The Smackdown Hacker debuted after some graphics started appearing on the screen during matches. We started seeing video packages of a man in a black hoodie sat in front of a sea of screens with various superstars appearing on them. These superstars included the likes of Sasha Banks, Jeff Hardy, Daniel Bryan, and many more.
It was unclear what the mystery figure’s intentions were, but he had the online wrestling world abuzz with speculation. Theories were instantly tossed around about who the person was and what they planned to do.
The first action taken by the hacker was to expose Sonya Deville as being behind the whole Mandy Rose/Otis/Dolph Ziggler kerfuffle. This, however, turned out to be the only action the hacker would take before disappearing and quickly and with as little explanation as to when he appeared.
At the time, the rumours stated that it was apparently set to be Mustafa Ali that was The Hacker and it has now been confirmed by the man himself that this was true, however, for whatever reasons the plans were scrapped and Ali was moved to Raw.
He has since been revealed as the leader of the Retribution group invading WWE and, for some reason, been signed to Raw contracts
There is every possibility they could bring the hacker storyline back in the future but they would have an uphill battle to get fans interested and engaged with it again.
The whole storyline had great potential and did its job to get people talking on social media but it fell harder than Matt Hardy on to a concrete floor and I know how they should have booked it.
So I would start off in the exact same way where we see the symbol appear on our screens but no-one acknowledges it. That created conversation from the get-go. Even up until the hooded figure in front of the screens appears, I wouldn’t change anything there.
Whoever was managing the social media account for the hacker did a brilliant job as well. The messages they posted got people speculating which in turn, usually boosts viewership numbers.
The only change I would make is: have him appear on both shows. You don’t need a promo every time, just that graphic appearing is enough to remind everyone of his presence.
The promos and video packages didn’t hint towards a specific target which kept the options open and that is certainly a good thing to have, but when you have all these options, I wouldn’t make the first thing the hacker does be ‘get involved in a love triangle’.
I get at the time, that storyline was quite popular and you want to have him involved in something big, but I wouldn’t make that his first big move.
The first thing, if you want to keep the timeline right, is have him get involved with the feud between Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Cesaro vs Braun Strowman.
That handicap match (that will forever live rent-free in my mind due to lack of sense) happened at Elimination Chamber. Y’know, the one where whoever got the pin, won the title… and Cesaro and Nakamura didn’t even bother with Zayn going for it?
So what I would do, is have the graphic flashing during their segments. Also, in the times that we see the hacker, some carefully placed images of the trio all together.
The Friday night Smackdown before Elimination Chamber, I would have the hacker appear during an in-ring segment with the three talking about the match. The Hacker cuts a promo about the truth and justice etc and then plays a clip of Sami Zayn talking to Kevin Owens about Nakamura and Cesaro.
In the clip, have Zayn talk about how he’s got them wrapped around his finger and is using them to get the Intercontinental title. I wouldn’t have Owens really take part in the conversation, he’s just standing listening to Sami.
After the clip is finished, I would have the “THE TRUTH WILL BE HEARD” graphic appear on the screen and then cut to black. When the lights come back up, Cesaro and Nakamura are both staring a hole through Zayn. Slowly they both exit the ring and up with Zayn shaking his head pleading with them to hear him out”
When we get to Elimination Chamber, the handicap match now has a bit more depth and meaning to it. It can lead to some interesting spots, for example, Cesaro is getting decked by The Monster Among Men and the only person he can tag in is Sami.
I also would have Nakamura win instead of Zayn. The main reason for this is that the rumour at the time was that Zayn was actually injured at this point so it doesn’t really make sense to have the title on him. Even if he isn’t, I would have Nakamura win it which can lead to a feud between them leading to Wrestlemania where we could see a rematch from NXT Takeover Dallas. This is where I would put the belt on Sami.
After this was Wrestlemania 36 and there was a lot going on at the time. Between the two nights, stacked card and, of course, the global pandemic forcing the show to emanate from the Performance Centre as opposed to Tampa Bay.
Because of this, I would have The Hacker get involved in the Mandy Rose Sonya Deville storyline between Wrestlemania and Elimination Chamber. Not dissimilar from what happened. But the main point is you have The Hacker involved in something important first, then move on to this.
It hammers home the point that no-one is safe.
One thing I would be consistent in for the time being is that no one seeks out The Hacker. You don’t have to rush the reveal. Do what they did with Mandy and Sonya and just have them move into the feud. You’ll see why later on.
Another key aspect of this working is to avoid overexposure. You don’t need to shove the thing down the viewer’s throats. If anything, the more infrequently The Hacker himself actually appears, the more intriguing he becomes.
