Tag Archives: Smackdown

Ten trades I would make in the Superstar Shake-up 

WWE is unlike most sports in that it doesn’t have an off season. RAW and Smackdown are on 52 weeks a year, every year. That being said Wrestlemania is generally considered the end of the WWE “year” and the RAW after Wrestlemania the start of a new “year”. And on Monday’s RAW after Wrestlemania WWE chairman Vince McMahon announced a “Superstar Shake-up” for next week’s RAW. We don’t really know what that means except that an unspecified number of wrestlers will be traded between the two shows. Needless to say there are a lot of rumours about who will be traded.

I have no idea anymore than anyone else has about who will be traded. What I will do here is list ten trades I would do to shake things up – five from RAW to Smackdown and five in the opposite direction. Some I suspect will happen some are just wishful thinking on my part.

Anyway here are five RAW to Smackdown trades I would make : 

Finn Balor – This is a trade made for the sake of fairness and justice. It must be remembered Finn Balor never lost the Universal Title back in August. He had to relinquish the title the night after SummerSlam because of an injury during his title win over Seth Rollins. Justice says he should get an instant shot at getting it back – but WWE in their infinite (lack of) wisdom have put the belt on part timer Brock Lesnar who probably won’t turn up again until June. Balor deserves better. Switch him to Smackdown where he can challenge whoever has the WWE title once the Randy Orton v Bray Wyatt feud is over. Balor v Wyatt is a match I would like to see. Also it gets Balor away from Rollins. It doesn’t make sense that on Monday Balor was tagging with Rollins who injured him back in August (albeit accidentally). 

Charlotte – One of Charlotte and Sasha Banks MUST be traded to Smackdown this coming Monday. Their rivalry made history in the women’s division – including the first women’s Hell in a Cell match which also became the first women’s match to main event a pay-per-view. But their rivalry is all played out now and if Banks turns heel as expected her and Charlotte as allies would seem weird. Either of them could be traded but as I want to see Banks v Bayley – which has only happened once on the main roster – Charlotte gets the nod. 

New Day – This is a no brainer to me. Smackdown’s tag division is such a mess its title was not defended at WrestleMania. The New Day have gone stale since losing the RAW title back in December. The obvious way to kill two birds with one stone is to trade New Day to Smackdown. Champions the Usos get new rivals and New Day get a chance of scenery. As a bonus if Vince McMahon wants to push Big E as a singles competitor in the future the smaller Smackdown roster is the place to do it. 

Rusev – Doubt that this will happen as he is injured but Rusev badly needs a change. Since being fed to Roman Reigns the Bulgarian has been in an awful feud with Enzo and Cass and stuck in a terrible tag team with Jinder Mahal. That broke up at Fastlane last month but injury saved him from being put in the Andre Battle Royal at WrestleMania. Rusev would beef up the Smackdown mid card and on his return would be an immediate contender for the Intercontinental Title. 

Sami Zayn – This should be a no brainer. He really should have been drafted to Smackdown back in July he has been little more than cannon fodder for Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe and frankly has been wasted. Also (like Charlotte and Sasha Banks above) him and Kevin Owens need to be split up and as Owens is the US Champion and won’t be traded Zayn is the only option. 

Now here are five that should go in the opposite direction from Smackdown to RAW. This is harder because the Smackdown roster (especially the male singles side) is smaller but here goes : 

Carmella – The RAW women’s division is top heavy. The Smackdown women’s division is bottom heavy. Therefore Smackdown should get an elite woman and RAW a not so elite woman. Carmella fits the bill. Besides sending her to RAW (a) breaks up her awful alliance with useless James Ellsworth and (b) reunites her with Enzo and Cass which was a successful partnership in NXT.

Luke Harper – The purpose of this trade is to get the talented Harper out of Bray Wyatt’s shadow. Haper has potential to be a break out star but I suspect as long as he is on the same show as Wyatt he will be overshadowed. Separating Braun Strowman from the Wyatt Family worked for him. It could also work for Harper. 

