Repetitive Match Format Another Fail and More WWE SmackDown Fallout
WWE should be on top of the world. Loaded with genuine talent and driven by decades of history, the company should be riding high. This is why it is so disconcerting how desperate each show feels.
The June 25 edition of SmackDown Live attempted to refocus after Stomping Grounds. With promised matches like Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler and Bayley vs. Nikki Cross with major stakes, the blue brand should have delivered.
However, a few key elements have been holding the show back. More than anything else, the company seems unable to figure out how to evolve. A change in match format meant to spark up interest has been largely derided.
Storylines including the alliance of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens fall apart week to week. No one seems to be able to figure out how to keep any focus.
Most egregious of all, this massive roster feels more limited than it has in years. The same few stars continue to get the spotlight such that the return of a star like Shinsuke Nakamura is an afterthought as many likely forgot he was still signed.
These are the takeaways from another SmackDown that showed WWE is still scrambling to figure out how to keep focused and utilize an all-star roster.
WWE Cannot Keep Up with New Commercial Break Policy
WWE has not made an official statement, but, in recent weeks, the company has taken drastic steps to avoid wrestling matches continuing during commercial breaks. While Daniel Bryan and Rowan vs. The Usos and Bayley vs. Cross went to commercial, it got the split-screen treatment.
Meanwhile, WWE booked two 2-Out-of-3 Falls matches, a stipulation that has been frequently utilized in recent weeks while largely ignored over the past several years. While it was treated as a big deal stipulation, this will soon become a boring norm.
There are benefits to the format. Ricochet vs. AJ Styles went 10+ minutes after the commercial break straight in the main event of Monday Night Raw. More major matches should get time to deliver in a way they have not in the past due to commercial interruptions.
However, the large majority of TV contests will just become bit-sized pieces of matches. Wrestlers will take pinfall losses more frequently to give fans false conclusions to each segment.
This is far from sustainable, and the gimmick is already losing steam. Before long, it will be far too predictable how a match will play out based on how many segments it is expected to get.
Breaking Up Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Would Be Best for Both Men
After Xavier Woods and Big E defeated the SmackDown tag team champions, Zayn and KO struck, attacking their rivals. In an eight-man tag match with Heavy Machinery that followed, Owens walked out on his best friend, not watching him take the Compactor for the loss.
It perhaps should not have been as surprising as it was to see KO walk out on Zayn just two days after they won at Stomping Grounds. The two heels cannot sustain any momentum together.
For that reason among many others, they desperately need to go on separate paths. The Critic of the Critics has lost his voice working with The Prizefighter while Owens has fallen straight back into a comedic role that left him barely relevant before his injury.
Raw and SmackDown need legitimate heels, but the two together lack all credibility. One of them will likely be able to gain some momentum. Together, at best, they will add some depth to the tag team division.
Put KO exclusively on the blue brand while Zayn can work the red brand. They can both develop unique characters again.
Shinsuke Nakamura Needs to Deliver in Feud with Finn Balor
In an interview, Finn Balor stated he wanted the best challengers possible, and Shinsuke Nakamura stepped up, hinting that he wants the next shot.
The Artist has been off television for months, and it was completely unwarranted. However, it was not completely surprising. Nakamaura has delivered at times on the main roster while barely standing out at others.
Overall, he has had a forgettable run. His team with Rusev fizzled out before the two even had a chance, and most forget he was a United States champion. The Artist still has a chance to become a WWE star, but his coming feud for the Intercontinental Championship will play a big role in his future.
The Extraordinary Man has been good as champion given opportunities, but his array of challengers has been sadly limited. His feud with Bobby Lashley was a mess, and he hardly spent any time working with Andrade before moving on.
Nakamura and Balor needs to be more than a one-off contest for both men. They both need to remind the world why they were such highly regarded signings by WWE.
Dolph Ziggler's Forgettable Main Event Run Ends with Nothing
Ziggler ended his feud with Kofi in a 2-out-of-3 Falls match. He got caught with a cradle to lose the first fall but took a cheap shot after the bell to set up an easy fall with a superkick. However, the WWE champion caught him with Trouble in Paradise to seal the victory and end his title aspirations.
The Showoff has always been a solid role player, but it never feels like his highlighted runs amount to much. Perhaps because there were no expectation he would win, Ziggler's entire run with Kofi was forgettable. This was their best match together, and it will go largely ignored.
The two clearly were motivated to deliver, but it never felt like they quite could find a rhythm together. On the hottest run of his career, The New Day leader felt like he was being held back working with his longest-standing rival.
While Kofi moves onto a more interesting competitor in Samoa Joe, Ziggler may just disappear from TV altogether once again. He is a valuable competitor to WWE, but he hardly stands out anymore. His time has passed, and only a radical change would get him his momentum back.
If he has any aspirations for reaching greater heights, he might have to leave the company to reinvent himself. There's nothing left for him as a sports entertainer.