WWE Smackdown Live! is in the books for the week. The Blue Brand of the WWE wrapped up their go home show, preparing for the Royal Rumble. How did the show do this week?
To start, I really enjoyed the verbal exchange between John Cena and AJ Styles. What I loved about it was some of the unspoken subtext Cena sprinkled through into the mix. If you listen to the promos that both men gave, on paper you’d be hard pressed to find an excuse for why Cena is being presented as anything but a bad guy. Whether it be a build up to an actual heel turn or more likely, microphone work that is being used to manipulate fans like myself into reading more into a feud than is actually there, Cena is walking a fine line between a confident good guy and someone who is just a plain, cocky jerk. Vocally, he’s even taking on some of the characteristics of his heel work back in the early 2000’s, bringing back some of that hip hop swagger instead of the milquetoast blandness we’ve seen for close to a decade now. With Cena on track to surpass Ric Flair’s record of 16 World Championship reigns, the WWE needs to make sure they get as much exposure for this record as they can. If wrestling were an actual sport, this would be something that would be featured on Sportscenter with video packages galore going over Cena’s illustrious career. Taking into account factors going on outside the ring, with Cena getting older and building more of a foothold in Hollywood, this may be a great time to finally turn that switch and make him a heel.
A few months back on the Bischoff on Wrestling Podcast, Eric Bischoff interviewed Hulk Hogan and asked him why the WWE may not want to pull the plug on a Cena heel turn. Hogan explained some of the reasons why they would hesitate to do so. One reason of course would be merchandise sales. Cena is still the leader in merchandise sales, no matter how many times he gets booed out of an arena. Another reason would be the charity work for organizations like Make a Wish. The WWE has been working with the Make a Wish organization for years, only recently advertising their work with that group. Cena is hands down the one celebrity who will drop everything to help a kid who wants to see him. Being that a number of these kids health is very much in question, it’s not as easy as you would think to just flick a switch without some serious thought as to how a Cena heel turn would affect them.
Yet in my opinion, we need this to happen. Cena is not getting any younger. The longer we continue to have the same character in the ring, week in and week out, the longer WWE waits to make a decision to put the rockets onto another performer. It’s not a matter of if but when Cena will no longer be the number one guy. It’s the nature of the wrestling business. To make that transition from Cena to someone else as smooth as possible, they need to utilize the power of a Cena heel turn to help make that next guy. Whether that guy be AJ Styles or a Dean Ambrose, that’s not for me to say. But Cena is finally realizing, based on his work in Hollywood in movies and television, that there is life after WWE. The WWE better do what they can to prepare for the future or we’ll have some early 90’s bad television to go through while they scramble to deal with the fallout of Cena leaving.
Mickie James gave an explanation to Rene Young for why she attacked Becky Lynch and man, did I love hearing her on the mic. While she was thrown off a bit by the crowd doing the obligatory WHAT chant, she did a great job in my book of explaining why she was back and going out of her way to antagonize the crowd. Now, the promo she gave won’t go down in history books as the greatest promo ever given in the history of professional wrestling but what she was able to pull off speaks volumes for how the WWE is treating their female performers as of late. Who would have thought that letting the women speak on the mic in a manner similar to their male counterparts would get the audience to care about what they do in the ring? (Please note the sarcasm there, if it wasn’t already obvious.) To me, wrestling is universal entertainment. If you show a video of a pro wrestling show that is playing in Poland, regardless of the language differences, as a fan you’re going to get a pretty rough idea real quick as to what is going on. Yet for us to have a reason to come back week after week, we have to be given a hook. The Mickie James promo was a wonderful hook to see how Becky Lynch will get her revenge.
Overall, the show was pretty good apart from a horrible sketch with James Elsworth and Carmella. It wasn’t as action packed as I would have thought but for a main roster show, Smackdown Live! showed once again why they are the superior brand.