Smackdown Live has done an amazing job since the WWE Brand Split – but the shows main event roster is awkwardly barebones.
It’s no secret that we’re fans of Smackdown here at ScreenCritics. The Blue brand has excelled in recent months and created a tight and exciting package. Yet when examining their main ecent scene, things get a bit worrying. This week on Smackdown, it was hard to escape the feeling that the show was spinning at wheels, no real direction when either Styles or Ambrose falls injured. It’s a concern for sure, and with Wrestlemania on the horizon, WWE needs to fix this problem now.
Part of the reason Smackdown has enjoyed such success since the brand split back is because the creative team behind the brand has been able to utilise its stars in the most effective manner.
Unlike Monday Night Raw, where it stars are stretched across three hours, Smackdown has the luxury of more quality time. This increased focus means that there’s more potential for stars to be made. This can be seen in the Blue Brands Women’s Division, where Alexa Bliss has found herself as the top heel. Her rise, along with that of other NXT stars, has created an exciting division with multiple storylines and branching motives. Unfortunately this kind of mobility hasn’t found its way across to the men’s main events scene
This isn’t a sleight against AJ Styles, who has been killing it as the WWE World Champion. Its around him there’s been a shocking lack of depth in numbers as Smackdown has failed to elevate fresh talent for Styles to face. Ambrose is a great Superstar, but there cea a point when he needs to move on.
Perhaps most worryingly, there doesn’t seem to be any short-term answer to this problem. There’s no one on the active roster that isn’t tied up in a storyline currently who can be parachuted into this position. Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton are the obvious first choices, yet they’re currently tied in a storyline for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. It would be creative suicide to yank the current direction when it is benefiting all partys so well.
John Cena is very unlikely to return before the end of this year. He remains tied to his fledgling TV/ movie career – a problem that’s only going to increase in magnitude as his star rises. Elsewhere the likes of Miz are too hot as heels. Currently enjoying arguably the greatest period in his career, turning either Styles or Miz would be a poor idea.
So what can Smackdown do? The obvious answer is to dip into the Raw roster and bring over talent that currently isn’t being utilised. The likes of Cesaro and Zayn and obvious main eventers in waiting, yet neither is a proven star. There’s the option of bringing Samoa Joe up from NXT, but that’s unlikely also as the Samoan will likely be brought into the Raw brand to bolster it’s roster.
There has been talk of Undertaker or Shawn Michaels getting the nod and returning for a brief run, but even this seems like a panic decision. Neither are full time performers, and the last thing Smackdown needs right now is another top Superstar going AWOL for weeks on end. Plus it doesn’t send the best of messages to the active roster when main event opportunities are being outsourced to part-timers.
The only real fix is for WWE to create long-term main eventers. While the new glut of talent in recent years has pushed this agenda, there needs to be balance across the brands. Smackdown’s main event scene will be vital in building the stars of tomorrow, it can’t be allowed to thin out so dangerously. Ambrose and Styles have done a great job, but they need help if Smackdown is to maintain its current momentum.