MR. TITO STRIKES BACK – WWE Smackdown’s Main Event Struggles, MITB Predictions, and CM Punk

WWE

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The EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING has returned to LordsofPain.net and I know that you’ve been waiting to tune in… Always funny how the biggest haters of my column seem to always come back. Wonder why? Usually for things that I don’t like, I’ll ignore them… When was the last time that you’ve ever heard me discuss Impact Wrestling or sing the praises of a New Japan or Ring of Honor event? You don’t… Because either I don’t watch them or I don’t like them enough to merit time in my column. See how easy that is? At this point and with over 4 months to go, zero farks given…

Of course, what I always care about is the RAW viewership number. KABOOM, under 3 million once again! 2.525 million viewers. Ouch, ouch, ouch… When you take away Brock Lesnar and get out of the Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania season full of gimmicks (like RAW 25, first ever Women’s Rumble, etc.)… We’re back to normal with a bunch of upper midcard-like guys who cannot draw. Besides Roman Reigns, whom the WWE likes to hide now through the 2nd hour, guys like Kevin Owens and Finn Balor aren’t exciting the masses. Now, I’m not here to bash Reigns, Owens, and Balor specifically but they just don’t feel like top drawing stars. Reigns has been pushed too hard and doesn’t match his talent while Owens/Balor endure 50/50 booking of winning some, losing some (nothing consistent).

But I don’t want to talk about RAW‘s ratings… Been there, done that.

I’d like to talk about Smackdown‘s ratings which are being absolutely FLUSHED down the toilet right now. There is a side reason why USA Network wanted to ditch this show and it is not just because they wanted to end having WWE content on back-to-back prime time shows. Comcast and USA Network knows that RAW is WWE’s “flagship” show and will always be the top show. Conveniently, RAW follows Pay Per Views to immediately take advantage from a big Sunday show. That and Smackdown has moved from Thursday to Friday to Tuesday and back to Friday with multiple channels. Watching pro wrestling on Mondays has become a regular routine for wrestling fans. That and USA has been monitoring the talent flow on Smackdown and how the ratings are only doing 2.5 million at best. While USA is paying more for RAW, they can probably make Tuesday nights more profitable by trying to air other content (maybe?).

The June 5th, 2018 edition of WWE Smackdown LIVE had 2,138,000 viewers…

Hey FOX… Did you do enough research before handing the WWE $1 billion over 5 years for this secondary show?

Oh yes, like the WWE will want to feature its top stars on a FRIDAY night. Yeah, I’ll hold my breath. We saw the WWE be on Network television before on Thursdays and Fridays in the past and they devalued that show in comparison to RAW. That and what WWE “stars” could they feature? Who besides Brock Lesnar puts eyeballs on television screens to watch WWE programming?

Because that is what I want to discuss today. Stars… Specifically on WWE Smackdown. Could someone tell me who has been headlining Smackdown since Royal Rumble 2018? Oh yeah, it is that AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura feud. In the past 6 weeks, Smackdown has been UNDER 2.5 million viewers consistently. Do y’all remember 2017 when we mocked the WWE for daring to push a JOBBER named Jinder Mahal to become WWE champion? Yeah, about that… Smackdown was barely clinging onto 2.5 million viewers and flirted with getting near 2.0 million too. Oh, that’s right… It seems like it DOESN’T MATTER who is headlining Smackdown, eh?

But the focus needs to be on AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. They have been the #1 focus of the Smackdown brand for 2018 and have headlined multiple WWE Network based Pay Per Views. This follows the HYPE of the pair once having a great match in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) that everybody raves about. Yet, by most critics’ measures, Nakamura vs. Styles match at Wrestlemania 34 kind of disappointed… As did their Greatest Royal Rumble match… As did their Backlash 2018 match… And they will be fighting, once again, for Money in the Bank 2018. For the past 3 weeks heading into that 4th match, Smackdown has been UNDER 2.2 million viewers per show.

Sounds like Styles and Nakamura aren’t drawing. But but but but I thought that Nakamura HEEL TURN would “fix” things?

Yeah, it’s not working out… While the “New Japan 4” have been nice additions to help fill the roster, we really haven’t seen the drawing potential of AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Anderson, and Gallows. I can easily argue that Anderson/Gallows have been poorly used… They haven’t been put in a Main Event position although something isn’t clicking for them to get noticed by WWE officials. In less than a year from his NXT to WWE roster promotion, Nakamura has been pushed to win the Royal Rumble match and has been chasing the WWE Title all year. AJ Styles is a great in-ring performer but if you take him away from a bigger star to complement with his in-ring skills, such as John Cena, the storyline elements of the match just aren’t there. Honestly, since that Royal Rumble 2017 match with Cena, I’ve seen a slight dropoff from the “Champ that runs the Camp” and in my opinion for 2018, age has caught up to AJ Styles. He is 41 years old and maybe the gravity of this “flat earth” is catching up to him…

