A main event scene that once included John Cena, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, and AJ Styles has now completely diminished into not being a scene at all. Unless you view three guys as that “scene.” Long gone is “The House That AJ Styles Built.” SmackDown, the show that is on network television in the United States, is in trouble. Trouble because their roster has been compromised more than ever from the inability of making main events, pushing part-timers, and a virus that takes away “The Big Dog” for the time being. It’s a mess that needs fixing, but at the moment, it has no fix in sight. Not even Daniel Bryan is in this conversation right now. Let’s dive into the SmackDown main event scene that is highlighted by your new Universal Champion, Braun Strowman.
Mid-Card Monster Turned World Champion: Braun Strowman
In a matter of a week, Braun Strowman went from being off the WrestleMania 36 card to being the Universal Champion. Not a terrible situation for him, but that hurts the main event as a whole. Not because Strowman can’t carry himself as “The Monster Among Men” or inside the ring, but instead because the WWE has not treated him as world championship material in over a year. There was a time where Strowman was the hottest act in the entire company. That was in 2018. Then two quick turns from face to heel and back to face left him stuck and eventually lost in the shuffle. His WrestleMania matches before this year consisted of feuding with “Saturday Night Live” actors and teaming with a kid to win tag team titles.
It wasn’t until January of this year that Strowman finally won his first singles championship before immediately losing it to Sami Zayn and the rest of The Artist Collective soon after. He is currently sitting atop the card following WrestleMania, with the Universal Championship in his grasp. Sure, a brave person could bet on Strowman getting back to that form as the champion, but following this past week’s SmackDown… seems unlikely. The bright side is that he’s a main eventer at the very least for a scene lacking. And the Universal Champion. That matters too.
Diminished Act On The Rise Again: Bray Wyatt
This one is on you, WWE. You selected the part-timer over the man who was born into this. The one that recreated himself to have a chance at not just being relevant, but being legendary. Bray Wyatt created the Firefly Fun House, “The Fiend” and everything that comes with it to rebuild himself. To block out that tag of being a loser who couldn’t back up his words. And guess what? It worked. Fans got behind him and for the majority of 2019, he was the companies hottest star. He even ended the year as the Universal Champion and convinced FOX execs that he, not Brock Lesnar, was the world champion worthy of running their brand into new heights. Not even three months into the new year and he was uncrowded just like that.
And yes, Bray has his fans and his haters, but right now he remains the definition of a main event talent in the WWE. People listen when he speaks. They watch when he shows up. Wyatt has this ability to tie in everything he’s doing to his ugly past. We saw it Friday when he let Strowman know that his one time “black sheep” must pay for turning back on his family all those years ago. The storytelling ability is what gave him a spot to face, and defeat, John Cena on the grandest stage of them all in his special match. He was once diminished, and then recreated himself all over again.
Now, to avoid that story again, Wyatt must rise from his historic win over Cena back to the top of the card and into the hearts of fans once again. He is the only main eventer on here that is present for them at this time. You have to let him in.
“The Big Dog” Staying Safe: Roman Reigns
Not being able to rely on Roman Reigns leaves the WWE lost. They have put a ton of stock into “The Big Dog” to lead SmackDown on FOX, but he has yet to become champion. WrestleMania 36 was planned to be that moment. He instead had to back out due to the health of himself and his family regarding the COVID-19 virus. That diminishes the Smackdown main event scene even more. The ugly truth is that Reigns may no longer be able to be that top guy week in and week out. Slowing down due to his health could be in his best interest. Not to the point where he cannot be world champion, but perhaps the idea of not having to be the one who represents the company week in and week out could be a possibility. That’s a conversation for another day though.
Right now, “The Big Dog” is needed for SmackDown. What can they do here? Can you create stars without a crowd right now? This show has no other choice to enter others into the main event scene. There’s no hope if they don’t. Roman out. Wyatt and Strowman can’t be it. Who can step up? That’s the question that remains for the WWE.
Who Can Step Up?
Money in the Bank is right around the corner, setting the perfect opportunity for someone to step up if they earn a spot in the match. Consider that and an open outlet to fill television time with video packages and squash type matches, this could be the WWE’s perfect opportunity. And while WWE needs to give people time to step up, it would also depend on whoever they choose showing they’re more than a sprinter but a marathon runner. Sure, you can get popular for a month or two. Can you take the popularity to the next level and make the people sitting at home believe, whether they like you or hate, in what you’re doing. Here are a few that can very well step up into the main event scene if given the chance to try and succeed.
“The Celtic Warrior” has done everything in his WWE career. Yet somehow he feels refreshed and ready for another mega heel run before he calls it a career. Sheamus ran through another opponent on SmackDown this past week while staring down the commentators to make it clear he is going for Money in the Bank. A match that he has won and successfully used to become a world champion. It’s funny to say considering the accolades he possesses, but after a few years of primarily tag team stuff alongside Cesaro, it would feel fresh for him to get another run on top. The brute force that he brings to matches would be something the SmackDown brand needs. He seems most likely to fill a main event spot within the next few weeks.