Kalisto – As with Sami Zayn (see above) this should have happened at the original draft. Kalisto is a Cruiserweight. The Cruiserweights are on RAW. Unless WWE were going to push him as a giant killer a la Rey Mysterio this made no sense. Kalisto’s job on Smackdown has been as a punchbag for Baron Corbin and then (with Apollo Crews) he was part of a terrible handicap match against Dolph Ziggler at the Elimination Chamber in February. Like Neville a move to the Cruiserweight Division could revitalise his career.

AJ Styles – This has been rumoured for ages and I suspect that the Styles v Shane McMahon angle that led to a better than it had any right to be match between the two at WrestleMania is the storyline reason for sending Styles to RAW. They shook hands on Tuesday night’s Smackdown but do they trust each other? I suspect no and Shane will trade Styles to RAW. 

Dolph Ziggler – It looked like Ziggler’s career had been rescued by his Intercontinental Title feud with the Miz. Then he lost the title back to the Miz and…Oh dear. A heel turn hasn’t really worked ( he had that terrible handicap match mentioned above) and it might be that Ziggler’s career is beyond saving. It might have slightly more chance of happening with a change of scenery.

Others that I would trade but definitely won’t be traded would be Cesaro to Smackdown (but he and Sheamus are the number one contenders for the RAW tag titles so won’t happen) and Dean Ambrose in the opposite direction (but he is still the Intercontinental Champion so presumably it won’t happen). It will be fascinating to see how many trades are done on Monday and how many I get right. One thing is certain. It will be fun to find out…

 

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My 2017 WWE pay per view calendar 

Today is Sunday. And if it is Sunday it is highly likely that there will be a WWE pay per view on. And there is today – the Smackdown event Tables Ladders and Chairs (TLC). There will be another pay per view in two weeks – the RAW event Roadblock : End of the Line – held a week before Christmas (what terrible timing). But since the Brand Split returned in July that has been the pattern – two pay per views a month except for the months there is a combined pay per view (August’s SummerSlam and November’s Survivor Series). There will be a total of fifteen pay per views in the WWE in 2016.

And next year will probably be even worse. There were rumours that WWE were going to have NINETEEN pay per views in 2017 with seven months of the year having both a RAW and Smackdown event and five having one combined event (the traditional “Big Four” plus Money in the Bank). Which would be far too many.

A fact that even the WWE seem to be realising. With subscriptions to the WWE Network plateauing there are rumours that WWE will be cutting down the number of pay per views next year (but we don’t know by how many).In my opinion the history of the wrestling industry has shown that a company can get away with one pay per view a month. Anymore is over exposing the company and fans start to pick and choose (which I suspect is happening already). So if I were in charge of WWE there would be twelve pay per views four RAW, four Smackdown and the traditional “Big Four”. This is how my 2017 pay per view calendar would look.

January – Royal Rumble (combined). No more needs to be said. The Rumble is my favourite event. As for the match RAW and Smackdown would both have fifteen men in the match and the winner would get a shot at his brand’s Champion – no jumping to the other brand as Chris Benoit did in 2004. 

February – No Way Out (Smackdown). I would bring back some old names (as the WWE have done with Backlash and No Mercy). In the early 2000s No Way Out was the pay per view between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania and I would bring it back. As the last single brand pay per view this year is a RAW show the first single brand pay per view of 2017 should be a Smackdown show.

March – Fastlane (RAW). For the last two years Fastlane has been the pay per view between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. With both brands needing a pay per view between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania I’ve kept Fastlane in the schedule just moved it back a month and made it a RAW event. 

April – WrestleMania (combined). No more needs to be said. 

May – Backlash (Smackdown). In September Backlash made a welcome return as a Smackdown pay per view. I would keep it in the calendar and as a Smackdown pay per view but move it back to where it was and where it belongs – as the pay per view after WrestleMania. 

