While AJ Styles teams with Daniel Bryan against Rusev Day, The King of Strong Style ambushes the WWE Champion for a third time, sending a message before their match at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia.04/19/2018 - 14:15
SmackDown drafts up
Vengeance: Night of Champions is this Sunday live on pay-per-view
No matter what angle you take, the first-ever tri-branded WWE Draft shook SmackDown at its blue-hued core.
By the numbers, SmackDown lost nine competitors (including the bejeweled Queen Sharmell), but snared 10 new Superstars for its roster. So, it would appear that between last week's Raw and this weekend's Supplementary Draft on WWE.com, the Friday night brand ended up winning out. Of course, things are not always so cut-and-dry.
Take into account the loss of royalty, a former World Heavyweight Champion (King Booker); the former WWE Tag Team Champions (London & Kendrick); a former U.S. Champion on his way to reaching the apex of sports-entertainment (Mr. Kennedy); and the most unorthodox, alarmingly ghastly Superstar in SmackDown history (Boogeyman). Those and several other Superstars have taken their talents, their charisma and their extraordinary résumés to the realms of Raw and ECW.
However, these sacrifices were necessary in order for Friday nights to evolve, and for the SmackDown brand to acquire some of the most gifted, fervent, formidable, even legendary Superstars that sports-entertainment has to offer.
Opportunity knocks on Friday nights
With the additions of Kenny Dysktra, Chris Masters and Brett & Brian Major, the championship landscape on SmackDown could be stirred very easily, very soon. On their respective brands, these individuals were on the cusp of taking the next steps in their careers.
"I feel like The Masterpiece is well overdue for a major title opportunity," said SmackDown fan Michael Browne. "Something about Masters strikes me the perfect opponent for Batista. If he could beat The Animal, he'd easily be the No. 1 contender for the World Title. It might be [Masters'] time."
Try telling World Heavyweight Champion Edge that Friday night isn't the ideal moment to seize the "ultimate opportunity." After he abandoned Raw last month, the Rated-R Superstar cashed in big time on SmackDown to claim the brand's richest prize. Could a similar opportunity be grasped by one of the latest additions?
While the Major Brothers certainly have their eyes fixed on the championships around the waists of the leather-clad pair of Deuce & Domino, the amiable Eugene now has the perfect opportunity to watch his favorite SmackDown Superstars live and in person each week. Plus, with SmackDown's former resident majesty, King Booker, out of the picture, any one of these young, voracious Superstars could find a royal opportunity on Friday nights, should the King of the Ring tournament make an imperial return.
Though the cobalt blue logo lost one of its premiere tag teams in cruiserweight-style, sky high-fliers London & Kendrick, it earned some of WWE's more sizeable, beefy brawlers. In addition to the rugged veteran Hardcore Holly and the chiseled Chris Masters, SmackDown also boasts the largest acquisition of the tri-branded Draft: The Great Khali.
The 7-foot-3 Indian behemoth stalked WWE Champion John Cena for several weeks and nearly crippled The Champ in the process. Khali is no stranger to Friday night territory, and after traveling to all three brands within a single year, this goliath may pick up exactly where he left off -- which is deadly for everyone wearing SmackDown colors.
"SmackDown has Kane, Mark Henry, Batista, Undertaker and now The Great Khali. There isn't any other brand with a bigger roster -- literally," commented another fan Henrietta Jaxton. "I'd love to see all of them fight it out in a battle of the monsters."
Considering the weight on the SmackDown side in this year's Royal Rumble Match, it's difficult to argue that it won't be three years in a row for Friday night supremacy in the 30-man battle royal this January.
The tone-deaf viewers of Friday Night SmackDown may be a little disappointed by the absence of "Karaoke Killer" Jillian Hall this week. Also, the few remaining loyal subjects of King Booker's kingdom may need to switch their TiVo presets to USA Network to catch the majestic magnificence of the humble Queen Sharmell. But only on SmackDown can our fans now see the latest Diva additions, Torrie and Victoria.
It's a brand-new game for Kristal, Maryse, Michelle, Cherry and Ashley (once her indefinite suspension is resolved), as they've commenced sharing their SmackDown women's locker room with two of sports-entertainment's most decorated Divas.
A multiple-time WWE Women's Champion, Victoria has never competed on any brand other than Raw. Between WCW and WWE, Torrie has been on both sides of the infamous Monday Night Wars, and has popped eyes on SmackDown before as well. It's about time that both of these Divas are given the chance to entertain on The CW Network and develop new rivalries with the femme fatales of Friday nights. The bottom line: The better the Diva distribution, the better.
One word: WOOOOOO!
"Which brand scored big time in the Draft?" posed SmackDown fan and self-affirmed loyalist, Tony D'Anoto. "Let me put it this way: WOOOOOO!"
The "Nature Boy" Ric Flair was a stronghold of Monday nights since the initial brand extension in 2002. After five years, finally, tickets to Space Mountain are now available exclusively at the SmackDown box office.
Never has there ever been a legend so celebrated in the annals of sports-entertainment as the 16-time World Champion, Ric Flair. And now, just as he did for his debut match last Friday, the Nature Boy proudly wears the azure shade of the SmackDown roster.
The legacy of the Dirtiest Player in the Game could thrive on any brand, but there could not possibly have been a greater place for Flair than SmackDown. Consider the presence of the Nature Boy's former protégé, Batista. Consider the revered Superstar's past with the United States Championship, which Flair has held five times. Consider the presence of Flair's longtime rival, Edge -- who also happens to hold the gold symbol Flair carried to greatness on countless occasions in the title's previous lifetimes. It could all happen again for the Nature Boy and it could very well all unfold in front of our fans on SmackDown.
All things considered, at the very least, one perspective to take is that of the Friday night ring crew who've swapped worm duty with the ECW production team. Unless the man from The Bottomless Pit makes an unexpected cameo on SmackDown, it's now the extreme ring crew's unfavorable responsibility to wrangle the wriggling leftovers of Boogeyman's mid-match meals.
To a more serious degree, despite the losses of a slew of tremendous athletes, the windfall of the tri-branded Draft bore colossal implications on SmackDown's evidently brilliant future. Will it be a future for the strongest, mightiest and biggest? Could that future hold new champions -- young lions and upstarts achieving the top prizes in this industry? Or will that future bear an undeniable resemblance to the squared circle of years before, with the Nature Boy firmly planted at the top of the mountain?