Thursday, December 7, 2023

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SmackDown-ing out of RAW’s Shadow


Since last June, SmackDown! has seen a surge in Diva activity, largely due to the landing of Torrie Wilson and Victoria during the WWE Draft. Since, Friday nights have put on women’s wrestling on a regular basis – with some matches on par or even exceeding what we saw on RAW that week. Torrie and Victoria often outdid their RAW counterparts in some of their matches last year. Over the past year, SmackDown! has evolved and actually utilised it’s Divas, from Torrie and Victoria often competing, to Kristal’s storyline with Teddy Long and the rise of Michelle McCool. Under the guise of head writer, Michael Hayes, SmackDown! has developed the beginnings of a women’s division. The next step? Establishing SmackDown!’s Divas away from just their usual Friday night on CW confines – and allowing them to shine on pay per view.

Given that a women’s division is RAW’s forte, SmackDown!’s writers have done a solid job over the past year in creating storylines for their Divas and often outdoing RAW, where the actual women’s division and Women’s Championship are meant to be. Over the past couple of months, the blue brand has really established it’s Divas (albeit through a glorified 5-week bikini contest), they have paved the way for Michelle to become the top Diva of the brand, furthered Victoria as a comedic heel, even introduced new Divas into the fold; Cherry, Eve and Maryse have all been utilised in the SmackDown! “women’s division.” And now with the debut of Nattie Neidhart, the division is really coming full circle in terms of talent. They’ve got the girls and now it’s time to concentrate on creating better stories, better feuds – not just flimsy wedding angles (i.e. Kristal-Teddy), they may have been sufficient before but now is the time for change. And with the inevitable Michelle-Nattie feud that will hopefully begin this week on SmackDown!, WWE will be given an option… an option to interchange between the RAW and SmackDown!’s women’s divisions when it comes to pay per view booking.

Every year after WrestleMania, WWE ties up old storylines and begins new ones – often taking risks. This year is no different, with the launch of a JBL-Randy Orton feud and even a Batista-Shawn Michaels feud. Maybe it’s time for Creative to experiment with the Divas also? It’s fair to say that Beth Phoenix as Women’s Champion has been rather lackluster and following BunnyMania, RAW is in a state of change – it’s time to transition (as they do every year) from giving the “flavour of the month” Playboy covergirl a shot at the title and moving back to serious contenders. Last year, straight after WrestleMania – Ashley was dropped after her shot at the title and Mickie was inserted back into a feud with Melina. During that transition period, it couldn’t hurt to give SmackDown! some time to shine on pay per view and with the Michelle-Nattie feud, they could finally have a pay per view worthy feud. Sure, the Women’s Championship isn’t on the line but that wouldn’t make this match any less compelling with a well written story to it. We’re not suggesting they headline WrestleMania, but by giving SmackDown! a few Diva matches on B-shows like the upcoming Backlash and Judgment Day would really give a boost to the growing women’s division on the blue brand.

Not since the days of Torrie Wilson has a SmackDown! Divas feud really been highlighted on pay per view. There were a few Diva matches here and there during the days of the SmackDown!-branded pay per views, but those have since been dropped around this time last year in fact. In that time, no SmackDown! Diva feud has taken precedent over RAW – but now could be the time to do it. There’s nothing too much of importance going on over on RAW right now, until they establish a true contender for Beth Phoenix and her title. With the strong writing over on SmackDown!, I have no doubt that Michael Hayes will be able to create a strong feud between Michelle and Nattie and would be deserving of a pay per view pay-off match possibly at Backlash or Judgment Day.

SmackDown! is developing and it’s going in the right direction. RAW’s women’s division seems to be stuck in a rut, partly due to having to reorganise their entire women’s division every year around Playboy and WrestleMania. Maybe it’s time for SmackDown! to get a shot? Michelle McCool’s rise, I believe, is due in part to her relationship with the Undertaker which could help her cause of SmackDown! finally breaking down that wall and putting on a match on pay per view again. And with the axing of the Cruiserweight title, there could even be room in future for a second Women’s Championship dedicated to SmackDown! But for now we’ll settle for Michelle versus Nattie… on pay per view.

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