SmackDown airs tonight (Aug. 12) with a live show from PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is the second SmackDown episode during the five week build towards Clash at the Castlecoming up on Sept. 3.
Triple H is full of surprises
Ever since he took over WWE creative, Triple H has not hesitated to bring back wrestlers who were released by Vince McMahon. Dakota Kai made a big splash at SummerSlam. Karrion Kross & Scarlett Bordeaux followed suit last week on SmackDown, and Dexter Lumis popped up earlier this week on Raw. A recent rumor suggests that Triple H is intentionally trying to spread out the surprise returns to keep things fresh. To that end, a report from last night suggests a couple of Hit Row members are expected to be at tonight’s episode of SmackDown.
It’s a fascinating time to watch Triple H play the game and move the chess pieces around the board. Many wrestlers who Vince released have already signed with AEW or another pro wrestling organization, so even if Hit Row does show up tonight, their most talented member Swerve Strickland won’t be part of it. The lack of availability of Triple H’s former top guys from NXT like Adam Cole and Keith Lee may also help explain why an unexpected name like Dexter Lumis was one of the first released wrestlers brought back into the fold.
How many more weeks will Triple H continue dropping these surprise returns into our lapse? Will former top stars from the main roster like Braun Strowman or Bray Wyatt eventually be part of the mix?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that it’s a fun time to be a wrestling fan right now, given all the changes going on that are moving WWE away from Vince McMahon’s tired creative vision.
The title scene
Intercontinental Champion Gunther puts the belt on the line tonight against Shinsuke Nakamura. Ludwig Kaiser couldn’t get the job done, so Gunther will demonstrate to his underling that failure is not an option.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Liv Morgan will have a contract signing with Shayna Baszler tonight to make their title fight official for Clash at the Castle. Let’s hope that the weakened and vulnerable babyface champ can muster up the strength to actually put pen to paper, even if she is being booed out of the building once again.
Tea WWE women’s tag team championship tournament continues tonight with Raquel Rodriguez & Aliyah vs. Shotzi & Xia Li. Rodriguez proved in last week’s gauntlet match that she can beat much of the women’s roster on her own, so she might be able to make a deep run in the tourney even with unproven Aliyah as her partner.
WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns is scheduled for a title defense against
Shanky Drew McIntyre at Clash at the Castle. Part-timer Reigns isn’t expected to appear on the show tonight, so that might help explain why Karrion Kross & Scarlett Bordeaux have suddenly joined the main event scene. Kross ambushed McIntyre last week before Scarlett let it be known that the clock is ticking on Roman’s reign as champion. How will Drew respond to their surprise returns?
The Usos are the WWE tag team champs and don’t have any competition right now. They spent their time last week treating Sami Zayn like garbage and demanding that he step up and earn his place in the Bloodline. Is this leading to a story where Sami eventually realizes what’s up and finds a partner to dethrone Jimmy and Jey?
Other stuff to keep an eye on
– WWE has not provided an update on Ronda Rousey’s suspension. Could she be back as soon as tonight?
– Sheamus and the Brawling Brutes didn’t factor into last week’s episode, but there will almost surely be something for them to do at Clash at the Castle…right?
– Ricochet got back on track last week with a win over Happy Corbin. As we saw with Madcap Moss, though, beating Happy Corbin doesn’t guarantee anything about a future push.
– The New and Vicious Viking Raiders had a rare misfire last week, with Kofi Kingston defeating Erik in a singles match. Kofi is a former WWE champion, but he was presented like an upset victory.
– Maximum Male Models have yet to titillate our guilty pleasure juices within the context of an actual wrestling match. Will that change anytime soon?
– SmackDown is in North Carolina tonight. Could this be the night that Charlotte Flair returns to WWE?
What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?