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WRESTLING COLUMNS

And Then There Was One...
August 11, 2005 by Antonio M. Figueroa


As I write this, I have just finished a phone conversation with a friend of mine, talking about wrestling. Chief among the topics of conversation was the final outcome of this year's Draft Lottery, now that we have had over a month to adjust. After hanging up the phone, I came to a revelation. The entire point of the draft lottery was to "shake things up", to change the foundation of both brands forever. The more I think about it, the more I realized that they failed. There is only one brand now. RAW. RAW now has a ridiculously top-heavy roster, with all the top stars they had before, plus all the top stars of SmackDown! that they stole. Yes, stole. The writing team made absolutely sure that RAW got everything possible from the Draft, without having to give a single damn thing in return. And now, the result is this- SmackDown! as we knew it is over.

Ever since the start of the brand extension, I have been a SmackDown! fan more than a RAW fan. I always felt that SmackDown! just offered more; a superior roster, a prestigious championship, and superior storylines. That is, until this year's Draft. SmackDown! lost its top babyface, John Cena; their top heel, Kurt Angle; a future megastar, Carlito; a reliable main eventer, Big Show; and another top draw in Rob Van Dam. What did they gain in return" Nothing. Chris Benoit" The guy changes brands more often than most people change underwear. Randy Orton" He is possibly the only good thing that they got out of this mess. Muhammad Hassan" A future star, gone. He was the victim of unfortunate timing and bad business decisions. Christian" Sure, the guy can wrestle, and has boatloads of charisma, but he is more useful in the upper-midcard. Batista" A glorified jobber handed the title for no logical reason other than, "well, the fans like him". So now we, the fans, get to pick who the champion is" Fine, then I pick...Hardcore Holly. Wait, that would never work, Holly isn't a good enough wrestler. Oh, wait a minute! Neither is Batista! But he can just hold the title for a ridiculously long time anyway. Well, at least SmackDown! still has a reliable main eventer in Eddie Guerrero. Oh, wait...no they don't. The guy has been jobbed out time and again to REY MYSTERIO for about 8 months now. Eddie's career is dead. All thanks to Rey. Why is Rey getting this ridiculous mega-push" "Well, the fans like him". And we're back to that again.

But there are plenty of championship-worthy athletes on SmackDown!. Booker T could headline in a second. JBL, like him or not, proved that he could handle the top spot for months at a time, so long as he is given worthwhile opponents. The Undertaker could destroy Batista without bothering to take off his jacket. Randy Orton could do just fine as a solid main eventer, now that Triple H won't be around, begging to get his pacifier...I mean, the World title...back. So why not put the belt on one of them" Oh, that's right. Batista. "He can carry the brand". NO, HE CAN'T. I'll tell you a quick story. After WrestleMania XX, the SmackDown! ratings were slowly declining. Then-champion Eddie Guerrero did everything possible to boost them, but he just couldn't cut it. Eddie lost the strap to JBL. At first, the ratings continued to fall. Eventually, the fall slowed, and then stopped. As JBL's reign continued, the ratings even started to go back up. Fast forward to WrestleMania 21. John Cena had just beaten JBL for the belt, while Batista defeated Triple H for the World title. WWE assumed that Batista would be the bigger draw, since he was "better", and was holding the "superior" championship. However, eventually they realized that the fans were much more behind John Cena. They even realized that, despite all the lies and falsehoods they had force-fed the fans, most fans actually knew that the WWE title was the real deal, and it was the World title that was the sham. So, what do they do, now that they see more and more fans tuning in to SmackDown!, to see a better champion with a better belt" They screwed the loyal SmackDown! fans, and they screwed the show as a whole. Now, with Batista on SmackDown!, the ratings are falling off a cliff. SmackDown! went from a 3.4 average during JBL and Cena's title reigns, to a 2.8 with Batista at the helm.

WWE has to accept the truth. SmackDown! is dying, due to the poison called Batista and Rey Mysterio that they have injected into it. Some small amount of hope remains on the horizon, with the possible return of Brock Lesnar (after the Matt/Edge fiasco, I no longer believe wwe.com's reports that the WWE/Lesnar negotiations fell through; I strongly believe it is a work), but I think we already know what will happen. Lesnar will return, and will immediately begin jobbing for Rey Mysterio and Batista, just like all of SmackDown!'s Superstars. Good job, Vince. You have accomplished your goal of destroying SmackDown!.

by Antonio Figueroa ..


