Katz Files: The September Smackdown Report Card

The Katz Files – Arnie Katz

The September Smackdown Roster Report Card!

The Kingfish Arnie Katz presents his September promotion report card for the good folks at WWE’s Smackdown.

About the Report Cards

Each month, I issue a report card for TNA. I examine and grade the promotion in all the vital areas. I discuss strengths and weaknesses and chart the ups and downs.

Smackdown is barreling toward No Mercy, where the WWE title will be at stake in a major face-versus-face confrontation. This is a good time to hand out the promotion’s grades for one of its more successful months, September,

Talent Pool

Undertaker has returned to the ring, which has got to be a boost. Taker may be getting a bit gray on the roof, but he can still work an exciting match. On a show that is burdened with some big, slow-moving guys, that’s not a small consideration.

Edge is not currently part of the mix, removing a tremendous worker who has served as lead heel for at ;east a year.

Primo Colon has joined his brother Carlito in WWE. At first it seemed as though they might feud the brothers, but now they seem destined to be a tag team.

Some rookies have made an appearance – Brian Braddock, Bree and Scotty Goldman, but none have yet had enough effect on the show to assign a grade. At this point, none of the three looks like a star in the making.

Grade: B-

Star Power

The stars are shining a little dimly on Smackdown, though a good ensemble roster has kept the show interesting and the ratings steady, despite the turmoil inherent in a the station switch coming on October 3.

Big Show is getting a big run in the promotion, so his star is definitely on the rise. That’s a plus but it doesn’t really compensate for the subtraction of Edge.

Vladimir Koslov is getting a strong push at the moment, including being made to look good against both Triple H and Jeff Hardy. WWE is trying to make him a star without having him do much in the ring, so the Russian is still largely an unknown quantity to the fans.

R. Truth has looked good in his matches thus far, especially against Shelton Benjamin. His push is only just starting, but many believe Ron Killings has the skills to rise to the main event class. It might not be with that name, though, which doesn’t exactly shout “star.”

The absence of Edge has had a negative effect on the star power of those closely associated with hi, with the exception of Vickie Guerrero. The GM is still making shockwaves on Smackdown, but Chavo Guerrero and, especially, the Edgeheads have been cut down quite a bit.

Giving Michelle McCool the Diva Championship raised her star power, but fighting Maryse a couple of times a week is an excellent way to undercut her potential impact on the Smackdown show.

Grade: B-

In-Ring Action

Smackdown’s in-ring performance is somewhat spotty, but the highs are very entertaining. Matches that depend on Great Khali are seldom going to rate higher than a B-, if that, but Jeff Hardy, Triple H, The Brian Kendrick and other mid-carders work pretty well.

The Women’s Division is not doing too well at the moment. Maria and Natalya aren’t getting a lot of time on TV and they are the b=best female workers on Smackdown.

Maryse is not ready to wrestle on television at this point in her career. Though Michelle McCook is an athlete, she is still not a trained and seasoned wrestler. If her opponent is not fairly skillful, she can’t carry her.

Grade: B-

Booking & Dramatics

Smackdown has seemed curiously devoid of plotlines for the last month, but the 9/19 episode made a pretty good stab at getting some things going.

The Jeff Hardy-Triple H program – it’s hard to call it a feud – has the excitement of two highly rated competitors with the title at stake. What it doesn’t have, despite fine promos by both men and the scene on the 9/12 Smackdown, is a lot of personal heat. The fans like both, but I think they do want to see them test their skill against each other.

In the old WWWF days, the booker would’ve had Jeff and Hunter start an insta-feud over nothing and one of them would’ve acted a little heelish. WWE would be wise to let the program play out without those frills. The intrinsic interest in the match-up carries the burden adequately.

The push for Vladimir Koslov has revved up in recent weeks. At this point, it’s strong, but unfocused. Koslov is aggressively stalking both Triple H and Jeff Hardy. That’s good booking, because it doesn’t tip the finish of the Hardy-Triple H championship main event.

The way it’s set up, Koslov can be sent against either babyface, depending on who wins the title and how much WWE thinks Koslov is worth. (If they believe Koslov is getting over, they’d put him in a championship program. Otherwise, he’ll work with the loser of the No Mercy WWE Championship match.

The Shelton Benjamin-R-Truth feud is likely to feature some strong, athletic matches, but the plot support is not too impressive so far. Both guys are trying hard, but Shelton Benjamin’s reference to Truth’s jail record isn’t enough. Still, the story has only just started to unreel. There could be genuine tension between Benjamin, college-educated and favored y fortune, and R-Truth, who came up from the streets and overcame some bad decisions.

Vickie Guerrero and Big Show are a bit too much of a mismatch for my taste,. It doesn’t seem reason to think that Show can replace Edge in this plot.

Grade: C+

Announcing

Jim Ross and Tazz are my favorite current announce team. They may not have wanted the Smackdown assigned, but they are both so talents in their roles. They haven’t yet developed a lot of chemistry but their talent is a tremendous asset to Smackdown as it heads towards its new TV home.

Grade: B+

Overall

Smackdown is clearing the decks for its big premiere on My Network on October 3. They’ll head into this new stage with a roster that has more good workers than big names. The challenge will be to showcase the talent and build those strong performers into stars.

Grade: B-

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of the Internet’s fastest-rising daily wrestling column.

— Arnie Katz
[email protected]
(9/25/08)