It was always going to happen. Once I’d mapped out how I would book SmackDown through to Wrestlemania, it was only natural that I’d look at Monday nights at some point too. This is going to follow the same broad rules I set myself for the SD column – I can’t change storylines that are already in development, I have to write some sort of conclusion to them – and like the Kevin Owens/Shane McMahon feud I still work towards matches that are expected in the future. I’m also still assuming there is a PPV roughly every month, even though WWE haven’t yet announced as much. And I can’t magically heal anyone who is injured, I have to work with their expected recovery time, which means no Big Cass or Jeff Hardy.
I’m mainly dealing with the Universal and Intercontinental Championships (though I do briefly discuss the Tag titles early on), and on that note I only have Brock Lesnar wrestling in “Big-4” PPVs from here on out. I had anticipated while writing the SD column that John Cena would be on Raw through to Survivor series, and would then take a few weeks off from there, but since he seems to be gone for now he stays off TV until his return to SmackDown, and he won’t reappear in Raw storylines until after the Royal Rumble. As with my SD columns, if a show looks empty, that’s because I anticipate more focus will be given on those weeks to the women’s, cruiserweight or tag divisions. Continue reading
It’s the final part! Everyone you haven’t read about yet is in this part, including a handful of former world champions. It’s been a long ride, let’s get this show back on the road!
I think Paige is just about unique on this list in not having appeared on WWE programming one single time since the draft. She got hurt last year, needed neck surgery, and got suspended twice due to wellness policy violations. She should be just about ready to return to the ring in the next couple of months I think, but whether we will see her in a WWE ring again is questionable. A string of incidents in her personal life has led to speculation that WWE will think they are better off without her, which seems to be a fair opinion right now. But for Paige’s fans, there is still the hope while she’s under contract that she will return, and with The Rock making a movie about her there’s always the chance WWE will try to capitalise on that publicity. The issue is whether or not they feel they can trust her in that situation. If she gets things straightened out, and recovers physically, she can be a real asset to either show right now. My worry is that it’s all too likely Paige will go down as an underachiever in WWE.
Rating: * Continue reading
This is part two of my roster evaluation one year after the draft took place. The first part covered superstars whose names began with letters A-C, this part looks at the D-N section of the roster. Let’s get to it!
Dana has thus far made a career as a lackey on the main roster, first as Emma’s sidekick reuniting a successful NXT pairing, then as Charlotte’s “protégé”. She never looked up to much in the ring during that period though, made all the more obvious because she was often up against Sasha Banks and Bayley. But since splitting from Charlotte she has been missing for all intents and purposes, though there have been hints she will reunite with Emma once again in the near future.
Rating: * Continue reading
On the 19th July 2016, WWE officially split their roster in two. Raw and SmackDown became completely separate brands, and with that from my point of view came a lot of optimism. The roster had been constantly expanding with talent, and it was becoming nearly impossible to feature everyone who needed it in only one show’s worth of storylines. But one year on, it feels like an appropriate time to take stock of the last twelve months. Who has really benefited from the draft and had a good year? Whose spot on the card is worse off now that it was? Here I go through every single person either drafted last summer or currently on the roster, and give my take on how their year has gone. Continue reading
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 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
Six months ago, I wrote a column on the aftermath of the draft. I wrote about how the gauntlet was being laid down to SmackDown’s women’s division – and we have seen a star rise in Alexa Bliss. I wrote about how Dolph Ziggler wasn’t even on a list of names I’d noted weren’t on last year’s Battleground. And he was one of the stand outs in WWE for the latter part of 2016 alongside The Miz. Who would’ve seen that coming? I wrote about how the draft was all about the same thing that Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan had been pushing the blue brand to be all about – opportunity.
Now I want to talk about another superstar who has an opportunity. Now I want to talk about a wrestler who could have a career defining couple of months ahead of him. Now I want to talk about a superstar who six months ago was on the shelf through injury, and wasn’t even mentioned at any point in my previous article. Now I want to talk about Luke Harper.
Last night at the Royal Rumble, the wrestling world erupted when the clock counted down to zero and the number ten entrant was revealed as none other than Tye Dillinger. Crowds have been chanting “Ten” constantly for months, and one of the talking points in the aftermath was whether Dillinger would show up on Raw or SmackDown now that he’s debuted.
I’d say the perfect place for the perfect ten to be is… exactly where he is now, NXT.
That’s nothing against Dillinger as a worker. He is one of the most capable performers in NXT, and it has been well reported that Dusty Rhodes said he was ready for the main roster years ago. Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe have also both publicly praised Dillinger’s ability in the last year or two. No, my worry is over how he would be booked on the main roster.
The path from NXT to the WWE main roster is littered with success stories. In the last two Wrestlemanias, including the preshows, 16 out of 21 matches have featured NXT graduates. The obvious highlights are of course the men who have been able to call themselves world – or universal – champion: Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor and Kevin Owens. But, it is not always an easy road to the top of the WWE, and some have fallen by the wayside along the way. Sometimes they just weren’t ready to get the call up, sometimes the fans didn’t take to them, sometimes creative didn’t have the right plans in place for them. Some superstars thrive on the slow burn that NXT allows them to have, improving and connecting with the crowd slowly but surely, to the point someone can be on fire at the right time, with the right opponent – but they don’t get that chance on Raw or Smackdown. It’s a different set of rules, more demanding than ever before, more challenging, and of course they have to win over Vince McMahon working from the very bottom again. Here I take a look at ten NXT graduates who haven’t quite hit it off on the main roster. Continue reading
The Brand Extension back in July was supposed to bring about a “New Era”. It was supposed to be the start of change in WWE. It was supposed to be an opportunity for people who didn’t normally get much of the spotlight to be centre stage. So far, it’s easy to pick out faults in that ideology. So far, fans could be forgiven for thinking that the separate shows have mostly been a case of the same old same old, but with new puppets in the well-worn shoes.
I would argue differently. Continue reading