June – King (and Queen) of the Ring (RAW). I’ve always liked the King of the Ring and I would bring it back to the calendar and in its old June slot. But since WWE is now taking women’s wrestling seriously I would add a Queen of the Ring tournament. The event would be a RAW one except that the King and Queen of the Ring events would be open to both brands. Eight men and four women from RAW and Smackdown would compete on their own show until there is a RAW King and Queen of the Ring and a Smackdown King and Queen of the Ring. Each brands King and Queen would fight at the pay per view for brand superiority – like the World Series or the Superbowl. The rest of the event would be RAW only. 

July – Battleground (Smackdown). Battleground would keep its July place on the calendar and become a Smackdown event. 

August – SummerSlam (combined). Again no more needs to be said. 

September – No Mercy (RAW). No Mercy returned to the calendar in October as a Smackdown pay per view. I would move it back to September and make it a RAW pay per view. This is because I want to bring back….

October – Halloween Havoc (Smackdown). Wishful thinking on my part perhaps. A Halloween themed pay per view was one of those things that made World Championship Wrestling (WCW) different from the WWE. WWE have used a WCW pay per view name before (Great American Bash) so I would bring it back as a Smackdown pay per view. 

November – Survivor Series (combined). Again no more needs to be said. 

December – Armageddon (RAW). From 1999 to 2008 -apart from 2001 – Armageddon was WWE’s December pay per view. It was a RAW, a Smackdown and a combined event in its history but this time I will bring it back as a RAW event. 

And that’s it! A simple one pay per view a month calendar. You’ll notice that there is no Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell, Extreme Rules or TLC event. That is because the impact of these gimmick matches has been lessened by giving them their own pay per views (three Hell in a Cell matches in one night for example). I would not scrap any of these gimmicks but they would be held on an ad hoc basis when feuds and storylines demanded it rather than “It’s the Hell in a Cell pay per view so we must have Hell in a Cell matches” situation which exists now. 

In my opinion this is far more sensible than WWE’s current clusterfuck of a pay per view schedule… which means there is no chance that WWE will adopt it. But we can but hope….

Better than? Less than? Different than? The WWE’s brand split dilemma

The brand split is back! For those who don’t recall in 2002 World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) split its roster between its two weekly shows RAW and Smackdown. For a time it was different and exciting – especially in the era of the “Smackdown Six*” and duelling General Managers Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon – but eventually it fizzled out became less exciting and eventually just dribbled away ending in 2011. Now in a spectacular u turn the brand split is coming back (the draft takes place on July 11th and from the 19th Smackdown will go live – at least in North America). But why?

One difference between 2002 and now is that there is no storyline logic for the split. In 2002 kayfabe owners Vince McMahon and Ric Flair could not stand the sight of each other so the WWE board of directors decided basically to split the roster up so that those two would never have to work together. I thought this storyline reason for a brand split would be repeated when Shane and Stephanie McMahon were arguing over who should run RAW but instead Mr McMahon had them both run RAW and like David Cameron and Nick Clegg in the UK ‘s 2010-15 Coalition government have been working together better than anyone thought they would. So why the split?

To my mind the reason is sinister. The USA Network which televises RAW and Smackdown is unhappy about the latter’s ratings. But Smackdown’s ratings are probably low because the show is taped (in this internet era spoilers are inevitable) so why not have it live with the same roster for a while to see if that would work. What annoys me is that only the USA Network gets a say. Other channels that cover WWE (like Sky in the UK) don’t seem to get a say nor do the WWE fans. That could be a dangerous precedent if the USA Network wants WWE to do something the UK would not accept (say a return to TV14 or intergender matches although I think we are safe from both of  those). The point is the rest of the world deserve a say in WWE’s future. But that said how would I do the draft? Two points first. I’m not doing a draft for every wrestler in the WWE. Secondly this is what I would do not what I think the WWE will do.