Rob Wilson wrote:
i disagree with alot of your column, while you have a point that SD is good as dead, its not Batistas fault. To me i think for a WWE superstar to be at his best, its alot about placement on which show, and for Batista, SD isnt it. Batista's character is being killed, by the SD creative team, hes supposed to be an animal, a beast, but the SD creative team has turned him into a soft, calm, guy who stands up to mean guys and calls them bullys *gasp* such intense words and action! when Batista was used correctly, as a crazed beast and animal, he was one heck of a main eventer and brand champ, i did and still think hes better than Cena. You say Batista cant wrestle, but hes twice the wrestler Cena is, in just about every match ive seen Cena in, hes had the crap beatin in him for the entire match, and then at he end, Cena MAGICALLY gets the strength to do this in the same order EVERYTIME! : 1) get to his feet and punch his opponent 3-6 times until hes backed to the ropes, 2) run his opponent across the ring, and on the rebound, connect with a flying shoulder, 3) UH OH! 5 knuckle shuffle! 4) and then WOW! a firemans carry.. whoops i mean the F-U! 1,2,3 oh wow! out of a 10 minute match, Cena won it in one minute after having the other 9 minutes being beatin because he cant hold a match by himself.

Ever since Batista left RAW, its been more talk than action with Cena being the main eventer, RAW was better before the draft because there was less talk and more action from the brand Champion.. BATISTA, he didnt depend on mic-skills and gimmick to make it to the top, he used intensity and power, in other words ACTION. Now that Cena is the brand champ, theres so much talk that in a 2 hour show, theres hardly enough time for 3 matches because Cena is either talking for 10 minutes of the show, or hes having the snot beatin out of time for 20 minutes.

Bottom line is, SD's fall isnt to blame on Batista, its purely the creative team and they softening his character and giving him to much of the mic and less ring time.

While RAW's slow downfall i think is to blame on Cena because his ever lasting mic time and lackluster ring-skills. At least with HHH on top he was able to deliver both. With a wrestler who should be the ring announcer or at commentary on top, RAW is becoming what SD is, a all talk and hardly any action 2 hour block show just to build up to PPV's which usually dissapoint anyways.
Usker Naqvi wrote:
I definitely agree with you about the direction that SD! is headed in -- right now. BUT I do disagree with your protrayal of Eddie/Rey. You make it sound as if Rey Mysterio is just some scrub who needs Eddie to put him over. Rey is a very accomplished wrestler. He was big in ECW and WCW and held championships there before coming to the WWE. Also, Eddie continually losing to Rey is part of storyline. We know this because Michael Cole mentions it, oh, 34853.586 times each broadcast. As per storyline, because Eddie can't manage to beat Rey, he is driven to desperation and now has no choice but to reveal the family secret blah blah blah. These two guys have been putting out great matches for a few months now, even with that crappy gagfest of a soap opera storyline that they have been stuck with by the geniuses (genii") on the creative team. Is it time for that feud to end" Yes. Is it going to end soon" No, not with the way they keep drawing out the whole Dominic thing. I'm sorry, I thought I was watching SmackDown!, not Days of Our Lives. But as you said, Eddie would make a great World or U.S. champ and Rey could contend for either the Cruiserweight or U.S. title.

To address Batista, well there are no two ways about it, the Batista/JBL feud is pretty weak. What do these guys bring to the table" Very boring promos, not to mention some pretty dry matches. Batista did well when he had HHH to carry him, but remember, JBL is still relatively new to main eventing so he can't be expected to carry Batista too far. It was horrible how they so quickly diverted Taker into a feud with Randy Orton the night after he became #1 Contender for the strap. Taker/Batista would have been pretty nice; well actually, anything that results in less JBL would be pretty nice.

