The hierarchy amongst WWE superstars plays out on live television each week. It is through the booking of WWE programming that we see who Vince McMahon and other decision-makers behind the scenes view as main event talent, mid-carders and lower card jobbers, not to mention those unworthy of TV time at all. When Roman Reigns refers to himself as "The Guy", it stands as both a moniker and a reflection of his place in the WWE pecking order.
To have stars like Reigns loom atop the hierarchy means that lesser talent - as so deemed by McMahon and compny - must occupy the lower rungs. Then there are those who remain on the payroll, but currently exist so buried down the depth chart as to barely be noticeable. Think of Curt Hawkins and Sin Cara. The burial of these wrestlers could be performance-related or politically motivated, or they might just not be that good.
Regardless of the reason, this type of WWE wrestler has existed and will continue to exist for as long as the company is around. Once the current group either enjoys a renewed push or, more likely, gets future endeavoured, a new class will come to occupy that bottom tier. So, then, let's have a look ahead and see who may soon be falling out of the company's good graces and facing a burial once the calendar flips over to 2018.
15 Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
To say that the WWE run of former Bullet Club members Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows has not gone according to plan would be a vast understatement. The popular tag team arrived from NJPW last year with a cool look and intriguing potential associations with fellow Club members AJ Styles and Finn Balor. A short connection with Styles produced a fun "Beat up John Cena" arc, but little else. Beyond that, relevance has proven elusive in WWE for the bald baddies.
Having Anderson and Gallows debut near the top of the main event scene actually worked against the duo, as they lost momentum by taking losses to Cena and Roman Reigns. More perplexing was the decision to job them out to the New Day in their attempt to win the Raw tag titles. They still haven't won tag gold in WWE and it's getting harder and harder to foresee any renewed push coming their way.
For as long as Carmella holds the Money in the Bank briefcase, she will remain a relevant part of the Smackdown women's division and a threat to Natalya or whomever may be champion at the time. Aside from that briefcase though, there just isn't much keeping her afloat. Segments with her whipping boy James Ellsworth have gone from mildly amusing to irritating and the queen of Staten Island has few redeeming qualities in the ring.
Even as Natalya feuds with Charlotte for the women's title, Carmella has kept herself on the periphery of the title picture with occasional cash-in teases. Eventually, though, it will be time to put up or shut up, and she will either win the championship or lose the case. Either way, the conclusion of her MITB briefcase storyline seems more likely to bring about a swift end to her push than a lengthy title reign.
13 The Bludgeon Brothers
The tandem of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan haven't even re-debuted yet and already there is reason to question the team's upside. For one thing, there's the name - Bludgeon Brothers is terrible. Mainly, though, the notion of reuniting the rest of the Wyatt Family without Bray Wyatt seems likely to be dead on arrival.
Now, there could be some short-term success for Harper and Rowan on Smackdown. There is at least enough steam behind the duo to give them creepy vignettes ahead of their debut and let's face it, the tag division on the blue brand isn't exactly deep. A short build as an unstoppable force followed by a title run isn't out of the question. But looking ahead to 2018? It isn't too much fan interest that has kept them off TV up until now.
12 Akira Tozawa
Looking ahead to 2018, it's worth wondering whether the entire 205 Live cruiserweight roster won't all be buried and scrapped as a failed experiment. If the show - not to mention the division - is to survive, they'll need a significant injection of talent beyond the current crop of stars that, by and large, have struggled to get their characters over with WWE fans.
Case and point is Akira Tozawa, an internationally celebrated wrestler who had a brief title run, but did so with a character who has been diminished through his affiliation with the silly Titus Worldwide stable and his inane "ha!" gimmick. While some members of the WWE Universe may parrot the "ha!" chants, it is surely grating and annoying to others. If the company can't offer Tozawa anything meatier to enhance his character, there just isn't much chance of success.
11 Mickie James
Does anyone really see Mickie James going over during her current program with Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss? James is finally getting her first meaningful push since returning to the main roster back in January, and it already seems little more than something for Bliss to do before battling Asuka or a rematch with Bayley. More disturbingly, it also seems to be an excuse for Vince McMahon and the writing staff to pepper the 38-year-old with age-related insults.
At this stage of James' comeback, it's pretty clear that WWE sees her as neither a long-term asset in the division nor a legend worth protecting. Once she likely comes up on the losing end against Bliss, what could be left for the one-time "Piggy" James outside of putting over other talent?
10 Sami Zayn
Given his recent heel turn as part of what is one of the hottest angles in WWE currently, it might seem like a strange time to project the future burial of Sami Zayn. But for as much as most wrestling fans love his new heel pairing with long-time rival Kevin Owens, there remain questions about just how beneficial the turn will be for Zayn in the long run.
Outside of his chemistry with Owens, there just isn't much about Zayn's character that lends itself to being a bad guy. His high energy theme music hasn't changed yet and his in-ring style seemed perfectly suited for his likeable underdog. Minor tweaks, such as his cold, deliberate walk to the ring on his first post-turn Smackdown appearance, could help. However, it remains unclear how he will ever be able to emerge from Owens' shadow.
9 Aiden English
If it weren't for the mega-push of Jinder Mahal, Aiden English might stand as Smackdown's most surprising current push. While not quite a push to the top of the card, English has rode his heel opera singer character to wins over Tye Dillinger and Sami Zayn and a mini-feud with Randy Orton.
Whether some higher-up has bought into what English is selling or if this is simply WWE's way of making things right with English after the release of his Vaudevillains tag partner Simon Gotch, the former NXT tag champion is something of a flavor of the month on SD. Now, the question is how long will it last? Unfortunately, English seems to be precisely the type of - pardon the pun - one-note character that has a short shelf life.