1. The World title(s?) If it was up to me there MUST be only one World title in the WWE – the current WWE World Heavyweight Championship. In the last brand split eventually there were two World titles. The problem there was one (the WWE Championship) was regarded as superior to the other (the World Heavyweight Championship**). Another problem was two Championships with split rosters produced long boring reigns (Triple H’s 2002-5 “Reign of Terror” and John Cena ‘s 2006-7 reign come to mind.) Keep one title let the champion float between the two shows and when the title changes hands the deposed champion goes to the show his successor was exclusive to.

2. The mid card titles. Fairly straightforward. There is the US title and the Intercontinental title. One should become exclusive to RAW the other exclusive to Smackdown. I would send the Intercontinental title to RAW and the US title to Smackdown but it could easily go the other way around.

3. Tag Teams. One of the big mistakes WWE made in 2002 was to split up established tag teams like the Dudley Boyz and the APA. This was so unsuccessful the teams were reunited in less than a year. To my mind tag teams should both not be split up or drafted. Instead the Tag Team Title should be allocated to one show and all tag teams should be drafted to that show. If a tag team splits up its members get put into a new draft and can be picked separately or together depending on what creative has planned for them.

4. Women. This is the part I fear the WWE will cock up. The women’s Championship should be like the men’s. It should be one title and the champion should float between the two shows. But I would not put women wrestlers into the draft. The women’s roster in my opinion does not have enough credible wrestlers to be split in two – a relic of WWE’s policy of hiring models rather than wrestlers. With the full women’s roster having only to compete with half the male roster on each show in theory the women might have more than one feud on each show. What I fear WWE will do is either have the women’s title and all the women on one show – which means one show would be all male which is unacceptable in 2016 – or bring back the awful Divas title which they retired only in April. The only women in the draft should be Maryse and Lana who should be drafted with their real life partners the Miz and Rusev respectively.

5. The Cruiserweight title. That would leave one show with four titles and the other three.To balance this another title has to be created. I would not bring back the European title (too similar to the US and Intercontinental titles) nor the Hardcore title (unacceptable in the PG era.) The obvious one to bring back is the Cruiserweight title. I don’t know why they retired it in 2007 or why they buried the title by putting the belt on Hornswoggle. Yes really.

So if I was in charge the title picture would be :

Both Shows : World Heavyweight Title, Women’s Title
RAW : Intercontinental Title, Tag Team Titles
Smackdown: US title, Cruiserweight Title (Or vice versa).

But will the brand split work? I doubt it. And Eric Bischoff supplies the answer why. In his book “Controversy Creates Ca$h” (pages 152-56) he says when he was launching WCW Monday Nitro he had three choices. Be “better than” RAW, “less than” or “different than”. Bischoff did not think he could be “better than” RAW obviously he did not want to be “less than” so he decided to be “different than”. Which at least for the first couple of years he managed. But when he created (against his better judgement) a second WCW show “Thunder” he admitted ” “We didn’t do a good job of making it different, so it became less“. (“Controversy Creates Ca$h, page 271.The italics are Bischoff ‘s.)

And that is WWE ‘s problem. It is easier to make a show different from a competitor’s show than it is to make a spin off from your own show different. Smackdown is struggling just now because it is not different enough from RAW so it becomes less than RAW. WWE can’t afford to have one show be better than the other as the other show will be less than. They must make them different from each other. Different rosters on their own will not do that. Two possible ways of making them different would be to make one TV14 while keeping the other PG or how about relaunching WCW and renaming Smackdown “Tuesday Nitro?”.

I don’t think the WWE will do either of those things. But unless they make the shows different from each other one will inevitably be better than” the other… which means the other will be “less than”. And neither WWE or the USA Network want that…

*The “Smackdown Six” were Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Eddie and Chavo Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. The six were some of the best wresters in the world and their matches in 2002-3 played a part in making Smackdown “different than” RAW. A lot of people said in fact Smackdown was in fact “better than” RAW in this period.