SmackDown! is not devoid of superstars; it is full of superstars who are being grossly underused. For one thing, SmackDown! has the cruiserweight division, which is exclusive to the brand. I understand that they are trying to pump some life into Velocity so that it's not just a recap show anymore, but it's beyond senseless to have the CW title change hands on Velocity and not even have the new champ appear on SD! the following week. Rather than bring the value of Velocity up, this is bringing the value of the CW title down. The cruisers can put on exciting matches week after week with or without cheesy storylines. I'm sure you've seen the ratings figures for Velocity; cruisers are being shifted to the undercard simply by being televised on a different day of the week. Someone stop that, please! While on the subject of underused superstars, it would be a felony to omit Booker T or Chris Benoit. These guys are perennial contenders, get great crowd support, are awesome in the ring, and are worthy of the U.S. Title (which could definitely use a jump start). Orlando Jordan" Please. That title has been turned into a joke. He is barely ever on TV, can't cut a promo, and is a sucky wrestler. We could get some solid U.S. title feuds from Booker/Christian or even Benoit/Regal. Yes, William Regal. He is undoubtedly one of the top technical wrestlers in the WWE today, and his current role as the 'wiley veteran who guides the youngsters to success' has only dragged him down to the undercard. Regal/Benoit from Velocity a couple of weeks ago was one of the best SD!-brand matches in a long time. That could bring some excitement and life back to SD! Lastly, although the Era of the Faction has come and gone in the WWE, I think the time is ripe to sign the Blue Meanie, drop the Simon Dean gimmick, and pit the bWo against the Mexicools. We could definitely see some entertaining stuff there, not just in the ring but also on the mic. The Mexicools came in with such momentum, but there is only so much that a 3-man team can do. Should two of them wrestle as a tag team and single the third man out" As badly as the tag team division (or lack thereof) could use the boost, it would be awkward. The bWo is the only 3-man faction that could rival the Mexicools without having to string together 3 random doofuses from the SD! roster (which is basically what they do for tag team matches). Factions only work when there are other rival factions present; could we really have enjoyed the antics of DX if there was no Nation of Domination" Or Corporation"

