It’s no secret that the blue brand has been kicking some serious ass in terms of the brand battle. If you told me this the night of the draft, I’d be completely baffled. In fact, I enjoy looking back at draft day, because it tells me that storytelling and booking will always make a difference, regardless of how much star power a promotion has. On that day, it felt as if the WWE was somewhat scared to move many of their bigger pieces to Smackdown. On paper, the Raw roster was much more stacked than the Smackdown roster. Hell, even after the first shows, it appeared Raw was going to leave Smackdown in the dust, but it clearly hasn’t turned out that way. Instead, the Tuesday night writers took this as a challenge, and found every possible way to make sure their brand was able to compete with WWE’s “flagship” program. They’ve figured the factors needed to make a successful show, which fans across the board would enjoy.
DISCLAIMER: I will not use this post to discuss how Raw needs to revert back to two hours. Like most, I’d love to see them make the show shorter, but we all know that’s not going to happen. The company makes too much money from ad revenue to cut that last hour.
Proper use of the wrestlers
Remember how irrelevant the Miz, Dolph Ziggler, and Heath Slater were before the draft? Yes, the Miz did carry the IC Title, however, he’s was always delegated to mid card feuds that almost never carried an ounce of importance. Ziggler and Slater were virtually invisible for the most part, unless the company needed them to eat a pin from a top card guy. Well, a lot of that has changed since the brand split. The Miz is arguably the most prominent heel in the company, Heath Slater has gotten over with the fans, and Dolph Ziggler (while still stuck in his losing ways) has once again become a compelling character. The one thing these superstars have in common is that they were all just given one opportunity to prove to us that they had what it takes to be entertaining.
In terms of the women, I feel they’ve done the same thing for both Natalya and Naomi. Even though Natalya was involved in a mid card feud with Becky before the draft, the brand split has allowed for her to grow as a heel. She’s made the most with her mic time, and has showcased that she’s still one of the best in ring competitors within the division. Naomi was semi-repackaged, and has taken an element from her life which she applied to her character (she has a background in dance). Now, Naomi has one of the most exciting entrances in the company, and I’ll admit that it gets me pumped up. Just like the other three I mentioned, these two women have been given an opportunity to prove their worth.
However these aren’t the only two women that have taken advantage of an opportunity. Carmella and Alexa Bliss also deserve a ton of credit for making their presence felt on the main roster almost immediately. Carmella has seamlessly grown into her heel role after somewhat stumbling as a babyface in the eyes of many fans, and Alexa Bliss has proven she can stand out with her character she used in NXT.
In comparison to Raw, Smackdown is strictly about the in ring product, but that doesn’t stunt character development and storytelling. On Tuesday nights, we’re given the most simple formula, which is wrestler A wants to be better than wrestler B, because it’ll help them move up the card. They follow this formula strictly and it helps everybody on the roster. Why did Carmella attack Nikki Bella? She wanted to take down the top dog of the division in order to be better. Why did AJ immediately request a title shot? Because he beat the top guy in the company clean, and is more deserving than anybody. Why is the Miz angry with Bryan? Because Bryan doesn’t think the Miz is worthy of being the brand’s IC Champion. All of these stories are simple disputes, but the characters involved make them more interesting than they actually sound. You don’t need to be a smark to understand everybody’s motivation, and that’s why a show like Smackdown has done wonders in terms of appealing to all demographics.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy watching Monday Night Raw, but once you start asking questions about on going feuds, it’s easy to spot the plot holes. For example, Reigns and Rusev are set to have a match at Clash of Champions for the US Championship, but it’s not even about the title. Instead, they’re fighting over petty insults, which have lead to some great brawls. Another example would be the WWE Universal Championship feud, which has Rollins chasing Owens. Why was Rollins granted the chance to be the number one contender when Reigns was equally wronged in the fatal four way? In kayfabe, the main event at the Raw PPV should’ve automatically been a triple threat. The only thing on Smackdown that may not have been consistent in terms of competition was Cena being inserted into the No Mercy main event, although it can be explained that Shane just wanted a big money match up.
At the end of the day, we’re only two months into the brand split, and anything could change. The main point of this piece was to point out how successful Smackdown has been, and how they’ve managed to change typical WWE storytelling. As a fan, hopefully one day I can write about how both shows are equally successful.