With the WWE Brand Draft this Tuesday on the first live Smackdown!, the blue team might finally get the attention it desperately needs. The Smackdown! (Do they still use that dumb punctuation?) brand has never been given a real chance to be the WWE’s flagship show. When you think of a weekly wrestling show, Monday Night Raw is king. The Smackdown name was created from The Rock’s very popular catchphrase “Lay the Smackdown,” not to be confused with the biblical variation, “Layeth the Smacketh down.”
The Rock was so popular, he had a show named after him. Of course, it was also a reaction to WCW’s Thunder, which also aired on Thursdays. At this time, WCW was losing a lot of momentum and Vince McMahon knew that a second show would be able to soundly defeat Thunder in the ratings, being one of many reasons that WCW was buried once and for all. However, with the acquisition of WCW, ECW, and much of their talent; how do we utilize the fine men and women?
Why, a brand split, of course! As we are seeing again this Tuesday, July 19th, it’s just a little bit of history repeating. So, if a brand split and a talent draft is such a great idea, why were the rosters ever reunified in the first place? Why am I asking so many questions? One glaring flaw in this system was that Smackdown wasn’t getting very much notoriety as a secondary brand. It was always considered the inferior show, which made the talent seem inferior. Going to Smackdown seemed like a bit of a demotion. Unless you count the glory days of Paul Heyman’s Smackdown Six (Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Eddie and Chavo Guerrero), the show was never going to draw the viewership that Raw was getting.
Smackdown’s legacy was being passed around from network to network like a truck stop... wrestling show. From UPN to The CW to MyNetworkTv, and finally landing on Syfy. Because Syfy worked so well for the new ECW, right? Smackdown never really had a home. Until now.
When you think of live wrestling, you think of the USA Network. Although they enjoyed a stint on Spike TV, USA has always been the home of Monday Night Raw. Now that Smackdown will be going live for the first time on Tuesday, complete with a Draft show, it will be sure to start off a new era of Smackdown with some impressive ratings.
Having a live show on the same network as Raw every week makes it feel like a more legitimate show. They will no longer have the ability to pipe in desired crowd reactions or heavily edit some of the weaker matches. As it was announced on Monday, Shane McMahon was named commissioner of Smackdown, whereas Stephanie will lead Raw. This gives both shows two distinctive atmospheres already.
It’s not as if the siblings are actually competing, but there will be differing styles, which gives fans a choice. Stephanie’s Raw will represent the old era of WWE, with wrestlers of more marquee value than wrestling ability. Shane McMahon returned to WWE to bring about a new era of competitiveness, which will surely be demonstrated on Smackdown. Your Sami Zayns and other NXT allum will likely be drafted by Shane-o. We may even see some current NXT talent, like Finn Balor or Shinsuke Nakamura getting the call up live on Smackdown. Meanwhile, someone with a big name like John Cena or with the classic WWE look, like Sheamus, will be drafted to Raw. The Raw vs. Smackdown dynamic will almost be a Sports Entertainment vs. Pro Wrestling debate.
There will obviously be some mixing of these styles and abilities, as a guy like A.J. Styles is both an indie darling and has a hugely popular following; so he might stay on Raw. And some older talent, like Chris Jericho, might continue working with younger talent on Smackdown.
What might be most interesting about the brand split is that Vince McMahon told his son and daughter that they will have to name General Managers to their brands. Since Shane and Stephanie aren’t regularly at the tv tapings week to week, the GM would act as the usual decision maker. Stephanie’s character dictates who might be her selection; someone ruthlessly competitive and focused on celebrity name value. A former Raw GM and the man behind WCW, Eric Bischoff, would be an obvious choice. Bischoff does have a DVD being released and the WWE machine is no stranger to cross-promoting itself. Also, Bischoff did not make a cameo on Raw in the past month or so, when they were paying tribute to former GMs.
As Bischoff represents the same villainous business ideals of Stephanie, Paul Heyman’s vision would reflect that of Shane’s. As the creator of ECW, Paul Heyman has always been interesting in cultivating new and innovative global talent, and whether or not he would act as more than on-screen talent, it would certainly be a dream matchup of booking wits. There is no love loss between Bischoff and Heyman, as they’re well documented wrestling world rivals. Though both men have claimed not to be interested in going on the road again as active talent, they’re also two men who will always say, “never say never.”
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston. He hosts the comedy podcast, "So Now I'm the Asshole" on Fans.FM and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke