The landscape of WWE has changed rather dramatically in the past few weeks. But what does the future hold? Read on to find out what our experts think and then leave some thoughts of your own in the comments below.
Coast 2 Coast is cowritten by Josh Rebuck.
1) Which show do you think has made the biggest changes?
Corey: As of now I’m going to go with Smackdown. With it being live it seems like they’ve gotten re-energized and honestly I haven’t been this excited to watch Smackdown since around 2009. At one point Smackdown was THE SHOW if you wanted more wrestling than anything with people like Edge, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle. Then it fell off for a little bit, then became interesting again when Jeff Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Brian Kendrick, and Undertaker were on that roster, and when the brand split quietly became irrelevant it turned into just a continuation of Raw and lost all of its excitement. Now with Champion Dean Ambrose, along with the likes of Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, and New Era John Cena I’ll definitely be back to watching on a regular basis again.
Josh: Smackdown going to a live format definitely gives it a head start in the “let’s be different” race. When this whole thing started I assumed Smackdown would go through the largest overhaul, but I’m pleasantly surprised at all the changes Raw has also undergone. Raw might win this contest surely because watching three hours of live wrestling no longer feels like a chore, but check back with me in a few months to see if I still feel that way.
2) What do you think Raw and Smackdown will look like one year from now?
Corey: Hopefully they do some character tweaking for some of the talent since they don’t have such a crowded roster. Hopefully Raw will still commit to making sure the cruiserweights have their time in the spotlight because it is a goldmine. At this time, with having only had two weeks since the brand split, it’s a little early to have an exact idea but I do feel that Raw will be more storyline based and Smackdown will be more wrestling based.
Josh: I don’t think either brand will look like what they currently look like. WWE is in a testing phase right now and you can tell they’re trying some stuff out to see if it works: announce teams in different locations, more variation in camera angles, style of backstage segments. My hope is that both brands retain a respective identity beyond the rosters. The most refreshing part of the new WWE is that we aren’t seeing the same things. Raw has a feel and so does Smackdown, and on a weekly format that makes a huge difference than watching five hours of the same thing week after week.
3) What do you think of the Heath Slater’s storyline?
Corey: It’s a bit comical. Some like to look at Heath as just another jobber, but I find him incredibly entertaining and it’s clear that he’s having fun with it. As long as there is an end goal then I’m fine with it, but then again it is WWE so it could end up leading to nothing *cough* Mystery Raw General Manager *cough*.
Josh: It’s really quite clever. It’s a good way to bring in characters that haven’t appeared on WWE television in a while to fill out the rosters and plays up one of Slater’s very underrated talents as a performer, he does great comedy. If they’re smart they can stretch this out until November or so, but there needs to be a big payoff.
Will Heath Slater ever land a new contract with Raw or Smackdown?
4) Having seen two weeks of WWE programming following the brand split, which superstar do you think has the greatest opportunity to advance their career?
Corey: It’s a tie between Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles. Both of them are completely over with the crowd. Great in the ring and can talk. But we all know WWE tends to favor the bigger guys more, but with this brand split both will be given ample time in the spotlight without having to play back up to bigger guys.
Josh: I think guys like Rusev and Kevin Owens have the most ample opportunity to become main event stars. They’re already mainstays on the roster and are on the cusp of the biggest pushes of their careers. Splitting these rosters definitely clears the way for them both to succeed as main event caliber heels.
5) The first round of the CWC has concluded; since many of these talents will be appearing on Raw in the coming months: who is the most Raw ready and who has taken you by surprise?
Corey: To me the ones that are most ready for Raw are Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, and Cedric Alexander. Gargano vs Ciampa was absolutely amazing and Cedric Alexander needs to immediately be put in a 15-minute match with Neville. Book it now! One of the biggest surprises to me was Jack Gallagher vs Fabian Aichner. I don’t know what I expected but those two had awesome chemistry!
Josh: Definitely Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are the most ready for the main roster. I think a good case could also be made for Kota Ibushi, Akira Tozawa and TJ Perkins. Speaking of which Perkins is my breakout star of this competition. I knew Perkins was good coming in to this competition, but watching him compete in a WWE ring really caught my eye.