Smackdown Live is in a very odd position right now in that its best all-around superstars are competing over the brand’s second-best title: the US championship. (More on that in a minute.) Since winning the WWE title from Randy Orton a few months ago, Jinder Mahal has existed at the 9:00 EST hour for what seems like every week, does his repetitive, nonsensical promo, and, sometimes, even has main event matches against Luke Harper. Smackdown Live is very much the land of opportunity, but it’s also bizarro world where everything is different, but it’s still somehow just there. Parity is not always what it’s cracked up to be, especially in professional wrestling, and the Modern Day Maharaja is going to be remembered as the perfect example as to why.
In what will be a weekly installment here on FanBuzz, here are the four takeaways I had from Tuesday night’s Smackdown Live:
A.J. Styles, John Cena, Kevin Owens and Rusev (maybe) are too big to be fighting over the WWE United States title.
The opening segment with Styles and Cena, along with the interruptions for those dastardly heels, felt big-time. The fans still love Cena and there is still, somehow, more juice in the Styles and Cena rivalry. Perhaps those two facing off will always have juice because of the stark contrast in fan support: The Best Wrestler In The Indies vs. The Best Wrestler in WWE will always feel like a big deal and garner a lot a interest from the fans. But Styles should be opening Smackdown Live as WWE champion, not as the United States champion. There is certainly something to building up the secondary titles with top guys temporarily sliding down the card, but it doesn’t feel right here. Styles is still at the top of his game, and he might even be the most over babyface in the company. You let an older Chris Jericho run with the United States title, not your best asset on Smackdown Live. The irony, of course, is that the Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton feud feels like a United States title feud — like Rusev vs. Cena years ago. That would work and make a lot more sense. You can buy Mahal rising to win the United States title, but the idea of Mahal getting a lengthy title run with Styles, Cena, Owens, Rusev, and more feuding over the secondary title is too much. (Everything doesn’t come back to Mahal being an out-of-place WWE champion, I promise. Maybe.)
Where is the right spot for Tye Dillinger?
I’m not really sure. Dillinger is over, and in a vacuum, placing him in a match against Mahal is a good idea with the kind of heat Mahal has been able to garner in recent weeks. Dillinger, however, got over in a very different way: He has a fun, catchy entrance. But, when you put him in a match with another below-average worker like Mahal, it’s a problem because it exposes just how limited Dillinger is in the ring when he’s not working with above-average talent. That’s who Dillinger should be working with early in Smackdown Live career — wrestlers that can get the most out of him, similar to how Corbin was booked his first year on the blue brand. The difference, though, is that I don’t think that kind of booking is on the horizon for Dillinger.
I don’t know if the Sami Zayn and Mike and Maria Kanellis is going to work, but I’m intrigued.
This is a very simple feud, but, with the way Zayn has been presented to the WWE audience, placing him in a feud with the newest power couple on Smackdown Live makes a lot of sense. There has always been something naturally likeable about Maria Kanellis, so for her latest WWE run with Mike Kanellis is to work, they need to work with one of the better babyfaces in the company, and Zayn qualifies. It’s a very simple feud, but sometimes that’s all you need to create an interesting storyline. The problem, though, is that Mike Kanellis needs to win this feud, and I’m not totally sure Zayn is in a position where he can put lose another feud on the blue brand.
Chad Gable suddenly looks like the breakout star from American Alpha.
For the longest time, I always thought Jason Jordan was the member of American Alpha that had the best chance of breaking out on the main roster. I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. In recent weeks, Gable has been given an opportunity to showcase his stuff, and he’s performed well. He’s not Daniel Bryan, but there is some Johnny Gargano-esque babyface qualities to Gable, as the kind of underdog, awe-inducing wrestler that fans naturally gravitate towards. I still think there is meat left on the bone with American Alpha, but you can already start to see a babyface run with Gable as the loveable underdog taking shape on Smackdown Live — and I think it may work.