Friday, August 29, 2014

Does Smackdown Even Matter Anymore?

Smackdown is making the move to Thursday night in October, which probably is a good thing, but day of the week is not the major issue with Smackdown. Honestly no matter what day of the week you put it on there needs to be more compelling television and it really is not. When you have already endured 3 hours of Monday Night Raw it makes investing two more hours in Smackdown quite the commitment for the average fan. Add in the fact that Smackdown is a taped show and many sites (Not This One) offer fans spoilers for Smackdown that is taped on Tuesday. Which is a problem that is faced to greater extent by both TNA and Ring of Honor that tape weeks of shows at a time. They face those challenges of spoilers to an even greater extent. The odd time spoilers can be helpful if they offer insight to a great match or angle. However most times they give people the option to seek out the information and decide to skip the show. That is why at least for this site, we have made the decision not to use them to allow you the chance to not have your viewing experience impacted on by us.

The WWE somewhere around 2010 or 11 ended the brand split that they had done in since splitting the brands somewhere around a year or two after WWE bought out WCW in effect ending the promotion and the competition. So the WWE roster became whole again with all of the talent in theory able to perform on Raw or Smackdown. Therefore, the uniqueness of the shows was lost to some extent. Even though it has been well documented that even during the brand split Smackdown was treated as the “B” brand in the WWE.

That had its downside and upside depending on how you looked at it. The major downside was the top people rarely if ever ended up on Smackdown. If a person got hot enough, they would find his way to Raw eventually. The upside was because Smackdown was more or less an after thought in comparison to Raw. It allowed things to happen that likely never would have flown on Raw. One example of that was C.M Punk’s Straight Edge Society. A highly edgy angle was the brainchild of Punk himself. Prior to that, there was the famed “Smackdown 6,” and the brilliant booking and mind of Paul Heyman writing the show. As discussed in the Heyman DVD as far as Heyman was concerned he was competing with Raw and looking to beat it on weekly basis. Something that was the same was the influence of Kevin Dunn in terms of the production of the show. This is something various people had tried to change with no success. They wanted to do this to give Smackdown its own unique look and feel to it. This is something that clearly would have been interesting to see and made the show stand out as something unique. 

On a complete side note when Paul Levesque and Stephanie McMahon truly take over, it is expected one of the first moves they will make is replacing Dunn. That will be an interesting time for WWE as Dunn has been the head of production of WWE television for pretty much the entire history of Raw first going to air followed by Smackdown years later.

The point to all of this is there is truly nothing unique about the Smackdown show to any degree. It does tend to be the more wrestling based show and always has been for the most part. The problem being many of the matches we see on Smackdown will tend make their way to Raw the following week. They rarely want to do angles on Smackdown and any that they do happen to do will be highlighted on Raw to catch the audience of the true flagship program up with what they missed on Smackdown. There is no real punishment to fans for not watching Smackdown at all.

We also now have a brand in NXT that has become what Smackdown use to be to some extent. In the past Smackdown was a proving ground for talent to build up their skills in the ring and on the microphone to a lesser extent. John Cena is perhaps the best example of this it is hard to imagine that the centerpiece that now currently is the face of the company for well over a decade started on what was classed as the “B” show. However, that is what happened and we watched Cena go from being a babyface at first, to transition into his heel rapper persona, only to be so good to become a babyface using that same character. Quickly he would be shifted over to the main show but the foundation that made John Cena what he is today was built on Smackdown. There were other examples of guys that built their career on that show like Edge, Kurt Angle and a list that could go on quite long.  The talent that is learning, growing, and developing their characters are doing that on NXT in Florida now.

The goal needs to be or at least should be is to give some compelling reason to make Smackdown must see television. It is not and has not been for sometime currently.  As we have laid out here that is far from the easiest thing to do because of the evolution of the WWE product in a number of ways. Some might say that Smackdown’s time has come and gone. However, it is not as if the WWE is going to bring an end to Smackdown because it makes money.

I use a pro sports analogy to explain it further to drive this point home. Many older fans of professional sports will say that expansion has watered down the game and there are too many teams. So are professional sports leagues contracting or ever have contracted a franchise in their history? The answer is of course no and in fact a league like the NHL that currently has franchises that are struggling finically are talking about expansion. You see here is that evil thing about all sports and pro wrestling as well it is at the end of the day more about greed and business over the quality of the product you are producing. Quantity that creates cash will always trump the quality of the product that is being produced.

I hate to write things without offering solutions but in terms for this one, I really do not have the answers for this it. In my mind, less is more and the need for Smackdown has really gone away. The reason it was created was a high demand for wrestling content at the absolute peak of its popularity. It was also at a time when Raw was only two hours and there was no NXT let alone a show called Main Event. The WWE is never going to subscribe to the less is more philosophy anymore than the NBA, NHL, NFL or MLB is unless they were forced to do so. Look at what happened to WCW when they created Thunder it became a poor quality show that nobody watched. Only reason it survived was the company that owned WCW also owned the network it was broadcast on.

Ironic that the show named based on one of the most famous names to ever be in wrestling in The Rock has become some what of an after thought which is something it’s namesake never was to this day. If you can’t get enough wrestling in your life it is another two hours to enjoy it, but in the grand scheme of things it is not offering anything that is compelling to people that are casual fans or gives reason for new or former fans of the product to get invested into it. If I wanted to get someone to be invested in wrestling today and could not use a Raw broadcast or a pay per view, I would show them an episode of NXT that has a bunch of hungry people trying to make their way to the bright lights of Raw and the main roster. No one ever has the dream of main eventing Smackdown do they? Of course they don’t, the same way every professional wrestlers ultimate dream is to be on a Wrestlemania or main eventing one, the same is true with television. Raw is the major leagues and everything else is secondary.

FYI there is a chance we may not have our weekly Podcast this week do to some circumstances beyond our control. If there is no Podcast tonight will have one for you next Friday as we normally do. 

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