**In my opinion the World Heavyweight Championship was always inferior to the WWE Championship mainly because the World Heavyweight Championship belt was WCW’s “Big Gold Belt” which to me will always be tarnished by the fact that in 2000 both actor David Arquette and useless waste of space Vince Russo held it.

When WWE were nearly thrown off UK TV

Oh the summer of 2005 how I love you! Most remembered at the time for England beating Australia in arguably the greatest Ashes series in history the summer also had another famous UK victory against the odds when underdogs London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics over hot favourites Paris (and only delivered the best Olympics ever). Chelsea fans and Labour supporters will have bittersweet memories of that summer. Tony Blair’s Labour easily won its third General Election in a row – in stark contrast to the mess that party is now in outside London. While Chelsea won their first English League title in 50 years back in the days when the Premier League Champions played at Stamford Bridge instead of visiting on the last day of the season as Leicester will on Sunday!

Of course there was tragedy too. The day after London won the Olympic bid there were the terrorist attacks on the city (known as the 7/7 bombings). The British General Election of 2010 (page 19) claims that the bombings “marked, symbolically at leat, an abrupt end to the optimism of much of the Blair era”. While I don’t agree with that – Blair had shot his bolt with the UK electorate two years earlier – there is no doubt that the first terrorist attack on the UK by Al Qaeda had a serious effect on the country. On a less serious note it got World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) into such trouble they nearly got kicked off of UK TV and are still on probation till this day. How on earth could a UK national tragedy get WWE into trouble not just in the UK but in the US – so much so one of their wrestlers had to be booted out of the company for good at the age of just 23? Answer – a cocktail of arrogance, bad luck and like most sports organisations being out of touch with the real world.

The background is this. On 13 December 2004 WWE debuted a  new wrestler. He was an “Arab American”* Muhammad Hassan. The gimmick of Hassan and his manager Kosrow Daivari was that they were Arab Americans who had got on well with their fellow Americans until 9/11 but that after 9/11 their fellow Americans turned on them, discriminated against them and blamed them for the 9/11 attacks just because they were Arab Americans. They made some logical points that however were too intelligent for most American wrestling fans and therefore Hassan and Daivari became hated heels (wrestling jargon for bad guys). Hassan was placed into feuds with Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin (who said to Hassan and Daivari “I see sand people”- not WWE Creative’s finest hour) while suffering no pin fall defeats.

Then for some reason he was traded from RAW to Smackdown – a mistake in my opinion as Smackdown was on a broadcast (the US equivalent of terrestrial) channel United Paramount Network (UPN) which meant the audience for Hassan and Daivari  was potentially bigger than on RAW (a cable show) and the bigger audience something controversial gets the more people there are who could get offended. WWE had to be careful. They weren’t.

As soon as he got to Smackdown Hassan got into a feud with the Undertaker and a match between the two was arranged for the July Great American Bash pay per view. That same night (July 4 2005) Smackdown General Manager Theodore R Long made a match between the Undertaker and Daivari for that night’s show. Undertaker won easily – and then it all went pear shaped. Outside the ring Hassan kneeled down as if he was praying to Allah – and five men in masks, black tops and combat trousers ran to the ring and beat up the Undertaker. After that Hassan came into the ring and performed his finishing move on the Undertaker while the five masked men knelt down. The masked men then lifted Daivari up and carried him out of the ring a la a martyr’s funeral. What makes this more sinister is what  Hassan had said to Daivari pre match “You will be a sacrifice. But a sacrifice for a greater good”. It at least could be implied that this was acting out a terrorist attack and was rather sinister.

Note the date. July 4th. But Smackdown was not (and still is not) shown live. In those days Smackdown was shown on Thursdays in the US and that week’s Smackdown was broadcast on July 7th. Yes the day of the London bombings. Ah you say the Hassan “terrorist” angle would be edited out. Er no. It was shown in North America in full – with a “crawler” warning at the bottom of the screen. WWE claimed that it could not be edited out in time. They really should have asked UPN to delay the programme for a day in order to give them time to edit the angle out. Predictably – to everyone except WWE that is – there was an outcry and even the New York Post, TV Guide and Variety got involved. UPN panicked and told the WWE that Hassan would not be allowed to appear on their network again. So he was banned from Smackdown and Spike TV – the network that broadcast RAW – did not want him back on their show either. So he had to be beaten by the Undertaker at the pay per view and “killed off” with a last ride onto concrete. He was never seen again on WWE TV**.

