WrestleMania 34 is just over the horizon and anticipation is building for the biggest night in sports entertainment. Despite this, the SmackDown Live brand is struggling big time. They are struggling to sell tickets for their Tuesday show. The creative just seems lackluster and the show has failed to provide any of sort of compelling or interesting stories or feuds since early 2017. There is a lack of momentum, and most criminal of all they have top talents such as Becky Lynch, Rusev, Randy Orton and Tye Dillinger doing next to nothing. This can’t all be changed overnight, but WrestleMania 34 seems to be an ideal potential turning point to set up some interesting feuds and exciting matches.
Monday Night Raw is thriving right now and seems to have a clear path to April 8, with most of their matches and storylines for the show mapped out. But, with Fastlane still to get past this Sunday, the lines are still blurry when looking at the direction SmackDown Live will go. Except for a likely clash between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Title, it is hard to say with 100% certainty what matches will take place for the blue brand. Here are five matches that should make the card in New Orleans.
1 The Usos vs The Bludgeon Brothers
There's no denying the roll that The Usos have been on as of late, and 2018 is the year Jimmy and Jey should finally get a match on the main card of WrestleMania, something that has eluded them throughout their nine years with the company. There has arguably not been a better tag team on the planet in the last 12 months. With compelling promos, incredible matches, and a complete revamp in character, The Usos have had the SmackDown tag division on lock. They’ve defeated everyone. Except for The Bludgeon Brothers.
This match has been teased for the last several weeks, with both teams interrupting each other and having tense stare downs. They have yet to get physical, or even verbal with each other as of yet, with the Brothers seemingly stalking the champions and waiting for the opportune moment to make their move.
This match will take place, and it should be at WrestleMania. Assuming The Usos get past their old rivals The New Day at Fastlane, it should be Harper & Rowan who are next to step into the Uso Penitentiary. So far they have destroyed all their opponents in freighting quick fashion. They’ve proven to be two of the most athletic big men in the company, and a match with the fast-paced, high-flying Usos would be an interesting blend of styles.
2 Randy Orton vs Bobby Roode
This match will be taking place this Sunday at Fastlane for Roode’s United States Championship. In their current babyface personas, both these characters seem a little flat and bland, who could both do with a change in direction if they are going to catch fire with the WWE Universe. Over his lengthy tenure with the company Orton has shown to be much more effective in the heel role and has also openly expressed his preference to play the villain. But it is the Glorious One who’s in more desperate need of a character shake up.
This feud should continue into WrestleMania, perhaps Roode could successfully defend his title in the all babyface affair at Fastlane by nefarious means if you want to start the turning process here. A few weeks ago on SmackDown, whilst trying to incite bad blood between the pair, Jinder Mahal referred to the fact Roode was looking to take up Orton’s old mantle as the ‘Legend Killer’. I think this is the catalyst that could be used to turn Roode heel. Have him claim to want to ‘kill the legend of the legend killer’ and take out the Viper at Mania.
So far on the main roster The Glorious One has been uninspiring and has failed to really connect with the audience. Having him turn into a narcissistic, opportunistic and vicious heel, with a clear motive is exactly the shot in the arm he needs. Orton can also excel in his role also, the veteran with his back against the wall against a hungry adversary. This would could instill much more relevance to his character.
3 Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn
It seems a shame to split these two up again so soon after they got back together. But the fact of that matter is there is it’s the best and most intriguing feud for either man to ensure they end up on the WrestleMania card, where they both absolutely belong. Much like The Usos and The Bludgeon Brothers, the seeds have been planted, as early back as the Royal Rumble. There has been dissention between the pair over the last few weeks, and it could be Fastlane where the Yep Movement implodes if Zayn refuses to carry out his promise to lay down for Owens, like he did on SmackDown.
