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Grading the SmackDown roster following WrestleMania 37

Roman Reigns has ruled over Friday Night SmackDown since last September.
Roman Reigns has ruled over Friday Night SmackDown since last September.
Matthew Serocki
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WrestleMania 37 reset the hierarchy of both SmackDown and RAW. Roman Reigns retained the Universal Championship but both the Intercontinental Championship and the SmackDown Women's Championship changed hands.

Cesaro picked up the biggest win of his WWE career by defeating Seth Rollins. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had another strong match against each other at the Show of Shows.

The Riott Squad appeared to be the sentimental favorites in the Tag Team Turmoil match on Night 1 of WrestleMania 37. Their underdog status garnered favorable reactions from fans in attendance, but WWE seems intent on pushing Natalya and Tamina as the next potential Champions.

The first SmackDown following the Show of Shows featured Commander Azeez as the only new face on the blue brand. On the second show after WrestleMania, however, a new vignette aired for Aleister Black. He came across as a heel and will likely continue to appear in pre-taped segments over the next month.

So how does SmackDown stack up following WrestleMania 37? Grades are determined by a few factors. One is the amount of potential in a division. If it is lopsided or lacks depth, that will factor in the decision. Stars like Ricochet, Mustafa Ali and Murphy are extremely talented but do not always get consistent chances. They have potential but need backing.

Another factor is the number of credible challengers for the Championship. Some titles have one or two believable threats, whereas another division could feature multiple performers that could win the title. Recycling feuds also hurts the watchability of the product.

Here are the grades for the SmackDown roster and its divisions following WrestleMania 37.


#5 Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode are atop the SmackDown Tag Team division

Who will take the belts from Roode and Ziggler?
Who will take the belts from Roode and Ziggler?

SmackDown currently consists of four teams that have all been featured over the last few months. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode took the titles from the Street Profits, with Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford losing two matches to the Champions since dropping the belts.

The Mysterios and Alpha Academy have also been embroiled in the SmackDown Tag Team Championship chase. When Jimmy Uso comes back, will it be by the side of his brother and cousin, or will he join RAW with his wife, Naomi?

The Usos would add another legitimate team to the division and potentially more gold to the Head of the Table. The feud they could create over the titles would be fresh if the Mysterios win the titles from Ziggler and Roode. If the Usos do not reunite, will another team be formed from random stars?

All four teams are legitimate and could feasibly be SmackDown Tag Team Champions. Two have already hoisted the belts. The only thing hurting this division is depth beyond the four duos.

Grade: B

#4 Apollo Crews and Big E have featured atop the SmackDown mid-card

Crews and Big E have had a heated rivalry over the Intercontinental title.
Crews and Big E have had a heated rivalry over the Intercontinental title.

While the main event scene of both RAW and SmackDown features the top stars of WWE, it can be argued that the mid-card is just as important. Sometimes, the mid-card sees a star move up to challenge for a title.

The mid-card also allows a main-event star to drop out of the title picture for a while so that they can help build other stars. Cesaro is the latest superstar from the mid-card to get a shot at the main event. Long a tag team specialist, the Swiss Superman will likely get a shot at Roman Reigns after Daniel Bryan gets one more shot.

Since Apollo Crews is the new Intercontinental Champion, it would have made sense for the former Champion Big E to move up. He will, but it will likely take place later in the year when Reigns needs more challengers.

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are also both former Intercontinental titleholders and can carry any feud. Even when they are against each other, the result is almost always entertaining.

After dropping his belt to Crews, Big E could eventually be the latest mid-card star to finally move up to the SmackDown main event scene. This must be part of the reason why the New Day was separated in the 2020 WWE Draft. If Big E's eventual rise didn't factor into the decision, it would be strange.

The rest of the SmackDown mid-card is in good shape. Not every star, however, has received the chance to shine. Cesaro, Zayn, Owens, and Crews have been heavily featured in 2021. Shinsuke Nakamura had a brief shot and was the last person eliminated in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. The winner, Jey Uso, has also been solid in the mid-card.

King Corbin has been moved back-and-forth between the main event and the middle of the brand, but hasn't been on SmackDown following WrestleMania. The extremely talented Murphy has also been off of the blue brand for a while despite his skill. He was brought back for a random appearance in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.

The same would have been said about Aleister Black, but a vignette featuring the Dutch Destroyer aired on the latest SmackDown. Overall, the mid-card on the blue brand is in solid shape.

Grade: A-

#3 Bianca Belair changed the landscape of the SmackDown Women's division

The EST and the Boss made history at WrestleMania 37.
The EST and the Boss made history at WrestleMania 37.

The SmackDown Women's division is in a strange place. Bayley and Sasha Banks, two of its biggest stars, were the last two women to hold the title. Belair joined the main roster last year after WrestleMania 36. Bayley held the title at that point in time and is now the first challenger for the newly-crowned Belair.

