Levin: Compartmentalizing SmackDown Live

It's been a few months since the brand extension, and David Levin thinks it's been rinse, repeat.

One of WWE’s biggest conundrums that it faces with the brand split and two world champions is creating different storylines so the in-ring product isn’t watered down. While the SmackDown Live brand has been a tick better than its big brother Monday Night Raw, the problems that exist with booking could doom both shows in the near future.

How many times will we see AJ Styles face either Dean Ambrose or Dolph Ziggler for the WWE World Title? When will the company decide to push Rusev or Big Cass as a serious threat to the Universal Title? It’s a problem only someone like the late Dusty Rhodes could solve if this were 1988 and the NWA was still on top of the mountain of professional wrestling. Rhodes is not with us anymore and the NWA isn’t considered much more than a passing thought in wrestling history.

The ardent wrestling fan knew this might become an issue once the WWE Draft was held back in July. While having Ambrose win the title and bring it to the blue brand was something of a mystery, the fact Styles beat him for the belt in September has been a coup for booking. Until now. With John Cena returning to live action in two weeks and the James Ellsworth saga in need of a painful death, can WWE capitalize on The Champ’s return and make this a December to remember? Highly unlikely.

Now that Raw has finally sent Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho to divorce court, does this mean the role of the Universal Champion’s “BFF” will once again be played by Triple H? Will Jericho challenge Roman Reigns once the Big Dog dethrones the “soft” champion, ending 2016 as he ended 2015? Will there be a challenger who freshens up the boring mix of Reigns, Owens, Jericho and Seth Rollins?

I hope you are reading this, Finn Balor.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of good things to say about WWE since the brand split: Better storylines, a heated tag team division, credible women’s wrestling, Mick Foley, Shane McMahon and the more I hear Mauro Ranallo on air, the more I am at ease.

Unfortunately, it needs to be better. Something is still missing from both formats. Equality won’t cure it.

The compartmentalization of WWE forces the status quo to remain. Reigns will battle Owens. Jericho will get Rollins. We will all pray for the return of Triple H. Big Cass and Rusev will prove to be better than both feuds. On the blue team, Ziggler may become champion again. Ambrose will challenge The Miz. Cena will wait his turn for No. 16. (There is an interesting scenario I will discuss at another date.)

The likes of Baron Corbin and American Alpha will have to wait their turns. The same goes for Bayley, Nia Jax and The Club. Maybe Vince McMahon’s New Year’s resolution is to sort all of this out. Who knows?

What I do know is that while the product is better in the ring, the need for better booking is tarnishing what should be working. Improvement should be on everyone wrestling fans’ mind right now. Not how good it is, but how it can be better in 2017.

David Levin
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