by Kevin D’Hooge
If you’re a regular listener to The Stacked Card podcast, you know I am one of the biggest supporters of Smackdown on the planet. I even regularly rate it higher than Raw (which isn’t really saying much).
Smackdown has a few things going for it that immediately cause it to win points from me: it’s only 2 hours long (about 1 hour long if you watch it on DVR), it allows for more opportunities for mid-card superstars in both matches and promos, its overall focus shines light on the mid-card championships and tag team titles, and the commentary team is often erratic but is generally a breath of fresh air.
Speaking of commentary, Smackdown usually implements an interchangeable, rotating cast of commentators including Tom Phillips, Rich Brennan, Jimmy Uso, Byron Saxton, Booker T and most importantly Jerry “The King” Lawler. If you didn’t notice, all 6 of them are faces, which would normally make for bland discussions. I don’t know what it is about the Smackdown commentary team, but they generally end up doing all the right things in order to bring perspective to pointless matches. Perhaps it is the fact that Vince McMahon isn’t in their earpieces telling them what to say, as he saw his physical presence on the show dwindle when he took on Tough Enough duties.
With all of that being said, Smackdown can and should be a lot better. I lovingly watch it for tongue in cheek reasons these days. It’s so bad that it’s hysterically good. It’s a modern art masterpiece. Not in a good way either.
Anyway, I think the problem with Smackdown these days is that there is a clear conflict between the program and its audience: creative is unwilling to incorporate major storylines on the show because ratings are so low. Fans don’t watch the program because they don’t expect anything important to happen.
Creative and the fans need to come together and fix this mess. Smackdown used to be beautiful. When it debuted in 1999 it was used as an additional weapon for the Monday Night War. WCW had both Nitro and Thunder on television each week, so Smackdown was Thursday night’s answer to Thunder. Since the show had a purpose, meaningful moments and memorable matches happened each week.
Even during the “WWE Wars” (the early competitive years of the WWE brand split), in the early-mid 2000’s, Smackdown was considered to be an equal, if not the superior, of Raw.
Something happened along the way that changed things forever. Along the late 2000’s and early 2010’s Smackdown was clearly relegated to as the de-facto #2 show. It was the wasteland for forgotten and underused talent. Smackdown has not recovered since the introduction of Supershows and the fusion of the brands.
WWE also has no immediate incentive to boost the quality of Smackdown since it will be a lame duck until the move to the USA network in 2016. WWE believes they have no incentive to care about the quality of Smackdown. If they don’t care why should we?
Smackdown has wasted away for the last few years. Viewers are down and episodes are uneventful, so what’s the point of having 2 weekly shows on tv anymore, especially when there’s no competition. Will the quality of the show increase following the move to USA?
These are lofty questions for anyone to answer. The bottom line is that fans want Smackdown to return to its previous greatness. WWE is always keen on expanding its market and brand, so why not give extra attention to Smackdown.
WWE could do a few things to spark up the show: Air the show live either on Tuesdays or Thrusdays, advertise featured events for the show in advance, or just plain injecting quality into Smackdown. If WWE makes Smackdown good again audiences will watch.