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Power Rankings: Smackdown Live

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Last week was Raw, so that obviously means this week is…IMPACT WRESTLING!

…erhm…No?

Okay fine, take my fun away.

Smackdown is what the Power Rankings are about this week. Smackdown is a little easier to figure out since it’s shorter and they tend to keep the more popular ones in the limelight…which is why so many people complain about no mid card. They also implemented a very suspect Top 10 system this week, that I have no faith in actually being wrestler opinion driven.

But that’s not the point right now, let’s just get to the Rankings:

5. Rusev

WWE Rusev Entrance

Much like with Raw, this was the hardest spot to fill out, but given the fact that Rusev Day shirts sold out at some point, the crowd chants his name at the site of him or Aiden English, and this Tuesday, Rusev Day chants were just as loud as Glorious chants, he doesn’t need a belt to be towards the top of the brand. Rusev doesn’t get much love in the win column last few months, but it hasn’t slowed him down yet. Granted, they need to turn the corner with him soon, or we may have a Bray Wyatt situation again (guy is over but too many losses kill the suspension of disbelief and fans check out).

 

4. Shinsuke Nakamura

Winner of the Men’s Royal Rumble, highly touted rockstar from Japan, and the man who hands out knee strikes like Oprah. Even though he hasn’t had any marquee matches while being on the main roster, his resume from NXT and New Japan speak for itself. Many newer fans think he’s all hype and don’t know nor care about the previous accolades; so let’s see if he can shut them up. We’ve got to wait until Wrestlemania, but maybe, finally, Shinsuke gets a championship on the main roster.

 

3. Kevin Owens

It’s hard to doubt his significance to the Smackdown brand since coming over, as well as his position in the storylines. The reason he’s 3 and not 2, is simply because his Guardian Angel seems to have a little more support on his side. The momentum isn’t really with either member of Kevin and Sami, but Owens’ has the resume to keep him as a legitimate contender. Even if this storyline is awkward, the matches are forgettable with some dumb gimmicked ending, and seem to be establishing Daniel Bryan’s comeback more than get itself over…the people in the arc add a level of interest.

 

2. Sami Zayn

His Mixed Match Challenge pairing with Becky Lynch helped to reestablish his sympathy, the fact that he seems like the abused half in the “Kami” relationship also builds sympathy. So the level of care that was missing before this “Guardian Angel” run has returned, and now would be a perfect time to give Zayn a belt. Regardless of if he stays heel or goes back to face, people would be invested in the character again. A main event storyline, the rub from one of the most beloved women in the WWE right now, Zayn is setup for big things.

 

1. AJ Styles

Well I agree with the Top 10 here, but that’s also because he’s AJ Styles. The WWE Champion is one of the few wrestlers on the roster that is basically universally beloved. His storyline is giving Sami Zayn a prominent role in the main event also speaks to his star power. Even if people are growing tired of the storyline direction, I doubt people are getting tired of AJ Styles. Even if he doesn’t go into Wrestlemania as champion, his value to the Smackdown Brand and WWE in general is priceless.

 

Now unlike the Smackdown Top 10, Charlotte isn’t on my list because she’s stuck in a feud to try and legitimize the Riott Squad and the Smackdown women’s division isn’t overly threatening. Sure it’s got Becky and Naomi, but they haven’t been portrayed as on Charlotte’s level. Bobby Roode could’ve been argued also, but the fact that Rusev has the fan’s hearts just as much, if not a little more, proves he’s still got some room to grow with the belt.

After Fastlane we can revisit things, but it should be interesting what goes on with the Kevin and Sami situation.


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Is Shinsuke Nakamura Right Where He Belongs In WWE?

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Shinsuke Nakamura is one of the top stars working in the pro wrestling business today. That’s due in large part of course to his proven track record in New Japan Pro Wrestling. But it’s also due to his time in WWE. But some fans are wondering where he stands today.

Nakamura is a born entertainer, there is no denying that. He has the ability to turn on his charisma at the push of a button and it may very well be that he never turns it off. Shinsuke looks and acts like a star because he is one. He has a full understanding of how to play the game and very few play it better than he does. So is he right where he belongs?

Many would argue he’s not and that’s understandable. He was so hot in New Japan that imagining him as anything any less was impossible when he left the company. He was the rockstar of New Japan and he embraced that role like no one before him ever had. It was logical to assume that his success would directly translate to WWE’s main stage.

Of course that assumption was perhaps not rooted in reality. WWE didn’t exactly have the best track record when it came to promoting Japanese Superstars. Then there was the fact that many independent talents were often encouraged to change their gimmicks upon arriving in Vince McMahon’s company. But there was reason to hope for the best.

