Smackdown's Growing Babyface Problem
With WWE Super Show-Down now out of the way, Smackdown Live can finally look ahead to building some fresh programs for the weekly broadcast and provide fans with some exciting prospects to look forward to.
The WWE Championship in particular will now be up for grabs in a dream match between The Phenomenal One and the Yes! Man, in a hero vs. hero bout at WWE Crown Jewel.
Therein lies the current problem of Smackdown Live. Neither The Miz or Samoa Joe could put their respective opponents away on Saturday, essentially leading to the two babyfaces to collide over the next month or more. While a face vs. face (despite lacking the heat), works with the audiences if the two performers are cared about, the same cannot be said for a heel vs. heel bout (no matter how good they are).
With both Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles now moving on to face each other, both The Miz and Joe are left in a limbo with no programs to move on to. They can't start a program with each other as well since both of them fill the role of the villain in a program, and it's almost surprising to realise that apart from Styles and Bryan, there are no top or even midcard babyfaces on the blue brand at all!
With Jeff Hardy seemingly out to recover from his back issues, Smackdown is suffering from a lack of depth on the babyface side as a whole, hurting momentum of some of its top heels who have been left with no programs at all for months now.
The biggest example of this is Shinsuke Nakamura who was on fire after his heel turn earlier this year and subsequently captured the United States Championship from Hardy at Extreme Rules. The Rockstar has since been directionless and has sat out two straight PPV events due to lack of superstars to go against (which mind you, broke his 100% PPV appearance streak since he made his Smackdown Live debut).
Another name that comes to mind is Randy Orton. Arguably being the biggest star on the blue brand today, you would expect at least he stays in relevant programs right? Well, not quite. After his crackling rivalry with Hardy ended with their brutal Hell In A Cell match last month, the only logical way for Orton was to move up on the Smackdown ladder and possibly challenge Styles for the WWE Championship, or at least start a program with a bigger or equal star than Hardy.
However, the way things panned out over the following weeks with Bryan and Miz getting the championship contention match, Orton too finds himself directionless at the moment (despite is long awaited heel turn coming just over 2 months back). While his current mini-feud with Tye Dillinger keeps him busy, Dillinger has always been an afterthought and perceived not even close to being a worthy foe for Orton, especially after his program with Jeff Hardy.
Add Samoa Joe and The Miz to that list too and you have at least FOUR top tier heels waiting to do something of value on the brand. While logic dictates that The Miz will factor into the main event some way or another in the coming weeks and Joe will be out of television for a while, it's Nakamura who's the most worrisome of all for now.
What frustrates us is that the problem can easily be solved. The RAW side of the male roster is so deep that it has already hindered several top babyfaces with lack of good stories and the overall importance given to them in the broadcast.
Give me one good reason why Finn Balor is not on Smackdown Live right now. I mean, the guy is literally doing nothing on RAW except for this recent pairing with another damaged babyface (Bayley) and that too to promote the mixed match challenge and nothing else.
He was the first ever Universal Champion but since his return from injury, he's not even on the mid card. The only great moment we remember involving Balor in the past 2 years was his match at TLC 2017 against AJ Styles (again, a Smackdown Live talent). Balor going up against Nakamura for the US title can be must see television, without WWE even having to do anything more than drafting him to the blue brand.
Speaking of which, is it just me or is Braun Strowman getting wasted on RAW as well? The ill-timed heel turn and that joke of a Wrestlemania appearance w/ Nicholas aside, The Monster Among Men has been more than ready to claim his rightful place atop the RAW ladder but has always come up short when it matters the most.
Starting from his Fatal-4 way loss to Lesnar at Summerslam, to his singles loss to The Beast again at No Mercy, to his Elimination Chamber loss to Reigns, to his Money In The Bank cash-in failure, to his most recent loss to the Shield and inevitable loss to Reigns at Crown Jewel, WWE had a potential mega-star in Strowman but was butchered in favour of the RAW priorities, Reigns and Lesnar. A move to Smackdown as a babyface and subsequent programs with Joe and Orton could rebuild Strowman back on the top.
There are several talented up-and-comers in NXT just waiting for their opportunity to be called up to the main roster and now's the best time to debut them on the blue brand, rather than waiting all the way till post-Wrestlemania to debut a bunch of them to the point of irrelevancy for some.
Smackdown is still the better product of the two brands, thanks in large part to the effectiveness of the stories being told on it. We just hope that the latest developments coupled with the announcement of Evolution reunion and Rey Mysterio's return on the 1000th episode of the broadcast, ultimately results in a deeper babyface side of the male roster, and Orton and party gets some top heroes to work with.
P.s. a part of me actually want to see heel Orton going up against heel Nakamura.