I recently posted an article where I looked at the current state of Monday Night Raw and gave ten opinions on what I'm seeing. Some of the thoughts were positive, while other thoughts were negative. If I did it for Raw, isn't it only fair that I do it for Smackdown, as well? The format will be exactly the same. I've looked at the state of Smackdown, up and down, and I've come up with ten opinions on what I'm seeing. Again, some of the thoughts will be positive, and some will be negative. Let's get this going, shall we? Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
1. Luke Harper might be the most underrated person on the entire WWE roster. That's really saying a lot when you consider the others who would be in the running for that crown, but I really think it's true. He isn't quite the size of someone like Big Show or other "monsters" (He's billed at 6'5" and 275 pounds, which is about the same billed size as Lex Luger was), but he wrestles much bigger than he is, still featuring an intimidation factor that is easy to see on-screen. He was super underrated on the independent scene before even signing with WWE, but he has never really gotten out of Bray Wyatt's shadow in the last couple years. Even when he has broken away from the Wyatt Family, it was to advance a storyline with Bray and Randy Orton, or earlier, to be involved with The Authority and do their bidding. Crowds seem to want to root for him, but he isn't given much of anything to do. He was flirting with being a main event player at the beginning of the year, to the point that many "experts" were predicting that he would be in the WWE Title match at WrestleMania, but obviously, that never came to be. People are surprised when they find out his age (he'll be turning 38 before the calendar hits 2018), but it's not like he shows it. He can still "go", and he's able to put on good matches with a variety of opponents, from Bray Wyatt himself to Dolph Ziggler to Kalisto to Sami Zayn, and everyone in between. He's very well spoken and articulate, which also catches people by surprise, based on the gimmick that he's been using for the last few years, so promo time isn't a problem for him. The writers just have no idea what to do with him. It's like he's destined to team with or feud with Erick Rowan for the rest of time.
2. If Jinder Mahal can be the WWE Champion, then Tye Dillinger needs to be in the title picture before the end of the year, too. I'm only half-kidding when I say that. I've made it very clear that I'm not a fan of how Jinder was pushed to the title picture, but I will give him credit for one thing... he looks like a champion. From the moment he walks out, he appears to fit in as a main event guy, but then, his matches start, and all that flies out the window. His matches are just boring. If he's going to get a push, why wouldn't someone like Tye Dillinger get one? No matter what your thoughts are about Dillinger's in-ring skills, you can't deny that he gets some of the biggest pops of anyone on the main roster. Fans would, no doubt, get behind any sort of push for him. With Smackdown being the "land of opportunity", it wouldn't exactly hurt the narrative if Dillinger got a push. Hell, imagine the pop if Tye was the one who ended Jinder's title reign. The roof would blow off of whatever building they were in that night, not just because one of the WWE Universe's favorites won the WWE Title, but because one of the WWE Universe's least favorites lost it. Of course, if Dillinger is going to get any kind of push, it should be done "properly". They can't make the same mistakes again. He should make regular appearances on television, first and foremost. Since debuting on the main roster two months ago, he has a total of three televised matches, all of them being singles victories. Make it a more regular occurrence, let him pick up some more wins, and then have him interrupt a Jinder promo or something... boom... he's in the title picture, and the crowds would be happy. I'm not necessarily saying Tye should be in title contention. I'm merely saying he could be.
3. Talking Smack isn't the same without The Miz, and to a lesser extent, without Daniel Bryan. Remember when Talking Smack was the best wrestling-related show you could see anywhere? Every week, no matter what actually happened on Smackdown, you just had to watch the show on the WWE Network because you never knew what was going to happen. Promos turned into worked shoots regularly. Sneak attacks took place all the time. Daniel Bryan would randomly bust out penis jokes about James Ellsworth. The Miz jump-started his career with his scathing promos on Bryan and the rest of the WWE locker room. It was incredible television. We can't continue being happy, though, because Miz was shipped off to Raw, and Talking Smack began to suffer from his loss immediately. Then, real life took over, as Daniel Bryan was taken off the road for "paternity leave", as he waited to become a father for the first time. Shane McMahon took over Bryan's co-hosting duties, but it just isn't the same. Shane just seems... off. He has always had a natural charisma to him, and was more than serviceable on the mic. On Talking Smack, he seems awkward, and he stumbles over lines regularly. He also doesn't make penis jokes about James Ellsworth, which is the key to the show's success. With Birdie Joe Danielson being born on May 9th, Bryan is scheduled to return to the road this week. I'm looking forward to seeing him again. I try to watch Talking Smack, but more often than not, I find myself tuning out before the show is over. It just doesn't have the same pizzazz anymore, and that's sad. Hopefully, Bryan's return will start to right the ship a bit.
