WWE Roundtable: SmackDown contenders revealed

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WWE’s decision to book Alexa Bliss as the No. 1 contender was _______.

Joseph NardoneThe right move. I actually wrote about her recently. I think she was the most impressive performer during the six-pack challenge, has an interesting character, and that a lengthy feud with her against Becky Lynch can do wonders to highlight how awesome women’s wrestling is.

She’s such a gifted in-ring talent. Casual fans might not yet realize how special she is, but after a few matches that help to showcase her skill set, I imagine people will begin to take to her. Not to mention that Nikki Bella and Carmella are feuding outside of the title. Bliss was the logical choice.

Adam O’BrienSmart. With Carmella and Nikki Bella doing their own thing, Lynch needs a contender to make the inaugural women’s championship defense as intriguing as it possibly can be, and Alexa Bliss will make it that. As the first eliminated at Backlash, Bliss had a chip on her shoulder as the one woman on the roster, sans Eva Marie, that might be overlooked as a threat to the title. Giving her the first shot has rectified that situation, and could do a fantastic job of bringing out her best as well as building up a star nicely for Lynch to cement her reign against.

Chris Schubert: Perfect. Two weeks ago the SmackDown Live women’s division was in rough shape. Following Backlash, they have two distinct directions with four different women. Becky Lynch is the champion, with Alexa Bliss chasing her as the top heel. While that is going on, Nikki Bella and Carmella have their feud that has been boiling over, and that should come to a head at No Mercy.

So by making Bliss the No. 1 contender, the WWE has given themselves two running women’s storylines for their show, which can keep everybody fresh and relevant. Then when they want to push Bella or Carmella into the title picture, both of those women are ready because of being in another feud. At first, Raw seemed like the flagship for women’s wrestling. Slowly, SmackDown is making the case that they are the premier brand for the women’s wrestling.

Ronnie RowlandsAn excellent choice. But then, everyone on the SmackDown women’s division is developing so well that there isn’t a single disappointing choice for No. 1 contender among them. But there is particular wisdom and faith in picking Alexa Bliss — Becky Lynch, Natalya, Nikka Bella and Naomi are all pretty well-worn figures who fans are accustomed to. With Carmella’s personality emerging in her exchanges with Nikka Bella, this was likely the best spot to put Bliss in if they wanted to strap a rocket to her. I look forward to seeing what develops.

How much longer can Dolph Ziggler continue talking about winning “the big one” without actually being able to do so?

JNThree days ago… I kid!

This seems like an angle that will inevitably result in him turning heel. The entire “I’ve been placating to fans far for too long” type of thing, where he blames wanting to put on great matches for the fans for the reason he hasn’t won since before Obama was in office.

Still, this angle has already grown tiresome, and I really like Ziggler. Hopefully something happens soon to help restart his career.

AONot much longer. Of course, he could do it as long as he likes, but I’m surprised he’s gotten this far without the fans losing interest. Much more of this talk about “winning the big one”, and Ziggler will be at risk of losing his dignity as an integral member of the SmackDown roster, which is why I’m concerned that he’s going to capture the Intercontinental Championship at No Mercy.

It would be WWE’s way of saying that Ziggler is, in fact, good enough to win gold, but since there’s way more scope with Miz as champion, I’d be scared of the mid-card title instantly losing its buzz with Ziggler holding it again.

CS: Just like Bray Wyatt, it’s not just one singular moment that ruined Ziggler’s character. Over the course of time, Ziggler has continued to lose the big one, yet still rant and rave that he can do it. At some point, fans just stop believing in that message. Once a superstar becomes not-believable, they’re sunk. And that’s where Ziggler has been for the past couple of years. Is Ziggler a fixable character? Absolutely.

That will require careful booking, with Ziggler going over in a number of feuds. The state of SmackDown’s male roster makes that a bit of a hard task, but it’s certainly possible. If he fights the Miz again, they will surely put on a good show. Both guys are very talented in the ring, and will do well in the ‘wrestling’ category. The entertainment portion will be lacking, and that’s not on the Miz. It’s on the ‘Show Off’.

RRNot much longer, because now that he’s completely out of the WWE World Championship picture, the IC title is all he really has left to go for. And yes, he does desperately need a title win and reign to revive his fledgling career; putting him in some random feud with a guy wouldn’t be a cardinal sin, but he’s built up so much momentum that that would be an obvious demotion. But I have hope for him.

He’s clearly going for an interference-free rematch with the Miz, and the WWE’s new self-aware storytelling (much is made, on TV, of Dolph’s booking and lost opportunities, to smark levels of detail) is frequently addressing fan concerns and giving them what they want. I predict a Ziggler win at No Mercy.

A feud between Styles, Ambrose and Cena will be __________.

JNMostly OK. I don’t love the logic here (Cena lost to the champion, hasn’t been on TV since, and magically gets a title shot?).

I think if we view this from the standpoint of it mostly being done to elevate Styles — two of his most recent foes, presumably beating both at once — and coupling that with what should be a good match between the three at Clash of Champions, it should at the very least serve its purpose.

I am weary of the build, however. What can be said — save for Ambrose, I think, turning heel — between these guys that hasn’t already been said? The feuds literally just happened.

AOGreat, albeit counterproductive. Having won the title under shady circumstances, AJ needs a number of defining victories to prove why he truly is “the champ that runs the camp.” The man pinned John Cena clean at SummerSlam, so there’s no reason he can’t defend his title the same way. But I feel like the triple threat stipulation is setting Styles up for yet another cheap victory as he capitalizes on the work of either Cena or Ambrose, which is only going to set him back further.

That said, the interaction between Cena, Styles and Ambrose made for some excellent television this week, so despite what’s sure to be a questionable finish, the build-up over the next few weeks promises to be exceptional heading into No Mercy.

CS: To steal a phrase from SmackDown’s Women’s Champion, it would be ‘straight fire’. These are the three flagship main-eventers on the blue brand, with all three being championship worthy. We could argue about the legitimacy of Cena’s place in this match, because he’s lost two straight times to Styles. At the end of the day, Cena is a draw and him being in the main event is a good thing.

This feud won’t last past No Mercy in its current form. Following No Mercy, two of these three will go off and do their thing together. The third, more than likely Dean Ambrose, will need to do something relevant for when the WWE eventually goes back to him for the Royal Rumble/WrestleMania push. For now, these are three of the best wrestlers in the WWE going at it for the top prize on SD Live. Just enjoy the magic.

RRSuperb! AJ Styles and John Cena make big money of any feud they’re involved in. Ambrose, not so much, and at this stage in his career he may need to work with the guys who draw crowds and money before he’s taken seriously as a main-event player himself. The two of them are also safe pairs of hands for Ambrose to be working with, a vitality since Dean isn’t exactly the best at elevating a poor match. I’m also loving the shoot style between the three of them — to call a guy like John Cena a part-timer is to give a voice to the bugbears of the fans, as is openly saying that Ambrose’s in-ring work leaves a lot to be desired. It’s already getting real, and with Styles playing the old-school heel to perfection, we have a perfect blend of personalities from the old and new school to make this feud gold.

WWE Roundtable: SmackDown contenders revealed

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