WWE SmackDown Preview For January 15, 2021

WWE SmackDown is scheduled to take place on January 15, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT live on FOX.

On this week’s episode of WWE SmackDown, there is one scheduled match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jey Uso. Nakamura will seek redemption from last week’s gauntlet in this match. Daniel Bryan and Otis from WWE SmackDown will partake in the Men’s Royal Rumble, while Bianca Belair and Bayley from WWE SmackDown will partake in the Women’s Royal Rumble. It is expected that the WWE will add more SmackDown participants to the Royal Rumble matches on this episode.

Speaking of WWE Royal Rumble 2021, there is one title match scheduled from the blue brand: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Adam Pearce for the Universal Championship. Some other title matches that could be added are: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Championship, and Dirty Dawgs (c) vs. Street Profits for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships.

Since there is only one title match from the blue brand scheduled for the Rumble, expect WWE to book some more title matches for the upcoming pay-per-view on this episode. There won’t be too many because the two Royal Rumbles already take a huge chunk of time from the show itself. With that being said, it’s now time to preview the matches and/or segments that are already scheduled to occur on this week’s episode of WWE SmackDown.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jey Uso [Grudge Match]

On last week’s WWE SmackDown, Shinsuke Nakamura almost survived the gauntlet to become the new number one contender for the Universal Championship. He eliminated Rey Mysterio, King Corbin, and Daniel Bryan before getting eliminated by Adam Pearce at the last minute due to nefarious interferences from Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Jey Uso. Now, he has the opportunity to redeem himself in his scheduled match against Jey Uso, and he will.

After Nakamura and Cesaro lost the SmackDown Tag Team Championships to The New Day in October, Nakamura had lost most of his momentum, especially when he began taking clean losses to Otis. It was odd to see Nakamura’s main event status gradually disintegrate into the abyss, but he was abruptly booked with so much momentum in this gauntlet. This abrupt momentum builder reminded the fans why he is a former Royal Rumble winner, IC Champion, and U.S. Champion.

Our Graham GSM Matthews has pontificated that the time has come for Shinsuke Nakamura to return to his babyface roots. Indeed, the time has come and Nakamura’s incredible performance in the ring conveyed his superior ability to be a babyface who resonates with the fanbase. Clearly, Pearce’s victory last week was merely a means of putting heel heat on Reigns while creating face sympathy for Nakamura, and Pearce will be replaced by Nakamura as Reigns’ Rumble opponent.

What’s Next For Dirty Dawgs?

On last week’s WWE SmackDown, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, also known as Dirty Dawgs, dethroned Street Profits to become the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions. Since Roode and Ziggler ended a ten-month reign, it is expected that they will hold onto the titles until at least WrestleMania 37 to continue the legacy of the SmackDown Tag Team Championships that their  predecessors made exceptionally prestigious.

So, what’s next? Although rematch clauses do not exist in WWE anymore, it is still probable that the Street Profits find a way to get their rematch for the titles at the Royal Rumble. However, Montez Ford’s worked injury during the title match with Dirty Dawgs was not only a way to protect them from a clean loss to Dirty Dawgs but could have also been a way to write Street Profits off television for a bit, protecting them from another loss to Dirty Dawgs at the Rumble.

As for the other babyface tag teams in the division, Otis & Chad Gable are busy preparing for the Rumble, and the Mysterios are busy feuding with King Corbin and his henchmen. However, the Viking Raiders hinted at a return from injury after Ziggler and Roode’s win. Viking Raiders actually won their first Raw Tag Team Titles after dethroning Dirty Dawgs on the October 4, 2019 episode of Raw, so history could repeat itself with the SmackDown Tag Team Titles in 2021.

Will Apollo Crews Turn Heel?

On last week’s WWE SmackDown, Big E retained the Intercontinental Championship against Apollo Crews after a controversial double pinfall finish. After Crews slapped Big E in the face and demanded a rematch, the referee restarted the match, in which Big E retained the title again but more decisively via pinfall after delivering the Big Ending. However, it seems that Crews is still not done with Big E because he seemed determined to win his first Intercontinental Championship.

On Talking Smack, Paul Heyman gave Apollo Crews a pep talk, in which Heyman pretty much told him that nice guys finish last and that Crews needs to stop letting his dream to become champion slip through his fingers. This is a key sign that Crews will change his attitude from amicable to aggressive in his pursuit of the Intercontinental Title. He seems fed up with losing and will turn heel to regain momentum and revamp his character.

However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Big E won’t be losing the Intercontinental Championship anytime soon because he is on the verge of a main event push. Although it is nice to see the WWE book Crews as a more credible challenger with this gradually built heel turn, Crews still has no chance at winning the title but will hopefully be booked as a top midcard heel after his feud with Big E subsides.