Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Geek-Approved WWE Smackdown Live Power Rankings

Submitted By: Joren B. Apiquian

                  Every week, the Geektified Team takes an in-depth look at each Superstars’ status in the hierarchy of Vince McMahon’s WWE Universe. For each brand (RAW, Smackdown Live, and NXT), there will be three separate ranking systems: singles, tag teams, and women. Even though the Cruiserweights are exclusive to RAW, the division is still rank-eligible. The Power Rankings key elements include performance, promo delivery, and character development. Superstars suffering from a prolonged injury or taking a hiatus from the company will not make the cut along with part-timers like Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. With all of that said, let’s look at the Smackdown Live Power Rankings.
Smackdown Live

1.     A.J. Styles – The self-proclaimed “Face that Runs the Place” has had an MVP caliber year in his initial run with WWE. After laying low this week, Styles looks to continue his reign atop the blue brand and establish a victory for Team Smackdown at Survivor Series.
2.     Dean Ambrose – After a lackluster run as WWE Champion, The Lunatic Fringe is back in chase mode as the number one contender where he seems right at home. James Ellsworth’s inclusion in the Styles-Ambrose feud has made for some entertaining segments. It will be interesting to see how the unlikeliest of WWE Superstars effects Ambrose’s hopes of regaining the top prize in sports entertainment.
3.     Dolph Ziggler – The Intercontinental Champion issued an open challenge to the entire RAW roster for his belt at Survivor Series. Sami Zayn defeated Rusev on RAW to earn his place in that match. The showdown promises to excite the WWE Universe. Can Ziggler keep the IC title on Smackdown Live or will he wilt under pressure?
4.     The Miz – The Hollywood A-Lister has had a career renaissance this year. From being lost in the shuffle to being one of the most hated villains on Smackdown Live, Miz has been a constant highlight each week. The ongoing tension between him and Smackdown Live GM Daniel Bryan rolls on, but the payoff promises to be something special.
5.     Bray Wyatt- After successfully recruiting Randy Orton to The Wyatt Family, The Eater of Worlds finally seems like a credible threat to everyone on the Smackdown roster. Wyatt has the chance to climb the ladder and snag his first singles championship since debuting on the main roster if everything goes according to plan.
6.     Randy Orton – It is always great to see a Superstar genuinely enjoy a program that they’re involved in. Whether it is waging a war with the Wyatts or joining forces with them, The Apex Predator seems right at home. After taking down Dean Ambrose, Kane, and James Ellsworth, Orton has an incredible amount of momentum heading into Survivor Series. Is he actually part of The Wyatt Family or is it just a ruse to demolish the backwoods brawlers?
7.     Kalisto – The Dominion of Dynamo returned to action this week against his nemesis Baron Corbin. Corbin injured his knee after falling off the ring apron, which allowed Kalisto to get his revenge on The Lone Wolf.  Daniel Bryan announced that Kalisto would challenge Brian Kendrick for the Cruiserweight Title at Survivor Series with the chance to bring the strap and the entire division to Smackdown. Will he be successful or will he falter in his biggest test to date?
8.     Baron Corbin – The Lone Wolf seemed like a dark horse in the Survivor Series matchup as a part of Team Smackdown. After injuring his knee during his match with Kalisto, he was removed from the match and replaced by Smackdown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon. While that was an interesting booking decision to say the least, The Lone Wolf will look to continue his dominance on the blue brand by decimating Kalisto in the very near future.

9.     James Ellsworth – The feel good story of the year continues as Ellsworth has been the focal point of the main event scene of Smackdown Live over the past few weeks. He has gotten in the habit of biting off more than he can chew. He continued down that path this week after eating a Sister Abigail courtesy of Bray Wyatt.  Will his role as the official mascot of Team Smackdown have major implications at Survivor Series? Will he finally push Dean Ambrose to his breaking point or will he surprise the WWE Universe once again?
10.  Luke Harper – Bray Wyatt’s most loyal henchman hasn’t shown a lick of ring rust after returning from injury. He’ll most likely play a factor in the Survivor Series matchup. With his string of phenomenal in-ring performances, will his role expand or will he continue to reside in Bray Wyatt’s shadow?
11.  Curt Hawkins – After weeks of Chuck Norris-like vignettes, Curt Hawkins seems to be limited to the lower mid-card for now. The gimmick simply isn’t clicking with the WWE Universe, but is anyone actually surprised? However, he did pick up a victory over Apollo Crews via a handful of tights. Expect their feud to continue for the foreseeable future.
12.  Apollo Crews – As stated earlier, Crews fell victim to Curt Hawkins’ dirty tricks last week on Smackdown Live. Some may argue that Crews’ call-up from NXT was too soon because he never forged a connection with the Full Sail crowd. Aside from displaying a plastic smile, the fans do not have a reason to get behind him. His work as Uhaa Nation in the independent scene proves that Crews has all the tools to be a major player in WWE, but without the opportunity to flesh out his character, he will continue to float in limbo until that day arrives.
13.  Kane – The Big Red Monster is on the backend of his career. Despite an impressive run in the company spanning two decades, Kane is merely there to put over younger Superstars. The Undertaker is returning to WWE for Smackdown Live’s 900th episode. Will The Brothers of Destruction reunite or continue to go down separate paths?
14.  Jack Swagger – The Real American seemed like he would benefit from signing with Smackdown Live after his contract from RAW “expired.”  After hearing crickets during his promo upon his arrival, those hopes fizzled into thin air. The former World Champion has gone back to putting over other talent, which seems to be his permanent role on the blue brand.
Women’s Division

