WWE’s Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2016 pay-per-view is scheduled for this upcoming Sunday night and it appears as though the card has been finalized outside of any last-minute additions, which means it’s time for another look at the superstars on the SmackDown roster who have been skipped over. For whatever reason, these men and women from the blue brand weren’t deemed important enough to find a spot for at the event—at least as far as it’s currently being advertised. Some of those omissions might be justified, while others below are a bit more questionable. Let’s take a look at who will be sitting this show out.
For someone who said WrestleMania would no longer define him as he was back to dig holes and take souls, The Undertaker’s been absent ever since. No appearance at Survivor Series, no match scheduled for TLC, no appearances on SmackDown. Call me crazy, but if he doesn’t show up until Royal Rumble, doesn’t that mean all he’s doing is The Road to WrestleMania, which flies in direct opposition of what he’s said?
That’s what is to be expected, but it’s kind of a shame that we aren’t seeing more from The Phenom. Of course, he could still make some kind of an appearance if he shows up to chokeslam AJ Styles after he retains the championship, setting up a match between the two at Royal Rumble, but that’s just speculation rather than something being advertised.
How much time has John Cena actually spent on the SmackDown brand since the draft? It seems like the majority of the calendar has been dedicated to other projects. In fact, it was only a few minutes before I posted this article that I remembered he was even part of the roster and should be added to this list, as I’ve just grown accustomed to not seeing him.
Of course, with him off doing American Grit, it’s no surprise that he’s not wrestling at TLC, but it’s still disappointing to see how his inclusion in the event could spice things up and make it feel like a much bigger and important show to watch. There aren’t any wrestlers on this list who are big enough to match up to him but low enough on the hierarchy not to be wasting something on TLC (ie, you can’t do Undertaker vs. Cena here but nobody would care about Cena vs. Curt Hawkins). However, those are just excuses to justify keeping your #1 top guy off yet another pay-per-view instead of trying to figure out ways to actually get him to make an appearance, which is what WWE should be doing. With the Royal Rumble coming up next and that leading into the time of the year where things get more and more muddled between rosters leading up to WrestleMania, it’s not going to help SmackDown out as much as it would have on the events like this where his presence could be felt on a much grander scale.
The Tag Teams
Are you surprised The Vaudevillains, Breezango, The Hype Bros and The Spirit Squad aren’t booked with any matches? Neither am I. You’d think Sin Cara getting into a fight with Chris Jericho would have absolved Simon Gotch of some of his ill-will, but he’s still being jobbed out, taking his team out of the running for absolutely anything of importance. Meanwhile, The Spirit Squad exists just to hang out with The Miz right now against Dolph Ziggler and they don’t have any official contracts, although by this point, why not just sign the guys, right? Considering Kenny Dykstra was fired from his regular job, it would be nice to see WWE pick up the check at least for him, as they could put him in the midcard and ditch the cheerleader gimmick if they have no interest in keeping Mikey around. I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Hype Bros and Breezango get a pre-show match against each other if there’s enough time to fit them in there as they’re on much better ground than the previously named teams.
Much more importantly, though, are The Usos and American Alpha. Those are clearly the top two teams on the brand, but with some odd booking over the past few months with Slater and Rhyno and now Orton and Wyatt, WWE seems to be prioritizing oddball pairings more so than pure tag teams, which is the opposite of Monday Night Raw’s philosophy. This is strange as SmackDown is usually the wrestling show with less focus on storylines, but with the way things have worked lately, we’re more likely to see Dean Ambrose and James Ellsworth get a title shot than Breezango. American Alpha and The Usos will both be champions at some point, but it won’t happen at TLC, so maybe a pre-show match between the two teams will be thrown onto the card just to put them out there.
One thing that SmackDown needs to get back on track is its midcard division. There are a few names that have the potential to do so much more than the level they’re currently being utilized at. It seems like every pay-per-view, some of the same wrestlers come up in this discussion, including Apollo Crews, Curt Hawkins and Jack Swagger. It’s such a small pool that they can be big fish very easily, but clearly, WWE just does not want them to be in that position as they’re actively ignoring them.
When it comes to Hawkins, it’s a little easier to justify, as his character just screams jobber, but Swagger was brought over from Raw with some gusto and it fizzled out almost immediately. Crews was building up a lot of steam in NXT and has not had any traction whatsoever since coming to the main roster, almost as if he’s being punished for not having the tools they never gave him the chance to learn in developmental as he was rushed in the first place!
You can also count James Ellsworth in the mix for the midcard as he’s now an official roster member, although while he has no matches announced, the way he’s been focused on for the past few months means he’s likely to make some kind of an appearance either in the main event being tossed through a table or something or at the very least, he’ll show up in a backstage promo. He’s been more prominently featured than a good number of people who could arguably be more useful in the long run once the Ellsworth joke fully runs its course.
Then, of course, there’s Kane and Luke Harper, who seem to be paired together just as something to do for the two of them on the outskirts of this Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton situation. Just as there’s a chance the other tag teams could be put on the pre-show, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harper and Kane had another kickoff match, although Harper needs to pick up the win if that happens.