But I can name many GREAT matches that AJ Styles has had in the WWE… When paired with a top star, it’s wrestling magic. Which speaks volumes about Shinsuke Nakamura. It just seems that last few great drops of his in-ring ability from New Japan were left in NXT. He had that great match with Sami Zayn and some decent feuds with Joe and Roode… But his main roster WWE career has been underwhelming. He just turned 38 this year and maybe his athleticism has hit a wall. If you watched his New Japan career, he worked a lot stiffer than he appears now. WWE wants less contact in the ring so that you can make 300 dates per year of matches and appearances. Much different environment for Nakamura…

That, and I’d argue that Nakamura is another victim of newer wrestlers getting pushed too fast on the main roster. In less than a year on the main WWE roster, Nakamura wins the Royal Rumble and gets repeat WWE Title shots throughout 2018. Is he really over to deserve that? If you’re going to bash the WWE for overpushing guys like Roman Reigns, Miz, Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, etc. for being too new or just not ready for the big spotlight… You have to BE CONSISTENT and add Nakamura to that list of guys who were NOT READY for the big spotlight. Numbers speak for themselves.

And don’t give me the “but FOX paid $1 billion for this show, why do ratings matter?” crap. ESPN has overpaid for both Monday Night Football for the NFL and the NBA. In the case of Monday Night Football, ESPN pays for 1 lousy game close to what FOX and CBS pay for having multiple games on Sunday afternoon/evening and CBS/FOX get to air the Super Bowl on alternate years. Spike TV overpaid for the WWE during 2000 which I have covered extensively throughout the years. NBC has overpaid for the Olympics several times. Certain networks have certain needs and sometimes the bidding wars cause overpayments. Right now, the TV climate is seeing LOWER viewership across the board as many viewers are migrating towards Netflix/Amazon. Live sporting event content is sought after by all networks as being streaming-proof or DVR-proof, especially for the desire to watch something live as it happens.

What WWE Smackdown needs is a star or stars… AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura are consistently drawing under 2.2 million viewers.

If only the WWE had a wrestler who was very popular… You know, someone who came back from a major injury to briefly inspire hope in wrestling fans. Someone that FOX could help market as a major star. Oh, if only the WWE had that luxury.

Wait, they did?

Oh yes, Daniel Bryan but the WWE already BURIED him.

Exhibit (a) – At Wrestlemania 34, WWE did an injury angle with Daniel Bryan so that he’d be barely involved in the Shane/Bryan vs. Zayn/Owens match.

Exhibit (b) – Big Cass arrives and immediately goes after Daniel Bryan. Mocks his size and then attacks Bryan afterward. Big Cass was a midcarder on RAW and was also coming off an injury… Already struggling with the in-ring work and after that initial promo, has been struggling on the mic.

Exhibit (c) – Daniel Bryan did beat Big Cass at Backlash 2018 but Big Cass kicked his arse afterward to nullify that heat of the victory.

Exhibit (d) – Loses to Rusev in the Money in the Bank qualifying match. Rusev, mind you, has been a jobber-to-the-stars for much of 2018 with some talk of repackaging him after the “Rusev Day” stuff was getting over. Reportedly, this match was supposed to have Big Cass defeating Daniel Bryan but Cass went off script on an episode of Smackdown.

Exhibit (e) – Gets choked out by Samoa Joe in yet another qualifier. Happy for Joe to get the win, but these big losses are accumulating.

Exhibit (f) – Gets to wrestle Big Cass, again, at Money in the Bank 2018. Lucky him.

The heat of this amazing comeback story for Daniel Bryan is already gone… It’s over. The loss to Rusev was backbreaking because the WWE didn’t take Rusev seriously despite him getting naturally over during 2018. Remember Wrestlemania 34 when Rusev ATE the pin to the hands of Jinder Mahal? Big Cass is so green and the fans see right through him… Happy for Joe, but “Glass Joe” will soon appear and he’ll probably get injured soon following that win. Yes, let’s put Samoa Joe in a freakin’ ladder match, that will keep him safe!

But nope, it’s gone. The dream is over.

So far, we haven’t heard of any contract talks between Daniel Bryan… His WWE deal is reportedly up sometime during September 2018 (sadly, he can’t make the “All In” show). If I were Bryan, I would run for the hills. Roll the dice, as Cody Rhodes is proving that there is money to be made outside the WWE and creative freedom over your character is a wonderful thing. Could you imagine the 2nd “All In” show being headlined by Cody Rhodes vs. Daniel Bryan for the revived NWA Heavyweight Title?

Do it, Bryan… Leave the WWE and make them regret screwing you over multiple times. We’ll follow you.