1.     Becky Lynch – The Smackdown Live Women’s Champion successfully defended her title against Alexa Bliss this past Tuesday. However, the referee failed to recognize Bliss’ foot on the rope, which would have forced Lynch to release her devastating Dis-Arm-Her submission maneuver. A rematch is definitely in the works. Will the Irish Lass Kicker successfully retain her title?
2.     Alexa Bliss – Bliss has arguably benefited the most from the brand extension since her call-up from NXT. Her in-ring move set is parallel with her facial expressions and heel tendencies. Although her match with Becky Lynch for the strap didn’t necessarily live up to expectations, she will definitely receive another shot after a faulty finish. Can she become the next Smackdown Live Women’s Champion?
3.     Nikki Bella- Strangely enough, the Smackdown Live Women’s Champion is not the captain of her team at Survivor Series. That honor went to the Fearless One. Since coming back from a horrific neck injury, Nikki is looking better than ever. With many of her previous moves scraped to ensure her safety, she remains fluid in the ring. Her ongoing feud with Carmella is sure to come into play during the Five-on-Five Match at Survivor Series.

4.     Naomi – The former Funkadactyl has not been given the chance to shine in WWE despite her superior in-ring work. Her current Feel the Glow gimmick is slowly resonating with fans, but will it lead to anything significant? In addition, her former ally Tamina Snuka is sure to return to action eventually. A feud with Tamina might help Naomi get herself into title contention.
5.     Carmella – The Princess of Staten Island had an awkward start upon her arrival on the Smackdown Live roster. Many expected her to rejoin Enzo Amore and Big Cass, but that did not happen. A heel turn reinvigorated her chances of being a threat in the division. She is still green, but working with Nikki Bella has definitely boosted her potential. Their tempers are bound to flare up at Survivor Series. Will it cost their team the win?
6.     Natalya – Although she is the only woman in history to graduate from the legendary Hart Dungeon, Nattie volunteered to be the coach of the women’s team. It is an odd booking decision, but at least she is on the card. Her latest gimmick has her showing Daniel Bryan pictures of her cats on Instagram while reciting famous song lyrics. Where will the Queen of Harts go from there?
Tag Team Division

1.     Beauty and The Man Beast – Heath Slater’s quest of getting a Smackdown Live contract was one of the most intriguing aspects of the Smackdown Live after the draft. After being an enhancement talent for years, his hard work and loyalty to the company finally paid off.  Slater and Rhyno hold the tag team straps and will captain their team against RAW’s at Survivor Series. Can they lead their men to victory in Toronto?
2.     The Usos – A much-needed heel turn breathed new life into their act. They are no longer reciting tribal chants to honor their heritage. They are arrogant, desperate, and ruthless towards their opponents. They’re the favorites to take the titles from the champs and they can get another shot at them if they have a strong showing at Survivor Series.
3.     American Alpha – After a dominant showing during their initial run on the main roster, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable have cooled off significantly and for good reason. These two have gold in their future, most likely around Wrestlemania season. Letting them take the backseat to other tag team acts is a smart move, but do not expect them to be putting others over. They’ll most likely be responsible for dispatching some of RAW’s finest tandems at Survivor Series.
4.     The Hype Bros – The most enthusiastic duo in the Smackdown Live tag team division have been idle for a while, but managed to snag a spot on the Survivor Series card. Zack Ryder looked as if he’d return to prominence after his shock victory at Wrestlemania 32 earlier this year, but now he is paired with his erratic pal Mojo Rawley. The two are in the middle of the pack by possessing an inconsistent win-loss record. Rawley and Ryder have all of the charisma to be a formidable tandem, but they will need to scratch and claw their way past other teams if they hope to be more than jobbers.

5.     Breezango – After not seeing any action for what felt like an eternity, Tyler Breeze and Fandango returned to last Tuesday with a new fashion police gimmick. It is an interesting direction for the extremely talented duo as they knocked off the terribly misused Vaudevillains to snag the final spot in the tag team Survivor Series matchup. These two have not been used to their full potential  due to a gimmick that is hard for the casual fans to embrace. However, an  impressive showing between the ropes at the pay-per-view might push them in the right direction.
6.     The Spirit Squad – Kenny and Mikey’s return to WWE last month gave fans a dose of nostalgia. They were a nice addtion to the Dolph Ziggler and The Miz feud as they tried to screw over Ziggler at every turn. Plus, the duo managed to get a shot at the Smackdown Tag Team Titles.  Much like James Ellsworth, they seem to be overstaying their welcome. Although they are mainly around to put other teams over, they have more momentum than two NXT transplants that can’t seem to enjoy the same success they had during the develpomental brand’s hottest period.
7.     The Ascension – Konnor and Viktor cannot catch a break. The longest reiging NXT Tag Team Champions have had an extremely underwhelming run on the main roster by finding absolutely no success whatsoever. Even Viktor’s pedigree of training in the famous Hart Dungeon cannot make people take them seriously as a team. The future looks bleek for the tandem. Maybe it is time to split them up so they can achieve solo success.
8.     The Vaudevillains – Is there any sadder story in  WWE than the misuse of The Vaudevillains? Aiden English and Simon Gotch found great success in NXT with their over-the-top, unique, and old school gimmick, but that hasn’t transferred to the main roster at all. Aiden English is fantastic on the microphone due to his acting background and Gotch was trained by Harley Race. The two have a supreme amount of untapped talent. After being disposed of by  Breezango, the two reside at the bottom of the tag team division where they will most likely remain for quite some time.

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