…And much of it has to do with both Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens being off TV. Both are workhorses and both will be off TV due to injury (Owens) and Illness (Reigns) going into 2019. It is likely both will be back in time for the Royal Rumble though.
I mentioned this before but it has had a ripple effect across both RAW and Smackdown. The upside is the product has become far less predictable in some areas but far more predictable in others.
Braun Stowman’s absence compounds Brock Lesnar being an absentee Champion and of course, Roman Reigns being away due to illness. This leaves RAW without an anchor and it has been showing since Reigns was forced to take a leave of absence after Hell in a Cell.
It looks more and more lilkely that Strowman will not be back in time for TLC so Smackdown will end up carrying that PPV. WWE has had a piss-poor track record of having contingency plans in place for consistent absences of RAW’s top male superstars and it has been showing in recent months. On that note, the word on the still booked match between Baron Corbin and Strowman at TLC is the match will still happen but someone will take Strowman’s place obviously. The Monster Among Men is expected to be back in time for the Royal Rumble and it’s possible The Big Dog will be back by then, too.
Assuming Lesnar competes at the Royal Rumble, WWE would have a few good problems to figure out regarding its top 3 superstatrs (Lesnar, Reigns and Strowman). A good option would be for Lesnar to drop the title to Strowman and have Reigns win the Royal Rumble, then challenge Strowman for the title. Lesnar has his rematch the following month but loses to Strowman. Lesnar is then set up to face Drew McIntyre at Wrestlemania (EPIC match if WWE pulls the trigger on it). Or, WWE could make it a Triple Threat involving Strowman vs. Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre. Lesnar could be set up to fight Bobby Lashley in that case since…Lashley came back specifically to fight Lesnar and has yet to actually do so.
In the Tag Team Division, AOP becoming the Tag Champs was a much-needed change to wake up the division. They hadn’t been used much since coming to the main roster because of the makeshift tag teams (B-Team and Dolph Ziggler + Drew McIntyre) and The Shield dominating since Wrestlemania. Dropping the titles to Bobby Roode + Chad Gable is clearly building towards…SOMETHING at the Royal Rumble. I think, anyway.
The Women’s Division…whew. FOX is very interested in Ronda Rousey being on Smackdown for the network change next year. The RAW Women’s Division was already strong before she came at the end of the 2018 Royal Rumble. She won’t be missed if she is moved to satisfy FOX’s latest demand.
Daniel Bryan replacing AJ Styles as the Blue Brand’s top talent isn’t a surprise. The Heel turn, on the other hand is a stroke of genius. D-Bry has been a Babyface for most of his career in and out of the ring. He was a Heel early on up to his early run as part of Team Hell No.
I mentioned this before but The Undertaker has expressed a strong interest in having a match with D-Bry at Wrestlemania for some time. D-Bry’s Heel turn the week before Survivor Series could be in preparation for D-Bry vs. ‘Taker at Wrestlemania 35. It would make the most sense if WWE goes that route. I’m pretty sure we will have a better idea at the Royal Rumble. If WWE goes the same route they went with Roman Reigns, the setup could be for D-Bry being eliminated by ‘Taker, then calling him out later for a match at Wrestlemania.
If D-Bry retains the title at TLC (and therefore won’t be in the Royal Rumble match), he could either be set up to drop the title at the Royal Rumble, after it or have his match with ‘Taker at Wrestlemania 35 be for the title. That can be done one of two ways and few would complain about because it’s The Undertaker we’re talking about. One option is simply having ‘Taker win the Royal Rumble match. Assuming Lesnar still has the Universal title at that time–it’s the most likely outcome being honest–it could make more sense for a RAW Superstar to win the Royal Rumble this time. In that case, the next PPV would be about figuring out D-Bry’s Wrestlemania opponent. Then, D-Bry flips the script and says he wants The Undertaker at Wrestlemania ala John Cena from last year. It could work.
The Tag Team Division is wide open but obviously far more interesting than RAW’s between just The New Day, The Bar and The USOs. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if The Usos and possibly The New Day are moved to RAW to help kickstart their Tag Team Division. Gallows and Anderson haven’t been used much and neither has SAnity. The Wyatt Family is obviously being brought back together. Assuming it doesn’t include Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt will re-debut on Smackdown with Luke Harper and Eric Rowan (The latter currently out due to injury). Otherwise him returning to RAW would be a hard sell to me.
The Women’s Division…well, Becky Lynch is the most Over Superstar in all of WWE right now so…yeah. Like I mentioned earlier, FOX is VERY interested in getting Ronda Rousey on Smackdown. Obviously she would need to drop the RAW Women’s Championship first for that to happen. Outside Lynch, there’s also Charlotte (Now a Heel) and Asuka to help anchor Smackdown. The rest of the roster getting screen time can’t hurt either.
The MMC had to deal with alot of changes so the Finals being Fabulous Truth (Carmella and R-Truth) vs. Mahalcia (Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox) should come as no surprise. As a reminder, Roman Reigns and Nia Jax were originally supposed to be in the MMC but that ended up not happening.
Since they’re Over, my money’s on R-Truth and Carmella winning at TLC. For those who don’t know, the winning team of the MMC will enter the Royal Rumble Match last. The winning pair also get an all-expanses paid vacation to wherever they want in the world. It goes without saying whoever wins the MMC likely won’t win their Royal Rumble match but it doesn’t matter. The MMC has proven to be a very good way to showcase a variety of superstars without touching their ongoing storylines on Raw and Smackdown. I look forward to seeing how things go with MMC Season 3 next year!
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