SmackDown is currently enjoying a honeymoon of a summer, helmed by good writing staff, smooth pacing and the natural interest of new titles being introduced.
But winter is coming.
The signs are all there, but they’re being glossed over by the quality of the show. SmackDown’s mid-card is non-existent to the point where it simply can’t survive without more talent. You only have to look at Main Event tapings and SmackDown dark matches to see this. The blue brand has so little depth that they’ve relied on RAW undercard superstars like Jinder Mahal and Jack Swagger to fill time.
They’ve also had to use tag team wrestlers in singles matches for the same purpose. Here is the current SmackDown mid-card:
The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Kalisto, Kane, Erick Rowan, Curt Hawkins, Alberto Del Rio and Shelton Benjamin. Let’s break that down, shall we.
The Miz is the Intercontinental Champion and Ziggler is his number one contender. They’ll be feuding for a while simply because there’s no one else to challenge him. Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin are working main-event calibre matches far before they’re ready to be in such a positon. On top of that, they’re being forced to lose simply because there’s no one else to take credible losses to the likes of AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. Kalisto is injured, Kane is well beyond the point where he can wrestle often, Erick Rowan is in limbo and probably won’t be seen again until Luke Harper returns, Hawkins will be SmackDown’s Mahal, Alberto has left the company and Benjamin just had surgery and won’t be back until 2017. This is a problem.
The warning alarms are pretty clear now. On closer inspection, the mid-card really only consists of Corbin, Crews, Kane and Hawkins. Yes, now they’ve added Jack Swagger as of this week, but let’s face it, he’s not the answer. In no way, shape or form is that few superstars sufficient for SmackDown, short or long term. They don’t even have the luxury of using tag team wrestlers in that position. With the exception of Zack Ryder, Rhyno and Tyler Breeze, the rest of the division consists of superstars that are either needed in the tag division or are wrestlers who wouldn’t hold any stock in singles competition.
The solution isn’t as simple as plucking superstars from RAW either. Yes, guys like Cesaro and Sami Zayn are being underutilized on RAW, but the red brand is struggling to fill three hours as it is. Swagger versus Mahal, Bo Dallas squash matches and The Shining Stars, c’mon, you can’t take anyone from RAW. It needs everyone it has.
The Cruiserweight Division presents the logical option. However, not the division itself as RAW needs it to help fill that awful third hour. BUT, does RAW really need all 10 of the Cruiserweight signees? It’s almost ridiculous that the division needs 10 new superstars, especially when it already has Neville and Sin Cara who are in the weight class?
You only have to look back to the Divas Revolution to see how trying to push 10 characters at the same time works out. Everyone ends up going nowhere and character development is non-existent.
Surely three or four of these guys could be put on SmackDown and injected into the mid-card or tag team division to sure it up? It’s as easy as this:
RAW: Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik, Rich Swann, Jack Gallagher, T.J Perkins and Cedric Alexander.
SmackDown: Noam Dar, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano and Brian Kendrick.
Giving SmackDown Kendrick is obvious enough in itself. He and Daniel Bryan have a fantastic relationship and Kendrick could be used anywhere on the card. Ciampa and Gargano can be used as singles depth or as a tag team depending on what’s required, adding depth to both divisions and Noam Dar is the wildcard. Dar is 23 years old has a massive future ahead of him. Shining extra spotlight on him in the SmackDown single’s division would build him much quicker than just being a part of a 10-man Cruiserweight division.
You add those guys to SmackDown and all of a sudden, the depth issues are gone. Soon, you’ll have the next batch of NXT talent ready to be called up like Samoa Joe, The Revival, Asuka and Austin Aries and they’ll naturally help fill the holes in the card. Giving SmackDown these Cruiserweight competitors will bridge the gap between that.
If it’s not done, we could be seeing the same matches over and over and wrestlers being used in positions that aren’t right for them as we’ve seen with Crews and Corbin.
Glorious Wrestling Podcast Episode 3 is available HERE. We give out our 2016 Wrestling Awards, go over the entire Backlash card and explain the big problem NXT is causing for RAW and SmackDown. Also available on YouTube! Follow Nic Negrepontis on Twitter at @NicNegrepontis.