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I’m taking next week OFF not because I need to “charge my batteries” but I’ll be out of town and I won’t be bringing my computer equipment with me to write columns. Thus, no columns for next week…

Here are my quick and dirty WWE Money in the Bank 2018 predictions:

– Samoa Joe wins the MITB briefcase
– Alexa Bliss wins the MITB briefcase (only way she could beat Nia/Ronda)
– Roman Reigns beats Jinder Mahal
– Shinsuke Nakamura defeats AJ Styles to win the WWE Title
– Big Cass defeats Daniel Bryan
– Seth Rollins defeats Elias
– Ronda Rousey defeats Nia Jax to win the Women’s Title (remember my MITB winner)
– Asuka defeats Carmella to win the Women’s Title
– Bludgeon Brothers defeat Anderson/Gallows
– Bobby Lashley defeats Sami Zayn

Just another “meh” show to me.

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THE LAST WORD

I know that he had a rough end to his pro wrestling career and is really trying to be a MMA fighter… But it’s time for CM Punk to come home to Pro Wrestling. Oh, and bring your beautiful wife AJ Lee with you please.

Recently, CM Punk and his old friend (or former) Colt Cabana were able to defeat WWE Trainer Dr. Christopher Amann’s defamation claims and a lawsuit seeking up to $4 million plus damages. This is a big victory for CM Punk, as it is one less distraction for him to have against pro wrestling. Could this lead to a WWE return? Doubtful, but it is a big hurdle in his way.

Punk, right now, is 39 and will turn 40 years old in October. In MMA circles, particularly for UFC, he is very old. His opponent at UFC 225 will be a 33 year old fighter named Mike Jackson who appears to be a striking opponent who is 0-1 himself in UFC.

In the event that Punk loses, what will he do after that? UFC 225 is on June 9th (this weekend) and there happens to be an interesting Chicago pro wrestling in September. Between June and September, that’s enough time to get his weight back up to look the part again… It’s time to come home and do what you do best, being a pro wrestler.

Pro wrestling has no age limit… Many wrestlers continue to have their peak years through their mid 40s. Recently, some have continued to wrestle at a high level in their early 50s. As you once wisely said, “this microphone is power” because Punk knows that a big part of pro wrestling is the showmanship and promos. Could you imagine Punk working for another promotion with full creative power to say whatever on the microphone? Wow…

Just think about All In‘s potential… 10,000 tickets sold out in 29 minutes. CM Punk appearing on the first show and returning to pro wrestling. Then, Daniel Bryan can join him on the SECOND “All In” event when his contract runs out.

Suddenly, the All In promotion has a bunch of wrestlers that the WWE didn’t want to push on its hands…

Sound familiar?

WWE got burned during the mid 1990s when they let go a few key free agents to the competitor. Conversely, WCW did the same by signing away those same WWE veterans and letting go other wrestlers.

If you’re going to defeat the mighty WWE, several of its disgruntled stars have to leave and “stick it” to the WWE. The WWE will NOT improve its creative direction unless a legitimate challenger rises up.

And do you believe that the WWE will “share” that $2 Billion earned from the new television deals with the wrestlers? Ha ha ha… Yeah right. Wrestler pay is not going up and therefore for many, venturing on the independents and international scene can equate to similar wages in total to the WWE. That and if former WWE wrestlers and other great talents come together to form their own promotion, its success will start paying wrestlers consistently.

Come home, CM Punk. Pro wrestling needs you badly and we’ll support your return with a promotion other than WWE.

SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!

Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.

Bookmark Mr. Tito’s Column Archive to read the current and past columns.

© Mr. Tito and LordsofPain.net – 1998-2018

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THE BEST OF MR. TITO

5/13/2018 – Reasons for the Recent WWE Stock Price Increase

3/21/2018 – LoP Radio: The Doc Says..The State of WWE Address Featuring LOP’s MR TITO (plus Taker-Cena)

4/9/2018 – Mr. Tito’s PHAT WWE Wrestlemania 34 Review

4/7/2018 – Mr. Tito’s PHAT NXT Takeover: New Orleans Review

3/10/2018 – Why Wrestlemania Matters to Pro Wreslting and How the WWE is Ruining that Event

12/31/2017 – Mr. Tito’s Bold Pro Wrestling Predictions for 2018

12/13/2017 – Mr. Tito’s PHAT WWE 2K18 Video Game Review for the Nintendo Switch

11/4/2017 – Mr. Tito’s Book Review of Jim Ross’s Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling

5/7/2017 – “13 Reasons Why” World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Failed

“13 Reasons Why” the WWE Has Declined Since the Year 2000

10/2/2016 – WWE Monday Night RAW Ratings Analysis from 1999-2016 – Who Drew as World Champion?

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