The WWE Universe are buzzing with the news that the upcoming brand split will see unique rosters compete on Monday Night Raw and the soon to be Tuesday Night SmackDown.
The WWE have laid down a statement of intent, by making SmackDown live and splitting the roster again, they’re trying to enter this new era with great positivity and hopefully with fans on their side as they try to improve their ratings.
CHANGES NEED TO BE MADE
Questions will always be raised as previous attempts to improve SmackDown have fallen flat on numerous occasions. This won’t be an easy task as it feels like an entire revamp of the show is needed, from top to bottom if the SmackDown stars want to trump over Raw. To achieve success, here are the five ways I believe that could be made possible.
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BRING BACK THE FIST
Although the USA Network won’t be providing the WWE with any more money, and while the company may not want to splash any more cash than they need to, they should think about making SmackDown stand out visually, as it used to many years ago.
A big complaint by the fans is that the SmackDown and the majority of pay-per-view sets have exactly the same set-up as we see every Monday night. This is true; it seems as if the budget cuts took its toll a few years ago as the only thing that appears to change is the colour of the lighting and the aprons.
SmackDown needs to stand out, and it needs to feel important, and I believe the way to do that is to bring back the traditional SmackDown fist with screens on either side. That’s the SmackDown fans know and love, and it makes the show feel more unique.
It seems as if nobody will be safe in the draft, that’s potentially including the referee’s, the ring announcers but most importantly – other than the wrestlers themselves - the commentators.
A commentary team can make or break a show for the millions of fans tuning in at home, and already we have unique commentators for Raw and SmackDown, as well as Main Event and NXT. However, SmackDown needs to have an excellent commentary team that manages to provide the right amount of comedy, but they need to be a lot more analytical than what we see on Raw.
I believe Raw needs to stick with the current trio of Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton, especially as this is priceless experience for Saxton as he looks to move up the ladder. SmackDown needs to keep Mauro Ranallo behind the desk as he’s easily the best commentator in the WWE today.
The likelihood is that Jerry Lawler will remain on commentary with the vital experience he brings, but I feel Corey Graves needs to be promoted as he’s proved to be a breath of fresh air ever since announcing his retirement from in-ring competition.
He brings a great balance of comedy and seriousness; he calls the action a lot better than most, and he’s current. He knows what’s popular; he knows what people want to see, and he knows a lot more about the newer talent which could help them get more over, while also helping Graves stamping his authority as one of the best around.
A DIFFERENT WRITING TEAM
The biggest worry fans will have is that it will be the same old story when it comes to SmackDown, mainly because the storylines and creative ideas won’t be given enough importance to SmackDown as they are on Raw.
I genuinely hope that isn’t the case. Otherwise, this whole plan will backfire on the WWE, so different sets of writers should be assigned to each show. This lightens the workload on the writers who deliver mediocre scripts to one show and brilliant scripts to another.
Newer, fresher and current ideas could be given to SmackDown with writers looking to move up in the company. The problem with the current writers is that SmackDown feels like a diet version of Raw, it’s an hour less, but the same matches and same stories are told, but they don’t advance.
It’s clear the writers don’t care about SmackDown as much, so why should we – as fans - care about a show they put minimal effort in? Newer writers bring new ideas and give us plenty of reasons to tune in.
A NEW WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
This has been a big rumour circulating since the brand split was announced, I believe a second World Champion will be needed for SmackDown to be a serious threat to Raw.
We need the competition; we need the SmackDown stars to do their level best and try to one-up their rivals on Raw and without a World Championship to fight for, it feels like they’ll be competing for no big reward.
It looks likely that Roman Reigns will remain the champion on Raw, so SmackDown needs a World Champion and we’ve seen in previous years that this does indeed work. It worked when Batista was drafted to SmackDown as the champion, and it quickly failed because two World Champions were on both shows when the split ended.
Now that we’re headed for two separate rosters, a new World Champion could and should succeed on SmackDown.
Not only that, this allows others an opportunity to carry the brand as the major champion. Especially stars that wouldn’t usually receive an opportunity like this with Reigns as the champion on Raw.
You only have to look as far as somebody like AJ Styles, who has achieved so much in such little time in the WWE and it’s obvious he still has what it takes to compete at the top. He would fit right in as the number one star on SmackDown with somebody like John Cena as his big rival for the championship.
With other stars such as Rusev, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose and even Sami Zayn remaining popular, a potential move to SmackDown for them could be wasted if a new championship isn’t introduced.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR NXT AND INDIE TALENT
There’s a big issue on Raw with the NXT stars, only a handful of them manage to succeed while the majority of them fizzle out and they either become jobbers, or they’re never on screen.
SmackDown could be the perfect platform for them to shine, showcase their skills and give the NXT and former independent stars a perfect stage to go out and impress. A great example of this is Tyler Breeze; he struggled on Raw but with more opportunities in the limelight, more matches and better feuds, he could become a big star on SmackDown.
Then when you focus on the future call-ups, SmackDown would seem like the more attractive option. You’d have Shinsuke Nakamura, American Alpha and even the former TNA stars in Austin Aries and potentially Eric Young, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode, these guys could thrive on SmackDown and help overtake Raw.
The WWE have made a great move by announcing the split; it’s time they take more risks and implement these ideas to advance into the new era, or face being ridiculed for failing yet again.
Do you think any of these ideas could help SmackDown become the WWE’s number one brand? Have your say in the comments section below!