While it may be a bit premature to talk about the Road to WrestleMania, it's safe to say the Smackdown writers might want to invest in a GPS before too much longer.
The blue brand seems to be plagued with creative issues that are leaving several superstars and storylines completely directionless.
I've written about the issue before, and I don't want to dwell on the problem for too long here, but the blue brand is becoming too much the "forgotten" show.
In recent weeks, it seemed there was some attention being paid to Smackdown. WWE Champion CM Punk made an appearance, there have been some high-quality matches and the Sheamus-Alberto Del Rio feud has been a featured attraction.
But tonight's episode illustrated many of the concerns plaguing the brand poignantly. The show featured seven matches, but only two of them amounted to anything more than squashes and bouts designed to showcase one of the competitors while limiting the other.
It seems WWE has too many stars they want to keep at the forefront of television who lack any semblance of a storyline or feud. From Brodus Clay to Ryback and Tensai to Antonio Cesaro, there are a number of stars who are in desperate need of justification for their continued presence.
Having one star get the unstoppable push of defeating an endless array of low-level roster members and enhancement talent on each brand may be acceptable, and for a while, it seemed those would be the roles of Clay and Ryback.
But then WWE continued to add more. Tensai and Damien Sandow showed up, expanding each show to two unstoppable forces. Then Cesaro debuted and Sin Cara returned, and Smackdown became stacked.
There is no shortage of talent in WWE right now, especially on the blue brand. That's not in question in the least. Many of the guys mentioned above are deserving of a push, and it's refreshing to see them get one, but it would be nice if they could advance to doing something more meaningful.
If WWE continues these booking strategies, people are eventually going to just lose interest in these new stars, and they will wear out their welcome before they even get a chance to show off their full capabilities and skills.
- Kane and Sheamus had a good match in the main event that picked up in the home stretch. No one expected a clean finish, and we didn't get one. As Sheamus seemed to have the advantage, Ricardo Rodriguez interfered, leading to a disqualification finish. Del Rio would get involved, and AJ would appear to give Kane another confusing look. This match was entertaining and advanced aspects of two ongoing storylines with pay-per-view ramifications, so that should be considered a success.
- Christian and Dolph Ziggler unsurprisingly had a really enjoyable match. Some will complain about Ziggler losing, but in reality, he looks good for putting in a strong performance against a veteran and former World Heavyweight Champion like Christian. Many think Ziggler is above the Intercontinental Championship, but I wouldn't be opposed to seeing these two have a match for the title on pay-per-view.
- Christian finally gave an explanation for why he's now fan favorite. He said inducting Edge into the Hall of Fame, he realized he didn't want to be known as the guy who pleased for "one more match;" he wanted to put together a Hall of Fame career himself. That was simple and logical. They should have delivered it right after his return, but that's a small complaint. Christian and Cody Rhodes had a good promo exchange in what was scheduled to be a "Peep Show" interview segment.
- The match between Del Rio and The Great Khali was pretty terrible. That may sound harsh, but this match had very little going for it - and that's not a criticism of Del Rio, who did his best with what he had to work with. Thankfully it was kept relatively short. Making a giant tap out to the cross-armbreaker should make Del Rio look strong, but Khali has been so lackluster for so long that beating him really doesn't do anything for his challenger.
- After finding out he would no longer be allowed to appear on Monday Night Raw, Clay actually showed a little more seriousness and intensity in his match against former NXT contestant Derrick Bateman. The match itself, though, was just another squash, and Clay continued to dance with children from the crowd afterward. I really hope this is something that is an evolution of Clay's character, becoming more serious and ultimately earning a rematch against Big Show.
- Sin Cara defeated Drew McIntyre in probably his most competitive match since returning. McIntyre got a minimal amount of offense, and the end was never in question, but I've been enjoying Cara's work lately. Yes, there was one botched spot, but a quick camera cut seemed to cover it up well. I'm waiting for what will hopefully be an inevitable collision between Cara and Cesaro, who works tremendously well with smaller opponents. That is the direction WWE should head with these two international stars.
- Cesaro continued to look good, even if it was only in a very short squash match. WWE has let him keep some of his signature moves, such as the pop-up European uppercut, while giving him a new, cool-looking finisher. It sucks Jimmy Uso had to be his fall guy in this case, as the Usos are both underrated and should be getting a tag team push.
- Rodriguez may be one of the most underrated characters in WWE. While he's great as Del Rio's ring announcer, he's at his best when embracing his full-on comedic side, such as his Royal Rumble debut. Tonight, he came out dressed as Sheamus in the opening segment, and while many may scoff at it, I had to laugh. If Rodriguez is going to be saddled as a sidekick, at least he seems to always have fun while doing it.
- Rodriguez dressed as Sheamus was funny. Hornswoggle dressed as Jim Ross was not. At least eight minutes of the show were also dedicated to replaying the John Cena-Michael Cole debacle from Monday. This was all apparently part of the set-up to Tyson Kidd making the save for Hornswoggle from Sandow, who laid out Kidd with his neckbreaker finisher. Could this be the start of an actual story for Sandow, or will it simply lead to a one-off match with Kidd?
- I really hope there's some explanation why Vince McMahon, who was fired last year in the catalyst for John Laurinaitis' rise to power, is now back and in a position to give Johnny Ace a job evaluation on Monday's Raw. It's these kind of logic gaffs that make it really hard to get too invested in the stories WWE is telling.
- Ryback won.
Alberto Del Rio d. The Great Khali
Brodus Clay d. Derrick Bateman
Sin Cara d. Drew McIntyre
Ryback d. Tony Andriotis and Kevin Mahoney
Christian d. Dolph Ziggler
Antonio Cesaro d. Jimmy Uso
Sheamus d. Kane by disqualification
I'm a fan of Sin Cara, Damien Sandow, Antonio Cesaro and the aggressive, serious side of Brodus Clay, but having all of them - as well as Ryback - on the same show is too much overload right now. Tonight's Smackdown was fun to watch, as each of these men shined and the two other main matches were enjoyable. But this isn't the type of show I want to watch week in and week out for months on end. Smackdown has the talent and the potential to be a great weekly show, but until there is a better sense of direction, it will be very hard to achieve that on a regular basis.
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