This is not the same WWE that so many indie stars encountered in the past. This WWE embraced the independent scene and used that fact to its advantage. WWE does not force a guy to change who he is, merely for the sake of trying something new. In fact many Superstars are now extensions of their former selves. WWE allows them to bring what they have to the table so they can expand upon it.

It’s true that WWE’s treatment of Japanese talents has been less than stellar but Shinsuke Nakamura is an exceptionally gifted athlete. There was just no way that WWE, or any other company, could ever look at him and not see him for the star that he is. So if he’s allowed to be himself and if he’s given an opportunity to impress on the main event level, then what would stop him from excelling in WWE?

Shinsuke Nakamura came in like a star and that’s exactly how he was booked. WWE did right by him and much to everyone’s surprise, Shinsuke did get the red carpet treatment. He conquered NXT, just as many knew he would. But he also received an impressive amount of spotlight when he came to the main roster. 

Nakamura was presented as a respected athlete known around the world because that’s exactly what he is. The company knew what it had with him and any doubt as to WWE’s ability to properly book him was gone. This was the Shinsuke Nakamura that everyone wanted. He was the real deal.

But somewhere along the way, things began to go a bit south. Nakamura’s heel turn at WrestleMania 34 was shocking and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it was completely out of character for him. Yes, Nakamura had been a vicious heel in New Japan. He was fully capable of turning on anyone at any time and he would do it with a smile on his face. However, that was The King of Strong Style. 

This Nakamura is The Artist. His canvass is the WWE ring and his artwork is beyond compare. Shinsuke was popular because he was different. He was over because he was unique. His flair for the dramatic set him apart from everyone else and it made him a must-see WWE Superstar. He was indeed an attraction.

But the moment he turned on AJ Styles was the moment he put the WWE Championship above his art. Nakamura was no longer an exceptional character capable of wowing an audience of millions. Now he was just another heel with an agenda. What made him special was overshadowed by what made him typical. Shinsuke was just like everyone else. But is that really the case?

Nakamura has thrived in many respects since WrestleMania 34. He was able to use a different side of his personality and he learned to get over in different ways. Instead of using his crowd-pleasing character to make the fans smile, he now uses it to make them recoil in confusion. What’s wrong with him? Why does he act like this? What happened to the lovable guy we once knew?

Now his character is more enigmatic than ever before. Was The Artist persona merely just a mask he wore to fool everyone and now he’s finally showing the world his true self? Is he now Batman when he previously had everyone believing he was Bruce Wayne? Shinsuke Nakamura is fully immersing himself in this twisted version that WWE fans didn’t even know existed. But most importantly, he’s loving every minute of it.

There’s a reason why Shinsuke Nakamura is the United States champion. That belt could have landed on any number of SmackDown Live Superstars but it currently sits on Nakamura’s waist. Why? Because he can wear it like no one else can and because he’s a Japanese Superstar that came to WWE with dreams of doing great work on the worldwide stage. That’s exactly what he’s doing and he doesn’t need the main event in order to do it. 

Would fans love to see him as WWE champion? Yes. Could he wear that title and add value to it? Absolutely. Does he need it in order for fans to consider him successful? Absolutely not. Shinsuke Nakamura may not be the top guy and he may not be the face of WWE but he is an important piece of the presentation. But is that enough?

The fact is that Nakamura will probably leave WWE one day. He will likely return to New Japan and reclaim his throne as The King of Strong Style. But until then, fans have a chance to enjoy one of the most colorful and capable characters that WWE offers today. He may get a run at the top eventually. If he does, then everything that came before will merely be just another chapter in his story. With any luck, that story is far from over.


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Who Is The Villain? Charlotte or Becky?

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Becky Lynch

One of the biggest stories coming out of SummerSlam was the complete disintegration of the friendship between Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch after Flair seemingly stole the SmackDown Women’s Championship from Lynch when Lynch seemingly had the match won, but hitting Lynch with Natural Selection for the three count. A furious Lynch knocked out her former friend and left her in a heap. Now, the surface narrative has been Becky turning heel, but the WWE Universe hasn’t been cooperating with that narrative, preferring to cheer Becky as the hero of this tale and boo Charlotte as the villain. Are they right or is this another example of fans hijacking the narrative?

Heel!Becky. This is the WWE narrative: Becky was so outraged by Charlotte stealing her moment again, she turned on Charlotte and has repeatedly attacked her former friend from behind, which is certainly what a heel would do.

