Having covered the state of play at Raw yesterday, it’s about looking at what’s going on with the blue brand that is SmackDown.
There was a time with SmackDown when they had wrestlers like Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit as well as mainstays Edge and Rey Mysterio where you would look to the blue brand to deliver the quality wrestling in all WWE. Raw would give the epic storylines but get the exciting in-ring action with SmackDown. The mere mention of the fact that the three top names there are Kane, Undertaker and Big Show tells you that those days are no longer with us. Apparently the three-way match to determine the number one contender to Kane for the World Heavyweight Championship in the recent SmackDown was very good. Featuring Mysterio, Edge and Alberto del Rio, it was meant to have got the pulse going with some calling it the TV Match of the Year. Having seen it myself, if that is the winner then it’s a sad state of affairs that TV wrestling is in. Not to say it wasn’t a good match – it was, dramatic pinfalls and all, but hardly the match that you’d remember even this time next year let alone a standard to get other wrestlers to watch.
This is not to demean SmackDown, though. It is just to say that it’s in a very different place to the heights it had achieved not all that long ago. The Undertaker-Kane feud is tired. It is tired. It is worn. It does not deliver anything particularly noteworthy in the ring or in the storyline. The two big hitters give what they can and know how to tread the boards as it were, they have not turned into bad wrestlers. It’s just to say when you’ve been somewhere before and done the usual routine – Hell in a Cell and Buried Alive matches – and the Undertaker has failed to win and the feud has failed to capture the imagination that’s got to say it all. This Survivor Series marks the Undertaker’s 20th year with the organisation and in as much as it’s good to have veterans, at that age, with that longevity, having done it all at least three times, if you’re not going to hang up your wrestling boots, at least you should have the good graces of elevating someone to near your position and just chilling out.
As for Kane as World Heavyweight Champion? Reward for his service to the company over the years enduring some bizarre storylines (I won’t mention Katie Vick … oops) and going up and down the order from main eventer to under-card, from comedy face and tag-team partner to demented monster heel. Now as the ‘Devil’s Favourite Demon’ it has got him the top prize since July and that’s a good run. Can’t see it lasting that much longer, though, because it really would be sad to see them use him in that position in the run-up to next year’s WrestleMania. He is good at what he does, but that is not at being a Champion.
Circling that main event area are Big Show, Rey Mysterio and Edge. Your friendly, caring, huggy-bear Big Show as face really doesn’t need a run with the title, especially in this phase. That leaves you with familiar faces for the top prizes. Mysterio has already had a run with it recently and continues to buck the trend of a heavyweight Champ needing be … errr … a heavyweight. That leaves the recently transferred Edge to battle Kane for the title which he will do at Survivor Series. He’s undergone a shift from heel to face himself and it would be interesting to see him running with the top title in that capacity having won it predominantly as the master opportunist in previous runs. Not sure if they will give it to him, but he’s in the right place hovering over that title picture and the main event scene.
Beyond that it’s a case of a lot of the characters treading water or slowly sinking into mediocrity or obscurity. Someone like Jack Swagger, for example, isn’t doing too much of great significance anywhere, but is still showing a prowess in the ring that a lot of the wrestlers lack. With the Eagle gimmick as well, it makes it more of a jokey figure rather than one to take seriously as making headway towards major titles. Kofi Kingston went from heavyweight title contender to the very heart of nowhere after losing to Dolph Ziggler in an increasingly irrelevant series of matches for the Intercontinental title. Ziggler himself needs a quality opponent to maintain his freshness as a heel and a name with a title.
The worst case scenario has to be the fall and fall of MVP. I don’t know who he upset or what mirrors he broke, but that character appears to be in freefall, which is a pity because I’d go with him rather than someone like Drew McIntyre, but that’s the way of the world.
So a bit like Raw you have an undercurrent of stars like McIntyre, Cody Rhodes (yeah, yeah, Dashing, whatever), Tyler Reks and Kaval who could break out at any minute, but it’s difficult to see where that’s going to come from with the quality of storytelling doing the rounds at SmackDown.
One character who is significantly going against that grain though is the Alberto del Rio character. It was a shame that Christian got injured before that feud could take off, but he’s done alright for himself getting mixed up again with Rey Mysterio. His arrogant smarmy smiling heel deal is going over well presently and is something worth looking forward to on the show. As ever, it’s one thing to have a good start, it’s another thing to sustain that.
So SmackDown is in more of a malaise than Raw at the moment, but you can tell that won’t last long given a few shake-ups and stand-out matches. You’ll notice two things not mentioned so far here and at all in Raw’s review and those are the tag team division and the women’s division. (NXT doesn’t interest me at all.)
From the Harts to the break-up of McIntyre and Rhodes there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the tag team booking and to make matters worse there’s the inter-Nexus sham to continue to bury the status of the division. There probably are decent tag teams in WWE, but you don’t see them and they don’t have the time to establish themselves before they’re either split up or someone less deserving gets the title. It wasn’t that long ago when Jeri-Show, ShowMiz and D-Generation X brought some excitement to the titles, but that doesn’t appear to be a priority at the moment, which is a shame.
As for the women’s division, that is even more tragic. Lita and Trish are a lifetime ago and the current deal of LayCool is more annoying than entertaining – I dig Layla, not so much into McCool and together they blunder from one match to another raising little excitement and highlighting how bland possible contenders are and how poorly treated the division as a whole is. Of particular note is the way actual genuine charismatic and athletic wrestlers like Gail Kim and Melina are relegated to eye-candy and fodder for the LayCool express. Natalya looked a prospect and came across as though she knew wrestling, but no that cannot halt the LayCool express.
It is very sad really. Not yet as bad as the TNA Knockouts situation, but that’s another blog for another time. WWE really has to settle on how they treat their women and sort it soon, so that if they are just a bit of eye-candy to go alongside their male wrestlers, or if they are meant to put on something approaching a watchable match.
Overall the WWE main shows are going along alright without going with guns blazing. This is understandable to a degree, but it’s coming around that Survivor Series to Royal Rumble season where you hope business can pick up, but with the green nature of the majority of the wrestlers and little faith put in compelling storylines for that majority and the shabby way they treat divisions like women and the tag teams, WWE cannot afford to rest on any laurels and need to pick things up across the board to further improve the product.