The next PPV up is Money in the Bank. Now I wouldn’t have him involved in any of the matches on the card, however, the following night on Raw, I would have him be the person to reveal that Becky Lynch is pregnant.
Now obviously this one would be completely up to Lynch and Seth Rollins if they were okay with this but I imagine that they would be so we’ll give their hypothetical blessing.
So I would have The Hacker appear and announce to the world that Lynch is pregnant. I wouldn’t have him announce that Asuka is new Women’s Champion though. I would have Becky come out to address the revelation and then you can still have the lovely moment with those two in the ring.
This allows us to continue the trend of the people affected to not take it up with The Hacker as Lynch will obviously be away from TV indefinitely from here.
At this point, I want to make a point that I have made many times: Use social media! It’s such a useful tool in today’s modern wrestling product. Stars like Jericho, MJF and Becky Lynch understand this and have become masters of it. Use the Twitter page “The Message” to your advantage WWE. Tease what he will do next, post small static videos with certain stars faces appearing etc.
This brings us to Backlash. The Hackers involvement here seems obvious. The whole Jeff Hardy/Sheamus angle. This angle received quite a bit of backlash due to the sensitive nature of the subject with Jeff Hardy and The Hackers involvement would not only serve to make the whole thing a bit more simple but also takes the attention away from the negative feedback.
I would have the hacker appear and display some security camera footage of Sheamus hitting Elias with the car and laying out Hardy to set the whole thing up. They did sort of confirm it was Sheamus but not for a total certainty so this will clear that up.
This will still lead to the rivalry and matches with Sheamus and Hardy and can serve to add a bit more depth to it.
Next up we have the Horror Show at Extreme Rules. Now for this one, there aren’t any storylines really for the hacker to be involved in, so just don’t feature him. There’s no need to force him into storylines that he doesn’t fit into and realistically it will hurt him in the long run.
This brings us to Summerslam. Now for this one, again a bit of a potentially divided opinion on this one but I would have The Hacker appear and show a security clip of Roman Reigns arriving at the building. It doesn’t dramatically change the outcome as we still don’t know when he will turn up and everything can still happen the way that it did, but in doing it this way, you blur the lines of what this characters intentions and end goals are.
I would also have The Hacker be the one to reveal Paul Heyman as “Special Counsel” to Reigns. It makes the transition to the new character make a bit more sense as he tried to hide that he was aligned with Heyman but when he is exposed, he drops the act and embraces the new character fully in time for his triple threat match at Payback.
In this one though, I understand that Reigns has a tonne of hype behind him but I would have The Fiend beat Braun Strowman to win the match and retain. With The Fiend, I don’t think you should have the title on him but I think it’s more important for him not to lose.
I would have Heyman cut a promo the following week where he blames the loss on The Hacker ruining their plans and throwing a spanner in the works. This will mark the first time that someone calls out The Hacker.
I would have Reigns in full badass heel mode going through the backstage area looking for him. Reigns will kick down a door and enter to find all the screens set up in a large storage room. During his search, I would have a group of black-clad masked assailants jump Reigns and destroy him. Smash him through the screens and just completely lay him out.
See where I’m going with this?
After they do this, I would have them hit the ring and wreck the place. Not silly spray painting and shouting “you better go home!”. I mean completely wreck the place. Deck as many people at ringside as the can get their hands on, destroy the ring and all around the ringside area, and just generally tear the place up.
The following Monday on Raw, during a 6-Man-Tag match between the Hurt Business and Ricochet, Mustafa Ali, and Cedric Alexander, once again The Hacker takes over the broadcast to show footage of Cedric meeting with MVP, shaking hands, and leaving.
Cedric turns to face Ali and Ricochet on the apron and just stares in shock. Suddenly he flies across the ring and decks Ricochet while the rest of the Hurt Business layout Ali and the four men stand tall.
This now brings us to Clash of Champions. At this stage, I wouldn’t have any members of the group revealed. There is also nothing for them to get involved with so there will be no appearance. I would make sure though that Heyman and Reigns regularly remind everyone that they are looking for them… and they’re not the only ones.
So, at this point now, we are just a week before Hell in a Cell which I where we are at the time of writing. On the go-home Smackdown, all the cameras go black as Reigns and Heyman are in the ring.
I would have the symbol then consume the screen with a distorted, broken voice explaining “It doesn’t matter who we are. It doesn’t matter where we are. All that matters is why we do what we do. And that is so the Truth Will Be Heard. No-One Is Safe.”
