Champions Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are still feuding with The Bloodline and appear to be headed for a rematch with Jimmy and Jey Uso. The babyfaces have a new ally by their side in the form of Matt Riddle, and WWE says the Original Bro is coming after The Bloodline tonight. Does that mean Riddle will challenge Solo Sikoa to a match?
Intercontinental Champion GUNTHER might not be done with Sheamus quite yet after the Brawling Brutes defeated Imperium on last week’s show.
SmackDown women’s champion Rhea Ripley needs a first opponent to defend her title against. The Judgment Day has been going at it with the LWO in recent weeks, so does that mean Zelina Vega will be first in line to challenge the champ?
Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez are the new WWE women’s tag team champions. How long will it be until Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler come knocking on their door for a title shot? It might be too early for that to happen if Rousey needs more time to heal her fractured elbow, so perhaps Sonya Deville and Chelsea Green will have to catch a beating first.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- Xavier Woods goes one-on-one with LA Knight tonight. This match came about after Knight was frustrated over Woods getting a tiny bit of time on the WrestleMania 39 broadcast playing video games, whereas somehow Knight wasn’t part of the show at all. Woods already beat Knight not all that long ago, so we’ll see if LA can make the adjustment and cheat his way to getting his win back.
- LWO member Santos Escobar has been doing a lot of jobs as a secondary player in the feud between Rey and Dominik Mysterio. It looks like Dom is teaming up with Damian Priest for a big match against Bad Bunny and Rey at Backlash, so Santos could be doing another job to The Judgment Day tonight.
- What’s going on between Paul Heyman and Jey Uso? Tensions are mounting, but Roman Reigns isn’t around to address the situation.
- Karrion Kross is a jabroni who sure could use a change of scenery. The WWE Draft can’t come soon enough for him. In the meantime, maybe he should make a bold statement tonight and try to ruin Nakamura’s return.
- Drew McIntyre joined Bray Wyatt on WWE’s missing list last week. Hopefully both guys are okay. Will Drew be back soon?
What will you be looking for on SmackDown?