This year has been a terrible year for the WWE in terms of injuries to some of their top stars like Randy Orton and Seth Rollins. But this year has also taken a tool on the depth of the roster as well which was lacking to begin with and now is even worse then before. First Cesaro got hit with ever popular shoulder injury that seems to be hitting WWE as hard as tommy john surgery is hitting baseball players. Now another middle of the road talent has gone down with an injury and it could be serious.
Back at Survivor Series the new WWE World Champion was crowned at it was Roman Reigns, but then Sheamus came down to cash in Money in the Bank to become WWE Champion. Shortly after Sheamus won the gold his stable known as the League of Nations was formed with him at the helm and Del Rio, Rusev, and King Barrett as his stablemates. Maybe two weeks after the creation of the league of nations Barrett was hit with the injury bug once again. During his career in WWE if anything has hurt Barrett more than piss poor booking it has been the fact that he is the Ahmed Johnson of the modern era. For those who may not get the comparison let me explain Ahmed was butting superstar for the WWE in the mid to late 1990's and had all the potential and chances to become a top star for the company, but at every turn an injury took him down.
Since his debut in the WWE Barrett has had to endure the same fate almost to a tee. At every turn or anytime he is close to getting a push Wade has been hit with an injury and it usually took him out long term. This time is only a little different, because now Barrett still has the opportunity to remain on TV as a manager for the group, but his role is still very limited due to his injury. I just hope this injury doesn't require him to have another extended stay of TV as that wouldn't do him any good. Sometimes the question of "What if" is always meant to remain and not meant to become a reality and in this case the ship seems to have sailed on Barrett becoming a top star in WWE.
For years at this point Smackdown has been looking for a new identity after so many years of not really being cared about or even thought of as a real show that you really need to watch. Now with Smackdown's eventual move to USA Network early next year on the horizon it was time to ask "How to Fix" the unfixable. Smackdown hasn't been important, meaningful or interesting for the last few years how do we change that. Well I asked a few fans what they thought and this what we came back with:
Pro-Wrestling Roundup: I would give Smackdown more unique matches and angles instead of just throwing together a mixed up version of RAW without any big happenings. I think being taped will always hurt Smackdown to a degree, but they have to show that big occurrences happen Smackdown too to make it "must watch" again. When was the last time someone made a challenge on RAW for Smackdown? A Smackdown title change? Problem 1 is if you're not watching Smackdown, you're not missing anything.
Chris Cooper: Bring back Teddy Long as GM and Paul Heyman as head writer
Gina Bean: I think Smackdown live would bring more attention to it. I also feel progressing the story line more and not leaving that all for Raw.
Rest Hold Radio: There's many routes but I would go with a feeder system between NXT & RAW. So you see some NXT stars and WWE stars together on Smackdown. Plus it's pre taped so if the rookie guys mess up it can be edited.
David Russell: By not watching it
PWV: In order to fix Smackdown I think it needs to take a leaf out of NXTs book. They need to be more based around wrestling, have more solid wrestling matches which the fans haven't seen 100 times over! Use Smackdown to progress the storylines and not just repeat content from raw. If Smackdown went live people say this could help but to go live on a Tuesday that would leave the fans waiting a whole week till their next wrestling fix and I'm not sure this would be the best way to go. In short how do you fix Smackdown? I don't know! All we have to hope is that the creative team know and implement some fresh material on Thursdays wrestling prime show!
JamisVanDerClaus: Make the roster specific to Smackdown AKA A brand split. More character features showing the wrestler in a different light. Outside of the arena.Make the roster specific to Smackdown AKA A brand split. More character features showing the wrestler in a different light. Outside of the arena.
