Smackdown is in Rebuilding Mode

Anyone who watched the WWE Draft two weeks ago could tell you that Raw came away with a stacked roster and SmackDown… well, SmackDown was going to take some work. Sure, the blue brand got the WWE Championship along with John Cena and A.J. Styles, but there was a dearth of established talent on the undercard and a noticeable void of other titles.

When Raw put together one of its best episodes in recent memory, with the spotlight directly on Finn Balor and Sasha Banks, it became even more of a daunting task for SmackDown to stand out on its own. And for the most part, it didn’t. The commentary team lacked chemistry, the women’s division is cluttered and they didn’t feature any of their top NXT draft picks. Sure, American Alpha will be on this week, but you think they would’ve debuted and made an impact like Balor did.

SmackDown obviously isn’t going to find its footing overnight, but in the meantime its turning to the star power of Dolph Ziggler to captivate the WWE Universe and generate ratings on the way to SummerSlam.

Wait, did I just say Dolph Ziggler?

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WWE Battleground: Highs, Lows and Everything Else

When Eric and I made our predictions, I was pretty worried that Battleground would turn out to be bland and insignificant show. It wasn’t perfect and there were certainly aspects of it that we could’ve done without, but overall I’d say it surpassed our expectations.

So what exactly were we so happy about? What aggravated Eric to the point that he sent me several angry text messages when it happened? Hit the jump and find out!

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Clearing the Field for WWE Battleground

WWE is in a very odd place right now. Following the brand split, they had the opportunity to forge ahead with fresh talent in order to create some new stars, but instead they seem content to stick to the status quo and do business as usual. Give Cesaro and Sasha Banks a chance to shine on Smackdown? Nah, lets leave them on Raw with everyone else. Keep the Wyatts and the Club together for a while longer so that they can keep building momentum? Nope, we’re going to split them up, because reasons.

Obviously, it’s a little premature to judge this new era in the WWE because it hasn’t even played out yet. That doesn’t mean that I trust the company to not screw things up, but I’m at least willing to wait and see what happens. For now.

In the meantime, WWE Battleground is the last pay-per-view before the brand extension takes full effect, and my buddy Eric Schreiber is here as my tag team partner to help me sort out what will transpire tonight. Everything that we say will happen is definitely going to happen, unless Eric disagrees with me, in which case anything that I predict is the way that things will go. Maybe. Hit the jump and we’ll see.

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Welcome to the Champ’s Asylum

If you live under a rock and haven’t heard, last night was kind of a big deal for Cleveland. Lebron James, through sheer will and perhaps a little bit of help from God, led the Cavaliers to a title and sent the entire city of Cleveland into a frenzy. Nothing is getting done there for at least two weeks, and the fact that the Cavs became the first team to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals is just the icing on the cake. Plus, most Warriors fans are Raiders fans, so them being sad today makes this writer extraordinarily happy. It’s the simple things in life that you treasure.

So what does any of this have to do with wrestling? Well, as you may or may not know, Dean Ambrose is also from Ohio. Cincinnati, to be exact. He is probably all too aware of the decades of suffering that Cleveland has endured, so I find it quite poetic that on the same night that Lebron brought a championship to his hometown, Dean Ambrose shocked the wrestling world and became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

I would say that you can’t write this stuff, but you can. And they did.

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WWE: Tables, Ladders, Chairs, and… Boy, Did That Suck by Jesse Schaffer

My god, where do I even begin?

The last time I wrote about wrestling, Bray Wyatt had just screwed Dean Ambrose in his match against Seth Rollins at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view. While many were not thrilled with the finish, I suggested that putting Wyatt and Ambrose together could wind up being best for both of them: Wyatt would get a chance to reemerge as a top heel and Ambrose could continue his ascension as the no. 2 babyface behind John Cena. Despite having just an okay match at Survivor Series and a lukewarm build towards the rematch at TLC, when WWE decided to put these two in the main event (over the much more hyped Cena vs. Rollins Tables Match) I thought that we might finally see my prediction come to fruition.  I was desperately hoping for something special.

Instead, WWE shat all over an otherwise solid TLC match with one of the worst finishes in recent memory. Ambrose wasn’t done in by a vicious and calculating Wyatt, but rather a malfunctioning piece of equipment. When Ambrose went to hit Wyatt with a camera, he forgot to unplug it first, it exploded in his face and Wyatt capitalized for the victory. What was that noise, you ask? It’s the sound of about 3 million wrestling fans farting in unison.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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Hell in a Cell Fallout by Jesse Schaffer

Last night’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view was supposed to feature the culmination of the bitter feud between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, and when WWE allowed them to main event the program over John Cena and Randy Orton, the reaction from the fans was one of relief and pure joy. Not only were the more deserving superstars going on last, but finally Ambrose would exact his revenge against Rollins and go over clean in the biggest win of his career. And that certainly seemed to be where the bout was heading, only WWE and Bray Wyatt had other ideas. Just as Ambrose was set to deliver the final blow, the lights went out and lo and behold, along came a spider in the form of Wyatt to ruin Ambrose’s big night. Rollins stole another victory and just when we thought we were going to get some answers, WWE changes the questions.

