SmackDown Live is in a tough spot right now, leaning on a first-time WWE champion and global wrestling star to be their anchors in the present.
John Cena's absence has left a major hole in the roster, while AJ Styles being out of the main event picture has also hurt the show. Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura are the two rising stars WWE is trying to push for teh future, but it hasn't gone smoothly over the past month-plus.
Mahal's credibility as a powerful heel and champion leaves much to be desired, especially with rumors pointing to the WWE's decision being based around marketing to India, while Nakamura has been more hype than payout in his segments and matches since joining the main roster.
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These facts have caught the attention of notorious former WWE writer Vince Russo, who was critical of how the promotion has handled the pushes of both men. Russo, part of the creative team that helped WWE transition into the Attitude era, laid out the issues he sees.
"What a mishandling of Jinder Mahal three weeks as the champion. They dropped the ball… It's horrendous what they did to this poor guy in the last three weeks. This is what they do with all these guys. Everybody just becomes another name on the roster," Russo told Raj Giri of Wrestling Inc.
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"If you go back and you look at the Attitude Era show, every single show was built around who the champion was. And that championship and that title. Every show was built around that. That's the most important thing on the show.
"Yesterday, three weeks after winning the title, this guy was handled just like another wrestler on the show, the announcers couldn't have no-sold it any-more. When Shane announced he had a match with Mojo, the freaking announcers no-sold it. This is your freaking champion!"
Russo was equally critical of the lack of development seen on the Nakamura front since his big main roster debut match at SmackDown's Backlash pay-per-view.
"And Nakamura, as unique as the guy is, bro, what have they done? I saw a vignette of a guy yesterday painting. That's the character build of Nakamura. I mean, that's supposed to get me excited about this freaking guy," Russo said.
SmackDown Live is definitely in a weird spot, lacking the established main event draw power that RAW boasts. Still, RAW's viewership has been struggling despite having more active top superstars, so perhaps creative as a whole with WWE is hitting a dry spell on both shows.
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