To conclude, SmackDown! wasn't robbed in the draft. It has worlds of potential that will hopefully come to fruition as soon as some of the current feuds have been played out. Imagine how much more differently you would feel if you turned on SmackDown! a few months from now and Undertaker was world champion, Benoit and Regal put their submission skills to the test with the U.S title on the line, cruiserweights were pulling high spot after high spot every week, and (let's cross our fingers here) we had Nova squaring off against Super Crazy in a bWo/Mexicools feud. Until then, we can only hope that SD! doesn't turn into a COMPLETE abomination (although you can't be that worried when Snitsky and Chris Masters are getting a push).
Michael Cuozzo wrote:
Good article. While I've always liked RAW better, for many of the reasons you stated you like Smackdown, you're right about Batista and Rey Rey. Lord, is Mysterio the most annoying wrestler in the WWE today. He does one wrestling move that I've seen, can't talk on the mic, and his charisman is overrated (just b/c he can fly around the ring). Hellloo, Paul London and the rest of the cruiserweights who've been banished to the never region of Velocity are 1000x more interesting. I think a lot of it is the Latin tie Mysterio brings, but he's still not that great at all. And He has ruined Eddie's career with one of the dumbest storylines ever (equal to the Kane as a rapist angle) As for Batista. I don't think he's that bad. He's powerful in the ring and brings some in match charisma (little to nothing on the mic) There are more noteworthy champs, like Benoit. Oh well, until Vince and Johnny Ace get it together, WWE is gonna keep going by the wayside.
Jesse Lee wrote:
This seems nothing more than a column made to bash Triple H, Rey Mysterio, and Batista. First off, Triple H was the top guy of Raw. While it's true that Randy Orton could have carried Raw longer than a month, the other times it was Trips who had the ability to keep Raw where it is. He was the "unbeatable champion, and if he were beaten, he'll do anything to get it back." Say what you want about Trips, the guy was ratings. As for Batista, I dislike him as a champion, but if you're goign to hate because all he does is use the same moves and beats his opponents, well, there's someone called Goldberg. The big difference is that Goldberg had more time and was given credible wrestlers to help him get pushed after 3-5 minute matches. Batista is trying to do the same, but making the match longer. They want him to seem unbeatable, that way when he's beaten, it's a big thing. Rey Rey's a terrific wrestler. While he isn't what he was in WCW, ECW, AAA, or AWA, he's still terrific. He's never had this much of a SL before. Usually it's big guy vs. small guy and big guy injures the dude.. then small guy comes back and wins. While this feud started out as Eddie wanting to outwrestle Rey Rey, it quickly turned to a point where "Eddie will do absolutely ANYTHING to beat Rey, no matter what." It's not Rey's fault the writers keep having him win. I see this feud either ending at Summerslam or going on til the next SD ppv or Survivor Series (if they still have it.) One more thing, your cheap shot at Benoit was uncalled for. The guy is arguably the most technical-skilled wrestler in the WWE Roster and can pull off 5 star matches with nearly anyone (if writers would stop having his entire move set being German Suplex, kick, punch, and chop and let him use his full wrestling artillery.) JBL, however, cannot give 5 star matches every week unless it's a glorfied jobber (currently Christian-yes, I am a peep) or a highly skilled wrestler who can match his own pace.
Majdah Rahman wrote:
I've been an avid oww reader since 2003, and I've never really responded to an article until i read yours. Now, most fans know that raw is the superior brand, but your argument that John Cena was traded to Raw because there was a demand for the superior title belt is bous, as anyone can clearly see that Cena was the TOP DRAW as well as THE MOST OVER WRESTLER in the WWE. He had the crowd playing by the palm of his hands. Why would you keep your top guy on the B-show. It seems obvious to move him to raw. Also, your statements about the smackdown draft picks were out of line. Ya, Benoit got traded to Raw, then back to SD, but so what. The man can wrestle, and provides top notch matches every time. I'd blame the SD writers for his demise, since they have no idea what to do with him. Orton, I agree with u. Hassan-did WWE know that he was going to have been forced off TV. NO!!!!!!! So don't blame them, as he was gaining steam until the retarted network execs banned him. Christian-cmon, any fool knows Triple H will bury him, so he has a chance tp shine on SD and be considered serious main event calibre. And BATISTA, HOW WRONG CAN U BE. This man is prob on of the most over stars right now. How can u not love this man, his charisma beginning to show, you saw that he can put on high quality matches (HIAC-triple H-remember) and WWE wouldn't leave smackdown without a champ. I blame the writing team for the low ratings, because i'd rather watch cena battling bischoff then watch heidenreich and Animal beat up a bunch of nobody's and claim a glorious victory. Thats just my 2 cents
mick86 wrote:
You lost 99% of any potential credibility when you said "well the fans like him" in a fashion most pompous and ignorant. But more on that later...

Yes, I agree with the main point of the article that Smackdown got screwed over, but only slightly. They were without a champion (and top babyface) for a few weeks, they lost a super-over performer preparing to return (RVD), and they lost the best wrestler in North America. Having guys like Chris Benoit and Randy Orton go over to Smackdown in exchange for RAW getting Big Show and Carlito was actually in Smackdown's benefit. Benoit can carry anybody to a decent match and Randy Orton continues to make great strides towards being a true upper-tier star, whereas Big Show is still an aimless character and Carlito is as vanilla in the ring as he is entertaining with a microphone. Smackdown also got Hassan and Christian: one who has been buried for whatever reason despite the fans so obviously wanting him to get to the next level, and the other buried in a storyline. Finally, Smackdown got Batista to end the weeks of not having a champion and top babyface. You are accurate in stating that the WWE noticed that fans were more behind Cena than they were Batista, and that the champs switched shows because the WWE wanted RAW to have the mega-star in the making. It's blatantly obvious that RAW will always be the A show to Smackdown's A- Show.

