We’re just about a year on from the 2016 WWE Brand Extension, and I have had fairly consistent gripes with one division pretty much ever since. And that division is the SmackDown Live tag team division.
From day one (ish) depth has been an issue. In the tournament to crown the first ever SmackDown Tag Champs there only seemed like two credible winners – American Alpha and The Usos, and with the momentum Alpha still had having just arrived on the main roster it seemed like a challenge for anyone else to beat them. Then the Heath Slater arc happened, and that was fine in the short term. But there was still a dearth of anything other than jobber teams – The Ascension, The Hype Bros and Breezango would need to be built up a long way to be credible.
Hardly the most inspiring bunch, but Alpha were the obvious stars
So with that competition, playing second fiddle so early on in their run was damaging for American Alpha. The duo were called the best tag team in the world by Daniel Bryan upon their selection on draft night, and for a long time they were my favourite team in WWE, but for a while it was as though WWE were seeing how blunt the arrow could get before they let Gable and Jordan loose. Continue reading
The Money in the Bank briefcase has launched the careers of many a WWE superstar over the years into the stratosphere. It bridged the gap between upper mid-carder and main eventer, and led to greats like Edge, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan winning their first World Championships in WWE. Not every briefcase holder has been a success (Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow), and even two little known wrestlers called Randy Orton and John Cena have won Money in the Bank matches, but since they’re little more than footnotes in history we’ll move on quickly from them. Regardless of the blemishes on the record though, holding the MitB briefcase is a sign that WWE higher ups have faith in you to deliver big as and when required. Tonight, we find out who the latest man to write their name in the history books will be.
This will be the same format as the preview of the women’s match I posted earlier, where I look at how to make each individual the star of the match, and then assess their chances of winning and being able to call themselves Mr Money in the Bank for the foreseeable future. Without further adieu… Continue reading
Money In The Bank is here! And for the first time I think ever, only one brand is featured on the show. We’ve had brand specific MitB ladder matches before, but this is the first time we’ve had two briefcase matches both from a single brand before. It is also notable because, as you may have heard, tonight we see the first ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match!
In previous years I’ve done columns looking at the participants in the briefcase matches, looking at their chances of winning. This year I’m going to add one more thing into my thoughts – how you could potentially make them the star of the match, if that’s even possible. So, starting with the women’s match in this article, let’s get to it! Continue reading
Tonight WWE goes Extreme! Or so they say. There really hasn’t been that much excitement around the WWE product recently, with a series of subpar shows and autopilot booking making Raw and SmackDown pretty bland. The match I’ve picked is one that I think typifies the repetitive nature of WWE programming in recent weeks, and it also allows me to take a look at a division that I haven’t really touched on in this column for months. I’m talking about the Cruiserweight Championship match.
The last time WWE’s purple division was the focus of one of my Spotlights was in the very early days of the division, with the featured match being TJ Perkins vs The Brian Kendrick. Oh how times have changed since then. We have seen more talent added to 205 Live including Tozawa, Noam Dar and Neville; we saw Rich Swann inserted into the title picture, win the championship, lose it to the resurgent Neville and fall out of contention again.
And Neville didn’t even care. Look at him acknowledging his adoring kingdom.
But still the Cruiserweights as a group are really struggling for momentum. It’s one thing to say give it time, but by this point the women’s revolution had started to take off and become a focal point of Raw and SmackDown. Right now, the Cruiserweights are a tired part of a bland show. Continue reading
The main subject of my wrestling thoughts these last few weeks has been Bray Wyatt. I essentially turned the Payback Spotlight into one long extended rant about how little his move to Raw was going to do for him. But it feels like years that there has been a feeling that WWE are holding Bray back – he has been in championship pictures for a miniscule part of his run, and he always seems to lose the big feuds.