Now, following Hell in a Cell, the next PPV is Survivor Series, scheduled for November 22nd. In the lead up to this, I would have an authority figure, either Stephanie McMahon or Adam Pearce or someone, announce that this year is going to be a bit different. They have had many superstars complaining about the group and their interferences so, on Saturday night, they will be hosting a special one-night-only PPV on the WWE Network called Retribution. (See what I did there?)
On this PPV there will be a series of matches set up between people who have been disgruntled by the group vs members of the group themselves. I know it may seem convenient but it is a pre-booked show so of course, it is.
Bear in mind, however, that no members of this group have even got names so far. Therefore, whoever it is that announces the PPV itself, also announces that any member of the group that loses their match must unmask in the ring. With that said, here is the match card for the PPV.
- Sami Zayn vs Masked Wrestler
- Dolph Ziggler and Sonya Deville vs Two Masked Wrestlers (Mixed Match)
- Sheamus vs Masked Wrestler
- The Hurt Business vs Four Masked Wrestlers (8-Man-Tag Match)
- Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs Two Masked Wrestlers (Tornado Tag Match)
To entice the group to accept the stipulations, I would have them also announce whichever if the group have the majority of winners, WWE won’t take legal action against them (Kayfabe, of course).
At Retribution, I would have Zayn, Ziggler and Deville, and Sheamus lose one after the other, ensuring immunity for the group straight away. I would have The Hurt Business win their match however and following the match, the four men unmask to reveal Dominik Dijakovic (not with a shaved head and face paint), Ricochet, Shane Thorne, and Dio Madden. After the reveal, a bunch of masked back up hit the ring and together they lay out the hurt business. There’s no need to go for the whole alter-ego thing, instead, once unmasked, they are their real selves. It makes them more relatable.
Following this, we have the main event. Now before the match, have a backstage segment with Reigns and Rollins where they can have a (sort of) reunion and agree they both have a common enemy.
Those two enter first and once in the ring, Reigns gets on the mic and issues another stipulation. He explains that he doesn’t care about the identity of two lackeys, that he wants The Hacker himself if they win.
The screen is taken over by the classic distortion and flashing images where The Hacker agrees… but they won’t win.
Immediately, two men hit the ring and the bell sounds as Reigns and Rollins get jumped. This match can be back and forth with some big moments like a two man SHIELD bomb perhaps? In the end though, I would have Rollins and Reigns stand tall and secure the victory.
The two men are revealed to be Baron Corbyn and Riddick Moss. The screen then lights up once more and we see a figure with his back turned but clearly unmasked with his hair visible. He says in a distorted voice “I told you. It doesn’t matter who we are. All that matters is The Truth. And The Truth will be heard. That… is Undisputed.” The figure slowly turns around to reveal himself as none other than Roderick Strong.
He stares through the screen at the ring and shows a sly grin just as once again, members of the group hit the ring once again and destroy Reigns and Rollins and turn the ring area upside down.
Now, of course, some explanations will be needed and some are more obvious than others. For the likes of Ricochet, Riddick Moss and Shane Thorn, it’s a matter of being overlooked completely. With Corbin and Dijakovic, it’s the fact that they have a cult following that know they are skilled in the ring but get criticised on their personality and mic skills.
Strong is the interesting one. So immediately following the PPV i would have the rest of Undisputed Era deny any knowledge or involvement in Strong’s actions. Have them tweet at him as well asking him to respond etc.
The following Wednesday on NXT, U.E gets to the ring demanding Strong come out and explain himself. This time, he actually comes to the ring dressed in black and explains that ever since he lost the North American Championship, he has been an afterthought in the group. He claims that he knows the only reason they brought him in was to help them win the Dusty Rhodes Classic and ever since he got his moment in the sun, it’s all been about Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly chasing tag gold or Adam Cole being the best of NXT and he’s sick of it.
Before they can respond, the group of unmasked men arrive and together they decimate Undisputed Era.
So, at this point, you have established an extremely dominant group and brought every member of it into relevance. Also you can reveal more members down the line, just try and avoid letting it get out of hand and becoming nWo because you don’t want it to feel like a re-hash of an old idea.
You can also use the group to elevate members to solo stardom as their whole ideology is that each of them deserves better so they can employ a ‘with us or against us’ mentality. Plus, it not only bring the members themselves to relevance but with such a big group, it also allows a number of opponents to come into the fold as well. After all, they just pissed off a lot of people.
I also made the point earlier about making the group relatable and it’s important. For starters, most people at some point have worked at a job where they feel underappreciated and ignored, but, more importantly, there are many WWE fans who feel like that about the product at the moment. Not of all of it of course, but with record low viewership and ratings, they need a shot in the arm and this could be that.
What happens from here, I’ll leave to your imagination but let me know what you think over on Twitter. I’ve been Lewis and thanks for reading!