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WWE: What Is WWE Doing With Smackdown? by Matt Corton

Why would I watch SmackDown?

There are just too many mouths for Raw to feed. The wrestling fan’s appetite is voracious. Without the second show, WWE risks losing more viewers than they already are to other shows, who knows in the future maybe to other wrestling shows even, as gaps in those fans’ feeding sessions grows wider.

SmackDown doesn’t fill me up though. SmackDown leaves me hungry for the little bit of the magic that Dean Ambrose thinks some of us are taking away (Thanks Mark McAllen!).

Rather than sparkling in front of my eyes, SmackDown bores me. It conjures up repeats of Raw or, worse, utterly irrelevant segments to the build towards a PPV. Sure it’s great to have 2 more hours of wrestling in a week, but 4 hours of Raw and NXT is kind of enough for me when I’m not seeing magic on SmackDown, I’m seeing the results of a broken wand.

When you eat something tasty, you want someone to feed you more. Raw has shocks. It has celebrities; it has legends, part-timers you don’t see on house shows or on SmackDown and it has all – literally all – of the storyline development you need to see to know about what’s going on in WWE right now. You buy a PPV? It’s because of what you saw on Raw.

SmackDown has a blue set.

So why do I watch it? Well…because I like wrestling. A few million people watching the show each week seem to agree with me on that so I’m not going to bother putting an argument up against myself. It’s all I have, though and that would make me really nervous if I were trying to feed it to someone as part of a deal.

Do you remember your first time? Well, that’s only natural. People generally tend to celebrate the first time they did something, not the second. “I remember the second time I saw her,” said Nobody. Similarly, Nobody might ask “what’s the second-longest-running weekly episodic television series in American television history?”

First times matter to everyone except Nobody. In the same way, significance matters to everyone except Nobody.

SmackDown fills the hole in my wrestling watching stomach, but I’m hungry for something more significant quite shortly afterwards.

So I’m going to gorge myself on a much more interesting question.

Why would I watch SmackDown next year?

2016 could be really, really exciting.

In a WWE sense, if you’re going to see something significant on TV (by which I mean not on a PPV) then you’re going to see it on Raw and as the flagship, the powers that be are more often than not going to make sure it’s the first time you see it. Any key developments are all going to be on Raw. Not SmackDown.

Given that, I don’t get why a group of execs at a successful network would snap up a show without much direction or relevance when they already have that flagship show where everything tasty and magical happens.

Which is why I don’t believe they have.

I think USA and WWE are getting ready to serve us a feast. A banquet of a new wrestling show for all of us to sink our teeth into because otherwise, I don’t get why they’d pick up the show. I reckon they’re all tinkering away with their wands and their cauldrons cooking us up something spectacular – or even better – something significant.

So what don’t I think is going to happen?

I don’t think they’ll serve us another brand extension – I can’t see them fattening out to more titles again after slimming down. NXT has carved out its slice, turning that slice into a flaming great steak for all us fans to happily wallow in – that’s where the brand extension is now.

I don’t think they’ll make the show live because I don’t think people care about a show being live when they record it or watch it on Hulu, YouTube and through other streaming sources and they already have one live show.

I don’t think they will create a new belt to build the show around such as a Cruiserweight Championship or TV Title because…well because I don’t think they’ll do it, I actually think that’d be a good idea.

What I think they’ll do is something so magical that it will make Harry Potter and Fantasia look realistic.

I think they’ll create a good show.

As part of my trawl through the internet for news since the move to USA was announced, I saw several sites refer to Daniel Bryan reportedly wanting to be the face of SmackDown. He could have done that with the Intercontinental Title around his waist, because that could have been the Intercontinental Title’s show. It would have been significant – whether it would have worked or not.

It’s a really simple set up. “You want a shot at my title you have to come to my show to get it”. The show where whoever the challenger is comes to get it suddenly becomes a tasty morsel, instead of a puked up Raw recap.

There’s an even simpler set up though – make SmackDown a different dish altogether. It doesn’t have to compete against Raw – Raw is the flagship, it’s got the viewers, the longer history and it’s got the clout to get messages across. That doesn’t mean it needs to get all of the messages across. Having a good second show could lead to a better first show as well. Instead of shoehorning every last bit of storyline development into three hours of Raw, you can shoehorn it into five hours of cohesive WWE programming. You get a chance to really slow-build the storylines, adding depth and meaning. You get a chance to remind everyone of what happened on Raw with something meaningful happening after that reminder rather than a throwaway house show match.

Only there’s an even simpler set up still. Make the shows unpredictable.

When I watch both Raw and SmackDown I know a few things before I even start watching. No titles are going to change hands – that only happens on PPVs. Nobody with the money in the bank briefcase is going to think about cashing it in, that only happens on PPVs. Seth Rollins is going to be amazed and outraged that the odds are stacked against him yet again despite it happening every week.

Create an unpredictable, well-thought out menu of a product and the shows will follow.

It all happens in 2016 and I think it all happens to coincide with the breakup of the Authority. If anything encapsulates what’s stale about WWE programming right now, for me, it’s the Authority. HHH is heading for a feud with Seth Rollins down the line that if they tie it in with the debut of SmackDown on the USA Network, will see the Authority implode and split into two smaller versions of itself in the form of the return of separate general managers.

Sure, it’s a tried and tested idea, but then so is most of what happens in wrestling – it’s the execution of it that makes it a success. Raw stays as your flagship with its celebrity and part-timer involvement and SmackDown stays second-fiddle. Does that mean it’s not a must-see show? Why would it? There’s plenty to go around if they serve it all correctly.

SmackDown was always The Rock’s show. The Rock, who was arguably the second favourite to Steve Austin if not exactly second fiddle. Does that make The Rock any less? Hell no, because The Rock made sure he was must-see. Nor should it make SmackDown any less – if it’s must-see.

Or maybe it’s even simpler than everything I’ve written about. Maybe they should do something even more radical. Maybe they should ask all us fans what sort of product we want to consume. So guys…what do you want SmackDown to be?

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