AttitudeAgg: On the Attitude Of Aggression Wrtestling Podcast, we review Smackdown every week so I have a very good understanding of what ails the Blue Brand. One of the big p[problems with Smackdown is that more often than not, there is nothing unique happening there. Sometimes, you get matches which will continue an angle or a story that began on Raw. But just as frequently, the matches on Smackdowen have very little to do with the main story lines being established on Raw. Smackdown really feels, far too often, like a version of Main Event on steroids. And, very similar to Raw, nothing truly special ever happens on Smackdown any more. When is the last time you saw a title change hands on Smackdown? Raw had the same problem, which they went a long way towards fixing by having the WWE World Heavyweight Championship actually change hands on Raw. But it is the same general problem: Why should I watch Smackdown when I know damn well that nothing of real significance is going to happen. Smackdown has some things in its favor though. It is only 2 hours long, which I still feel is the sweet spot as far as lengths of these broadcasts should go. The easiest fix would be to actually have something important happen. Have a title change hands, or have more of these tournaments to determine #1 contenders. Things like that keep people excited and interested and will make more and m ore people tune in...provided the people come to expect something unexpected from the Blue Brand. But if Mauro Ranallo, Smckdown's new announcer, is correct, then the problem may be well on its way to being fixed. According to Ranallo, Smackdown will be a hybrid of WWE and NXT once it moves to USA in January. Think about the possibilities there. If Smackdown becomes the show that bridges the gap between Raw and NXT...now you have something. For instance, what if Smackdown was the one show per week where the main roster men and Divas went up against men and Divas from NXT? Even if titles weren't on the line, who wouldn't want to see Finn Balor taking on Roman Reigns, or Dash & Dawson vs The New Day? New alliances could form, just as new rivalries would evolve. Instead of worrying about when someone will be called up or sent down, Smackdown could be the show where the two "brands" interact on a regular basis. This could easily segue into a contest of sorts as to whether the mason roster or NXT is superior. If it is done right, this could be what the Invasion angle should have been, many years ago. If Smackdown is the show that features the merging of the main roster and NXT, this would be the best way to fix Smackdown. It would completely change the dynamic of Thursday nights and could, quite possibly, lead to Smackdown being the superior show in the entire WWE Universe of shows.
Aaron from the Big Gold Belt Wrestling Podcast: SmackDown has been a conundrum for a few years now. After making the move to SyFy, they fizzled the brand out to a bunch of one-off matches and tag match iterations that we may or may not have seen on Raw a few days prior. Gone are the glory days of the SmackDown Six in 2009, when Jericho, Punk, Jeff Hardy, Morrison, Edge, and Mysterio were providing unique feuds and matches each week as an alternative to John Cena, Triple H, and the Raw brand. With no brand split now in place, what can WWE do to freshen up the SmackDown show as they switch to the USA Network early next month? I feel that there are two obvious strategies that WWE can implement simultaneously. First, feature talent on SmackDown that we didn't see on Raw that same week. After three hours of Raw, I don't need to see the same or a slightly different version of Ryback versus Rusev on SmackDown. I can't imagine the USA Network would desire this either. Instead, save some talent for Thursday and promote their matches and feuds on Raw to bait fans into checking SmackDown out more regularly. This doesn't need to be a brand split where we only see Tyler Breeze on SmackDown, but if we could only see him once a week, WWE programming on both Mondays and Thursdays would become more 'must-see.' Secondly, WWE should consider creating a non-character gimmick that is inclusive to SmackDown. Perhaps they could draw inspiration from the US Championship Open Challenge and feature that title as a Television-style Championship, where it is defended each week exclusively on SmackDown. John Cena was still able to maintain feuds with other talents while facing random opponents in title matches on Raw each week in 2015, so why not do something similar on SmackDown. This would differentiate SmackDown a little more from Raw and certainly make me tune in more regularly, as opposed to my current relationship with the show - have my DVR record it each week and subsequently delete it on Sunday when it's obvious I'm going to spend my day watching NFL instead of catching up on Raw-lite. The jump to the USA Network in 2016 will certainly come with the usual WWE hype. USA will undoubtedly give the program more national exposure compared to the fledging SyFy Network. WWE has an opportunity to revive what was once a great show. Here's hoping they make the most of it. I know my crew on the Big Gold Wrestling Podcast and I will be discussing the evolution - or lack thereof - on future episodes in January when SmackDown makes the leap to USA.
