There are a lot of things I get wrong about wrestling when it comes to predictions and analysis. One of my recent gaffes was predicting the WWE Draft would be centered around finding the next set of babyfaces for Roman Reigns to feast on for the next year.
I was wrong about that. Drew McIntyre heading over to the blue brand seemed inevitable, but he’s pretty much the only top level babyface moving over to Friday nights when the rosters change in a couple weeks.
Here are the top men’s babyfaces I see on the new SmackDown roster:
- Drew McIntyre
- Kofi Kingston
- Shinsuke Nakamura
- Jeff Hardy
Do any of the babyfaces listed above besides Drew really have a chance to hold the Universal championship during the next year? It seems extremely doubtful.
WWE can book Reigns against Kingston or Nakamura on a B-show pay-per-view (PPV) main event if they need to, but it’s been at least two years since either one of those wrestlers defeated a top level star in a singles PPV match.
Cesaro was given a strong push for the first half of 2021. It led to his one shot at Roman in a PPV main event at WrestleMania Backlash in May, where the Swiss Superman lost. Cesaro has done nothing but tumble down the card since then; it doesn’t seem like a title match will be revisited any time soon.
Jeff Hardy still gets top level pops from the audience, but he isn’t booked like a top babyface. After a one week cameo in the 24/7 title picture, Hardy has spent recent weeks putting over United States champion Damian Priest. It wouldn’t take much to heat Hardy back up for a title match with Roman, but Jeff’s booking over the last couple years makes it very hard to believe he would have any chance to win.
Finally, there’s Ricochet. Ricochet has essentially been fluctuating between low card and jobber status ever since he was squashed by Brock Lesnar in Saudi Arabia in early 2020. Being moved over to SmackDown and away from the 24/7 title scene has some clear upside for Ricochet. He might even be next year’s Cesaro, where WWE decides to take a guy who mostly gets beat and actually pushes him for months for the sake of building up a credible challenger for Reigns. But it’s going to take a lot of work to get there after years of WWE telling us over and over again that Ricochet is a loser.
WWE did work some magic last year on both Cesaro and Jey Uso, in terms of creating viable challengers for Roman out of guys from the mid card position. It looks like they will have to do something like that again this year, otherwise Drew McIntyre might be involved in a lot of Roman’s PPV matches.
Roman’s biggest threat is actually the one coming up this month when he faces Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel. The rumor mill indicates WWE wants to make sure the show has a strong impact on current storylines. There’s no better way to do that than by booking Roman to lose.
If Brock can’t get the job done, however, then Reigns has a pretty clear path for holding onto the Universal championship for the next year (barring injury), because almost none of the new SmackDown babyfaces are anywhere close to his level.
How do you think the men’s babyface side on SmackDown measures up to Roman Reigns, Cagesiders?