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Column - SmackDown

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Axels Angle – SmackDown: The Tough Decisions.


Welcome to Axels Angle once again. I haven’t submitted a column to a web site in around a year, but I felt the need that I needed to give my opinion on the SmackDown situation. At this point in time, the SmackDown brand is failing. TV Ratings are going down, and the brand is seen as the number two brand in the WWE. While this is through no fault of (most) wrestlers, it IS through the fault of the writers, the creative team. They made conscious decisions over the past four months that benefited RAW and royally screwed SmackDown. These decisions will be outlined in this column, followed by my personal opinion, and the shared opinion of some of my fellow wrestling fans, on what needs to be done to take the SmackDown brand to the top once again.


First, let’s look at the positives, the best place to start. The two biggest positives on SmackDown are the two top faces, and the two belt-holders, Eddie Guerrero and John Cena. Eddie has come into his own, and has been embraced by the fans with his heelish antics of the past year. Eddie was supposed to be considered a heel when he turned on Tajiri after their Tag Title loss, but he got a big face pop that started off the phenomenon that is ‘He Lies, he cheats, he steals’. With the pops that he gets from fans at SmackDown tapings and Pay Per Views, he can back up the reaction in the ring, being in the top three of WWE’s best technical workers. We all know Benoit holds the top crown behind Angle, but Eddie is a strong number three. He can put on awesome matches, and carry the WWE Championship to new heights, which is what he has been doing. WWE have been trying to promote Eddie as a ‘fighting champion’, and so far have been doing a pretty damn good job of it, with Guerrero facing challengers from his good friend Rey Mysterio to the self-proclaimed ‘best in the business’, Triple H.


Then there’s John Cena, the man who gets a bigger face pop than anybody (and I mean ANYBODY) in the WWE. He had a reasonable heel run last year, but as soon as he turned face, he started getting louder reactions than anybody, reminding me of Rock’s reactions in late ’99 and early 2000. His raps are innovative, and while in the past weeks with his ‘Deez Nuts’ catchphrase he has become a little annoying, he still remains the most entertaining part of SmackDown. He at this point holds the US Title, and with the player that he is now, he should not drop that belt until at least SummerSlam. Sure, give him long, drawn out feuds with the likes of Dupree, Hass, and even a guy like Mark Jindrak (who has a long way to go until he is accepted as a contendor), but he should not drop the belt until one of those guys is considered on the same level as him. Dropping the title to a Dupree, a man who was getting beaten up by a guy who hasn’t wrestled a match in a year and has a near broken neck, while Dupree is still considered a ‘comedy character’, would only serve to hurt both men. Sure, leave Dupree with the same US-hating gimmick, but give him an edge, and as much as I love Fifi to death, get rid of her, and only bring out the flag when it’s necessary. Someone suggested the Lance Strom WCW gimmick for Dupree, which I feel would work. Rename the US Title the French International Title or something, to get him even more heat. Don’t go the Un-Americans route though, because it has been done to death. Getting back from that tangent, John Cena is the most over guy on the roster. Keep the US belt on him for another 5 months (dropping it at SummerSlam), and then have him win the big one by next year at some point, perhaps even at WrestleMania.


Those two guys are the biggest positives about SmackDown at this moment, but there are many negatives. Those negatives start right at the top of the card, and specifically, the man who will quite possibly get a WWE Championship Shot at Judgment Day. The promos that John Bradshaw Layfield has been cutting over the past three weeks have not been spectacular, and the segment on this past week’s SmackDown was nothing short of appalling, and as my colleague pointed out in a emotionally-charged column earlier this week, incredibly racist. Bradshaw has always been a ‘redneck’ character, and this change is necessary for him. But there are better, more creative ways to get heat than just bashing another race of people because it is guaranteed to get a negative reaction. That is not the negative reaction that the WWE wants. The WWE wants its fans to say “Man, I hope Eddie gets him next week, I’ll have to tune in” rather than, “How dare they mock that race so badly. I’m not watching that show again”. I’ve given up on racial stereotyped gimmicks, because I know that they will always be a part of wrestling, and nothing will ever change that. But I hope that the racist, American superiority gimmick that Bradshaw is running tones down, or even changes completely, because currently it is the low point of SmackDown. We haven’t even seen Bradshaw wrestle as yet, which is understandable considering his talent, or lack thereof. I hope he refines his style just a little bit from the old ‘slobberknocker’ days of the APA, so he can seem a reasonable technical wrestler. He can still be hard-hitting, but to take him seriously as a challenger for Eddie Guerrero, he’s got to be able to at least hang in the ring with him as well as on the microphone. I hope he puts in a good effort when he receives his title shot, and then when the feud bombs, I hope he goes back down to the Billy Gunn area of failed pushes.


Bradshaw is, at the moment, seen as the top heel on SmackDown, which is just absurd. He has only been a singles competitor and a heel for what, three weeks now? Give me a break. This is the major area that the SmackDown locker room falters in, lack of legitimate heels. The Big Show can carry the ball nowadays; he has improved out of sight from his plodding efforts in 2000 and 2001. It seems as if the big man has grown a second wind, and he has been learning from the mistakes of guys like Triple H and Kevin Nash, and the quality shown by Guerrero, Angle and Benoit. Big Show should be the top heel on SmackDown, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will be come July, and the SmackDown-only Pay Per View, Vengeance. There is not enough time for Show to build up a program with Eddie for Judgment Day, so July is the obvious choice. Apart from Show, there are a few upper midcard heels, including Booker T (who should have the match with Eddie at JD – the history is there from two weeks ago, and it would be a great match), and a guy like Charlie Hass, who is at the moment feuding with Rob Van Dam, and trying to elevate himself like his former partner Shelton Benjamin did on the RAW roster. Hass has the potential to be a great singles competitor, and at least a future United Stated Champion. He needs one of two things before this happens. Either promo skills (which, if they are present, he hasn’t shown yet), or a good manager, someone the caliber of Paul E. When one of these two things happens, he can elevate himself slowly, move into a feud with John Cena, and win the US belt. That way, he can be a success in singles, and Cena goes to World Title contention.


