Hot off the heels of the post-SummerSlam SmackDown, and after what felt like an eternity of meaningless stalling, the blue brand felt a thousand times more important from the second that its Tag Team and Women’s Championships were unveiled to the world. It’s something that SmackDown should have done a month ago to avoid its current situation of making up for lost traction.
The tag team division has been in desperate need of being lifted out of the doldrums from the moment SmackDown went live, and the past month saw the company squandering the imperative opportunity to make stars of its lackluster duos by having them catapulted out of the ring in the first few seconds of a battle royal and immediately setting themselves up as job guys to the next big thing: American Alpha.
In spite of the unforgivable negligence, didn’t every tag team in the ring last Tuesday come across as hungrier than they ever have been? Sure, none of them have exactly received the booking required to make a wrestler seem credible over the past few months, but higher stakes improves the quality of a match-up tenfold. While The Vaudevillains vs. The Usos was nothing if a little underwhelming, it was at the very least an opportunity for for the former team to exhibit themselves in exclusive action, rather as bit players in over-crowded multi-man matches. Elsewhere, while everybody knew that American Alpha was bound to go over Breezeango, the latter team has overcome the curse of cop-out, cobbled together duos and managed to get themselves over with the fans, developing some chemistry in the process.
The introduction of a new Women’s Championship yielded similar results. As the women finally have something to get out of bed for, so the fans watching finally have something to stay awake for. The insistence from some corners of wrestling fandom was that the weekly ordeal of waiting to find out why Eva Marie wouldn’t be competing that week was brilliant booking and compelling television. While they are, of course, completely entitled to their wrong opinion, they cannot deny that sweeping the “Red Queen” aside has made way for some sorely needed character development from half of the women’s roster on SmackDown, who have suffered from fan obliviousness and head-scratching at their gimmicks.
What we got instead was a heel turn from Carmella, who attracted some lovely heat for attacking the consummate underdog Nikki Bella.
Meanwhile, Alexa Bliss was given the opportunity to work an adequate match with a decent worker in Becky Lynch.
Doesn’t that make a refreshing change to women preening around cutting promos like the cast of “Mean Girls”?
It’s far from perfect. Creative really needed to afford some more helpful screentime to the tag teams and the women in the weeks building up to the reveal of the new championships. It might have made the prospect a little more exciting, and easier to fit faces to belts. But nonetheless, the WWE turned around a bad situation. Having comedy skits and wrestling for the sake of wrestling will never make for matches that people want to see, and the four weeks of SmackDown falling flat on its face is testimony to that.
SmackDown has shown that it can elevate a feud well (read: Cena vs. Styles, Ambrose vs. Ziggler) at the top of its card, and it was these wrestlers who kept us from giving up on the show half way through. With new championships and oodles of talent to play around with, as well as The Miz’s explosive promo in defense of the Intercontinental Championship, hopefully the WWE can work its magic on SmackDown’s mid-card as well.