Very soon, SmackDown will have a new home.
On Friday, October 4th, the blue brand will debut on the FOX Network, bringing WWE to a weekly network-TV station for the first time since moving to SyFy in 2010. Of course, before that SmackDown floated between UPN, The CW, and something called a “MyNetworkTV” (ironically owned by FOX). After moving to cable, SmackDown was on SyFy for seven years but then moved to the USA Network in 2016 to finally bring both brands under the same Network roof.
For aboooooout two weeks both brands were treated equally, but then things reverted as always and SmackDown became the defacto B-Brand again, though it was usually the better product due to (A) Vince not caring as much about it, and (B) it not being three hours long.
Forget all that though because some idiot decided the rights to SmackDown were worth a literal billion dollars and now SmackDown is moving to FOX. All that being said…will anything change?
Alright, maybe a few things will be different…
A REVAMPED TOURING SCHEDULE
Even when Smackdown ran on Thursday or Fridays at the beginning of its lifecycle, it was always a taped program. The reason is due to WWE’s touring schedule and the allotted time off the performers get every week. It’s not a huge deal to have half the roster work something like a Saturday-Tuesday rotation and the other half work a Sunday-Wednesday rotation, but it’s a different ball game entirely when half the roster is working the front half of the week and the other is working the back half, and everyone’s days off are in the middle of the week. That’s not good for anyone.
SmackDown is now moving to a live broadcast on Fridays, meaning something is going to change, but how it all shakes out we’re not yet sure. WWE has already talked about doing away with many of their house shows so perhaps this is the catalyst to that big change. Too many shows water down the product and probably helps to contribute to the poor attendance Raw and SmackDown have been getting lately.
Back in the day, house shows made up the biggest portion of the revenue the company made. Not anymore: Now the TV deals are the bread-winners so the company can afford to cut their non-TV touring dramatically, making their brand more of a novelty and giving their talent more time off. That’s a win for everyone.
A PROPER BRAND SPLIT
The two biggest problems with the brand split since its inception back in 2002 have always been (1) Vince McMahon’s unwillingness to stick with it, and (2) Vince McMahon’s unwillingness to treat SmackDown as an equal brand. Whenever ratings (for Raw, never SmackDown) would dip, Vince would always feel the heat from USA and bring over whatever big stars he had on SmackDown to keep the red show afloat. Remember the “RAW SUPERSHOW, featuring the superstars of RAW and SmackDown!”? It was always SmackDown coming over to prop up Raw, never the other way around.
Well, those days are done. SmackDown is no longer the B-show on USA. It’s no longer stuck in some backward network like MyNetworkTV, or horribly out of place on SyFy where it can be forgotten. Now it’s on primetime network TV. That’s the golden ticket. SmackDown is instantly more important than RAW; not equal, but more important.
This isn’t some cable network that is happy to have a 2.0 rating. Fox will expect results. They’re not going to want to see their exclusive talent hopping over to RAW, and USA isn’t going to want to see its superstars on FOX either. Things are about to feel more distinct than they’ve ever been. The only downside is Vince will be putting a lot more of his focus on SmackDown now that it’s suddenly important.
So…that should end well.
AN EMPHASIS ON IN-RING COMPETITION
FOX wants their WWE “Sports-Entertainment” show to be more “sports” than “entertainment.” They want a greater emphasis on athletic competition, to market it with Sunday football and various FS1 programming.
SmackDown has always had more of a “pure wrestling” feel to it. The reason is because the writers would devote all of their energy writing (and re-writing) the script for Monday’s Raw, putting all their…eh hem, “creative” muscle into the first show of the week. Naturally then, they’d exhaust the limits of their skit-writing, sketch-crafting, and variety show ballyhooing by Monday night. And with SmackDown coming a day later there wasn’t enough time to give the blue show the same attention. Thus SmackDown became the show where workhorses would be given more time to wrestle, to fill up the time that couldn’t be given over to a stupid skit no one but Vince McMahon enjoyed anyway.
Now that SmackDown is so important, you might think Vince will dig his crusty, yellow, old man fingernails into the show and force it to feel more like Monday Night Raw. It’s fortunate then that the network paying for the show wants it to keep its “wrestling first” focus. That means expect the roster to have the better wrestlers and in-ring technicians, and for matches to have greater meaning than what you would probably have on the Monday Night Cartoon Show.
If only Paul Heyman was running it again. Eric Bischoff feels so much better suited for Raw anyway.
So I guess a few things will be different this time next month, but how different and for how long depends entirely on the whims of one man, as does everything else in WWE.
SO OF COURSE!
Wait, no, wrong article…