Winner: Dolph Ziggler
The biggest winner on the SmackDown brand so far has been Dolph Ziggler. There’s no question about it. For most of this year, Ziggler was booked as a veteran mid-carder that was used to have good matches with some people and also put over a newcomer like Baron Corbin many times. All of a sudden, he was put in the six-man match on July 26 and to the surprise of most people, he actually won. Then this past week on SmackDown, he had a great promo segment with WWE Champion Dean Ambrose and followed that up with an impressive win over Bray Wyatt to remain the top contender.
While I don’t think Ziggler is going to be the next WWE Champion (Ambrose is likely going to retain at SummerSlam), the fact that he’s even in that position makes him a huge winner of this brand split so far. When WWE did the brand split in the first place, the optimistic fans knew that a guy like Ziggler could benefit. We just didn’t know it was actually going to happen. I’m glad it has, because Ziggler deserves it a lot.
Loser: AJ Styles
When they did the six-man match on the first episode of the new SmackDown on July 26, they had Ziggler pin Styles clean. It was a bizarre choice, considering that Styles was pinned by John Cena two days earlier at Battleground. Why are they having Styles lose so much? It’s tough to answer because they should be protecting him a lot more than they are.
Styles had a really good promo exchange with Cena on last week’s SmackDown, which was encouraging. They’re going to have a big rematch at SummerSlam. If Styles wins that match, he’ll make people forget about the recent losses. However, if he loses, that will hurt his momentum again. Styles should be in the WWE Title picture and maybe he will be post-SummerSlam. But in order for him to be a believable contender, he needs to win more matches.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
I loved the promo that Ambrose did on SmackDown earlier this week. He really came off as a confident champion that believes in himself. They could have booked him as this fluke champion that was lucky to be holding the gold, but instead he’s being presented as this guy that has truly earned and deserved it. Ambrose telling Ziggler that he liked to show off while all Ambrose cared about was winning matches was delivered in such a way that it will make people truly believe in him as the champion.
Ambrose is in a great spot right now as the top pick on SmackDown who is also the WWE Champion. He’s in the prime of his career doing his best work and I feel like the best is yet to come too.
Loser: Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio is similar to Sheamus on Raw. They just aren’t doing much with him at this point. He’s a former main event talent that has been lost in the shuffle already. I’m not sure what is going to happen with him long-term because the heel gimmick is so stale. But he’s always been better as a heel instead of a face.
Can we get Ricardo Rodriguez back to be paired with him? That’s when Del Rio was at his best. Having a personal ring announcer while driving into arenas in expensive cars made him stand out. Now he’s just a regular guy and not doing enough to make people care about him.
Winner: Randy Orton
The master of the RKO has looked great since returning from injury. They are doing a fantastic job of putting over the RKO as the most devastating finisher in the business as a way to show that Orton is not that much of an underdog against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.
Orton’s run-in on Raw was great when he nailed Lesnar with the RKO. Then he took a F5 from Lesnar on SmackDown, but that’s not really going to damage him. What WWE is doing really well is putting over the idea that Orton has a shot against Lesnar because of the RKO. If he hits that, can he win? That’s the story and it’s going well.
Loser: Women’s Division
Aside from Becky Lynch and Natalya, the women’s division on Smackdown is poor. In week one, they had the other women on the roster do these brief promos talking about how good they are while they did absolutely nothing. This week on Smackdown, both women’s matches didn’t happen as Eva Marie was “injured” prior to her match with Lynch and Natalya attacked Carmella.
I know that Daniel Bryan said that they are going to have a Women’s Title on SmackDown at some point in the future. I hope there’s no rush to it because they really need to do something like get women from the past or sign some free agents. They are really hurting in terms of depth at this point.
It seems like Nikki Bella is close to coming back and since she’s dating John Cena, she’ll probably be on Smackdown. That will help the roster’s depth.
Winner: Apollo Crews
I’m happy that Crews was victorious in the triple threat match for a shot at the Intercontinental Title. He’s going to face The Miz for the title, which is a good matchup because it’s fresh and could help Crews a lot, whether he wins or loses. While The Miz may aggravate some people because he’s so annoying, what he does best is get over the character aspect of himself and his opponent. That’s what Crews needs to get to another level.
It’s very possible that Crews becomes the Intercontinental Champion at some point soon. It might not be at SummerSlam because WWE may want to build him up some more. But it could happen in the fall as a way to build up Crews as a bigger star.
Loser: David Otunga
I’m still waiting for the Harvard lawyer to say something interesting. When WWE decided to put Otunga on commentary, I really wasn’t thrilled about it because with John Bradshaw Layfield there as the heel announcer, Otunga’s role is to be the face announcer along with Mauro Ranallo. It feels like JBL is toned down compared to what he was on Raw, but Otunga really isn’t coming off as a good announcer. I barely notice he’s there at times because of how little he actually says.
It’s easy to see why WWE might like him in that spot because he’s a well-spoken guy. It doesn’t mean he’s interesting, though. A two-man announce team for Smackdown would probably be better at this point.
It’s still early in the brand split process, so overreacting to things isn’t something I would recommend. However, it’s already clear in terms of who WWE seems to be high on and who is having a tough time starting up. Like I wrote above, it sucks saying that my favorite guys like Owens and Zayn are “losers” at the moment, but if you watch Raw, then that’s how they have been portrayed after two weeks. Can it be corrected? Sure. I hope so.
For now, the biggest winners have been Finn Balor and Dolph Ziggler as babyface contenders for the two major championships that are on the line at SummerSlam. Who are your winners and losers so far?