Pro Wrestling Nation: How do I feel they can improve Smackdown? I think they have a great plan, moving to USA Network and signing Mauro Ranallo as their voice for Smackdown. This, of course, sounds very promising but will Smackdown be a shiny new toy for a few months and get forgotten about, kinda like Main Event. Let's assume the best possible scenario and add a few fantasy concepts. If they would split the brands they would have more room to get people over and there would be less overexposure like we see today. Smackdown as it's own brand with its own World Championship can be a go-between for RAW and NXT, with a few exceptions, they could us Smackdown as a platform to introduce people to WWE Universe. Also with a brand split, they could use some of our favorite WWE Superstars to make Smackdown feel much more must-see. If Dolph Ziggler is your favorite and Thursday Nights is the only time you can see him weekly, your going to sit in from of your TV on Thursday. Of course it's not a perfect world and Smackdown will probably feel exciting for a couple of months but something tells me that it'll fizzle out not too long after WrestleMania. #SmackYourTV
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Last year to begin the year WWE changed up their announce teams for Raw and Smackdown. This change saw Jerry Lawler move from Raw to Smackdown and Booker, T move from Smackdown to Raw. Now longtime announcer Mauro Ranallo is joining the WWE on January 7, 2016 when Smackdown makes the move to USA Network.
Prior to joining Showtime, Ranallo was the voice of the Pride Fighting Championship, and spent six years in Toronto where he hosted Canada's first TV show dedicated to MMA while also hosting a daily combat sports radio show. Allowing someone with a tremendous amount of announcing experience, and not so much wrestling experience is an awesome idea and has Vince written all over it. I think that, because Vince has a habit of taking unknown talent in wrestling much like a Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar and signing due to a lack of exposure so he can build them from the ground up. Now for the first time he is doing that exactly with an announcer who is unknown to pure wrestling fans, but may not be unknown to other fans.
With Mauro set to debut on January 7, this is another reason why Smackdown needs to be repackaged and given back some meaning and importance that it once had. Also forgot to mention that Mauro also announced a few boxing events in the past to go along with his history in MMA. Smackdown needs a facelift and Mauro Ranallo is a great place for that to start.
This entire year has been extremely difficult for the WWE as they have lost more people to the injured list this year then any other year in recent memory. At first it hit the tag team division the hardest in the early part of the year when Jey Uso, Erick Rowan, and Tyson Kidd all got injured within months of each other. As the year progressed and those members of the tag team division returned more guys went down, but this time it hit the Main Event scene. Now everyone knows that since a few weeks after Mania Daniel Bryan has been on the shelf. But within the last month or so two more top talents will be injured for an extended period of time.
To start we will go after the talent who could be injured for the next 12 months possibly. As of this writing their the latest on Randy Orton is that he will be on the shelf indefinitely. After having shoulder surgery last month the news came out recently that he may need another surgery and may also need neck fusion surgery. Now another surgery alone would take Orton until the summer at least, but adding in the neck surgery it would be possible Randy could miss over 12 months. The neck fusion surgery is the same surgery that ended Edge and Austin's careers early and I would probably guess that Randy at this point is around the same age Austin was when he had the surgery. This will absolutely be an interesting development to keep track of.
The other talent that has actually just recently had a shoulder surgery was Cesaro. The recovery time for Cesaro is at least four to six months which couldn't have come at a worse for Cesaro or WWE. With so many other top stars on the shelf many believe that Cesaro could have finally got his big push or at least a run with a title. As of this writing it seems like Cesaro was in line for somewhat of a push before the injury so this could have been worse timing for the "Swiss Superman." Now everyone knows that the reaction has never been the problem for Cesaro and it has always been about winning Vince McMahon over and he had recently done exactly that with his in-ring work recently. Though impressing Vince is a step in the right direction his injury couldn't come at a worse time.
The one time fixture of WWE television has been gone for the last few months filming a new show that will debut on Fox early next year. The show that John Cena was off filming the reality show called American Grit which will premiere in the spring for ten episodes. American Grit will feature sixteen men and women split into four teams, with four representatives from the US Military serving as mentors.
The contestants will compete in physical challenges. Each episode will feature an obstacle course, called "The Circus", which will be used to eliminate the weakest team. The winning team has the chance to win a $1 million dollar prize. This seems like an intriguing concept for a show and with how highly praised Train Wreck was over the summer I am not surprised that Cena got this opportunity.
Ask for when Cena will make his return back to the WWE, right now it seems as though John will be back for the December 26 live event in Madison Square Garden, and one would assume his Raw return would be the following Monday in Brooklyn. Also an interesting note is that John will actually only be featured on live events until after the Royal Rumble, then he will be back off the live event schedule following the Rumble until the WWE begins their tour of Germany on February 10.