8 Tye Dillinger
Speaking of gimmicks with a short shelf life, it feels like Tye Dillinger's "Perfect 10" character is already losing steam. During his run in NXT and subsequent surprise appearance in this year's Royal Rumble, Dillinger caught on with fans thanks, at least in part, to the catchy "ten" chants that accompanied his arrival. Heck, go to a live WWE event and you are likely to hear fans belt out the chant over any referee count out.
While some chants feel like they will never go away (why are "what?" chants still a thing??), Dillinger's "ten" may be on his last legs. After all, it isn't easy getting behind the chant of a guy portrayed on TV as a glorified jobber. The former Shawn Spears has been mixing it up with Baron Corbin and AJ Styles lately, but his involvement seemed to achieve little beyond giving Corbin a win without Styles taking a pinfall.
7 Fashion Police
The comedic tandem of Fandango and Tyler Breeze operate outside the realm of anything else taking place on Smackdown right now, which is probably the right place for them. It would be hard to take them seriously in the tag title hunt and involving any other acts beyond the Ascension would instantly devolve a potential feud into silliness. Such is the challenging position of the Fashion Police - what good is TV time if it isn't leading to anything?
The duo's backstage skits have all centered around the mystery of who attacked them, but are played so over-the-top that it remains unclear whether there will be any real payoff. And without much chance of the Fashion Police engaging in a serious feud, does it really matter whether there's a payoff or not?
6 Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode's arrival on Smackdown hasn't exactly been "glorious" to date. While his majestic entrance still gets fans going, Roode seems to be struggling with the transition to babyface, putting forth rudimentary matches and imminently forgettable promos. Needing a yank of the tights just to beat Dolph Ziggler at the Hell in a Cell PPV didn't do him any favors in terms of credibility, either.
This could go one of two ways. Either Roode will tap into whatever magic he enjoyed during his NXT run and climb to the top of the SD hierarchy, or Vince McMahon will come to realize that Roode's age (he is already 40) and diminishing pops hardly make him a worthwhile future main eventer. How has the same guy booked so well in NXT been booked so poorly on the blue brand?
5 Daniel Bryan
This list already includes plenty of soon-to-be-buried Smackdown stars, so why not throw their GM in there for good measure? Healthy or not, the wildly popular Daniel Bryan has probably earned the right to have a role with WWE for as long as he wants, but the question now is if that actually is what Bryan wants. He thinks he can still wrestle and WWE doctors disagree, thereby establishing what is a pretty open and interesting present conflict.
Bryan has even hinted at a post-WWE future, making surprisingly candid critical comments on Talking Smack and recently discussing the possibility of wrestling a hair vs mask match in Mexico. If Bryan's departure appears imminent nearing next September, when his contract is believed to expire, WWE may be set to prepare some on-air punishment.
4 Enzo Amore
The Enzo Amore recipe for success seems to go as follows: be a lower card novelty act, talk yourself up to anyone who will listen, alienate yourself from everyone backstage with your ego and get a title run and a regular spot in the Raw main event slot. It seems odd that Amore's toxic backstage reputation has actually benefited him as its played out on-screen, but there's reason to wonder how long that will last.
Amore's heel push, which reportedly prompted Neville to request his release from the company, has been a major talking point in WWE of late. As soon as Amore's heel act no longer seems novel, however, it could be a slippery slope back down the card. Given that he was being jobbed out to Big Cass weekly just over a month ago, it wouldn't take much for Amore to bottom out once again.
3 Jinder Mahal
People have been anticipating the fall of Jinder Mahal ever since his shocking WWE Championship win over Randy Orton at Backlash this past May. Not only has the former jobber not fallen, but Mahal remains champion on the Smackdown brand amid reports that first titleholder of Indian descent may keep the belt through to WrestleMania.
Few predicted this meteoric rise for Mahal, who had won only a handful of matches before this sudden surge up the card. Though some cynically believe he's only on the main event scene to help WWE tap into the India market, he clearly has the favor of some higher-up. But just how long will that last? Underwhelming feuds with Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura have left fans unimpressed and, more problematically, Mahal has had no discernible affect on business in India.
2 The Hardys
It seems safe to say that the buzz surrounding the surprise return of Matt and Jeff Hardy at WrestleMania has cooled considerably. Part of that cool was unavoidable. After all, how do you keep momentum going when you win the Raw tag team titles on your first night back? Still, it seems that the long-term plan for the Hardys' return was either non-existent or scuttled by the legalities surround the 'Broken' gimmick copyright.
An injury certainly doesn't help matters. Any slim hopes that Jeff's shoulder injury would bring about a singles push for Matt seem all but dashed after he was recently squashed by Braun Strowman. Jeff's post-WrestleMania return could still produce solid tag feuds for the pair and TV time filled with decent matches. But the brothers haven't felt like they mattered since a Raw match against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose back in August. Is a burial far behind?
1 Shinsuke Nakamura
Smackdown head writer Brian "Road Dogg" James has come under fire for some of the booking decisions on the show since he took the helm early this year. Amidst the questionable decisions on the blue brand, none loom larger than the badly botched introduction and push of Japanese superstar Shinsuke Nakamura. The much-hyped WWE signee was beloved on NXT for his unique charisma and in-ring artistry, both of which have been hard to find on SD.
The blame can probably be split. James and WWE did Nakamura no favors by having him feud with Dolph Ziggler and Mahal upon debuting. However, 'the Artist' simply hasn't shown the same fire on the main roster that he did during his NXT championship run and seems to play down to his opposition. It's tough to see where Nakamura goes after failing yet again to win Mahal's title, but the superstardom that seemed like a sure thing seems rather elusive now.