Saturday, August 20, 2011

Appreciating Smackdown: The Supposed "B Show"

I was struggling to come up with ideas for a column this week. I kept going over everything that happened on RAW and couldn't think of anything. I've touched on C.M. Punk numerous times. There's still not enough known about the Kevin Nash/Triple H storyline to predict where it is going. I just wrote about Alberto del Rio two weeks ago so there's nothing new there, although kudos to the WWE for pulling the trigger on him winning the WWE Title. The more I was thinking about ideas, the more I realized one constant thing. Why am I only thinking about RAW columns? There are probably only two things I really like on that show: The C.M. Punk/HHH/Nash/Stephanie McMahon storyline and Alberto del Rio as WWE Champion. Everything else, mid-card included, just isn't that interesting to me.

Then I started thinking about Smackdown. I was able to watch the last two shows and I must say: I really like what they are doing over there. There's a lot of things to like about Smackdown right now. Smackdown doesn't get the appreciation it rightly deserves, so I thought I would take the time to give the supposed "B Show" some recognition in my weekly column.

Might as well start at the top. The Randy Orton/Christian program this summer has been very entertaining. I didn't have faith that the WWE could make this entertaining all summer, but they did. Christian's first true main event run in the WWE has been a joy to watch. Sure he's only had title reigns of five days and one month, but he's been at the top now for 4 months now, and he's handled himself quite well. In my opinion, he's shed the whole "Only There Because of Edge" shadow he had on him. Lots of people thought had it not been for Edge, Christian would have never sniffed the main event scene. Well, its been 4 months now, and Christian is still at the top. Sure Edge appeared at SummerSlam, but it was a minor appearence. The WWE could have pulled the plug on Christian's push if they wanted to but they didn't. While this program may be over, Christian proved that he could be a go to guy when necessary in the main event scene.

I also have to give credit to Randy Orton. Orton was as boring as he could possibly be on RAW before moving over to Smackdown. His character has been given a bit of a kick, especially in the last month or so. I was always a fan of the crazed, psychotic Orton. I like him better when he is chasing the Title, like he did the last month, but he's still been better than he was on RAW. Orton and Christian have a good chemistry together and there five matches they've had together have been great. Maybe the best set of matches Orton has had in his career. Hopefully Orton can carry this over into his next program, even though all signs point to it being Mark Henry.

That was the main event. Lets move on to the mid-card. I personally find the Smackdown mid-card much more fascinating and intriguing than the RAW mid-card. In my opinion, there's more story and depth to a lot of Smackdown's mid-carders than RAWs. Lets start with the man who's push I'm thoroughly enjoying at the moment: Mark Henry. I don't know what's different about this push. Maybe the fact that the WWE and Henry seem to be serious about this push. All of Henry's matches have been short and to the point. Henry has been getting over as the dominant monster heel that has been missing in the WWE for some time. Now if he's going to get a main event push, he will need to be able to work a 15 minute match. Can Orton and Henry put on an entertaining match of that length? Only time will tell. But for now, I'm digging the push Henry is getting. He's looked like a monster taking out Kane and the Big Show, and him and Sheamus put on a decent big man match at SummerSlam.

And that leads us into a perfect transition to talk about Sheamus. He seemed to be going nowhere as a heel, so the WWE decided to take a chance with him and turn Sheamus face. I thought that the WWE was going to turn either Sheamus or Wade Barrett face. They are both basically the same character: European big men who are tough. I would have picked Barrett, but I think the WWE made the better choice in using Sheamus. Sheamus also seems to be enjoying his face turn. He looked to be having a good time on the Conan O'Brien Show this past week. Sheamus needed this face turn to give his character a kick. The WWE can't change his character too much though. He still needs to remain the tough, Irish bad ass he was as a heel, but just with the fans behind him. I think it seems like Sheamus is behind the turn, so now everyone involved needs to do their part to make everything turn out well.

I've gone through 4 guys on the Smackdown roster and not even talked about the guy with potentially the highest upside: Mr. Money in the Bank Daniel Bryan. Most everybody was surprised to see Bryan win the Smackdown MITB contract. Even more people were surprised to find out he will cash in his contract at Wrestlemania. It's a great way to do it. If it lasts that long. You can never put too much faith in the WWE's long term booking. Bryan is probably the second best in ring worker in the WWE after C.M. Punk. I always hate to bring up his name, but Bryan has a bit of Chris Benoit THE WRESTLER in him. Not the best in the mic. Not the most charasmatic guy. But he busts his ass in the ring night in and night out. I don't know why the fans in Los Angeles chanted boring during his match with Wade Barrett at SummerSlam. It was the best match on the undercard. The WWE still has a lot to do to build up Bryan as a believeable Wrestlemania main eventer. One theory that I read that I liked: Bryan loses the MITB contract, wins either the Royal Rumlbe or Elimination Chamber to earn his Wrestlemania spot back, and faces the man who he lost his MITB contract to at Wrestlemania since he would be the Champ at that point. I can't take credit for that theory, but I like it. I consider Daniel Bryan the biggest question mark on Smackdown. If handled properly he could be the next WWE main eventer. If handled poorly he could be stuck in mid-card purgatory forever.

I thought Cody Rhodes would be in the position Christian was in now. He seemed destined for the main event this fall. He was one of the most interesting characters in the WWE. Now he's kind of stuck with nothing. Its nice to finally see him with some gold, even if its the Intercontinental Title. Its a start. As long as he keeps the Title he will FINALLY have a singles match on PPV. There is still a lot of potential with Cody, its just that his character has cooled off a bit. Maybe Cody will get a main event push this fall.

I was extremely high on Wade Barrett at this point leader. He was on fire as the leader of Nexus. He was great on the mic and holding his own in the ring. But ever since moving to Smackdown, Barrett has had absolutely nothing going for him. No program, no long term feud. He had a very good match with Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, but this week on Smackdown there was no follow-up. I really hope something comes up for Barrett in the near future. Barrett has too much potential to go to waste.

Justin Gabriel is also an interesting case. They've been hyping him with video promos for a few weeks. He's good in the ring and has that natural good guy pretty boy look. He also has a great finisher with the 450 splash. Maybe a feud with Cody Rhodes for the IC Title is in order.

The only really parts that I could complain about on Smackdown are Sin Cara and Ezekiel Jackson. Jackson is just a terrible worker. I don't think there is anything more to say. The whole Sin Cara debacle is just getting hilarious at this point. Maybe it will turn into a Doink the Clown gimmick and there will just be multiple Sin Cara's running around. I've seen some of Sin Cara's work and there is a lot of potential and good to it, but it just hasn't come full circle in the WWE yet.

I remember back when the WWE Draft happened. Everyone thought Smackdown got robbed in the Draft. While on paper it looks like they did, I don't see that as the case. While RAW may have the top two stories going, Smackdown by far has more depth on its talent roster. RAW's mid-card characters just lack any depth. On Smackdown, they are making more guys seem important. On RAW all I'm suppose to care about is C.M. Punk, HHH, John Cena, and Alberto del Rio. All the guys I listed in this article are people I have interest in and want to see do well. Smackdown is considred the "B Show", but its talent roster is far more appealing and interesting than the entire RAW roster combined.

Until next time,
Justin C
Follow me on Twitter @JCWonka

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