This week saw WWE's new era kick off in explosive fashion as both RAW and SmackDown LIVE produced highly entertaining premiere episodes. While the consensus seems to be that RAW had the edge over SmackDown this week, it's been a long time since SmackDown was that entertaining. So either way, it's a win for both shows.
However, in many people's eyes RAW got the stronger roster and thus is likely to continue its reign as the number one show. However, all is not lost for the blue brand. Watching SmackDown filled me with hope of what the future holds; I thoroughly enjoyed it and it reminded me of when I used to watch it continually between 2004 and 2010. But in order to truly become an equally prestigious companion show to RAW, SmackDown must make some — if not all — of these things happen.
Build Up Dolph Ziggler
This past week on SmackDown saw Dolph Ziggler winning the six pack challenge to become the number one contender for Dean Ambrose's WWE Championship on SmackDown. While this momentous occurrence highlights WWE finally believing in their most talented performers, they need to make sure they build up Dolph Ziggler as a legitimate threat to Dean Ambrose's title. In the ring, he is more than a worthy opponent, but WWE have done quite a bit of damage to his character over the past two years, burying him on a number of occasions.
With a month to SummerSlam, it's imperative that they prove their first solo main event is a worthy match-up between two evenly matched athletes and not just a squash match with Ambrose predictably retaining the title. Ziggler must be protected and made to look incredibly strong heading into "The Biggest Party of the Summer."
More Headliners Throughout The Card
While it was a great main event, I can't help but think WWE made a big mistake putting John Cena, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt and Dolph Ziggler all in the one match on their premiere episode. Aside from Ambrose and Kane, all their headliners were in the final match of the evening, which could have hindered the middle of the show. While things ended up looking pretty great overall, it's vastly important that they pepper their stars throughout the card, in separate storylines instead of overloading them into the one match.
Styles, Cena and Orton could put on some great showings with younger talents and that is where they are needed at this point in time.
Push Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt has all the makings of a star. Despite questionable losses in his early career, Wyatt is finally on track to making himself the superstar we always knew he could be. I'm excited to see what he brings to the table of SmackDown and certainly think he has the potential to lead the brand on his own, especially now that the Wyatt Family may have disbanded again.
Wyatt could very well be the next Undertaker-type character and could carry SmackDown on promos alone. The championships have eluded him for long enough. Now is the time to start putting Bray Wyatt in championship matches and push him harder than ever. Wyatt is the future — and the future is now.
Keep The Champion Wrestling
This week's new era of SmackDown was missing one thing: Dean Ambrose in competition. He did make his presence felt throughout the night, but it would have been great to see him competing. It is exhilarating to watch Ambrose wrestle and seeing him do so every Tuesday night will be an experience that only SmackDown LIVE will offer.
And while I'm on this point, it was so refreshing to see the WWE Championship defended on the debut episode of SmackDown LIVE when Ambrose defended the gold against RAW's Seth Rollins. The championship was rarely defended on the blue brand, but with the return of the brand split, more title defenses will definitely work in SmackDown's favor.
Focus On Younger Talent
SmackDown was once called "the land of opportunity." It focused on its rising stars and used its veterans to help accelerate the fresh talen to new heights. Remember when the Undertaker elevated Mr. Kennedy? Or Kane's rivalry with MVP? While RAW always focused on the present, SmackDown prided itself on building the future. That needs to remain as a core element of SmackDown in this new era.
Although superstars like Tyler Breeze and Baron Corbin aren't quite headliners yet, SmackDown is the perfect place to push these athletes as future stars. Tyler Breeze has all the makings of a future headliner but the company randomly gave up on his push. Now is the perfect time to repair the damage they did and push him properly. Corbin could be a future monster and American Alpha could be the next big tag team. SmackDown could very well be the promised land for the next generation.
Make Kane A Legitimate Threat Once Again
Every so often Kane gets a major push and really excels from it. In 2014, he had an incredible match with Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship and last year, he underwent a Jekyll and Hyde personality disorder between Demon Kane and Corporate Kane. However, after that he disappeared from TV for a while because the writers reportedly had nothing for him.
I was so excited to hear that he had been drafted to SmackDown. Last time he was exclusive to the blue brand he really dominated, and that's exactly what needs to happen again. Recently, he has been booked rather well, always coming out of matches looking strong. This past week on SmackDown, we saw glimpses of the 2001 Kane as he dominated in the Battle Royal. He not only came out of out looking destructive, he made Apollo Crews look strong by giving him the victory.
SmackDown's roster is quite thin compared to RAW's, so one way of adding star power would be by having Kane return to his destructive roots. He's one of the only major stars on SmackDown and is always the most reliable talent when it comes to putting the younger performers over. Even when he wins, he makes his opponents look strong. A Kane rampage is well overdue, and with SmackDown's thinner roster, now is the time to unleash the Big Red Monster.
Utilize The Returnees
In order to help give SmackDown a boost in its war against RAW, WWE have added two staples of their respective generations to the blue brand's roster: Shelton Benjamin and Rhyno. I have to applaud them for this. A returning Shelton Benjamin will most certainly keep viewers interested. Furthermore, Rhyno's shocking return on SmackDown was a pleasant surprise. WWE would later confirm that both free agents have been signed to SmackDown LIVE. Seeing these two in-ring veterans exclusively on SmackDown just might give it a much-needed edge.
However, the creative team must follow through here and utilize them properly. Bad storytelling can destroy almost anyone's push. Benjamin and Rhyno both have the potential to be involved in some major storylines, and they will almost certainly better the younger talent as they do so. A very exciting and shocking twist indeed.
Add More Star Power
Rumors suggest that WWE has been reaching out to multiple veterans to up the star power on their respective shows. Those rumors suggest that the company is close to signing deals with Tommy Dreamer, Carlito, Jinder Mahal, Curt Hawkins, Melina and MVP, with Melina being the closest to actually signing a contract. She would certainly be a much welcomed addition worthy of the RAW roster which features the Women's Championship, however she would provide some much-needed star power for SmackDown's women's division. And if the premiere episode's heavy reliance on Eva Marie is anything to go by, SmackDown needs Melina now more than ever.
So, SmackDown is off to a great start and has vastly improved. But with the flagship RAW to compete with, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan need to pull out all the stops to make SmackDown the incredible show it once was. And that includes featuring themselves on TV all the time — because the WWE Universe loves them. With the dawn of a new era in WWE, we could very well see the dawn of a new SmackDown — let's hope it's a great one.
How do you think WWE can make SmackDown LIVE a legitimate companion show to RAW? Let us know in the comments!