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?
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
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.
The Road to Wrestlemania begins… tonight. It’s the Royal Rumble, where 30 men battle to throw each other over an obstacle. There is a rumoured Wrestlemania card out there online right now, but excitingly nobody seems to be sure where the titles will be. So the question on everyone’s lips tonight is, who will stand victorious having won the Royal Rumble match? That’s what I’m focusing on here by picking the Rumble match itself for my PPV Spotlight. And if you ask me…
I have absolutely no earthly idea.
This is the most open Royal Rumble… possibly ever. You actually need two hands to count the potential winners in 2017, instead of there just being two options. Let’s go through the apparent contenders. Continue reading
We head into WWE TLC tonight with a solid card of six matches that almost all have months of build-up. Long term booking is something I’ve written about before as being one of the big positives to come out of the 2016 version of the brand extension, and tonight should be one of the first real examples of how that is really advantageous to the show quality.
However, PPV-day means it’s time for my PPV Spotlight, and this time round I’ve picked the one match that hasn’t had months of direct build: the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match between The New Wyatt Family and Rhyno & Heath Slater.
Ahh Survivor Series. Raw vs Smackdown, as it has essentially been branded. I have to admit, when I first heard about the concept I wasn’t too keen, as I thought it was coming too soon. I didn’t think we had enough reason to care about seeing everyone in the same ring just a matter of months after they were split up.
But dammit they’ve done it, and I’m excited.
This PPV Spotlight is going to focus on the men’s 5-on-5 elimination match. Theoretically the ten top guys in the entire company, going head to head in the battle for brand supremacy. Now obviously, it never quite works out that way because of booking or injuries (or TV-hosting), but we still have an intriguing match-up with some mouth-watering potential clashes.
The main focus for me right now in wrestling – as I’m sure is also true of millions of WWE fans around the world – is the upcoming draft. In roughly two weeks, the roster will be split, characters will be separated. And as yet, nobody knows who will go where. We don’t even know for sure what the situations with the Championship belts are. But with uncertainty comes speculation, and with speculation comes dreams. So I’ve put together 10 feuds that I would love to see happen – and think we should see happen – in the months after July 19th. Continue reading
This may be a big statement, and it may even seem a tad ridiculous. But I think it can fairly be said that WWE is as mainstream as it has ever been at this moment in time.
Now as I said, that may sound ridiculous. Of course wrestling isn’t as mainstream now as it was before! You had Hulk Hogan in movies, Randy Savage in commercials, Andre The Giant on the most popular late night talk shows. You had the biggest sporting stars, the biggest actors, people like Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Mr T, Cyndi Lauper making guest appearances – not the z-list “celebs” we get nowadays like Snooki. There isn’t the same crossover appeal – WWE Superstars starred in outside movie projects. Edge was in Highlander, The Rock became the Scorpion King. Now you just get token wrestlers in WWE Studios productions. Continue reading
So here we are with Part 2 of my retrospective look at Smackdown. Part 1 focused on some of the greatest matches and rivalries to take place on the blue brand, and this one moves on to look at some of the more standalone moments or characters we have seen on Thursday and Friday nights. Let’s get right into it!