Last week, I wrote about the most valuable players on WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw. Seth Rollins and Alexa Bliss, along with other wrestlers from the “A show,” have ample opportunity to shine during Raw’s three-hour airtime. In comparison, SmackDown superstars have only two hours of TV time available. Although this leads to less filler, it also means wrestlers featured on the show must make the most of their screen time.
Long viewed as the “B show,” SmackDown’s impending move to Fox Sports in 2019 makes the show more valuable than ever before. Forging an identity separate from Raw would do wonders for the blue brand. Building characters who can become cornerstones of the brand (without moving them to Raw) is important for the show’s growth.
SmackDown already has a few personalities who can lead them into 2019 with some momentum. My all-time favorite, Daniel Bryan, is a versatile talent who will always be a crowd favorite. Same goes with Samoa Joe. Shinsuke Nakamura and Jeff Hardy are great personalities to have on the roster. Unfortunately, injury concerns and reluctance from WWE brass will prevent these wrestlers from becoming the face of SmackDown.
— WWE (@WWE) July 6, 2018
On the women’s side of things, Carmella is an extremely entertaining character, although her match quality leaves something to be desired. Becky Lynch is a constantly underrated talent who can help carry the women’s division. Asuka and Charlotte are two of the most athletic women that the company has ever employed. However, these wrestlers have had stretches throughout the year where they have not done much of anything.
I believe that there is only one choice for SmackDown’s most valuable player. Although it is obvious to choose the brand’s world champion, AJ Styles has truly carried the blue brand since his move there in 2016. It is still surreal to think that one of WWE’s shows revolves around him, but Styles deserves all of his success.
— AJStyles.Org (@AJStylesOrg) July 5, 2018
One of the most prolific independent wrestlers of all time, Styles followed in the footsteps of another long-haired technician in Daniel Bryan by defying traditional WWE stereotypes and becoming world champion. Despite not having the size, age, or larger than life persona attributed to top guys, Styles’ in-ring prowess and ability to connect with the audience makes him impossible to ignore.
Styles has held the WWE Title since November, feuding with the likes of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Shinsuke Nakamura throughout 2018. The feud with Nakamura started slow, mostly due to the impossible standard the pair set during their epic battle in New Japan Pro Wrestling. However, the pair’s ability to make the crowd care about something as simple as a “low blow” built into a nice little storyline, culminating in an excellent Last Man Standing match at Money In The Bank.
Currently, Styles is set to defend his championship against Rusev at Extreme Rules in the biggest match of the latter’s career. Styles is the perfect guy to pit against Rusev, as he can elevate and legitimize anyone who steps in the ring with him. This could be the match where Rusev breaks through the proverbial glass ceiling, and Styles can put over Rusev strong without losing any momentum. Elevating a talented midcarder to main event level is the true test of a top guy, and I believe AJ Styles will rise to the occasion.