Tournament Determining Cody Rhodes' Next WWE Title Challenger To Begin On SmackDown

For the first time in two years, there's an Undisputed WWE Universal Champion with a name other than Roman Reigns, and Cody Rhodes seems likely to defend his title somewhat more often than Reigns had been. To that end, Friday night's "WWE SmackDown" is set to begin the process of determining a new No. 1 contender, as the company announced on X (formerly known as Twitter) that the episode would feature the first two matches in a three-match tournament. Detroit will play host to a pair of triple threat matches — Kevin Owens vs. Rey Mysterio vs. AJ Styles and LA Knight vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Santos Escobar — with the winners meeting on next week's "SmackDown" to crown Cody's latest challenger.


This tournament style has been a staple of WWE programming since Paul Levesque took creative control over WWE following the first resignation of longtime WWE CEO Vince McMahon in July 2022. The participants are notable for having spent recent years in contention for the United States Championship, which served in some ways as the default top singles title on "SmackDown" whenever Reigns was absent. It's also notable that the tournament takes place entirely on "SmackDown" and that the participants are all "SmackDown" stars — with the title back in the hands of a full-time competitor, this suggests it (and Rhodes) could be subject to the brand split and become "SmackDown" exclusive, though we will have to see how everything shakes out in the 2024 WWE Draft at the end of the month to know for sure who will be appearing most regularly on which show.