5 Injuries that Changed WWE Since the Brand Split

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5. Heath Slater

Heath Slater’s Hottest Free Agent gimmick may have been one of the best stories in the WWE over the last year. After going undrafted during the brand split, Heath Slater began showing up (unexpectedly) to Raw and SmackDown Live events demanding a contract. The ploy was initially used to re-introduce new wrestlers, such as Jinder Mahal and Rhyno. But battling for a better life for his ever-changing number of children, his wife Beulah, and a new above ground pool, Slater took the WWE by storm.

After weeks of build-up, Slater’s run culminated when he teamed up with is former advisory, Rhyno. Together they defeated the Usos to capture tag-team gold at last year’s Backlash. By becoming the inaugural SmackDown Tag Team Champions, Slater secured a contract and his family’s future. After a few more title defenses, Slater and Rhyno eventually dropped the titles to The Wyatt Family.

Slater had never been considered more than a transitional champ and a steady hand to help put over other talents. However, on SmackDown Live, the land of opportunity, it seemed like there were other plans in store for Slater.

On the episode of Talking Smack, immediately following their title loss, the team of Slater and Rhyno began showing signs of friction. Rhyno insinuated that he was the only one that was prepared for the match that night, and that the loss fell squarely on Slater’s shoulder. Eventually, Rhyno would leave the set and his partner.

In the weeks that followed, tension between the two continued to rise, as the losses began to mount. The story was building that Rhyno would eventually turn on the One Man Band. All of that story telling came to a screeching halt when, during a Fatal 4-Way, Slater landed awkwardly coming off the top rope. The injury turned out to be minor, but the story line seemed to be abandoned.

I think Slater was going to find himself in a midcard feud, potentially for the Intercontinental Title. In interviews, General Manager Daniel Bryan always spoke highly of Slater. On Sam Roberts’ podcast, Bryan said, “I think Heath Slater is outstanding. He could be our generation’s Honky Tonk man.” With Bryan in his corner, it seemed like the ceiling on SmackDown Live was high for Slater.

One can only wonder what was in store for Slater and Rhyno on Smackdown Live. Luckily, Slater hasn’t been completely lost upon his move to Raw during the Superstar Shakeup. In a backstage promo with The Miz, WWE teased a possible confrontation for the Intercontinental Title.