Owens is a notorious backstabber. He turned on and viciously attacked Zayn on his debut night in NXT, and who can forget his shocking betrayal of Chris Jericho at The Festival of Friendship last year. However, it would make for the interesting swerve if it were to be Zayn who turns his back on his best friend. The motives are obvious; revenge for Owen’s treachery of him all those years ago, his envy of not being as successful, the story writes itself. Zayn’s been exceptional as a heel since his shocking turn at Hell in a Cell last year, and should be allowed to continue in that role, and develop that character more. While a babyface Owens is an unknown entity in the WWE, I believe there is plenty of potential with that direction. These two had some of the best matches of the year in 2016, imagine the magic they could produce on the company’s biggest night.
4 Kofi Kingston vs Big E
Perhaps the most unlikely match on this list to happen, but one that needs to be seen. Over the last several years, The New Day have established themselves as one of the greatest tandems in the company’s history. They are the longest reigning tag team champions of all time and are perhaps the most entertaining acts in the company today. With multiple title reigns, and merchandise sales through the roof, there is not much more for the team of Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods to accomplish.
Most would view the idea to split The New Day as absolute booty, but I think it can be agreed that nobody wants to see them jump the shark. Currently, they are still at the peak of their powers, much like The Shield were at the time of their shocking destruction in 2014. "Always leave them wanting more" is a phrase often thrown around in the entertainment business, and it couldn’t apply more in this scenario. People don’t want to see the split, which is why it is the right time to do it to ensure the moment is as heart-breaking and poignant as possible.
With failure in their upcoming title match with The Usos likely, this could spark the match for one of them to decide enough is enough. Realistically, it should be Big E to turn his back on his brothers. Tired of the silly dancing, the cereal, and the nonsense talk of the power of positivity, Big E in an effort to be taken seriously as a dominant powerhouse could betray Kingston and Woods and set himself up as one of SmackDown’s top heels. But not before a match at WrestleMania with one of the men he scorned so badly. This compelling and emotional feud is exactly what SmackDown needs going into the showcase of the immortals.
5 Daniel Bryan vs Shane McMahon
This must happen. The dissention between Bryan and McMahon has been the most compelling part of Smackdown for the last four months. When it started, the plan may not have been to build to a match, but now any other payoff to this long-term story will be considered a massive disappointment. After months of undermining and distrust between the pair, a battle for supremacy and complete control of the brand at WrestleMania is the only logical solution. I think the company would want it to happen. There are a bunch of medical experts and doctors that believe Bryan is fit to wrestle, but there is only one that counts. WWE Doctor Joseph Maroon is yet to clear Bryan as it stands. It would take a lot of convincing for him to allow the SmackDown General Manager to compete.
The strand of hope that we can cling to is that Shane McMahon is not an active wrestler and could be considered a safe pair of hands to step into the ring with Bryan at Mania. Vince McMahon himself had a match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania 26, despite Hart having to retire from professional wrestling in 2000 because of concussion related injuries. It wasn’t much of a competitive match, with McMahon selling throughout and Hart not bumping at all. Plus, the inclusion of the No Holds Barred and the Hart family as lumberjacks helped to disguise Hart’s limitations. The point being made here is that perhaps only a McMahon can be trusted to protect the safety and perceived vulnerability of Bryan. This does not need to be a competitive match, fans would be quite happy to see a short altercation where Bryan delivers some Yes Kicks and tap out his employer with the Yes Lock.
Bryan’s WWE contract is up later this year and it’s likely he will then wrestle independently, or for Ring of Honor or New Japan, if he isn't fully cleared by WWE. Fans of WWE will be desperate to see the leader of the Yes Movement compete at least one more time in the company, a moment they have been hoping for ever since his devastating retirement from the ring two years ago. If it will be only one more time, WrestleMania is the only stage. It could not be more fitting that it is also being held in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, the site of his greatest night, where he defeated Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista in the same night to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 30.
What SmackDown Live matches would you most like to see make the card? Let us know in the comments!
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