SmackDown was thought to be at a disadvantage after the July brand extension was initiated as it pertained to the tag team and women’s divisions. Its two-hour format allowed for the three-hour RAW to select more WWE superstars in the draft, and subsequently, SmackDown experienced some depth issues in the early goings. This was particularly noticeable among the women and the tag teams.
While RAW snatched up rising stars (and arguably more established) Sasha Banks and Charlotte to lead the new era on Monday nights, SmackDown selected Becky Lynch to be the new face of the females on the blue brand. Sasha and Charlotte had what would amount to be one of the best rivalries of the entire year while the division on SmackDown had a lot more to prove.
Surprisingly, however, things clicked faster than most had expected. Becky became the first SmackDown Women’s Champion, but Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Natalya, and Nikki Bella proved to be a strong supporting cast thanks to significant storylines and equal television time. The SmackDown creative staff wisely turned Carmella heel when her debut babyface act flopped, and they found a gem in Alexa who has surpassed all expectations to become the new champion.
The two veterans of the division, Nikki and Natalya, have developed a new-found edge that’s provided a compelling angle, one that’s been able to develop dating all the way back to Survivor Series. Even Eva Marie was becoming the most-hated superstar on the entire roster before a wellness violation derailed her push. But all in all, SmackDown has done well with the hand they were dealt dating back to the brand split.
The most recent addition to the SmackDown women’s division has been the return of Mickie James. Mickie returned last November to compete in a match against Asuka at the NXT Takeover: Toronto special on the eve of Survivor Series. But as it turns out, she signed a three-year deal right before that match and will now be a fixture on Tuesday nights. She was revealed as La Luchadora this past Tuesday, a masked female performer entwined in the feud between Becky and Alexa.
Mickie helped Alexa retain the championship during the first-ever women’s steel cage match in the main event of the most recent episode of SmackDown. The show received a 5 percent increase in ratings with the women in the headlining position. This is further proof that the women, especially Becky and Alexa, have continually improved.
The Mickie James reveal has led many to believe that the major program moving forward in the women’s division on SmackDown will feature Mickie and Becky. And while that very well may be the case in the short-term, don’t expect it to continue on to WrestleMania. According to the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the top women’s feud from the blue brand at WrestleMania will definitely include Nikki Bella.
This does not necessarily exclude anyone from the SmackDown women’s division for the big storyline. However, WrestleMania is already shaping up to be a loaded card and the chances that the SmackDown women get two matches on it are rather slim. Even the more high-profile division on RAW is only expected to have one match unless Ronda Rousey is booked for a match on the show.
Nikki is viewed as being the most marketable woman on SmackDown, thanks to the success of both Total Divas and Total Bellas and her high-profile relationship with another top SmackDown star, John Cena.
The final WrestleMania card is expected to be set in stone late next week, so fans are hopeful to have a better idea of the direction then. There’s certainly the chance that Becky and Mickie will square off in the interim, perhaps at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. And Nikki still has to settle her beef once and for all with Natalya. But after that, look for Nikki to enter the title picture, either solely with Alexa Bliss or as part of a multi-woman match on the grand stage in April.
[Featured Image by WWE]