WWE has decided to begin airing Smackdown! (SD!) as a live show. However, they’re also going back to splitting both brands and breaking up the roster. I see both good and bad in this decision. On one hand, splitting the brands and airing both as their own entity may hurt storylines and cause the writers to simply copy each other (thus making one of the shows a watered down version of the other). On the other hand, a live show could draw more viewers (because “anything can happen on live TV”).
WWE’s ratings have plummeted. The shows have become stale with decent segments spread few and far between. While the roster is stacked, the writers continue to “phone it in”. The past few PPVs have relied on rematches with added gimmick stipulations. The excitement has faded and boredom has set in. The multi-tag matches are just an excuse to get as many people on TV as possible. It’s lazy booking and does nothing for individual stars. There are times when multi-tag matches had some kind of purpose and each character and feud benefited. Those days have passed and the novelty of those matches worn off.
It is inevitable that one of the shows will be viewed as the “B” show. SD! will have characters that mimic RAW’s. There will be far too many characters for the viewer to keep track of. There are only so many gimmick matches out there. Some may argue that this is an opportunity for more guys to have a push and be given the chance to grab some brass rings. We’ve already seen that those brass rings are next to meaningless when cashed in (just ask Cody, Sandow, or Slater). The current writers are lazy and don’t seem to put any creativity into their scripts. If we have two shows, you can be sure we’ll eventually fall into that pit again.
At the end of the day, both RAW and SD! are owned by WWE. We’ll get the same plugs for social media and movies. The flavor will not change. The idea that RAW and SD! are different may only be skin deep. Each show will have their own logo and colours but, at the end of the day, they’re produced and representing the same company.
I would like to see the roster paired down with set tiers. We’ve got the jobbers, the mid-carders, and the main eventers. In those tiers, there are the tag teams, the cruiserweights, the heavyweights, the women (or divas), and the “specialty” guys (hardcore, nostalgia, etc). Have each character have their own voice and purpose. Each segment should have meaning and be dedicated to those characters and storyline. You’ll notice that, during mid-card matches, the commentators will discuss (for extended periods) different feuds and storylines. In fact, they’ll draw these discussions out for multiple segments. While it is done to build up that specific feud, it does little to nothing for the wrestlers in the ring. It’s disrespectful and leads the audience to believe that the match on the TV is not important. Because of this, those wrestlers will not get as much attention, from the fans, and they will be held down.
If you watch older episodes of WWE/WWF programming, you’ll notice that the commentators will, most of the time, only briefly mention different feuds while the majority of the their attention is on the match currently taking place. This encourages the viewer to remain engaged with the current match and feud. Between matches, WWE will play build-up videos and promos to keep the main event/storyline fresh in the viewers head. Having the commentators continuously harp on it causes it to become stale OR it builds it up to be more than it actually is.
The roster needs to be paired down. There are far too many workers on it that aren’t doing anything. If “creative” can’t think of anything other than throwing six guys into a useless tag match, put those guys on the shelf. Those multi-tag matches are useless and take up time that can be used to build up other storylines and characters. With fewer characters, WWE will find that they have more time to build them up and create even more of a buzz for certain stars. As you watch older episodes of WWE/WWF programming, you’ll also notice that each segment and match had a purpose. Each character had a place and seemed like an essential piece to the show. Current programming has many segments coming off as filler and pointless. This wasted time is hurting WWE and, with the majority of the show already being commercials and recaps, time dedicated for actual entertainment is becoming shorter and shorter. With fewer characters, the viewers can dedicate more attention to specific characters. With that said, WWE must stay up on their creativity. Switch up feuds and allow them to logically grow organically. If we’re going to get recycled feuds and matches, at least have them make sense and progress in a productive way. A “best 2 out of 3 matches” could be stretched over the course of three or four months. Allow the build up to contain promos, interviews, and some added stipulations. Make the each match have a significant payoff but have the next one mean even more. At the end, both wrestlers should walk out looking stronger in some way (whether it be improved mic skills, mat skills, or added depth to the character).
Each title should be held to a higher level. The World Title is the biggest prize. It shouldn’t be used as a prop but, instead, as a true sign that the holder is the true face of the company. That person should be the ambassador for the WWE. Have them appear at outside media functions. Display the title with pride. John Cena is the current face of the company. Anyone that argues against this is blind. More people know who John Cena is than Roman Reigns. More non-wrestling fans know John Cena than Roman Reigns yet Reigns is the champion. Reigns has not been built up enough to hold that title. Neither has AJ Styles. While Styles may be an excellent wrestler, his pop-culture appeal is lacking. This is professional wrestling. Ringwork only means so much. Especially now.
If both shows have their own champion, one will be seen as inferior to the other. We’ve got too many belts as it is. If there is a roster split, have them both fight for one common goal: the world title. This makes that championship even more important and creates an even better feud possibility between the rosters. While each brand may get their own PPV every other month, the championship should be defended at all PPVs. On the off month, each show should have a slightly bigger show that feels almost like a PPV. Keep the viewers interested during the off month.
However, with SD! going live, WWE could have the potential to gain viewers. I don’t watch SD! and I don’t care to read the spoilers, anymore. One WWE show, a week, is enough for me. Even when I was still a big WWE fan, I would read the SD! spoilers. Was it worth tuning in for? After the brands split, it wasn’t. The canned cheers made it seem even less exciting. Live TV has the “anything can happen” aura. While live RAW episodes are generally boring (the ratings speak for themselves… “Love and Hip Hop”? Really?), there’s always that “what if” factor. You don’t know who is going to show up or what is really going to happen. The predictability is always there (now more than ever) but there’s still the tiny “what if” in the back of your head. Make SD! important. The “go home” RAW makes that week’s SD! seem like it isn’t important. If there is a PPV that Sunday, SD! should be the true “go home” show.
WWE is going to pad the first live SD! episode but what happens after that? Once the SD! gets momentum, WWE must continue to provide a compelling show. The moment one show begins to fade, it will be viewed as second rate. Once that happens, the roster will suffer.
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