WrestleMania 33 is just about a month away, and the card is still (mostly) a mystery. Usually, we have a pretty good idea of how things will shape up heading into wrestling’s biggest night of the year. This year, it’s just not clear. Last week, I talked about what I thought should happen with the championship belts contested on Monday Night Raw. This time around, we’re looking at the blue brand. Here’s how I’d handle SmackDown Live’s championship matches in Orlando if I ran WWE.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship – Right now, it looks very much like the Usos will face champs American Alpha at WrestleMania. That’s not a bad matchup. The teams are relatively evenly matched and the promo the Usos cut on Smackdown this week might have been their best mic work since they joined WWE. The problem is that there don’t seem to be any other legitimate threats to the title on the roster. It looked like WWE was ready to push the Hype Bros until Zack Ryder went down with a knee injury. Heath Slater and Rhyno don’t have the feel of a long-term tag team, and WWE has buried The Ascension, The Fashion Police and The Vaudevillians so deep that none of them might recover. I’m all for a great rivalry between AA and the Usos, but I also wonder what comes next.
What to do with the belt – For now, I’d probably put the belts on the Usos, and let Alpha chase the titles for a while. As this is happening, WWE needs to come up with some other credible challengers. I think The Ascension could possibly be rehabilitated enough to become a legitimate threat. If Ryder comes back, he and Mojo Rawley can make the Hype Bros title contenders. Short of that, it might be time to start examining the prospects in NXT. If the Usos take the titles, call up a babyface team like TM61 or DIY. If Alpha retains, look at heel teams like The Revival or Sanity.
Intercontinental Championship – As I said last week, WWE has done a very good job of making this title relevant again. Right now, it looks like the current champ, Dean Ambrose, is about to embark on a feud with Baron Corbin. That’s probably the best scenario. If WWE can manage to keep Ambrose and Corbin apart until April, the match will have an epic feel. Even after WrestleMania, the IC title should be in good shape, since SmackDown has a number of elite contenders for the belt.
What to do with the belt – It’s time for WWE to give Corbin a shot with a title. Have him win a Last Man Standing match against Ambrose at WrestleMania, and let him hold the title until SummerSlam. Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Miz, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Luke Harper, etc. can all vie for shots at the belt and keep the Intercontinental Championship relevant for the foreseeable future.
SmackDown Women’s Championship – This is a bit of a mess. WWE put the title on Naomi at Royal Rumble, only to have her relinquish it due to injury on this week’s Smackdown. This would have been an ideal chance for WWE to get creative with the belt. They could have held a tournament. They could have had a battle royal. They could have done anything but what they did, which was to give Alexa Bliss the belt after an impromptu match with Becky Lynch. Both Bliss and Lynch are credible champions, and they put on a good match. It’s a match we’ve seen several times already, though. Plus, since Lynch just lost to Bliss, who’s the logical rival heading into WrestleMania?
What to do with the belt – Unless WWE knows that Naomi will be healthy in time for WM 33 in Orlando, they don’t have a strong babyface contender beyond Lynch. Nikki Bella would normally be the go-to here, but it appears that she’s about to become embroiled in a mixed tag feud with John Cena against Miz and Maryse (for what reason, only Vince McMahon knows). Given that set of circumstances, WWE should let Bliss hold on to the belt until the night of the big event. As a cocky heel, she’ll be overconfident, and issue an open challenge for WrestleMania. When the night comes, Bliss will some to the ring, and announce that she’s already beaten everyone on the roster, so it doesn’t really matter to her who her opponent is. Enter Asuka, the NXT Women’s champion. It would pop the crowd and give Smackdown another legitimate babyface for the Women’s Division. As a bonus, I’d let Asuka keep the NXT title until a tournament was held to determine a new champion.
WWE Championship – This is a whole mess. Bray Wyatt is the WWE Champion, and there doesn’t seem to be any real chance that he’ll drop the belt before WrestleMania. Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble and would typically be the No. 1 contender for the belt, but he’s pledged his loyalty to Wyatt and refuses to face him at WrestleMania. WWE held a battle royal to determine a new challenger. It came down to AJ Styles and former Wyatt Family member Luke Harper. Though it appeared that Harper tossed Styles over the ropes seconds before falling himself (wonder why there was no TV replay to see who landed first?), officials said that the match was a draw. Styles and Harper are set to clash again next week, with a trip to WrestleMania on the line.
What to do with the belt – As great as Styles has been during his first year in WWE, he doesn’t need the title to shine. Harper has impressed during this latest run, and he should have a chance to face his former mentor at WrestleMania. Since there’s no way that Orton isn’t wrestling in Orlando, he can insert himself back into the match, presumably to protect Bray. That gives WWE a few possible storylines. Orton could try to turn on Wyatt, only to be stymied by Harper. Harper could attack Wyatt, with Orton defending his new mentor. Or, both Harper and Orton could turn on Bray, leaving him lying in the middle of the ring. No matter how it plays out, Wyatt should leave Orlando still the champ.
Bonus idea – Since Raw has the Cruiserweights, the sides aren’t really balanced in this brand war. SmackDown should become the home of the UK Championship. They could show matches via satellite during regular shows, and fly competitors in for the big PPV events. SmackDown should be named the new home of the UK title at WrestleMania, with current UK champ Tyler Bate making the announcement.
As I said last week, this is my attempt at fantasy booking. I don’t think that all (or maybe any) of these things will actually happen at WrestleMania, but I think it would be fun if it worked out this way. I have one more SmackDown fantasy. Somehow, some way, Big Cass finds out that James Ellsworth is “dating” his real-life girlfriend, Carmella. Cass makes his way to SmackDown, and boots Ellsworth back to Baltimore or wherever he came from, never to be seen again.