It wasn't long ago that WWE SmackDown Live was being praised for the diversity within its women's division. But everything that once made it special has since been undone. That isn't to say the division is beyond repair, however, as there are several steps WWE could take in order to fix it.
Following the institution of the Brand Split last summer, it appeared SmackDown's women's scene would fall victim to the same tired formula of incorporating all of the ladies into multi-woman tag team matches. Thankfully, that didn't turn out to be the case, and each of them was showcased on an individual basis.
From Becky Lynch and Eva Marie to Alexa Bliss and Carmella, each Superstar received ample character development and gave viewers a reason to care. There were feuds that weren't over the SmackDown Women's Championship, such as Carmella vs. Nikki Bella and Lynch vs. Mickie James, that were worthwhile and effective in filling out cards.
Bliss stood out from the rest of the women earlier this year because she was largely protected as champion, elevating the division in the process. Meanwhile, despite losing to Five Feet of Fury on almost every occasion, Lynch was the fighting underdog babyface the fans wanted to rally behind, hence their rivalry clicked so well.
It wasn't until WrestleMania 33 that the division took a turn for the worse. The title was defended in a Six-Pack Challenge, which was essentially designed to get all of the women on the show and not focus on a single story.
Naomi has done a decent job as SmackDown women's champion, but truth be told, she hasn't felt any more special than the rest of the roster. That could be due to how she stacked up several losses early on in her reign, along with not putting the gold up for grabs too many times over the past four months.
Moreover, she has yet to have a rival who has helped define her as a credible champion. Granted, she beat Lana three straight times with relative ease, but she has otherwise been a background player and overshadowed by the likes of Carmella, Charlotte Flair and Lynch.
The women's Money in the Bank Ladder match, held in June, was a huge step forward for the division, but holding a repeat performance nine days later as a result of the finish to the first one was questionable, to say the least. It doesn't help that WWE hasn't followed up on Carmella's historic victory in a meaningful manner, either.
Regardless of when she cashes in her contract (and it could be as soon as SummerSlam), she should find direction in the meantime. For example, placing her in a program with either Charlotte or Becky would be optimal considering she would improve by working with someone better than her in the ring.
Speaking of Flair, she has felt significantly less special during her stint on SmackDown, but a well-executed championship chase leading up to WrestleMania 34 could cement her as the focal point of the blue brand's women's division.
The women's scene on SmackDown has enough star power, especially with Nikki Bella's possibly imminent return to the ring. That said, it would benefit from more stories being told with the women available to WWE at the moment.
Lana and Tamina have teased joining forces lately, but putting two of the worst wrestlers the division has to offer together would be a poor idea. The Ravishing Russian needs more time to grow as a performer before she can be prominently pushed, and Tamina has always been better suited in the role of being a heavy for someone else.
As for the SmackDown women's title match that's slated for SummerSlam, Naomi and Natalya need to do everything imaginable to heat up their feud before their championship clash. The latter has been ice-cold for so long it will be difficult to buy her as a believable threat to the title, but a memorable match with Naomi on Aug. 20 would put her back on the map in an instant.
Lastly, calling up some fresh blood from NXT would do the women's division on Tuesday nights the world of good. Asuka has been ready for the main roster for some time, while Billie Kay and Peyton Royce would be excellent additions to that crop of talent as well.
All the tools are there for SmackDown to make its women's division important again, but it will take time for it to return to its former glory in being one of the blue brand's strongest assets.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.