July 18, 2016
Professional wrestling hit one of its high points with the Monday Night Wars between WWE, then known as WWF, and WCW. The battle between the two wrestling federations began in the mid-1990s and ended in 2001, when WWE bought WCW.
This was one of the golden eras in pro wrestling and featured some of the biggest names in the sport, such as Hulk Hogan, the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. After WCW folded, the product hasn’t had the same must-see-each-week feel.
During the ratings war between the two companies, WWE started the popular television series “WWE SmackDown.” While one of the wrestling corporation’s other popular offerings, “Monday Night Raw,” premiers live, “SmackDown” has been mostly pre-recorded.
In order to add some new fuel to the WWE’s ratings, “SmackDown” is now shifting to a live format and moving from its traditional Thursday night slot to Tuesday nights on the USA Network. In previous years, “SmackDown” was taped on Tuesday before being shown on Thursday.
This isn’t the first time “SmackDown” has shown live, but it is the program’s first long-term move to the format. While pre-recording shows has been a staple of the wrestling industry for a long time, the Internet has just about put an end to the process.
WWE is going to split their talent between “Raw” and “SmackDown” with a draft. This also isn’t the first time that the company has used a draft to move talent around.
The main problem with the draft is that few big names moved off the flagship show, “Raw.” One to four main-event talents were on “SmackDown,” but they normally showed up on “Raw” anyway.
If the WWE wants to make the now-live “SmackDown” a more successful show, the company will have to do a few things.
First, WWE will need to split the talent as level as possible. “Raw” can’t have all the big names with “SmackDown” getting the crumbs and having to build main-event stars.
Brock Lesnar is a good fit on “Raw” because it is the flagship show, and he has a limited number of appearance dates. John Cena, Randy Orton, AJ Styles or other recognizable names have to move to “SmackDown” to provide star power.
The WWE can and should break up the former members of The Shield. Current champion Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins can bring main-event status on either show. Once Roman Reign’s suspension is over, it might be best to leave him on “Raw.”
Another idea to help “SmackDown” out is to have that show, or as the WWE likes to say, “brand,” draft several NXT wrestlers. NXT is like the WWE minor-league system if you didn’t already know.
NXT performers such as Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura would give “SmackDown” a must-see feel for fans who don’t have the WWE Network, which is currently the only way to watch “WWE NXT.”
Those are three of the biggest names in NXT, and all have a good fan following and are main-event players. It would be a shame if all the NXT talents remained on “Raw.”
It will be important to split the rosters up as evenly as possible, given that “Raw” gets three picks for every two picks “SmackDown” receives, the main reason for that being that “Raw” is three hours long and “Smackdown” is two hours long.
Secondly, if “SmackDown” is going to be a success, the WWE has to bring back titles to both shows. After the stars began crossing over to both shows, the company unified the titles.
They are going to have to break them up again. “Raw” and “SmackDown” both need to have some sort title system naming a World Champion, Tag Team Champions and lesser titles, such as the U.S. and European Champions.
Finally, to make the draft matter, the WWE needs to give it a permanent date or month. Just like the major pay-per-view events, such as WrestleMania and SummerSlam, fans will love to spend months speculating about who will get drafted where and how it will affect both shows.
There are other things that will come up after the draft, including faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys). Talent should set the roster, not whether a wrestler is a face or a heel. Wrestlers can be turned as needed to fix any imbalance in the roster.
It will be interesting to see what the WWE does with the draft. “Raw” and the live “SmackDown” won’t be exactly like the Monday Night Wars, but if the draft is done correctly, it could make wrestling can’t-miss TV again.