4. The women of Smackdown are trying to do the most with the least. First things first, let me say that I'm very happy to see the women of WWE getting to do more. They're getting more time on television, chances to main event shows, and getting to participate in match types that women in WWE couldn't do before. That's fantastic, and I hope it continues. With that said, the Smackdown women's scene is pretty rough sometimes. Naomi... is horrible. She has the worst offense in all of wrestling right now. The Rear View is so dumb, but nowhere near as asinine as that stupid set of jump kicks that she does to the sides of her opponents. The kicks barely connect most of the time, and when they do, suspending disbelief doesn't work because there's no way the kicks would hurt. Making it worse, her opponents look dumb as all hell having to sell those "flurries". They end up looking like they're dancing together. Carmella, bless her heart, is trying, but she is coming along much better on offense than she is in the selling department. She's actually the worst offender when it comes to dealing with those kicks from Naomi. Natalya is Natalya... she's basically the vanilla ice cream of the women's division. Is vanilla ice cream tasty? Of course it is, but it's pretty plain. Oh, and if Nattie botches her own discus clothesline one more time, gently using her arm to guide her opponent to the mat, I might flip a table over. There was a time when Tamina was an intriguing prospect, but being off of television for 25 of the last 36 months because of injuries (and the rise of Nia Jax from NXT to the main roster in that time) has killed any momentum and crowd reaction she may have once had. It's so crazy in the division that Lana is getting a title shot at Money In The Bank, and she has a whopping total of one match on the main roster, and that was over a year ago. Poor Becky Lynch and Charlotte (more on Ms. Flair later) are having to carry things without getting a lot of attention for it. The absolute best part about all of this is the fact that Lana's crowd reactions are leaps and bounds better than anyone else in the division. That probably means the company is going to use her in a featured role, no matter how well she's coming along in the ring. Hey, she's still someone I'd rather see wrestle than Naomi, at least.
5. American Alpha might be dead on arrival without Kurt Angle or Shelton Benjamin to help them out. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but... an act was absolutely red hot in NXT, only to get promoted to the main roster and fizzle out. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan set NXT on fire during their time there, and everyone expected them to do the same when they were called up. Well, they got called up, and nothing happened. They were given a run with the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, and nothing happened. They had some really good matches against The Usos, and nothing happened. Crowds just haven't cared about them, nor have they been given a reason to. As good as they are in the ring, who the hell are they? They don't get time to cut promos and tell the WWE Universe about them. They just go out and wrestle, and while that has worked for some people in the past, it didn't work for American Alpha. At all. Shelton Benjamin was supposed to be WWE bound a while ago, but an injury put the kibosh on those plans. Shelton, as an established WWE performer from the past, could have given a good "rub" to Gable and Jordan, teaming with them for a while, or being something of a manager for them. An even better idea for Gable and Jordan would have had them as the new "Team Angle" for Kurt Angle's return to the company. Being around Angle was a natural connection, and it would have done so much for their careers, even if he was just their manager and mouthpiece. Benjamin and Charlie Haas were nobodies to the main roster audience in 2002 when they debuted as Team Angle, and their association with Angle helped them to get over and stand on their own two feet in a wild tag division. With Benjamin's status completely up in the air (he was medically cleared to wrestle over two months ago with no WWE return rumored), and with Angle the General Manager on the opposing show, you have to wonder how American Alpha are supposed to salvage things. If they can't, they may go down as one of the biggest glaring cases of the disconnect between the NXT Universe and the WWE Universe.
6. The "Blue Brand" has some serious roster depth issues. Jinder Mahal is the WWE Champion. Naomi is the Women's Champion. Kevin Owens is the United States Champion. The Usos are the Tag Team Champions. The first two names immediately tell you about roster depth issues on Smackdown. When you look at the wrestlers that most would view are the "best" on Smackdown... Owens, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, John Cena (free agent or not), Chris Jericho, Sami Zayn, etc... most of them are either not currently on the road or are involved in the mid-card title picture. The depth in the tag division might be getting better now that Zack Ryder is back and looks to be teaming with Mojo Rawley again. Of course, people are already expecting Ryder to turn on Rawley before long, so that won't last. That still leaves us with Tyler Breeze and Fandango as one of the top tag contenders on the show. I'm entertained by their antics, and both of them are underrated as hell in the ring, but they're pretty similar to Jinder in a lot of ways. They were complete jobbers who won a match or two out of nowhere, and were placed into a title picture to the shock of everyone. Primo and Epico are getting something of a push now, too, even though there isn't a single fan in any arena Smackdown performs in that cares about them, so you have to think that their 843rd different push will fizzle out just like the rest. The women's division is trying to put a bunch of women into one storyline, but if we're going to be realistic, only Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and maybe Natalya are deserving of anything. Otherwise, it's a similar complaint... taking people who were nothing all that long ago, and trying to make them something out of nowhere instead of with a thought out plan. It's like when I used to play Extreme Warfare Revenge back in the day. When I would control WWE, I would inevitably have a roster split, and one of my brands would see injuries or suspensions hit. In a pinch, I'd have no choice but to elevate a few people who were barely making it on my shows before, and they were battling for titles until the depth issues were solved. This is real life, though, and not a computer game, so it's even sadder to watch.