Back to your appraisal of Batista and Rey Mysterio. "Well the fans like him"" Yes, the fans like them. If the fans are solidly behind someone, the WWE would be stupid not to exploit their popularity in order to draw money. I'm assuming you didn't hear the monster pops that Batista got as he was gaining momentum (see Royal Rumble 2005 for a perfect example). WWE made the right choice and capitalised on Batista's surge in popularity because he could draw money. So what if Batista's skills are limited" He is very over with the fans and WWE is just giving them what they want. His popularity has waned slightly since he was whipped by Triple H for the majority of their first two matches, so that's why he and Cena switched shows. I wouldn't say Smackdown was short-changed anyway, seeing as Cena is slowly starting to lose momentum in his cookie-cutter feud with Jericho/Bischoff. Anyway, the point is that if a wrestler is getting over with the fans, it makes perfect sense to push them. Mysterio is over because of his energetic matches and overall amazing performances. I doubt Mysterio would make a credible world champ any time in the near future, but who knows" Maybe the fans will rally behind Mysterio more so to the point that it makes sense for him to hold the top belt. If Hardcore Holly was the most over worker on the roster, I would see no problem with him having the belt.

Bottom line: "Well the fans like him". Yes they do, and you'd have to be a total idiot not to capitalise on a wrestler's popularity when the purpose of promoting wrestling is to make money.
Ryan Ward wrote:
Boo friggen hoo, Triple H bitches less then you. SmackDown! sucked balls before the draft and thanks to the draft, they are now better then RAW. RAW isn't cutting it now that they lost Batista (who can kick Cena's ass, and he did at the Royal Rumble) and even bigger Benoit and Orton, RAW is now boring me. SmackDown! could never keep me interested, I always ended up going on to the internet, going on some porno sites and whacking off. But RAW, RAW was the shit. Triple H, Jericho, Benoit, Orton, some of the names on that show that really kept me going for 2 hours. But now that Triple H is taking a break, the show is just plain lame now. I have now switched my favorite show to SmackDown!, atleast until Triple H comes back and takes the title back from Cena, do I really wanna see that happen" Sorta, but to be honest, we all know he will. My final point is, SmackDown! is now doing better then before in my oponion, and until RAW gets back to actually being interesting again, it will stay that way.
Mashieka Lee wrote:
Hello, I'm just replying to the letter that was written by Antoinio, "And Then There Was One". It truly is ashame that you have the ability to write such a colorful letter but have it all wrong. Yes, I admit that SmackDown has not been a quality show in some time. I agree with you 100% with how pointless the draft was. But I'm lost where it is Batista's fault. I am a huge Batista fan, and always will be. I was one of those fans that enjoyed watching him destroy HHH over and over. Placing the blame on the falling ratings has nothing to do with him. He gets all of what, 5 minutes of airtime on average" So, it's impossible for him to have ruined the show. Batista's fans know that he isn't the best on the mic and he isn't the best wrestler but he can defiantly carry his weight. I sit and watch SmackDown every week just to see Batista and although I am not happy that he was traded, I am a Batista Fan and will stick by him all the way.
Adam Veltri wrote:
Maybe I missed it but didn't anyone mention that Smackdown will be going to Friday nights very soon. The WWE's decision to move Smackdown's most over face and heel in Cena and Angle is a no brainer. Why have these two super-over stars on Friday nights when they should be on the "flagship" as JR always states" While Batista was over as the Raw Champ, he pales in comparison to Cena's popularity and mike skills. It just makes sense to move Cena to Raw. As far as ratings failing due to Batista, that is tough to say as the writing team should bare that responsibility (as with Guerrero when he was Champ). Smackdown has been dominated by the Guerrero-Mysterio saga, which everybody has grown tired off. When was the last time the WWE carried a feud on for 5 straight months" They have been feuding since March in Mania, and what's worse is one man keeps on winning. Another trend that has dominated Smackdown is JBL. He seems to be the only main event heel over on Smackdown as he is constantly getting in all the ppv main events. He already worn out his welcome with his lengthy title reign and fans are frankly tired of him, just like Triple H. Grant it the WWE were positioning Muhammad Hassan as the # 1 heel for Summer Slam so they were attempting to make a change. Due to unforeseen events, however, the WWE had no choice but to continue the Batista-JBL feud as there are no other heels over to the point to feud with the champ. It is not so much the champions that should get the blame for poor ratings as it should be tired storylines and contenders. Saying that now, Cena should not get all the credit for Raw if it is doing better (is it") as his top contender has not won a main event ppv match in almost a year and has had no push (though he should've) to his current position. If you ask me and probably most fans, the Hogan-HBK feud is more interesting than Cena's current feud with Jericho/Bischoff.
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