I will start by acknowledging that I’m nowhere near the first person to express opinions on the recent announcement that SmackDown! will be moving to a live Tuesday broadcast on July 19. The show will be airing live on a regular basis for the first time ever, complete with its own unique roster. There hasn’t been much given to fans in the way of details outside of the announcement of a draft taking place, so we are left to our own devices by sharing our own thoughts on the matter. We’ve all read speculation but that is all we really have to go on with seven weeks remaining until the official launch date. I’d usually save this for the end of the column, but since this is really all thought and opinion, I’d like to welcome anyone reading to share their own ideas in the comments.
My initial feeling when I heard the announcement was that I hated the first brand extension and I viewed it entirely through that lens. Over the course of the last five days I’ve taken some time to really think about it and that’s brought me to a very different place. I don’t exactly have the utmost faith in the WWE creative team’s ability to mine the full potential out of this change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t worth doing. It can be done very right, very wrong or most likely, somewhere in the middle. Since I’m in no place to make demands or have any influence over what decisions are ultimately made, I’m going into this whole thing with a few hopes and a few fears.
Before I get to any hopes or fears I would like to make just a few points. While the majority of the feedback I’ve seen has been positive, there are plenty of WWE fans that have their doubts. A lot of it stems from the idea that the split wasn’t successful the first time around, but it’s possible the company has learned from their previous mistakes. We are in an era where fans are more vocal than ever and there is more pressure to put each fan’s favorite performers in front of them each week. With the current setup, that is really an impossible task. Also, the very fact that SmackDown! will air live is a positive for the show and for us. There will be no more piped in crowd noise or doctored fan reactions on the show. Also, the live element raises the level of the production and makes it more interesting. Anything WWE can do that is new or exciting in any way, I’m all for it and I applaud this decision for the live element alone. Another benefit for WWE is that they will have year round live programming that will never be forced to go up against the NFL, another huge win for them.
Chief among my hopes is that the WWE World Heavyweight Championship remains the only World Championship in the company. If Roman Reigns is THE guy, let him operate on both shows as the man to beat. For one, it brings an extreme sense of responsibility to the champion to represent himself on both shows. Secondly, it allows an opportunity for more fresh championship match ups and adds a new level of intrigue to the World Title. My fear is that WWE will institute a World Championship for each show. One of the biggest issues I had with the original brand extension was the number of guys who held a World Championship that really shouldn’t have. Two titles will water everything down and lead to similar problems from the past.
I also hope that the Women’s Championship will be exclusive to Raw, at least for the time being. The main reason I feel this way is because Raw has the extra hour on Monday night and with the roster split in half, the women will finally get more time on the show. I also think it will take a significant amount of time for SmackDown! to be perceived as an equal to Raw, if it ever happens at all. I would like to see the women’s roster showcased on the show that is viewed as most important. My fear is that WWE will want to have the women featured on both shows, which isn’t a bad sentiment, but I don’t think there are enough women that have been built up enough to sustain two separate shows. With Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, they have three standout women on the main roster, but no one else has really gotten an opportunity to make an impact. I believe if they keep the women all on Raw it will allow them more of a chance to shine.
One of my bigger hopes in this whole thing is that Roman Reigns and John Cena don’t get split up. I am not a hater of either of these two and actually have a lot of respect for both. I think Cena has carried the banner proudly for a long time and was having arguably his best year before getting injured. Roman has a chance to build on the platform WWE has given him, but he still has quite an uphill climb. I fear that WWE will view it as having a guy to headline each show, but I think that would hurt more than help. A large segment of fans were tired of the inevitability of John Cena. Being led right into the inevitability of Roman Reigns has turned a disgruntled segment of fans into an almost venomous one. The benefit of keeping them together is that it keeps one show free from that disdain entirely. Another is that if Roman Reigns ever gets the opportunity to truly dethrone Cena, it could be what finally earns him some level of admiration from the majority of fans.
The McMahon family’s stranglehold on WWE has been a staple in WWE storytelling for roughly 20 years. While I give credit to Vince, Stephanie and Shane for each bringing a lot of entertainment to the table in their own way, I don’t watch WWE for the McMahons. They aren’t nearly as integral to the story as they would like themselves to be. I hope that this split isn’t just a way to push the McMahon family feud to a new level, but I admit that I fear it will be a key aspect of the two shows. Competing against WCW during the Monday Night Wars raised the quality of the WWE product, but competition between Shane and Stephanie won’t have anywhere near the same affect.
Probably the biggest hope I have is that whatever WWE decides to do, I hope they truly commit to it and stick to it. They can go against everything I’d personally like them to do, but if they commit to it and do it well I will enjoy it. The two World Champions thing can work if it is truly going to be two different shows, 100% independent of each other. Maybe they decide to have Raw as the true “A” show while SmackDown! will be the true “B” show. I’d be fine with that if they make that decision and commit to making each show the best it can be. I will not pretend to have anymore information that anyone reading this does. All I know is that I love pro wrestling and especially love WWE. The company is known for it’s stops and starts and questionable decision making. If they can devote the proper resources to each show, give all of the established AND untapped talent the proper opportunity to showcase their ability and stick to the principles that put them in this position, it will truly be the New Era that’s been teased since the return of Shane McMahon. Perhaps it could even lead to the next WWE boom.
Check out my new podcast, Mat Madness, every Wednesday on iTunes and Podbean, as well as the video show onYouTube. It’s a fan oriented show, so if you’d ever like to take part, let me know. Thank you!