Two Things from Smackdown Live: Randy Orton Needs a Direction

What is the end game for Smackdown Live’s biggest storyline involving Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan? After this storyline was placed on the backburner so that both Smackdown Live and Raw could focus on brand supremacy for a few weeks, the blue brand has changed gears and the complicated storyline is back at the forefront on Tuesday nights. But where are they going? How does this end? Who ultimately benefits from this?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m inching closer and closer to falling into the Nobody Is Winning This Feud camp.

For Bryan, it can only hurt. A few weeks ago he was verbally extinguished by the Best Friends, but now in the interest of the brand’s limited main event talent depth, has come to their defense. Bryan is trying to play both sides right now, and if he’s not getting cleared to compete anytime soon, I’m not sure why they’re going down this road.

For McMahon, he’s already gone to Hell with Owens only to be foiled by Zayn in a stunning finish at Hell In A Cell a few weeks back. Does anyone really want to see Shane go to war with Owens or Zayn again? If the goal is to eventually turn Shane-O-Mac, the Smackdown writers are doing a fantastic job doing it organically with these opening promos every week. (They’re awful and need to stop.)

For Owens and Zayn, it feels like they’re losing steam as the weeks go by. At some point, the WWE creative team has to decide what they’re going to do with these two going forward -- and it can’t be moving them to Raw. The red brand is too loaded to be able to absorb both Zayn and Owens, but with the duo being at severe odds with the blue brand’s figure heads the WWE has booked themselves into a corner. Oddly enough, an ending where Owens and Zayn somehow take control of Smackdown Live, at least for a time, from McMahon and Bryan may just be their best course of action.

With that, let’s jump into my two major takeaways from this week’s Smackdown Live:

  1. “Byron that is disgusting,” Corey Graves said in the best line of the show. As much as I fantacize hopping into a lion pit while listenting to Raw’s commentary team each week, the Graves and Byron Saxton dynamic will never cease to entertain me. But that’s not one of my major things I took away from this show -- I just needed to put that out into the world. (Stay strong, Byron.) Instead, I was mesmorized by Randy Orton’s sudden hair growth, for one, but Orton’s current place in the company is a mystery. His main event match with Owens was enjoyable, but it reminded me how irrelevant Orton is right now within the company, and that stinks. Orton, like John Cena, is moving into a new role in the company, but that new, minor role should still have a plan. For all of Orton’s shortcomings, one thing has always been true -- the guy is dependable. If you place him in the right situation -- ala in a blood feud against Brock Lesnar -- Orton can still be a very fun, interesting character. Who knows how much longer we have of Orton in the WWE, and for Smackdown Live’s creative team to not put him into a compelling storyline right now -- perhaps with Baron Corbin and/or Bobby Roode -- is insanely frustrating.

  2. Is it too late to pull the plug on the Riott Squad vs. Smackdown Live women’s division? Maybe it was just a bad week, but from a painful backstage promo between Charlotte Flair and Naomi, to Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan not getting disqualified for destroying Naomi, to Natalya’s insufferable over-acting, this is just not working. For the most part, though, it’s not the wrestlers’ fault, as they’re all talented, but they’ve been fed bad dialogue and a program that is eliciting crickets from the audience. It doesn’t help that Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan just come off as natural babyfaces, but, man, next week has to be better. Let's hope it is.