Team Blue (and, rules be damned, probably more than four members of the Raw roster) hit the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Tues., June 25.
Even before the roster split more or less ended with Vince McMahon’s Wild Card Rule, it wasn’t unusual for champions to be off television for weeks at a time. And this isn’t a joke about Brock Lesnar’s runs with the red belt. Even with five hours and separate line-ups, champs disappeared all the time.
For the top men’s and women’s singles belts, Wild Card-ing seems to have addressed that. SmackDown Women’s champ Bayley didn’t show up on Raw last night, and her absence stood out after a month of double duty while her top challenger was a red brand Superstar. It’ll feel kind of weird if we don’t see Becky Lynch & Seth Rollins tonight. They managed to cross over regularly even before WWE decided to strap a rocket to their relationship.
Many acts are squeezed off TV by having the biggest acts working Monday and Tuesday nights. One of the biggest who’s currently missing is Intercontinental titleholder Finn Bálor. The Irishman hasn’t had a match on SmackDown since May 14. Some of that is likely due to a string of personal tragedies that have befallen his chief rival, Andrade (weeks after losing mother, the Mexican Superstar’s aunt passed away). But there are plenty of ways to keep Finn busy - including but not limited to talented wrestlers like Shinsuke Nakamura and Buddy Murphy also sitting on the sidelines - while El Ídolo is away.
Finn is not mentioned in WWE.com’s official preview for tonight’s show, so we may be going another week without the seeing him or his belt on our screens. That preview does mention SmackDown tag team champions Daniel Bryan and Rowan, who followed up a title defense at Stomping Grounds by working Raw to set up feuds with both The New Day and Raw Tag Team titlists The Revival. Both those feuds sound great! But they also don’t sound like programs which require two sets of belts, especially if they’re going to be featured on two shows every week.
Would unifying a few titles help? If nothing else changes, honestly probably not. But it shouldn’t make things worse. And if they committed to putting the secondary belts on TV more often with shorter feuds or one-off defenses, it could even help get WWE better utilize it’s deep and talented roster.
The Championship Scene:
It does look like WWE Champ Kofi Kingston is getting a new challenger after a two pay-per-view (PPV) feud with Dolph Ziggler. Samoa Joe choked out the 1500 Club member on Raw (while Big E & Xavier Woods were off celebrating their tag win, I guess). Tonight, Kofi responds.
With Alexa Bliss inevitable feud with Nikki Cross building on Mondays, Bayley is looking for a new challenger for her SmackDown Women’s championship - maybe even someone from the SmackDown roster this time?
Women’s tag team titleholders The IIconics are FINALLY set to face Kabuki Warriors in Tokyo this weekend, and if Asuka & Kairi Sane can beat Peyton Royce & Billie Kay, they’ll get a shot at the belts. Nice of the champs to make room for Paige’s team amidst all those local challengers...
R-Truth is now an eight time 24/7 champion, and Drake Maverick still hasn’t heard from his new bride. If you’re not following WWE’s best story, we’ve got two words for ya... DO IT.
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Undertaker is back, teaming with the man who we all thought retired him at WrestleMania 33 to face the man he beat at WrestleMania 32. Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre will get time to address the Dead Man’s return tonight, in case you’re wondering why there’s not time for Bálor.
- Aleister Black is getting really mad. He might even be mad enough to leave that room he’s been sitting in for a month.
- Better watch out for any random Firefly Fun House characters, though. They’re loose, and were roaming the halls on Raw last night.
It’s the Stomping Grounds fallout show/Three weeks until Extreme Rules!
What will you be looking for on SmackDown LIVE tonight?