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WWE SmackDown Live preview (July 2, 2019): End of the Extension

SmackDown Live returns tonight (July 2) from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. There are only two weeks until Extreme Rules

The Headliner

Kofi Kingston is finally moving on from his WWE championship feud with Dolph Ziggler. When Samoa Joe attacked Kofi last Monday, that signaled it. When Kingston defeated Ziggler 2 out of 3 falls on SmackDown last week, that officially ended that story.

That’s a good thing. The Kofi/Dolph story was fun enough, but they couldn’t stretch it out any longer. Joe is next to challenge Kofi, and he feels like more of a threat to take the gold. Samoa Joe is an intimidating presence and a great talker. He’s surely to give Kofi a run for the money. It’s going to be a good match. Because of all these things, this should be an enjoyable program. There’s only one issue with it.

Samoa Joe is a Raw superstar.

A Raw talent challenging for SmackDown’s top title is pretty much signaling that the brand split is dead.

This was inevitable when they introduced the Wild Card. A brand split only works when wrestlers... you know... are on different brands. SmackDown isn’t special if you can see Roman Reigns and Kofi Kingston on Raw every week.

Now that it’s bleeding over into the top title pictures, we can pretty much declare it dead. Yes, this happened last month when Alexa Bliss from Raw challenged Bayley for her SmackDown Women’s championship. But at the time, the argument could be made this was a one off to tell the story of a changed Bayley who couldn’t best Bliss years ago having to prove herself. This WWE title proves that it’s not a one-off.

This is the worst of both worlds. There are too many championships for one single brand of WWE. Each champion is lessened because there’s an equal counterpart on the same show. Earning a title shot means less when you can refocus on the other title afterwards.

As long as the Wild Card Rule exists and anyone can challenge for any title, they should officially pronounce the brand extension finished and merge the titles. Or when Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman completely enter their roles, end the Wild Card rule and restore the boundaries of the brands. The in-between is just not viable.

The Title Scene

Bayley has successfully turned aside Alexa Bliss once, exorcising that demon from her past. But this feud isn’t over as Nikki Cross earned Bliss another SmackDown Women’s championship match at Extreme Rules. This is likely furthering a story that will eventually lead to Nikki vs. Alexa.

Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor hasn’t been around too much. However, last week, a backstage segment tease a feud between him and Shinsuke Nakamura. After Nakamura and Seth Rollins apparently tore it down in Japan, are we going to start shining a spotlight on the King of Strong Style again?

Daniel Bryan and Rowan may still be feuding with Heavy Machinery for the SmackDown tag team championships. While the Planet’s tag team champions defeated Otis and friend at Stomping Grounds, Blue Collar Solid picked up a win in an 8 man tag where Machinery teamed with the New Day against the champs and Sami & Kevin Owens. (It’s also possible it’ll be a 4-way with all those teams, which wouldn’t be the worst option.)

The IIconics will have to defend their Women’s tag team championships against a team that’s so rarely featured their own manager has been publicly commenting on it. Will the Kabuki Warriors be the team that defeat the Aussies with attitude?

Other things to keep an eye on

- Andrade and Apollo Crews have a little feud brewing, stemming from when Andrade attacked Crews prior to their scheduled match. It’s nice to see Apollo get some TV time.

- Roman Reigns’ feud with Shane McMahon continues, this time with the Undertaker in the Big Dog’s corner and Drew McIntrye in Shane’s (the Macs gotta stick together).

- Who knocked on Aleister Black’s door????

Will WWE remember the brand split when they roll into San Antonio tonight?

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