Where WWE was incredibly lucky was that in the UK Smackdown was not on TV until Friday which gave Sky time to edit the angle out. But WWE made another blunder. They posted the footage on their website – including the UK. Even although the internet was not as prominent in 2005 as it is now enough UK fans saw it for it to be known what had happened and in the words of Ian Hamilton (in “Wrestling’s Sinking Ship : What Happens to an Industry Without Competition” page 172) “were up in arms”. Why on earth they put it on the internet is a mystery. They must have known UK fans used the internet in 2005 – unless they were so ignorant they thought we didn’t!

Still at least the UK press hadn’t got hold of the incident so all WWE had to do was not make any more mistakes and let the affair die down. But they could not even do that right. Once UPN had banned Hassan they really should have pulled him out of the pay per view match with the Undertaker and found a substitute (Randy Orton would have been the obvious replacement or bring in a wrestler from RAW like Kurt Angle). But instead they kept Hassan in the match. Incredibly they showed the beat down on the Undertaker in the promo for the match. Even more incredibly Hassan was carried to the ring by the same five masked guys who had beaten the Undertaker up. And even more incredibly it was shown live on Sky Sports in the UK!***

Now the shit did hit the fan. Sky got reprimanded by Ofcom (for the benefit of anyone reading this who is not from the UK Ofcom is our TV regulator – our Federal Communications Commission (FCC) equivalent). Sky understandably were furious. Especially as the WWE had been running some awful angles at the time – Hot Lesbian Action, Katie Vick, WWE owner Vince McMahon fighting his own daughter on pay per view and a one legged wrestler – Zach Gowen – being pushed down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair (Sky cut that out too). Sky in effect put the WWE on a “suspended sentence” saying if the WWE did anything else offensive their UK TV contract would be terminated. Frankly the WWE had done so many offensive angles in the previous three years they were lucky to keep their contract.

This whole mess was an example of sporting arrogance at its worst. As Dave Meltzer put it on his website “they (the WWE) live in a bubble in Connecticut where there is nothing but wrestling and the real world doesn’t exist”. Substitute Zurich for Connecticut and soccer for wrestling and Meltzer could have been writing about FIFA. How they did not know after the London bombings that that angle would offend is a mystery.

I think the Hassan affair (along with the Chris Benoit murder/suicide and Linda McMahon’s (Vince’s wife) US senate bids) led to the current PG WWE era that wrestling fans consider safe. But you can’t blame the WWE for playing safe. Remember if they do anything offensive they could blow a lucrative UK TV contract.  They think ” better safe than sorry “. And that is the price the WWE are paying for taking a totally unnecessary risk back in July 2005….

*Ironically the man who played Hassan – Mark Copani – is not Arab American at all. With that name it is no surprise that he is Italian American.

**Copani was sent down to the WWE development league to alter his gimmick but he was released on September 21 2005 probably because he would always be associated with the Hassan character. He then retired from wrestling aged 23 an innocent victim of the whole sordid mess. Ironically he was heading for a major push and was going to win the World Heavyweight Championship at August’s SummerSlam pay per view had the affair not happened.

***That was when I first saw the incident (I did not have the internet at the time). I was horrified. If I had known WWE would show that I would not have taped the event. I suspected – and still do – that if a US city had been bombed on July 7th that angle would have never seen the light of day. To my mind it showed arrogant contempt for the UK. I know people who have never watched WWE again and one friend of mine wanted whoever wrote the angle sacked and McMahon hung. Whether anyone other than poor Copani was sacked I don’t know.