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WWE SmackDown preview (Apr. 21, 2023): Triple H loves these ridiculously long title reigns

SmackDown airs tonight (Apr. 21) with a live show from Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. This is the third SmackDown episode during the five week build towards Backlash, which takes place on May 6 in Puerto Rico.

Triple H loves these ridiculously long title reigns

Intercontinental Champion GUNTHER puts the gold on the line tonight against New Day member Xavier Woods. This match came about after Woods defeated LA Knight last week and then pissed off GUNTHER backstage by playing the trombone right in front of him. GUNTHER has vowed to defeat Woods and beat some respect into him.

Since winning the mid-card title last June, GUNTHER has joined Roman Reigns and Bianca Belair in WWE’s current group of unbeatable champions. Reigns and Belair have each surpassed one year as champion, whereas GUNTHER is on the cusp of reaching that mark very soon. There isn’t much reason to think Xavier is the man who will stop that from happening, at least not tonight.

Would GUNTHER still be the champion right now if Vince McMahon never stepped down as head of WWE creative last July? It’s doubtful GUNTHER would still be the titleholder, given Vince’s penchant for hot potato-ing or outright ignoring the Intercontinental title over the years. Triple H, on the other hand, sure does love these very long title reigns.

Looking ahead, it’s not clear yet what GUNTHER will be doing at Backlash. Can Woods put up enough of a fight to force a controversial finish that leads to a rematch with a gimmick attached to it? Or will he be dispatched only for a new challenger to quickly emerge?

You’ll have to tune in tonight to find out the answer to that question.

The rest of the title scene

Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez are scheduled to defend the WWE women’s tag team titles tonight against Chelsea Green and Sonya DeVille. This feels like a tune up match for the champs rather than an actual threat to their belts. Will Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler make an appearance afterwards to show them what real competition looks like?

WWE Tag Team Champions Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have partnered up with Matt Riddle for their ongoing war with The Bloodline. The babyfaces will go at it with The Usos and Solo Sikoa in a six man tag match at Backlash. Before we get there, however, Owens and Zayn will defend their belts against The Usos next week on SmackDown, which also happens to be the first night of the WWE Draft. Can Zayn and Riddle really trust each other, given that Sami was a member of The Bloodline when the group injured Riddle last year?

SmackDown Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley needs a first opponent to successfully defend her title against, and Zelina Vega is a leading candidate to do the job. Vega might as well join the rest of the LWO in putting over The Judgment Day.

WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns is a part-timer who isn’t booked for Backlash. Therefore he also isn’t booked for much TV at all in the lead up to the show. That includes tonight, where the Tribal Chief is once again not expected to be here.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Braun Strowman and Ricochet were ambushed by the Viking Raiders last week, so the two teams will do battle tonight. This could be the end of their feud before Braun and Ricochet are potentially separated in next week’s draft.

- Shinsuke Nakamura successfully returned to SmackDown last week with an easy win over that jabroni Madcap Moss. After the match ended, that other jabroni Karrion Kross made it clear that he’s coming after Shinsuke next. Is this the story that will finally help Karrion shed his jabroni status? Or is the idea for Shinsuke to use Karrion as a stepping stone as he is built up for a future title match against Roman Reigns?

- Sheamus and the Brawling Brutes probably need someone new to beat up tonight given that Imperium is busy with Woods. Will the megastar LA Knight open his loud mouth and give Sheamus a reason to stick his boot in it?

- Will that little piece of shit Dominik Mysterio show up tonight to talk trash on Bad Bunny ahead of Bad’s return to WWE next week?

- Can Lacey Evans or Natalya convince Adam Pearce to book them on the show?

- Drew McIntyre doesn’t seem happy with WWE right now and is off TV. Is this whole thing a shoot that has been turned into a work?

What will you be looking for on SmackDown?

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