There are also a lack of credible babyfaces on SmackDown’s roster. Under Cena and Eddie, Rob Van Dam is the only established heavyweight babyface. Sure, Rey Mysterio provides a great babyface character, but he has his own division to spearhead, and can’t go play with the big boys all the time. There isn’t a lot of potential either. Rico certainly can’t be considered an upper midcard face, and Gunner and Holly won’t be there, ever.


The Tag Team division on SmackDown sucks. There, I said it. Well, someone had to. Led by 2 Cool Part Deux, and the staler-than-year-old-bread Dudley Boys, it is in serious need of help. It is not quite as bad as the RAW Tag Division, because at least there are four legitimate teams (2 Cool, Dudleys, Bashams and Akio & Sakoda), who can actually be classed as teams. Still, the fans don’t care. They just don’t care about the Tag Division anymore. So, WWE has three options. The company can either try and make the belts mean something like they did with the SmackDown Six back in late 2002, they could make one single Tag Division on one show, and move all the Tag wrestlers to that one show, so they have a reasonable division, or they could abolish the tag division altogether. Now while the Tag Team Championship has provided some great matches (TLC, SmackDown Six), it is basically on life support at the moment. It died in the ass basically since the Bashams won the belts; that was when people stopped caring. It’s now bland, a shadow of its former self.


Only on SmackDown can you see Cruiserweights. All that hype for the big new Cruiserweight division on SmackDown, and they aren’t even taken seriously. The Cruisers have been squashed, badly booked, and the belt has been passed from heel to Rey to heel again for the past year. Yes, Rey Mysterio is over, and he is the best Cruiserweight that the WWE possesses, but look at the wealth of talent that the SmackDown roster has under Rey and Chavo. Ultimo Dragon, a legendary lightweight that WWE have never taken seriously. Jamie Noble, a guy that put on some great matches when he had the belt in 2002, but since then has become jobber fodder, and has had to deal with the awful ‘Blind Nidia’ storyline. Tajiri and Hurricane are over on RAW, and have been treated as comedy acts from the moment they arrived, and Tajiri is stuck feuding with a damn announcer. Now don’t get me started on Paul London. I wonder if Creative even saw London’s truly awesome performances in Ring of Honor, especially his 2 out of 3 falls effort with ‘American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson. They have no idea how good the kid is, they just stick him in a tag team with the bland Billy “you can’t Powerbomb…’ Kidman. I know it has been said many, many times before, but look at WCW in 1997. They had top Mexican Luchadors, Japanese lightweights, and American’s who knew how to work the break-neck style. The division resulted in matches like Mysterio-Malenko, Mysterio-Guerrero, Jericho-Malenko, Jericho-Mysterio, Kidman-Guerrera, Kidman-Mysteroio, and Psychosis-Mysterio, which will forever be remembered. I do not see why WWE can’t let the Cruisers ‘cut loose’ and have the kinds of matches that only they can. The fans want to see it, and the wrestlers want to do it. Let them off of there leash.


I was going to end the column right there, but just last night I witnessed the stupidest ending in the history of SmackDown, and a really bad show on the whole. Kurt Angle getting chokeslammed off a two storey platform was unbelievable enough, and then to learn that WWE has reported that Kurt only suffered ‘a severe concussion, internal injuries and a broken left leg’. What, do they think the audience is that gullible? The booking on this past week’s SmackDown left me dumbfounded and annoyed. RVD-Booker ending in a DQ after that much buildup probably just served to piss the fans off more than anyone else, and the awful display that was the Rico-Hass match should be put into the annals of WrestleCrap history. One more thing, if the point of the Draft Lottery was to ‘create new match ups’, then why are Booker and RVD feuding, and why are Mark Jindrak, Teddy Long, and Spike Dudley embroiled in a feud?


Well there you have it. SmackDown has a way to go before shakes the stigma of the ‘minor leagues’. It has the tools to be successful, and just needs to utilize those tools, and make the fans happy. I believe SmackDown can one day be at the level of the show in the last two years. It has experienced some losses since then (Benoit, Lesnar, Edge), but it can come through, and come out on top.

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Great column, Adam. I think it sums up all the problems and flaws within the Smackdown brand. RAW has done a great job making you care about nearly everything and everyone (from Benoit's win right down to Benjamin's push to the top and even Victoria acting like she won a million bucks when she won the Women's Title). Smackdown, it's just like they're throwing everyone to the wolves. I don't buy into Bradshaw, and actually wouldn't buy into many of the roster as a contender these days. Save for Booker T., RVD (who had good/great matches with Eddie two years ago for the IC Title), Undertaker (based on name value), Big Show or Cena, no one is really worthy of a WWE Title shot, and out of those 5 names, 3 of them are faces that won't be going heel anytime soon. Dupree, and to a lesser extent Haas (I say that because Dupree has shown more in-ring presence and charisma) aren't ready yet, but are on their way. However, the problem isn't the future, it's right now.


Good job, dude.

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