Jeff Hardy has always had what it takes to be the fan’s favorite wrestler. And for most of his career, that’s what he has been. The nickname of “The Charismatic Enigma” was given to him for a reason. Everything he does is for the fans watching and they give that love right back. On Friday night, they began to rebuild the idea of Hardy returning to television again with a video series detailing his life and adventure back to the main circuit. He fits into any role you need him to play, and now more than ever, he is needed in the main event scene. If the return of “No More Words” and the facepaint is to be believed, Hardy is going to fit right back into the main event.
Hardy has so many natural layers that make him work. Maybe for the first time in his career, he can walk out as Mr. Money in the Bank. That’d be a start to recreating that special magic he had a full decade ago when he was on top.
Long overdue. John Morrison has shown his worth outside of the WWE, being the top guy in both Lucha Underground and IMPACT. Somehow, that has never translated to the WWE. Sure, he was ECW Champion back in the day but that’s about it. Otherwise, he was just in the mid-card. If you watched his performance at WrestleMania, he showed he should be more than just a tag teamer right now. Morrison has everything it takes to make that step if given the shot, making The Miz the perfect person to lose those tag team titles as soon as this week to let Morrison go off on his own.
There are a handful of stars who have not won world title gold in the WWE that you question when they retire. WWE needs to see that Morrison is one of those people that has earned it and can deliver if the chance presented itself. At the least, give him a shot in the main event and let him win that Money in the Bank. His mind games as a heel could be among the best with the briefcase in possession.
It’s a funny thought when you think back to a year ago. Mustafa Ali was in the Money in the Bank and at the top of the ladder. No one else was around. Just him, the ladder, and the briefcase. And then a Brock Lesnar run-in ruined all that. The fans who cheered him on that night were left wanting more. You can go back a little further to his missed opportunity in the Elimination Chamber that ultimately led to the rise of Kofi Kingston. What if that didn’t happen? A question no one has a correct answer to. But that isn’t the end of the road for Ali. A man that is one of the more likable talents on the roster and tells one of the best stories by just being himself. Ali can be something people!
No, it wouldn’t be a one day rise to the main event. It takes time on some. While the three men listed before have all had success in the WWE for a long time, Ali has not won a single piece of gold since signing with the company. You get him on TV, whether that’s as the hacker persona he is portraying or not. Ali’s whole mantra is letting the world know the truth. Standing up to the bully. Well, there is no better way to do that than do it yourself and rise to the top. The main event. At the end of 2019, he made it clear that his goal is the world title. It’s time to stop holding the man back and let him fly. He’s got what it takes to be in that spot. Let him be that light.
There isn’t a man that fits the bill, that deserves a main event spot more than Big E. Every fan can see the potential that is there. And this isn’t saying he breaks up with The New Day and turns heel. Big E is a man that people want to cheer for. He has the charisma to do that. In the past, Big E has delivered promos outside of his jovial self that make people believe, that make people listen. That’s just on the mic. A spot that you need to be good on, mind you, to succeed in the WWE. But the physique and in-ring ability is all there as well. If the WWE were to look for the next top star in the company, they have it right on their roster and have for years. Imagine the battles he could have with the likes of Bryan, Reigns, and Drew McIntyre. The list really goes on. But he needs the opportunity.
Much like Kingston a year ago, something just has to go the right way for Big E. What that is could be what they’re dealing with right now in that company. If you let Big E take that top spot, not a single person would question the decision. Instead, they may rejoice. The former NXT Champion was a different man when he held that title. Charisma, athleticism, and an overall connection with the fans around the WWE gives Big E great reason to be on the top of the world and at the head of the card. If they don’t strike now with E, they could run out of time. And if so, they may be one of the biggest busts in the history of the WWE. With no one to blame but themselves. Big E is ready. The cream should always rise to the top.
Time To Capitalize
SmackDown is in the perfect spot to be “the land of opportunity” like it once had been before. It needs to be. There is no other result if they don’t. The viewership is sinking on FOX to record lows, making this a moment to capitalize on before it is too late. NXT is always an option to establish some main event stars instantly. But they have what they need on that very roster. This is a moment where overthinking should be avoided and you use the Money in the Bank and these two hours of television week in and week out to put your best foot forward and be that hope you want to be. That starts with using the wrestlers you already have to inspire that hope. The SmackDown main event scene needs a fix. Be “the land of opportunity” in the world darkest hour.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? Turn to the WWE Network for all of your wrestling needs and catch SmackDown every Friday night at 8PM ET on FOX.