At this point the post that has followed mostly all the PPV's since the summer and after staying focused on only one aspect of last months PPV we now expand back to covering three parts of the show. We have three different items to speak of right now. So let's get er going:
Triple Threat Tag Team Ladder Match: Not sure what to say about the match that really defied expectations. I said it in the PPV Predictions prior to the PPV that if given the right amount of time and they definitely did that and more. Seeing the match deliver is really great and though the New Day retained the title I am not mad, because the match did a great job to spotlight the division and event though the other teams lost it showed strength even when the division is really weak. The highlight of the match was by far when Kalisto hit one of the Uso's with Samuary Del Sol from the top of the ladder through a ladder. It was an incredible sight to see.
Charlotte vs Paige: This match was a perfect example of the misdirection of the divas division and the lack of faith that management has in the division being an important part of the company. No offense to Ric or John Cena, but with their association with two of the divas you'd think that they would say something about it and try help things change. During this match both Paige and Charlotte seemingly were the heels and that was in part the reason why the fans were quite they didn't know who to cheer for. I do believe that Charlotte seems more comfortable as a heel, but with Paige just turning you really can't logically believe that two heels would feud as then there is nobody to cheer for. The issues in the divas division will trouble those in the division for a long time or until those in upper management believe in the women on the main roster like Triple H and his team do in NXT.
Roman Reigns vs Sheamus: To describe this match one has to say it was a brawl in every sense of the word these guys tore each other a part. They defied expectations and sadly didn't receive the praise they deserved from the crowd. I can understand that people didn't care who won, but both men still deserved better reactions for what they were doing then the reactions they received from the audience. The ending was the only ending that could have been done as Sheamus needed to win and I think everyone knew that WWE wasn't going to let him lose clean. I mean when was the last time that Roman wasn't protected in a match.
The post match beat down was awesome and a great way to finish the PPV. Roman finally looked like a bad ass to the point that various referees, Triple H, and Stephane actually came out to try and stop Roman's beat down. For one thing I don't really have much to say about Roman's attack on the League of Nations, but his attack on Hunter was great. I have never heard the crowd get so loud for something that Roman had done. The intrigue that now exists after that ending I can say for myself that I am very much looking forward to Raw tomorrow night.
Intercontinental Championship Match:
(c) Kevin Owens vs Dean Ambrose
This match will be a fight and if given the time could be one of the top matches on the show. Both men are incredibly talented, but the issue is Ambrose has been cast to the background in recent month and I'm not sure a big win out of the blue is the best bet for him right now. To take a lame quote from Triple H, Owens winning would be "What's Best for Business."
Rusev w/ Lana vs Ryback
Now they are probably regretting doing the feud they did with Rusev and Ziggler since nobody gained anything from other than it destroying Rusev and making his previous push seem meaningless. I have hated everything that they have done with Rusev since he and Lana split, because he completely destroyed the image of him being a crazy, monster heel who would kick your ass with a smile. Though I think Ryback deserves a win, and I do like him a lot better I don't see the win coming because WWE is invested in Rusev and not Ryback. Rusev wins
WWE United States Championship Match:
(c) Alberto Del Rio w/ Zeb Colter vs Jack Swagger
For once a WWE feud has logic and meaning behind it, but it seems to me they still don't believe in Jack even though I think he has shown more since his "return" then Del Rio has shown since his. Think about this how many times during Cena's run with the US Title did you hear "This is Awesome" ring out during the match, but you didn't hear it during his match at Hell in a Cell. I don't want to hear Del Rio beating him the way he did got him over more as that logic is total bullshit. To me Del Rio needed to prove he could wrestle the WWE style and there is nobody better to prove that against then Cena. Del Rio is only champion out of need and not, because he is the best choice or a good champion in my opinion, but nothing will change. Swagger deserve his chance more then anyone in the freaking company, but he will not get it, because management loves Del Rio and will keep the title on him for some god for saken reason unknown to the competent. Del Rio wins unfortunately
Tag Team Table Elimination Match:
Wyatt Family vs Team Extreme
The start to Raw was awesome last week, but I feel like they could have done a lot better by just keeping it with the Wyatt Family and The League of Nations and not adding everyone else into it. The Wyatt's are and enigma as they can loss every time are still over, but the problem is how long will that last. The Wyatt family need to secure a big win tonight as it doesn't matter if the feud will continue or not either way they need the win tonight for the sake of sable remaining over.
