A couple of days ago I was inspired to begin looking at the still-lopsided rosters of WWE’s three brands. Two things precipitated this idea: Batista jumping to Smackdown to fill in all sorts of babyface gaps, and the concern that, much like we used to say about Raw, the “superior” Smackdown brand has no midcard. Nowadays, Raw has a nicely spread-out roster, while Smackdown has essentially nothing to work with. Am I right? Let’s look and see.
SMACKDOWN MAIN EVENTERS
(1) Undertaker: He’s back, and besides Batista he’s the top babyface. Sure, CM Punk, the World Heavyweight Champion, “beat” Taker at Breaking Point, but if push came to shove, Taker would probably go over in a long feud between the two. Same with Taker and Batista, I imagine. Same with Taker and everyone. It’s getting near time for that to change, though.
(2) CM Punk: WWE brass seem to have fallen in love with Punk, much to the delight of us indy wrestling nerds who know talent the second we see it. But since he’s a heel champion, it would be misguided to consider him the No. 1 wrestler on a WWE show. But with all of the wins over Jeff Hardy, the fluke win over Taker and the copious promo time he gets, Punk is definitely the second guy in line.
(3) Batista: Way to let a fragile, water-logged mushmouth leapfrog everyone else on your B-brand. I know he gets the Road Warrior-ish pops McMahon likes, and I know he’s been on top for four years (well, as much of the past four years that he’s been active), but it sucks that Batista’s move to Smackdown is the answer to losing Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio, rather than giving John Morrison a chance.
(*) Chris Jericho: Same with Big Show on Raw: Jericho is tied up in a tag team, but when they split up, Jericho has a permanent spot in the main event tier.
(*) Rey Mysterio: Suspended for about another week and buried (up to his neck, anyway) on WWE.com, it will be interesting to see how Mysterio is treated upon his return.
(*) Edge: I ranked Edge below Jericho and Mysterio in the “asterisk tier” because his leave of absence is longer term. However, when he comes back, I imagine he’ll be a babyface feuding with and probably going over Jericho, followed by a likely World Heavyweight Title run.
(4) Matt Hardy: Can I admit something to you? I got all the way down to Finlay before I remembered this tubby douchebag was on the Smackdown roster. I had to go back and re-do all my numbers! Thanks, @MattHardyBrand. Never, ever, ever a main eventer, Matt better get used to bumping his head after climbing the ladder only this far.
(5) John Morrison: I’m over his unexplained babyface turn; I was only confused by it and upset about it because I knew Morrison had potential star power that could only be derailed by WWE fucking it up for him. Now the only concern is his rigid promo style, but we’ve all seen him talk elsewhere as a heel, and we know he can do well. Too bad that damn Batista just got in his way.
(6) Dolph Ziggler: Even one year ago if you’d told me Dolph Ziggler would be, essentially, the No. 6 guy on Smackdown, I would have laughed in your face, put you in a box marked “OVW” and sent you back to Louisville. Now, he’s got his promos down pat, his wrestling has proven more than sufficient, and he’s basically hateable, for more than just saying his name. See, that gimmick ain’t so bad, especially when only one guy in the company does it.
(7) Kane: Yuck. I can never tell if WWE still likes this guy or if he just gets sympathy pushes here or there. Either way, he’s awful, but who is he really stealing roster space from? Paul Burchill? Heh.
(*) Great Khali: This big oaf is in the midcard only because he’s huge, people in India love him, and he’s feuding with Kane. And he’s injured now. I’m serious, look at this sorry excuse for a midcard!
SMACKDOWN LOWER TIER
(8 & 9) Cryme Tyme & the Hart Dynasty: Counting Rhodes & DiBiase and Jericho & Show, WWE has four whole tag teams, including Cryme Tyme and the Hart Dynasty. And Smackdown’s two tag teams do what tag teams should do: Entertain in the middle of the card. The only problem is, being isolated on Smackdown, they only have each other two wrestle, and there’s no way either team will get more over by wrestling each other 52 times a year. OK, that may have worked for the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs, but, as much as I like both of these teams, they ain’t the Harts and the Bulldogs.
(10) Finlay: I’ve said before that I think Vince McMahon likes Finlay because he’s an old Irish man with a stiff wrestling style. And he’s right to like Finlay, for those reasons and more (his work ethic, his everyman promos and his ability to work with young wrestlers). But this is as far as Finlay will get for the rest of his career. I’m sure Finlay’s OK with that, though.
(11) Mike Knox: Knox is a beast, he looks like an animal, he has a believable brawling style, and his character is unique for this era. I would love to see him slowly work his way up this roster, from Finlay to Kane (heel or not) and up into the top tier mix, even if just as a TV main eventer. I think he could pull it off. Just give him a permanent nickname, dammit! “Desert Destroyer” is OK, but it’s not poster-worthy. “He destroys deserts?”
(12) R-Truth: WHAT’S UP? Not your career advancement, Pretty Ricky! This jackass was on the WrestleMania 25 poster and wasn’t even on the show! In fact, what *was* the last PPV on which R-Truth wrestled? Who cares? R basically ranks this high because he has a grandiose intro.
The women suck as long as Melina, Maria and Michelle McCool stumble and underact their way into obscurity… Charlie Haas is a multiple-time tag team champion with only one (weird) singles push under his belt, but he didn’t even get an intro on Smackdown this week… Jimmy Wang Yang got beaten up by CM Punk during a backstage promo and, I think, jobbed on Superstars recently, but otherwise is rarely seen… Jesse/Slam Master J is a crock of shit… Kung Fu Naki is alive and well… Curt Hawkins needs to think of a catch phrase on the level of “WOO WOO WOO” and quick…
Wow, this is a strange roster. The improbable push of Punk to near the level of Undertaker, the return of Batista, the loss of Mysterio and Jeff Hardy, Edge’s injury, a tiny midcard and a sorry excuse for a lower half of a roster (in part because the writers have given Mike Knox nothing to do) lead me to question how long the praise for Smackdown will last.