The pros of this has been Becky’s new attitude and her more ruthless approach in the ring. The way she turned was very heelish. To hug your best friend and congratulate her and then slap the taste out of her mouth and beat her up is extremely heelish…or it should be.

The problem is that Becky’s reaction is perfectly understandable. Pretty much everyone knows a Charlotte Flair, the favorite that always gets the breaks, whether or not they’ve really earned it. For Becky, who had worked so hard to earn that title shot, to have Charlotte basically get a shot just for showing up and then stealing the title from her, would’ve been hard to swallow, especially knowing that you had the match won and your ‘friend’ not only cost you the title but attacked you and pinned you to win that title.

Heel!Charlotte.  This is the fan narrative: Charlotte is the heel because she didn’t have to work nearly as hard as Becky to get that SummerSlam title shot, all she did was show up for work and win one match, while Becky had to beat every heel in the division. Charlotte also seems to have made the decision to attack and pin Becky rather than Carmella. That’s an extremely shitty thing to do to someone you consider a friend, especially knowing how hard that friend worked to get the opportunity you stole from her.

Charlotte doesn’t help her case by acting like an entitled princess who can’t understand why people  don’t get why she deserves to always be champion, even when she doesn’t. Her derision of Becky as ‘insecure’ and saying that Becky didn’t deserve the title because she didn’t win, even though Becky HAD the match won and basically derided and insulted the person she used to call a friend, shows a level of narcissism that’s just shy of being a serial killer. It shows that in Charlotte’s mind, it’s ALL about her and that she’s the only one who deserves to be champion and if you’re not going to cheer for her and support her, you’re nothing to her. This is a woman who will not tolerate her flaws being pointed out, even when she deserves to be called out. That’s not much of a babyface.

However, Charlotte’s reaction to Becky’s comments isn’t that uncommon with how other babyface champions have reacted to insults, justified or not. John Cena has been infamous for having similar reactions to being called out, and a lot of women would probably have had similar reactions during a fight with a good friend.

If there is a defense for Charlotte’s behavior, it may be that her path to WWE was SO different from Becky’s which makes it hard for her to understand why Becky was so upset, but at the same time, she doesn’t seem to really want to understand or care. To her, Becky is just jealous and insecure, not someone with a legitimate reason to be angry.

So, who is the real heel here? Well, in the words of Obi-Wan-Kenobi, it depends on your own point of view. Both women have a real claim to be the righteous party in this argument, but it’s pretty clear that, at least to most fans, Becky is the hero who struck back at teacher’s pet, Charlotte. It remains to be seen if WWE will get on board or stick with their chosen narrative.


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Opinion

Brock Lesnar Creates the Kind of Chaos WWE Does Not Need

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Here we go again. The main event scene on Monday Night Raw has once again become even more disturbing with the addition of Brock Lesnar.

The former Universal Heavyweight Champion entered the main event at Hell in a Cell, taking down both the current champion Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman in a  sad but predictable ending to a decent pay-per-view.

WWE cannot seem to get out of its own way in deciding what to do with the red brand’s title. Or, maybe it’s Lesnar who is holding the marionette strings of a company that has not moved on from the Beast Incarnate to forge a new identity of main event stars. The Hell in a Cell match between Reigns and Strowman was muddled with the arrival of Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as it was.

Adding Lesnar to the chaos and disorder creates more problems than solutions for the creative team, Reigns and the title he wears around his waist.

The thought was once Reigns beat Lesnar to claim the belt, it would be the end of the line for the WWE and UFC star, who has made no secret he wants to dominate the octagon once again. It also opened the door for Reigns to finally assume his role as Vince McMahon’s master plan of having the current Shield Member and four-time champion to step over Lesnar, John Cena and anyone else in his path as the company’s new face.

I’m sure WWE’s fans have finally succumbed to the notion Reigns isn’t going anywhere. To steal a phrase from Ric Flair, “Whether you like it or don’t like it, learn to love it…”

You get the idea.

So now, WWE has a three-headed monster fighting over the same belt it did only months ago with no end in sight. The notion of McIntyre stepping forward as the next opponent for Reigns looks to be squashed. Lesnar’s contract, demands and lack of airtime while wearing the Universal Title finally pissed the fanbase off. Does putting the strap back around his waist make sense?

Now that Strowman has become an ally of Ziggler and McIntyre, how does this all play out? Does anyone care? Is the best thing to come out of the Hell in a Cell match is the return of Paul Heyman? It’s still a tangled web WWE weaves with no ending point. It’s status quo for poor booking.

It appears to be the norm, not the exception. We all just learn to deal with it, mainly because change does not seem to be a good thing in this promotion.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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