WWE Smackdown: Without Randy Orton, Who Is Their Most Valuable Superstar?

Robert Aitken@@RobertAitkenBRAnalyst IJune 6, 2012

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 08:  World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium on July 08, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

It isn't very easy to be on the Smackdown roster lately. Then again, any show that is forced to play second fiddle to RAW has it pretty hard.

Smackdown needs matches on RAW to advertise its own brand, which gets taped on Tuesday nights and spoiled to the masses by Wednesday afternoon.

To those who don't listen to what happens for an episode, WWE slates the show on a typically avoided channel in SyFy in a Friday night timeslot, classically seen in television as a "death wish" of sorts.

With all of that working against Smackdown, it still has been in existence since 1999, has been on Friday nights since 2005 and has been on SyFy for the last two years. So what has fans tuning in to Smackdown on a weekly basis? The star power on the brand.

In the early days, it was Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle. In recent years, it has been The Undertaker, Edge and Batista. The brand found themselves lacking a top-flight star last year following Edge's sudden retirement. That's when the WWE Draft took place.

Initially thinking John Cena was moved to the blue brand, Randy Orton was put on Smackdown and Cena was moved back to RAW later that night.

This was a big deal for Orton, since he had never been the only actual top draw on a brand he was on. It was finally time for Orton to have his own show essentially and he wasted little time in claiming it as his own. On his first episode back on Smackdown, he defeated Christian to win the World Heavyweight Championship.

Over the last year and more, Orton has been a fixture on the show. Whether he was champion or not, Orton was a big part of the broadcast, often with a backstage interview and almost always with a match.

The only real exception was an injury suffered by Orton late in the year, which sidelined him for a few weeks. Still, Orton's absence did enough to help Wade Barrett, who was responsible for the injury.

Orton now is suspended via the Wellness Policy for the second time in his career, taking him off the show until the end of July and into August. Orton will not be on the card for No Way Out, Money in the Bank or the reshuffled TLC pay-per-view.

It also forces WWE to prepare for life without Orton permanently. With one more failure, Orton will be forced to be let go from the company.

Orton hasn't been the champion in nearly a year, but that doesn't mean he isn't the face of Smackdown. Sheamus is the champion, but his face reactions are not on the level of Orton's.

Also, with him being the champion, he cannot simply fight anyone and everyone. Orton once had a segment with Jinder Mahal. We still aren't sure if Mahal is able to get within 200 feet of the World Heavyweight Championship.

Daniel Bryan is the former champion, but is too busy over on RAW trying to become WWE Champion, despite still being listed on the Smackdown roster. Mark Henry has not been seen in what feels like months, but Henry has never been considered to be the face of anything.

Even during his major push last year, he was nothing more than a monster heel trying to make it to the top. Christian and Cody Rhodes are busy feuding with one another, despite being two of the most talented men on the brand.

This doesn't leave much more beyond this. We cannot call Alberto Del Rio a valuable Smackdown superstar. It was destined to be his title when Edge had to retire, but they needed to have a draft just to prevent that. As good as Del Rio is in his role, he isn't much of a leader at the top just yet. Neither of his WWE Championship reigns felt very genuine.

Beyond these men, it's hard to really put anyone down as the face of Smackdown. Nobody is very promising, but Sheamus seems to be trying to take over that role.

Then again, weeks without Orton have now begun to see the likes of CM Punk and John Cena come to Smackdown for matches. There isn't a lot of faith in having Sheamus stand all alone atop Smackdown just yet.

For now, enjoy the roster that Smackdown provides for you. With RAW going to three hours next month and Orton to be out for a while, Smackdown will be thin for a while. Sin Cara's return last week helped ease the pain, while Wade Barrett and Mark Henry's pending returns will also help things out.

Still, without Orton, the rest of the roster is hurt by the lack of star power. It sure seems like there will be a lot of spoiler reading in the coming weeks.

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