Monday 27 June 2011

Test Centre

When it was revealed that Alberto Del Rio was being moved from SmackDown to RAW on Monday April 25th it concerned me. He had been introduced and used exceptionally well on SmackDown and quickly risen up the card to become one of the show’s most dependable headline talents and a guaranteed future World Heavyweight champion. The blue brand had been heavily reliant on him when it came to storylines and ratings and there was plenty left for him to do. The move seemed rushed and unneeded.

Looking at the way Del Rio’s been during his first two months on RAW it seems as though I was right to have those fears. A relaunch of the Del Rio v Mysterio feud was teased but quickly dropped when Mysterio was required to replace John Morrison as an opponent for R-Truth, leaving ADR without a match at Over the Limit.

Since becoming a member of the RAW roster Del Rio has wrestled only a handful of televised matches. On May 9th he was the third man in the number one contendership match won by Miz with a pin on Mysterio. The next week he lost to Rey via disqualification. Last week he was pinned by CM Punk in a triple threat match also involving Mysterio. This is a far cry from how he would have been treated on SmackDown: had he stayed there he would have been used in meaningful matches or segments (or both) every week.

Sadly, Del Rio is not the first man this has happened to. Dolph Ziggler had been enjoying a feud with World champion Edge throughout January and February of this year, but was senselessly moved to RAW after it was revealed he had attacked Teddy Long backstage and the GM fired him. Ziggler had worked his way up from being a forgettable mid-card guy that took a year to win the Intercontinental title to someone who could work against Edge and be perceived as a threat. That’s not easy, and it was a credit to the writers and Nick ‘Dolph Ziggler’ Nemeth that it was accomplished.

You can go back years into WWE’s past and find more examples of people who were moved to Mondays with no real plan in place. Montel Vontavious Porter, Mr Kennedy and Carlito all stand out as fine examples of men that the SmackDown writing team had helped to build up and relied on for their show being moved to RAW only to be misused. There are many others.

It’s a worrying trend, and the fact that it has developed over years and become the norm makes me think it will never change. SmackDown seems to be the show that creates the new stars and RAW is the show said stars are moved to be tested as draws for the company. There would be nothing wrong with that system if SmackDown was compensated with some of RAW’s bigger stars in return, but it rarely is.

As an example of the superiority of the SmackDown writing team of their RAW counterparts let’s look at Sheamus. He was moved onto RAW very quickly after his television debut on ECW, and was rushed into a run as WWE champion. Sheamus is ready to carry a world championship now, both in terms of in-ring skills and character acceptance. 2009 was far too early for him to be champion. It was a damaging decision made by the RAW team. He had two reigns as champion and then sunk down into the mid-card, where he was eventually saddled with the dreaded “losing streak” gimmick.

Since he was drafted to SmackDown Sheamus may not have become the hottest star in the company, but he has been used logically and given time to develop and establish his character. Sheamus is being built up as one of the show’s top stars. Meanwhile, Del Rio is being used as a way of writing Big Show off television.

RAW raiding SmackDown for talent needs to stop. Or at least not continue to the same extent. Both shows should be striving to create their own stars that can be relied on to fill the promotion’s TV shows with memorable characters, provide worthy matches and help sell pay-per-views. SmackDown cannot, and should not have to, continue building new stars for RAW to steal every few months, only for them to never be used in their new home.

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