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?
Up until this morning, I was going to title this column, “The Hypocrisy of WWE’s New Era.” What followed was going to be a lengthy tirade about how the “New Era” was nothing more than a shiny paint job covering the same product that WWE has been cranking out for most of the decade: an authority figure running Raw (usually a McMahon), cliche storylines being favored over quality wrestling matches with stakes and the wrestlers that the smarks preferred constantly being cast aside and buried in favor of the “face” of the company. I had intended on being wonderfully cynical and brutally sardonic.
But then I woke up the other day and heard about the upcoming brand split. Heard how Smackdown is going to be a live show now and will feature its very own roster of superstars. Supposedly, this will help make Smackdown relevant for the first time in years, a move that many fans have clamored for since… well, for a pretty damn long time. It also suggests that maybe WWE isn’t just spewing out empty promises when it refers to the New Era and that it actually plans on capitalizing on its talented and promising roster.
Of course, there’s always the chance that WWE could blow this. They have an uncanny knack for doing just that.