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
I’ve been thinking about doing a piece like this for a couple of weeks now, but after last Wednesday it had to happen. I have to take a moment to talk about what is for me the best piece of WWE-content right now. The Cruiserweight Classic.
Cedric Alexander vs Kota Ibushi. For me, it was right up there at the very top of match of the year candidates. Both guys seemed to pull everything out of the bag, and delivered. The ideal aim of any rivalry or match is for both guys to come out of it looking like bigger stars than they did going in. A standing ovation and on-screen props from Triple H isn’t a bad way for the loser to go out of the tournament is it? Continue reading
First off, Battleground was a great show. We saw a match of the year candidate between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, another great match for the WWE Championship, what must be one of the best promos of Enzo Amore’s life, and the long awaited main roster debut of Bayley.
On top of that, The Wyatts and the New Day produced an entertaining battle that was all about the story of Xavier Woods, Natalya and Becky Lynch put on a solid showing in an unlucky spot, and Randy Orton might have produced the line of the night in a Highlight Reel that accomplished all it needed to.
That seems like a fairly stacked show, right? Continue reading
The WWE Draft is just a matter of hours away. The big question is of course, who will end up where? I decided to write about who my priorities would be if I were one of the selectors. But I’ve also shaken things up a bit and called in the reinforcements! I asked a couple of friends to join me in choosing their top picks, just to see if there was a consensus for anybody on the roster.
The criteria I gave the guys was that they had to pick at least one woman, at least one team (for the purposes of this I said you could pick the Wyatt Family or The Club as a team) and we could pick a maximum of one NXT superstar to call up. Simple enough, right? Let’s get to the picks, starting with the choices of… Jonny Bird!
The wrestling world was shocked just a couple of hours ago when news broke that Roman Reigns has been suspended for his first violation of WWE’s wellness policy. That means a 30 day suspension, ending just three days before Battleground.
In all honesty, that’s pretty much all we know for a fact at the minute. Continue reading