While many consider Thursday Night SmackDown to be WWE's secondary show -- or possibly third on their totem pole, after WWE NXT -- Vince and company have really started to turn things up SmackDown. Whether it's because the show just recently moved to USA Network or because WWE has just kicked off this year's WrestleMania season isn't important. What is important is that the quality of SmackDown has seen a dramatic improvement over the last several weeks.A.J. Styles is in competition once again, the United States Championship is on the line, and two-thirds of the WWE Fast Lane main event take time to visit Y2J's Highlight Reel. Sunday night's Royal Rumble is one of the biggest WWE events of the year. Monday Night RAW saw a huge jump in the ratings thanks to a surprise visit from The Rock. WWE tries to follow those two huge shows with a solid edition of WWE Thursday Night SmackDown.
WWE.com often produces a five-point SmackDown preview to get the WWE Universe excited for Thursday nights. We'll take a look at those five points and more in this spoiler-free preview of WWE Thursday Night SmackDown. If preferred, SmackDown spoilers for this week's episode are also available.
It's @TheDeanAmbrose vs. @WWERomanReigns vs...@BrockLesnar at #WWEFastlane with @WrestleMania implications! #RAW https://t.co/F3uH9sciEQWill there be brotherly love on the Highlight Reel?
— WWE (@WWE) January 26, 2016
The only match that WWE has officially announced for next month's Fast Lane is the main event Triple Threat Match to determine the No. 1 contender for Triple H's WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The winner at Fast Lane goes on to challenge Hunter in the main event of WrestleMania 32 in Dallas.As Chris Jericho himself has pointed out, the Highlight Reel rarely finishes without some sort of physical confrontation. With their big match at Fast Lane approaching, will these close friends have issues with facing each other -- and Brock Lesnar -- in just over three weeks?
The United States Championship rises to new heights
Ever since Sin Cara suffered an injury, Kalisto's singles career has really taken off. Having defeated Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship less than two weeks ago, he has already lost the title and won it back after invoking his rematch clause.In the first title defense of his second reign as U.S. Champion, Kalisto faces former NXT Champion and fellow high-flyer Neville. Alberto Del Rio hasn't yet mentioned a rematch. Will he watch this match in silence or come to the ring to get involved?
How will The New Day respond to The Rock?
When The Rock showed up at WWE RAW this week, the WWE Universe in Miami exploded. The Rock was playing up his goofy, over-the-top persona very well. But when the most entertaining star of a previous era starts taking up camera time, viewers can't be surprised when the modern mic masters -- The New Day -- interrupt the proceedings.
The new day are still champions!! Great Eding. @WWEBigE @TrueKofi @XavierWoodsPhD #WWE #RoyalRumble pic.twitter.com/XOuXlihyJnUnfortunately for The New Day, The Rock called out his cousins, The Usos. The Samoans laid out The New Day, with a Rock Bottom and People's Elbow included. As WWE is indicating, The New Day will definitely have a response. But more importantly, is this just the first step in booking another New Day/Usos title match at Fast Lane?
— BeckyLee/SashaLee (@AJPunkIsMyWorld) January 25, 2016
A phenomenal SmackDown debut
Tonight's SmackDown will mark the first time A.J. Styles has performed on pre-taped WWE programming. His debut during the Royal Rumble Match was met with arguably the biggest pop of the night. On WWE RAW, he built on that momentum by gaining his first-ever WWE singles match victory.While one would think Y2J would put up a bigger fight than Curtis Axel, you have to remember that Mr. Pefect's son will be flanked by his three Social Outcasts brethren.
Who is the real Queen of WWE's Divas division?
As WWE Divas Champion Charlotte faces Natalya in a non-title match, it seems likely that one or two other WWE Divas may get involved. She has at least two people gunning for her and the gold -- and it just happens to be the two WWE Divas who jumped to the main roster with her during Stephanie McMahon's acknowledgment of the WWE Divas Revolution.Will the "Lass Kicker" Becky Lynch make an appearance? Does "The Boss" Sasha Banks have something in store for Charlotte?
WWE Thursday Night SmackDown airs weekly on the USA Network at 8/7c.
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