Wednesday, March 31, 2004

#73. Draft Fallout, Part 2

After reading about this past Monday's Raw, I can continue to say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Smackdown was screwed. That said, the differences between the brands could not be more evident now. Raw is very much a storyline oriented program. It has a lot of talkers, so a lot of talking is done. It also has a lot of talented stars, but it seems to like the talking just a little more. Smackdown, on the other hand, concentrates more on the wrestling. It has stars that can talk (John Cena built his rep more on his talk than his walk), but it's the wrestling that is ultimately centerstage. So when the newbies arrived last Thursday, most of them were introduced in the ring, as wrestlers. Booker T was the only one treated differently, because they need to develope him into something immediately. The newbies on Raw, however, were more frequently introduced into storylines on their first night (Dupree and Booker T were the only ones with similar treatment on Smackdown, while on Monday there was Edge, Shelton Benjamin, Tajiri to some extent, and Paul Heyman, however brief that played out).

Nidia was first out, nothing much there. I'd hate to think that the highlight of her WWE career will end up being a trailer park relationship with Jamie Noble, but it probably will be, unless she becomes an importan presence as an actual wrestler. Edge, who speared Eric Bischoff as his big intro last week, this week was plugged into a match for Backlash against Kane. I hope this means he's in a holding pattern until Triple H is available, or unless he could turn out to be wasted Kane...

Hunter, meanwhile, is still milking his feud with Shawn Michaels, with Chris Benoit, current world champion, likely an afterthought (why else would he be stuck in another triple threat match??). Hunter still wears the pants on this show, that much is clear. Benoit has essentially walked into the middle of the Hunter-Heart Break Show, and even though he's getting some worth out of Michaels, Hunter is keeping him down by refusing to butt out already. Will there be another match, the next Raw PPV, between just Michaels and Benoit? Hopefully, but the question is, will the two working together have worn thin in two months? Unfortunately, Benoit's introduction to the brand came at an awkward time, as far as Triple H and his ego is concerned.

But from the ashes of Hunter and his Evolution clique comes Shelton Benjamin, the real steal. He's getting an incredible push, nothing his one-time partner Charlie Haas will soon see on Smackdown. What is there for Haas, other than an indefinite holding pattern? Apparently US champion Cena is headed to a feud with Rene Dupree. But what do I know? Just that Benjamin is the greatest beneficiary of the recent redrafting, with only Booker T and Rob Van Dam as challengers. But those two have to reverse recent trends in their careers, not build their careers, like Benjamin. Which seems more likekly to be more fruitful? But what do I know?

Tajiri, meanwhile, was immediately tied into a backstage plot with has-beens Sylvin Grenier, Rob Conway, and Garrison Cade, three spring chickens who will probably never go anywhere (the first two formerly being French faction associates of the aforementioned Dupree). Rhyno got to trounce Lance Storm, who will never go anywhere even with all the on-air attempts to give the poor guy some sympathy. Would he better off on Smackdown, as he claimed? Probably. At the very least, he could team up with Hardcore Holly (back in ECW, Storm was an Impact Player, after all). The two are pretty much the same size, with the same prospects for career advancement (the feud Holly got with Brock Lesnar a few months back was payback for a broken neck). I would rather have seen Strom make the jump than, say, Spike Dudley or Teddy Long. But what do I know?

While pondering the continuing shoehorning of Evolution as far as handing Batista and Ric Flair the tag team titles (and screwing Benoit and Michaels this Monday night) goes, there's Chris Jericho's further feud with Christian and Trish Stratus to consider, and this thing has been going on for months. Just how much longer? How much longer until it's a career? But what do I know? A god long feud is good news, just as long as it isn't being used so long because the writers don't know what else to do with any of them...

The show ends with Benjamin's huge upset over Triple H. One of the best things Hunter used to do, back when he was in his first phase on dominance about four years ago, was give all of the talent a chance to wrestle him. He showed great respect to the locker back then. But starting about two years ago, his ego ran wild and then Evolution was introduced, and all he was was the champion who never loses, and holds the world title for huge stretches of time, to the annoyance of the fans, who turned on the scene's premier star because he didn't know his limits. But lately, I'd say starting with his feud against Goldberg late last year, he began to return to form, showing his willingness to give back, play along with the game instead of dominate it for the sake of dominance (wrestling used to thrive on that, but only as recently as twenty years ago, when Hogan went wild). He allowed himself to submit to the Crippler Crossface at the year's biggest event, and now has let himself be defeated by a relative neophyte. This is nothing but good news for him, and for Raw. The playing field has been leveled. Evolution's tag team victories might have more to do with the lack of actual tag team talent (I really wish that the Dudleys could have stuck around Raw, instead of pollute the equally lacking Smackdown tag team scene, where Scotty and Rikishi reign almost by default, and likely in appreciation for what they've brought to the table previously). While I must again say that splitting The World's Greatest Tag Team up at this time was probably a mistake, I must also reiterate that it was probably good for Benjamin and Haas' solo success, which might balance things out.

And anyway, Just Benjamin's moment alone makes the statement that the lottery screwed Smackdown in favor of Raw all the more potent. Why give Monday a star with such immediate potential? If Thursday is breeding ground, why give up the breeding star with some of the most potential, especially seeing as how it's just beginning to be tapped? The breeding star for veteran swap that was Benjamin for Booker is just unequal, unfair, uneven. I have nothing against Booker, but he doesn't, hasn't, and probably never will have the same cache as a Chris Jericho. And speaking of Jericho and what his feud with Christian could become, whatever happened to Scott Steiner and Test? Are they to be cut loose, rather than be given another chance? Has neither any continued worth, or are they just a few more of the squandered talent WWE likes to litter? Maybe Paul Heyman and his new ECW could use them. Or Jarrett's TNA?

All I know is, the lottery still has not lived up to the hype...Let's see what Thursday has to offer.

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