Smackdown still has life
By Rennie Detore
Sunday, June 26, 2005
The initial buzz regarding this year's WWE lottery draft circulated
around "Smackdown," and how the subsequent roster shuffling could
restore the fledgling brand into a viable entity.
Three weeks and three draft picks later, and "Smackdown" still seems
starved for star-power. Chris Benoit and Randy Orton joined the show,
but both are just as directionless as "Smackdown."
Orton still is recovering from a shoulder injury, and Benoit basically
bounced around on Raw.
Orton's value has plummeted since his world title run flopped. Benoit
likely will assume the role of an in-ring guide for younger wrestlers,
even though he, along with Orton, is more than capable of a second
stint as champion.
As if the perception of "Smackdown" couldn't get any worse, general
manager Teddy Long announced last Thursday that he is introducing the
"Smackdown" championship, a futile attempt to restore interest in the
The idea of creating a title for "Smackdown" is about as monumental as
Ted DiBiease introducing his "Million Dollar Title."
DiBiase fashioned a customized championship because he couldn't win a
"Smackdown" is doing the same because its champion, John Cena, is
wrestling Monday nights.
"Raw" isn't suffering from the same dilemma, picking up two of the
more prized performers on "Smackdown": Kurt Angle and Carlito.
In fact, the "Raw" roster is bolstered with so much talent that
tonight's "Vengeance" event reads like a major pay-per-view.
Two world title matches, an Intercontinental Title defense by newly
crowned champion Carlito, and Angle battling Shawn Michaels in a
rematch of "Wrestlemania 21" begs the question: Why even bother paying
attention to "Smackdown"?
The truth is "Smackdown" is the lesser brand because Vince McMahon and
WWE prefer it that way. "Raw" always will reign as WWE's top priority,
because of the monumental "Monday Night War" with WCW and "Nitro"
throughout the late 1990s and through 2001.
Ironically, WWE's battle with WCW should remind McMahon how being No.
2 can work to an advantage.
McMahon sat in a distant second place to Eric Bischoff, Ted Turner and
WCW for over 80 weeks. "Nitro" dominated the ratings and interest
among wrestling fans, which forced McMahon to recreate the image and
ideology of his product.
Why couldn't "Smackdown" do the same?
Instead of worrying about star-power, "Smackdown" should build around
its cruiserweight division, which recently added accomplished
superstars Super Crazy, Psicosis and Juventud Guerrera.
Cruiserweight champion Paul London is one of WWE's better athletes,
but he isn't featured prominently enough for anyone to take notice.
"Raw" announcer Jim Ross spends hours and hours rightfully bragging
about how Shelton Benjamin is a former collegiate standout and
potentially a future WWE superstar. The latter could be said about
London, who can match Benjamin move for move.
Along with pushing the abundance of cruiserweights on "Smackdown," the
brand shouldn't be afraid to take a few verbal shots at "Raw," which
almost carries the same swagger WCW "Nitro" did during its ratings
"Smackdown" doesn't necessarily need big-name wrestlers or the luxury
of being live each week. The brand is terribly devoid of direction and
confidence, two glaring attributes that lead to WWE overtaking WCW and
could do the same for "Smackdown" in its attempt rekindle noteworthy