By Haydn Gleed
Since WrestleMania, watching Smackdown has become a chore. Mind you, this is a brand with some of the wrestlers I truly enjoy watching, including but not limited to Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, etc. So the question has to be asked, why has a show that was universally praised for so long suddenly become so difficult to watch? I believe it’s due to three distinct reasons.
Making New Stars
There have been many times over the years when I’ve felt it’s stale on top and WWE needed to create new stars. To WWE’s credit, they have attempted to do that since WrestleMania. Jinder Mahal is the obvious example of this, but they have also tried to establish Lana and Carmella in the women’s division as viable candidates for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. However, trying to create a new star is not about picking anyone at random. In order to truly create a new star there has to be some build to that and it has to be the right person.
Jinder Mahal is a talented guy. Whether you are currently throwing your soda at the monitor screen or not upon reading that line there’s no denying that the guy belongs in a WWE ring with his look and his limited ability. The reason it hasn’t clicked on top is partially due to the lack of personality he has shown while given this opportunity, but a lot of it is perception. On management courses that I have attended, one line is repeated over and over, perception is reality. It doesn’t matter if this guy had come across like The Rock on the microphone, it was all down to how people perceived him when he was given the title. WWE should have spent the first four months of the year giving Jinder wins over some of the undercard talents, then eventually putting him with more mid-card talent while the announcers spoke about the change of fortunes for the man from India. Then when he was shipped to Smackdown and eventually won the title, it wouldn’t have been such a huge shock to the system that an enhancement wrestler won the WWE Championship. Instead, they created the perception that the roster he is on top of is weak by default.
On the women’s side of things, they have spent a lot of time hiding the two biggest stars of the division in Charlotte and Becky Lynch while trying to elevate everyone around them. This has had the opposite effect in that it dragged Charlotte and Lynch down to the level of the women they are trying to elevate. Charlotte is not a good babyface (and I would argue her dad was never a good babyface either) and Becky Lynch now looks like someone who can’t get the job done. Although I will give props to WWE for trying, the Lana experiment is/was a bust. And while I’ve been impressed with Carmella’s chops on the mic, they did so much damage with the convoluted attempt at controversy in the Money In The Bank match that it seems to have left a stench on her.
In conclusion, I do appreciate WWE’s attempt at trying to put fresh acts on top of the respective divisions, but it has felt rushed, nor does it feel that two-thirds of the people I mentioned were the right people to be elevated.
As a resident of the UK, three of the feuds that have been ongoing over the last six weeks have all been about America facing adversity from a foreign menace. It’s been all about America being number one and how Americans will defeat these dastardly people. USA! USA! USA!
Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with a good patriotic storyline and I also understand that as an American based company there will be these type of storylines from time to time. Somewhere there’s a video of me as a kid wearing a bandana and singing “I am a real American” while posing (no that video will never ever see the light of day so don’t even ask). But sitting there watching a contrived, rushed feud between Cena and Rusev that played on issues from two years ago more than it does based on any recent events, is just painful. After all, what is wrong with Rusev being passionate about Bulgaria? The only Bulgraian I care about is Uncle Bulgaria from the Wombles (Google it, folks) but if he wants to rah-rah Bulgaria then so what? The John Cena who has numerous times being in promotional videos saying that we should all accept each other no matter what sexuality, religion or gender because we are all American takes issue with someone being proud of their heritage to the point he brings up one of the biggest terrorist acts the world has ever seen? I’m sorry, as someone who is not American, who should I be cheering for here?
Kevin Owens mocking the patriotism of America by calling himself the Face of America would normally be grounds for non-Americans to cheer him, but he comes across as unlikeable (as the good heel that he is) and I literally don’t care about anything that AJ Styles has to say when it comes to defending the U.S. name or anything that Kevin Owens does while being the Face of America. Again, painful and boring for me to watch. Of course, we also have Jinder talking about Americans treating him differently because of his look, accent, and language. OK, it gets under the skin of some American fans, but why should I care?
All in all, it just leads to a disinterest and lack of a connection to the storylines that means that I simply can’t invest.
Name me one well written story on Smackdown right now that appeals to the masses? Go on, I’ll wait for you to even dare mention Breezango. In all seriousness, although the reveal on Raw for the Kurt Angle storyline wasn’t universally loved, it hooked the viewers. Samoa Joe against Brock Lesner was fascinating on a number of levels and the four-way announced for SummerSlam has a huge amount of oomph behind it before the promotion has even kicked in.
Let’s compare that to Smackdown shall we.
The only ongoing storylines is…..uh………well, AJ Styles might be a bit miffed at Kevin Owens for being pinned….um….Mike and Maria Kanellis have come in as the annoying heels you want to see get beat and he’s already lost to babyface Sami Zayn. Tamina and Lana had some storyline love with Tamina looking like she was taking Lana under her wing……but she was eliminated in the women’s match at Battleground before Lana.
Well, maybe there are some potential storylines coming out of Battleground for us to look forward to….
Um…..Randy Orton against The Great Khali? Really?! John Cena going full force ahead rah-rah America against Jinder Mahal….eek….oh Breezango can feud with outdated American TV references. Wait, they’ve already been doing that.
Ok, a lot of what I just said is tongue in cheek I realize that and there are the Money in the Bank briefcases out there that can give a shot in the arm for individuals and the brand, but it’s going to take a lot of work. My point is that not only is the current television show stale, but it’s difficult to get excited about anything on the Smackdown brand going forward as it has either been done or is going to take a lot of storyline building and shifting the focus from some failed experiments onto more proven acts to reset the ship on the correct path. Will this be enough to get the blue brand back to the exciting must see show it was? Only time will tell.
Just please, please, please WWE, no more “Rah-Rah America” stories.
Agree or disagree? As always feel free to get in touch via twitter @haydngleed or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...