My Two Centsss - How To Fix Both Raw AND SmackDown's Non-Existent MidCard Divisions
By Super Chrisss
Feb 22, 2017 - 12:18:52 PM
Tom Jenner rocks!
If you’ve been following my work here at Lords of Pain since the brand split last summer, then you know which brand I consider the ‘A show’ and which one I consider to be garbage on a weekly basis. Hell, chances are you feel the same way I do. With it being WrestleMania season and all, I actually tried to watch Raw for the first time in months last Monday, but after a very entertaining first hour (Kevin Owens’ sinister promo, a number one contender’s tag team match between two of my favourite current duos, and a story-driven affair between Brian Kendrick and Akira Tozawa), I immediately switched off the TV once Roman Reigns was set to do battle with the Raw tag team champions for the second consecutive week.
But I’m not going to beat a dead horse, also known as 1001 reasons why Raw is borderline unwatchable. If you want to listen to me rant about Raw, ask me to come on a podcast or something. Instead, I want to address the invisible elephant in the room which has been plaguing both Raw AND SmackDown for months now: the lack of a decent midcard division on either show. Despite my constant praise for the blue brand, even they are guilty of neglecting their midcard (and to a lesser extent, their tag team division as well). While the good news is that those who should be labelled as current midcarders on SmackDown – Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, The Miz – are actually closer to the main-event level than they are the Intercontinental Championship scene. Again, that may not seem like a major problem on paper (since it wasn’t that long ago that John Cena, Randy Orton and former Shield members were the only full-time main-eventers), but that can cause issues when a) the roster is putting on a three-hour show opposed to the typical two-hours (case in point: Elimination Camber, last night’s SmackDown) and b) all the stars are booked for the same match. Mind you, I thought the women and tag team division did a great job holding down the rest of the card at the two aforementioned events, but it’s transparent both shows need more bodies in the midcard division. There is just way too much of a star gap between Ambrose/Corbin/Miz and Crews/Kalisto/Mojo.
Over on Raw, there are similar issues. The problems started when Roman Reigns defeated Rusev for the United States Championship last fall and the title switch to Chris Jericho only put a band-aid on an open vein. Similar to Ambrose as IC Champion, both Reigns and Jericho almost exclusively competed in the main-event against other main-eventers, leaving the rest of the midcard guys to flounder. Rusev would have benefitted greatly from emerging victorious over Reigns; instead, Handsome Rusev has been regulated to a jobber tag team with Jinder Mahal. That’s sad. As much as I like Dean, I think putting/keeping the IC title on Dolph Ziggler would have been the wiser choice, as it would have added more intensity and interest in the latter’s ongoing feud with Crews and Kalisto. That being said, if Ambrose vs. Corbin does indeed make the final WrestleMania 33 card – as a singles match, not a clusterfuck multi-man – it should raise both men’s stock considerably as well as that of the once-again prestigious Intercontinental Championship.
Nevertheless, there is still plenty of work to be done on both shows. With Chris Jericho out of action due to the events of last week’s Festival of Friendship (side note: I’m still not over that *tear*), there’s a good chance we won’t see the United States Championship be defended for the FOURTH straight Raw/joint Pay-Per-View in a row. That’s ridiculous. Furthermore, if Kevin Owens manages to defy all odds and leave Fast Lane as Universal Champion, then Jericho and Owens will almost definitely compete for the Universal Championship at ‘Mania rather than the one with an American Flag on it. As you can see, both show’s midcard divisions are in disarray.
The good news is all hope is not lost. The key to strengthening both show’s midcard divisions is actually quite simple – split up some tag teams. Now, I’m usually 100% breaking up tag teams as more often than not, one – if not both - of the members get lost in the shuffle and regulated to Main Event (not THE main-event, mind you). However, when you evaluate the tag teams on both brands, there are clearly some duos who should NEVER split (I’m looking at you Usos, Shining Stars, Ascension, etc.), while other tag teams have two midcard guys – with the potential to reach the top of the card – teaming together for no reason. Specifically, I’m talking about:
Sheamus & Cesaro. A few moments ago, I referred to them as one of my favourite tag teams on the main roster. So why am I advocating for both to go their separate ways? Because their time as a unit is OVER. They went from being bitter enemies to reluctantly tagging together because the opportunity to become tag team champions was on the line. Then, they stayed together to try to reclaim their titles. With Enzo & Cass being officially named the number one contenders to The Club, what motivation do they have to keep teaming? With Seth Rollins out of action until ‘Mania and Jericho selling the Owens’ attack for the foreseeable future, both Cesaro and Sheamus could add much needed depth as singles competitors. Sheamus vs. Jericho for the U.S. title? Cesaro vs. Strowman? Why not?
The New Day*. There is an asterisk here because I don’t think they should break up but stop doing everything as a unit. Early on in their heel run, two of them were in the tag team division while the third man (usually Kofi) was venturing on some solo things as well - Kofi even competed in the Money in the Bank ladder match in 2015! However, ever since they began their record-breaking tag team title reign, New Day has been focusing exclusively on the tag division. Since they’re currently not in the tag title picture, why not make a return to that formula by having Kofi or Big E compete in the U.S. title division.? Hell, they could even let Xavier Woods get involved with the Cruiserweights. They don’t need to stop being a unit; just allow all three to focus on more than one thing at once.
Breezango. This is a bit of a selfish pick, since it’s basically a guarantee that Fandango will be in jobber land forever if this happens, but whatever. Tyler Breeze, one year ago today, was feuding in the midcard with Dolph Ziggler and flirting with the Intercontinental title scene. However, he got lost in the shuffle soon thereafter, and it was teaming with Fandango that briefly made him relevant. That being said, the Fashion Police are spinning in place and haven’t won a match in ages. SmackDown has plenty of jobber tag teams as it stands – they might as well split Breezango and give Breeze a second chance at getting over in the midcard. If anyone can revive careers, it’s the SmackDown writing crew.
I’m sure arguments could be made about other teams going their separate ways like Slater & Rhyno or The Vaudevillains, but I see the most upside in the above three duos joining their respective brand’s midcard. Speaking of different perspectives, I’ve seen some people argue that SmackDown doesn’t need a midcard division at all because NXT gets by just fine and they don’t even have a midcard championship. I disagree with that rhetoric because NXT is only an hour-long and usually features different competitors on a weekly basis. In fact, I think NXT should introduce a midcard title of their own as they have plenty of not-quite-main-eventers who could benefit from fighting over a secondary belt (i.e. Elias Samson, No Way Jose, Roderick Strong, etc.).
While both Raw and SmackDown can get away with not having a strong midcard division between now and WrestleMania, once the part-timers (including John Cena, reportedly) leave, the absence will be felt on both shows in a hard way. I’m sure NXT call-ups post-‘Mania will help resolve the issue, but why must the development league constantly clean up the main roster’s mess? I honestly believe both shows have the potential to get their respective midcard division back on track, but the lack of talent isn’t the problem – it’s the writing. They have all the right pieces in all the wrong places.
YOUR Two Centsss: Which show is in greater need of a strong midcard division: Raw or SmackDown?
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