That’s the second pay-per-view in a row where the main event has been tainted by outside interference, and this time it seems we have a bit of a mixed reaction. I wasn’t just being dramatic when I said that people wanted to see Ambrose beat Rollins fair and square. After all, Ambrose has yet to score a big win during this feud and the Hell in a Cell match seemed like his best chance to finally go over. It didn’t go down that way and some people aren’t very happy about it. While I certainly want to see Ambrose defeat Rollins once and for all, I think last night’s finish is a good thing for all involved. Here’s why.

First of all, let me be quick to point out that I thought the main event was outstanding. In an era where Hell in a Cell matches aren’t the bloody massacres that they used to be thanks to WWE’s PG rating, you have to get creative to make them feel special. Earlier in the night, Cena and Orton went out and had the same match they’ve had a million times, doing little to capitalize on the fact that this was the first time they’ve squared off in the cell. Ambrose and Rollins did about everything they could to make their bout memorable, including starting their match on top of the cell and careening off the side of it through the announce tables in the most badass spot of the night. Oh, and there was no shortage of steel chair shots and and tables once they finally made it inside, with Ambrose at one point elbow dropping Rollings through a table between the ring and the cell. It all felt very raw and visceral and it certainly stands out from everything else they’ve done.

This is a huge boost for Dean Ambrose, who fully delivered as the valiant hero and as the Lunatic Fringe that he so enjoyably portrays. The crowd so desperately wanted him to emerge victorious and when that was snatched away from him by Wyatt, I think it garnered him even more support. Moving forward, he isn’t only the no. 2 guy in the company, but is now a proven hand when asked to deliver in the spotlight. Even when Roman Reigns returns, it’s hard to imagine the crowd suddenly favoring him over his former Shield compatriot, and that could once again force WWE to improvise on the fly come Wrestlemania season. Can you imagine how epic it would be if Ambrose was somehow able to dethrone Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania, only to have Rollins cash in on him and steal the title? That would be a hell of way to reignite a feud which still hasn’t seen a definitive ending. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

Shifting my attention to the feud with Wyatt, Ambrose gets a break from Rollins and can enter a fresh program with an adversary that he already has some history with. The showdowns between The Shield and the Wyatt Family earlier in the year were awesome and this is something that’s worked for WWE before. Triple H and The Rock had a lot of chemistry together when DX took on The Nation, but it was their bouts after they left those groups when everything really came together. Some will argue that the heat Wyatt earned from the fans last night was directed more at WWE Creative than the character itself, but I think regardless it gave us a reason to be legitimately pissed off at Wyatt again. He sorely needed that after he was buried by Cena last month, and with the WWE Champion not appearing every week, there is plenty of room for Wyatt to become the monster heel that we all know he can be. If nothing else, the promos and segments between Ambrose and Wyatt will be innovative and captivating as all hell, and that will help solidify this as the most intriguing feud in the company for the foreseeable future.

As for Mr. Money in the Bank himself, Rollins scored another win thanks to help from others, which secures his role as the WWE’s resident slimy heel. My personal preference would be for Randy Orton to turn on the Authority and specifically target Rollins out of spite, and it certainly seems they could be heading that way after Rollins curbstomped the Viper to end Raw last week. However, with Cena not having much to do until Brock Lesnar comes back and Reigns likely returning himself sooner rather than later, those are two other options that would make at least some sense storyline-wise but ultimately would be far less satisfying. Just like Ambrose, Rollins proved that he can be a legitimate main-eventer last night and that should keep him near  the top of the card going forward. But seriously, please let it be him cashing in on Ambrose and not on Reigns next spring.

WWE doesn’t have the greatest track record for delivering satisfying payoffs for their top feuds and storylines, and I think that’s where part of the fan angst over how Hell in a Cell ended is coming from. They’ve screwed shit like this up before and could very well screw it up again. Personally, I’m taking the glass half-full approach and to me an Ambrose/Wyatt program will be more beneficial than hurtful for both of their careers. I think Rollins should do fine in feuding with one of those other guys and as long as WWE Creative can get the fuck out of it’s own way and just let Ambrose and Wyatt do their thing, there should be no problems. I know that’s probably a lot to ask, but hey, when you’re a fan of the Lunatic Fringe, anything is possible.