It looked like WWE might have changed their ways with Bray earlier this year, as he put away SmackDown’s top two stars in AJ Styles and John Cena with one Sister Abigail each inside the Elimination Chamber to become the WWE Champion for the first time. He then defended the title two days later against the same two men in a triple threat match. But WWE’s Eater of Worlds, and their current darkest, creepiest superstar, quickly and too easily succumbed to Randy Orton at Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania – and the weeks since – have not gone particularly well for Bray
I’ve been quiet since Wrestlemania and the superstar shake-up, and that’s because I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. If I had written a column in the immediate aftermath of the draft last summer, the tone of it would have been far angrier than if I had waited a week. My main reasoning for that is I want to give WWE the chance to let things play out, as maybe something that as a fan I find frustrating one week is actually building to something bigger. But tonight is Payback, and since the build has been muddled and just generally not that good, I’m going to address something from the shake-up that ties into a match tonight. I’m just going to go ahead and say it.
I have no idea why Bray Wyatt was moved to Raw.
Should WWE’s “Face of Fear” stayed the face of SmackDown?
And here we are at the end of Wrestlemania season! We’ve had six straight nights of content from WWE alone with the Hall of Fame, TakeOver: Orlando, Wrestlemania 33, Raw, SmackDown and NXT. It almost feels strange not having more wrestling to look forward to tonight. BUT, we can look back at all the awesome stuff that’s happened in the last week, and look ahead by asking the question “where do we go from here?”
We saw Kurt Angle return to the company, first as a Hall of Famer then as the Raw General Manager. We saw what looks like a full on heel turn from Asuka. We saw Matt and Jeff Hardy return to the WWE and become the Raw Tag Team Champions. We saw the career of The Undertaker likely come to a close. We saw The Revival debut on the main roster on Monday night, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger get the call up on Tuesday night. And crucially, we also saw Vince McMahon announce that next week we would shake up the rosters.
And that’s what I want to focus on here. Who is most likely to switch brands, or maybe rather who needs to switch brands the most? Here I lay out six picks, three from each show, who could really benefit from a shake up of their surroundings.
It’s finally here! It’s the day of Wrestlemania 33. It’s been a long build up, in more ways than one. We’ve been on the road to Wrestlemania for all intents and purposed for the last three months. We’ve been hearing constant plugs for Mania several times a week on each Raw and SmackDown. But it’s been a long build up for some matches too, as I’ve already written about some matches that’s roots can be traced back to SummerSlam, a whole seven months ago.
But there’s one match where the history, across several tracks, goes back years. And that’s the match I’m rounding off this preview series on. It may be unsanctioned, but that just means there are boundless opportunities here. It is, of course, Seth Rollins vs Triple H.
Serious Trips. Mean Trips. Grrrrrrrrr. #HeelBeard
As we head into Wrestlemania, all eyes are on the ultimate thrill ride, and rightfully so. It’s not WWE’s pinnacle for no reason. But, as ever with WWE storylines, a big part of the excitement around Mania is the possibility for what will come next. So I’ve put my fantasy booking hat on (I mean come on, I don’t really ever take it off) and come up with eight rivalries I want to see on SmackDown coming out of Wrestlemania season. In case you’re wondering, I’m only doing SmackDown because I’m too uncertain about who will be in what spots and roles on Raw, and I’m doing eight feuds because there are eight segments in a typical SmackDown broadcast. And the roster isn’t really big enough for more. Got that? Let’s go!
WWE Championship – Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt ©
As the premier prize in the industry, the WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania should always be the most highly anticipated spectacle at the showcase of the immortals. But we’ve seen during the brand extension that that’s not always the case. When there are two world titles, one has to take priority over the other at the biggest show of the year, and just as it did in the early stages of the original dual world title era, this year it’s the WWE Title match that’s taking the back seat.
Part of that is because the build up to Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt this year has been… weird. In theory, this is a seven months storyline that has had its twists and turns, elevated both men with some character development and is peaking at the right time for maximum impact. Practically though, the last month or so especially has been confusing and very hit or miss.
We’ve had to surrender to the supernatural in the last couple of weeks