WWE Divas Championship Match:
(c) Charlotte w/ Ric Flair vs Paige
I don't have much to say about this match or the feud in general, because in all honestly until the WWE management buys into the women on the Main Roster like Triple H and his team has bought into them in NXT then I buy into them. If given a chance to prove they can then these divas will not disappoint like so many other women have in the past. Though them a bone Vince what do you have to loss I mean c'mon. Charlotte wins tonight and I would like to see a continuation of the possible turn we almost saw on Raw.
3 Way Ladder Match for the WWE Tag Team Titles:
(c) New Day vs The Uso's vs Lucha Dragons
Right now New Day are the hottest single entity in the WWE and for the simple reason is they are entertaining. Given the right amount of time this match could be a good opportunity for the Tag Team division to shine as over the last few months the only thing that has really shined about the division is the weakness within the division due to the ever present lack of depth within the company. New Day have been amazing champions and have done a great job at raising the prestige of the championships, but I think it's time for their reign to come to an end. Considering it's WWE and they have to make at least one stupid decision in each PPV I think this were it will happen as though it's against my better judgment I see The Uso's winning.
TLC Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:
(c) Sheamus vs Roman Reigns
This match is probably one of the least anticipated World Title matches in recent memory as either people believe Roman wins or Sheamus wins by cheating. I have nothing against Sheamus holding the World Title as I knew it was coming I just wish they didn't lay it out the same way they did the Daniel Bryan feud from two years ago. Roman will end up holding the World Title eventually now if I think he is well World Title material that's a different story for another day. Right now at this moment I don't see Sheamus having such a poor reign and I think they should let his reign try and repair his image and a win tonight even in a dusty fashion would still help him do that. Sheamus wins via interference from the League of Nations.
On what seems like an endless list of names we now need to add the "King of Strong Style" Shinsuke Nakamura to the list of talent that WWE has interest in signing. I will say I don't really know what has changed in the WWE's philosophy in how they see talent over the last few years, but whatever it was they have become seemingly more aware of the great talent that exists elsewhere in the world of wrestling. Problem is they still have the philosophy that what other wrestlers did elsewhere doesn't matter and they need to be repackaged and start over in WWE. In some cases that is a good thing like with talent from Tough Enough if you want to give them a new look or a different name that makes sense.
However, when someone like Hideo Itami formerly known as KENTA walks into your company and you still chose to change his name even though he was one of the biggest stars over in Japan that wasn't a part of NJPW. Especially when according to other executives in WWE at the time their business was down in Japan so why not let KENTA keep his name thus allowing the fans to not have reattach themselves to the talent or lose interest in the talent due to a poor name choice. (Michael McGillicutty cough cough.)
Now we look at the transition that the 35 year old Nakamura would have to make from the strong style so present in Japan to the WWE style of wrestling. Could Nakamura make as smooth a transition to the WWE style as Hideo did well who knows, because age has to be a big factor in Nakamura's case. Also the idea that if they plan on bringing Shinsuke in would he just be coming for a one off appearance like Jushin Liger, will work only in NXT, or will he work in NXT and then make it to the main roster. The thing you have to wonder is that if the latter is the choice they pick then how long would Nakamura stay in NXT before getting called up, and when did get the call would the WWE writers know how to work with him or would they not be able to handle such a talent. Do I see Shinsuke leaving NJPW anytime soon.... Nope! I think that loyalty is very present in NJPW especially among the veterans of the company, but that's just me and my opinion.
Even though Vince has said in the past that he doesn't view the UFC as competition most people don't agree with his mindset, but nobody makes a big deal about it. That was until the UFC's most recent PPV which was UFC 193 live from the land down under aka Australia. This absolutely means that the WWE is apparently looking to possibly run a PPV in Australia.
With this rumor popping up it has also brought to light the apparent appeal from management to run a big event in Melbourne. Now you might wondering well I thought that the WWE would never run a PPV on another continent again due to the delay. Anyone who told you that is wrong, because it isn't that WWE will never hold a PPV on another continent I believe that is only the case for WrestleMania. It is also possible that they could air a live Network special similar to the "Beast from the East" special they aired from Japan over the summer. I will say them airing either a live special or a PPV in the land down under would just further push the WWE's presence as a global brand.
If the WWE did chose to run a PPV in Australia they would likely run the show Monday at noon Australian time which would still allow them to air the show live at 8pm in the US with no tape delay. I could see some not agreeing with the idea, but less buys equals less money for the company so if they could prevent it from happening they should.