WWE has backed itself into a corner with the upcoming Fastlane pay-per-view a week away and the road to WrestleMania 34 becoming a shorter distance with each passing day. While the company’s flagship brand, Raw, is gaining steam at the right time by developing strong storylines and even stronger “what if” scenarios, SmackDown Live is stuck in the neutral position, praying to the wrestling gods it can get through the event and sort out the mess created by a lack of star power.
The sad thing is, WWE and the SmackDown Live brand don’t see too concerned about it.
I’m not saying the wrestlers on the blue brand are a step below their Monday night brothers and sisters. But programs that have taken too long to develop and storylines that won’t go away have handcuffed the roster and the viewership. AJ Styles may be the best performer in the company, but the sum of the parts around him are weaker than those on Monday’s show.
Despite, the sudden appearance of John Cena, who is still looking for yet another WrestleMania moment, the gap between A and B is still quite wide. If Fastlane is supposed to tell a story heading into the biggest event of the wrestling year, this will be more of a child’s bedtime story than a Stephen King thriller.
The Sami Zayn-Kevin Owens angle is stale – leading us all to see a swerve where Owens becomes a babyface and Zayn continues to build a heel persona. The constant headbutting between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan has become a bit nauseating as well.
Shinsuke Nakamura is the only wrestler guaranteed a match at WrestleMania right now. Styles figures to retain the WWE Title next Sunday, regardless of the five other competitors in the “Six-Pack Challenge” match. Wrestling fans deserve Nakamura and Styles once again. Since the days of NJPW WWE followers have prayed for this kind of main event. WWE has finally seen the potential in such a match.
Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin were added to Sunday’s main event, but don’t add anything to the match but filler. The writers for SmackDown have yet to figure out how to maximize the roster it has with better matches. The building feud between Bobby Roode and Randy Orton has some zeal and with the addition of Jinder Mahal, it has a chance to grow as an old-school storyline where Roode turns heel either at the PPV or in New Orleans.
WWE is blessed to have a solid tag team division with The Usos, The New Day and the Bludgeon Brothers on the Tuesday roster. There is a chance for greatness heading toward April 8. When I look at Erick Rowan and Luke Harper, I see a bit of the Wild Samoans – two fiercely tough wrestlers who strike fear in their opponents and the fans. Jimmy and Jey Uso have been the standard of WWE tag teams the past year. New Day has been one of the best trios in wrestling history.
If WWE wanted to use the tag team division as its focal point on Tuesday nights, it might get more support of its old singles programs.
With a week to go until Fastlane, WWE could rewrite many storylines in an attempt to correct its glaring problem with its roster. It’s highly unlikely. I suspect the writers and booking staff will get through Sunday, re-evaluate and hope it can come up with some viable solution.
Fans will hope it’s not too late to find matches besides the WWE Title match it can get behind at WrestleMania.