Carmella would seem to round out the top four in the division, but she has lost every big match since returning in late 2020. Natalya and Tamina, despite being long-tenured, are not viable threats to any SmackDown Women's Champion right now. They are being positioned, however, as the next WWE Women's Tag Champs.

Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan are the underdog tag team but are never treated as real threats. These are all of the major names that have been on SmackDown TV over the last few months.

The depth in this division was non-existent after last year's draft and it is still a problem. Billie Kay was never likely to be a singles titleholder in WWE, but she at least added some entertainment value to the division.

Recent reports have suggested RECKONING, aka Mia Yim, was "quietly" moved to the SmackDown roster. With the break up of RETRIBUTION, it makes a lot of sense. She needs a new start and the division needs another potential main-eventer.

Someone like Peyton Royce would have been a great addition to the blue brand. The same goes for Nikki Cross, who is not being used on RAW. It seemed like some sort of reinforcement would be on the way following WrestleMania, but the post-pay-per-view episodes went on without any big additions to the SmackDown Women's division.

The division is top-heavy with Banks, Bayley, Belair, and Carmella. Other than that, changes and additions are needed to truly make the division shine.

Grade: C+

#2 Roman Reigns continues his dominance of SmackDown's main event

The Tribal Chief maintained his stranglehold atop SmackDown at WrestleMania.
The Tribal Chief maintained his stranglehold atop SmackDown at WrestleMania.

The main event scene on SmackDown is thin upon first look. It's obviously led by Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan are both multi-time former Champs in their own right. However, Bryan may have to leave SmackDown if he loses his next shot at the title.

Seth Rollins is also a main-event level heel, but since Reigns is on top, Rollins has to bide his time. Edge is also factored into the equation as he challenged for the title at WrestleMania. He hasn't been seen, however, since failing to cash in on his Royal Rumble win.

Looking deeper across the entire SmackDown roster, there are numerous WWE Superstars that can or that have already moved up and down from the main event. Kevin Owens had several shots at Reigns around the Royal Rumble. Sami Zayn has also challenged for major titles while on SmackDown.

Cesaro is currently enjoying the biggest push of his career. It might not end with a Universal title win, but getting a shot in the main event after a decade is still a big deal. Big E could also challenge for the title at some point this year.

Outside of those stars, the scene needs a few more big names. Will Keith Lee move to SmackDown once he's ready, since he's engaged to Mia Yim? Will someone like Finn Balor, Adam Cole or Roderick Strong move up to SmackDown after WrestleMania Backlash?

One of those names would help things out in the long run. Adding Lee would also give him a shot to challenge the Head of the Table. Lee shared a huge moment alongside Reigns at the 2019 Survivor Series event. Will Shinsuke Nakamura get a chance after Reigns and Uso attacked him prior to the Royal Rumble? If some stars move up, then SmackDown is in relatively good shape.

Grade: B-

#1 Are there any returns or debuts for SmackDown after WrestleMania Backlash?

The Genius of the Sky
The Genius of the Sky

SmackDown saw the return of Aleister Black, but in a pre-taped vignette. On RAW, Charlotte Flair reappeared after a brief hiatus, supposedly due to COVID. Ivar returned to action with Erik after suffering a cervical injury.

While Black's return is a welcome sight, nothing else has happened to supplement the SmackDown roster. After several cuts on April 15th, there haven't been any visible additions to the women's roster.

One thing that may be postponing any NXT debuts could be WrestleMania Backlash. WWE could be looking to have several rematches at the pay-per-view instead of moving on from WrestleMania feuds. It's arguably best to start anew following the show of shows, after some rosters have been reset with new titleholders.

If WWE does indeed decide to debut some stars or have some performers return after the next big pay-per-view, it would make sense. There are a lot of Superstars waiting in the wings to either join the main roster or make a shocking return.

When will Sonya Deville get back in the ring? She was on fire during her feud with Mandy Rose, but an unfortunate situation outside of wrestling forced her to take some time off.

Two of the biggest possible returns would be Becky Lynch and Brock Lesnar. May will mark almost a year since The Man last competed inside a WWE ring. She gave birth in December of 2020. In the interim, her fiance Seth Rollins moved to SmackDown. WWE tries to keep couples together, so if she comes back it needs to be on the blue brand.

The Beast has been out of action since dropping the WWE Championship to Drew McIntyre last year. His deal expired last fall and he's apparently home in Canada at the moment. With the way Reigns is being pushed as The Tribal Chief, they may be setting things up for Lesnar. Or will the Beast return to RAW to challenge Lashley?

At the very least, there needs to be one or two NXT call-ups joining SmackDown after WrestleMania Backlash. The releases in mid-April opened up some roster spots. If the storytelling in NXT coincides with SmackDown, the likes of Roderick Strong, Io Shirai or Finn Balor could join the roster.

Santana Garrett was already "quietly" called up in November with only an appearance in the Royal Rumble to show for it. If she joins the women's division, it would be an instant upgrade. If another woman joins her, that's even better.

SmackDown is in pretty good shape overall, but could certainly feature some new faces in the second half of the year.

Edited by James Sullivan

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