7. In no way, shape, or form should Charlotte ever be a face. I mean, ever. She's 31 years old, so she could have a decade or so left in the ring if she can avoid injuries and things of that nature. If she wrestles exactly ten more years, she should be a heel for exactly ten of those years. She has had "star" written all over her pretty much from day one, and because of that, it's easy to dislike her. She's bigger (height-wise) than just about every woman on the roster, is a better athlete, is able to pull off moves that they can't do, and has a natural charisma that many would kill for. Her facial expressions are so good, and even those are heel-like, with her sneer and all of that good stuff. Before coming to Smackdown, she was in the perfect spot. She was being the hated heel, battling against some of the most beloved women in wrestling right now. She was easy to hate as everyone rooted for Sasha Banks and Bayley. Not a lot of work needed to be put in. The women just went out and played their roles properly, and the fans ate it up. Then, Charlotte moves to Tuesday nights, and someone in WWE decides that it's time to switch things up for no real reason. Nothing has really changed about her, other than the people she aligns herself with. She still wrestles like a heel. She still cuts promos like a heel, talking about how much better she is than the other women. She's just a face because... she's... hanging out with Becky Lynch... who is a face. It doesn't make sense, and it's going to hurt her far more than help her. She needs to turn on Becky for the 25th time (just like her father used to turn on Sting every year or so) and make things right again.
8. Mojo Rawley isn't anywhere near as irritating when he isn't being a stereotypical "bro". If you've been watching the last couple weeks of Smackdown, you've seen a slightly different Mojo than the one we've seen since he debuted in NXT. Gone was the "bro culture" shtick that he had turned up to 1000. In its place was a more subdued, humble Mojo that was almost vulnerable. He talked about wanting a shot, but when he got that shot and lost, he accepted it and said he would continue to work hard for another one. I'm not exactly a fan of the aforementioned "bro culture", so I haven't been able to root for Mojo. He comes across as annoying as disingenuous. I was happy to see his character take a different direction, so what happened? The ultimate "bro", Zack Ryder, returns and will probably ruin all of the work that has been done, at least temporarily. It's like someone writing for Smackdown hates me and me alone.
9. A heel turn saved the careers of The Usos. Even though I've always enjoyed the work of The Usos, I think it's more than fair to say that they were beyond stale with everyone except for the little kids in the crowd. The colorful face paint and ring attire weren't doing it for them anymore. They probably needed something different long before they actually got it, but hey, I guess beggars can't be choosers. This turn has been fantastic for them. They seem to be themselves, to a degree, and it's showing. They're comfortable out there. Their promos have been over-the-top, sure, but it's something unique in the company now, so it stands out. Their music has a more ominous vibe to it. Their ring attire is all black. Everything just ties together, and it's interesting to see them feuding with New Day now, because it's almost like looking at their past. They're feuding with the old version of themselves, with all of New Day's bright colors and kid-friendly promos. There could be a lot of mileage in this feud, if the writers deem it worthy, but I'm enjoying it thus far, and I have high hopes for their matches if their promo work has been any sign.
10. John Cena being a "free agent" has to be some sort of practical joke on Smackdown. Like him or not, Cena is still the biggest name in the business. Sure, he misses lengthy stretches of time to film shows and movies, but he's still treated as the big deal that he is. The red carpet is rolled out for him whenever he's on WWE television. It was a big deal when he landed on Smackdown, because he was going to be the star power that helped to boost the brand while some of the younger talent handled a lot of the dirty work. We're coming up on a full year since the WWE Draft sent Cena to Smackdown, and since then, the most consecutive episodes of Smackdown that Cena has wrestled on is four, around the time of Elimination Chamber. I understand that he isn't going to wrestle every week. Not at this point in his career, anyway. But the star power that he was supposed to bring to the show has been absent far more often than not. We recently saw a return vignette for Cena, saying that he's returning to Smackdown on the July 4th episode. That's fine, but the vignette also said that Cena was a "free agent". Word is that the company wants him to wrestle on both Raw and Smackdown for a bit as television viewership gets lower and lower. Has there ever been a time, going back to the very beginning of the "Raw vs Smackdown" days, when WWE didn't treat Smackdown like the adopted sibling? Either Raw gets everything good, or Smackdown loses what good they get. It never fails. I'm not saying that Raw is the perfect show or anything. Far from it, actually. I'm just saying it's WWE showing that they care about Raw more than they do Smackdown. Again. In a time when Smackdown could use all the help they can get, they're having to share the brand's biggest star with Raw, with a chance that they'll lose him for good when the "free agent" story is over and one brand "signs" him to a deal.
I enjoy Smackdown more than it may seem here. I just see that there are a handful of problems that they're having, and those problems are the types that have the potential to get worse as time goes on. What do you think about Smackdown these days? Hit me up, either in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) and let me know what you think.
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