Most wrestling fans understand SmackDown Live is the “B” show for the WWE. Never given the respect it deserves, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are trying to work with the writers and talent to make the blue brand as powerful as it can be, even though it often isn’t given the resources the Monday night flagship show Raw gets.
Still, Tuesday nights are full of talented wrestlers. In fact, SmackDown Live is becoming known as the home for the companies best in-ring talent. These are the wrestlers who take great pride in having five-star matches every week and doing most of their talking with their performances away from the mic. With talents like A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler and others, who can argue with that stance?
A two-hour show often considered the underdog, there are some advantages SmackDown Live has going for it that could potentially take the show from the backup brand to the leader in weekly programming. While Raw is busy talking and employing a ton of part-time talents, the blue brand is primed and ready to create some of the WWE’s biggest moments over the course of 2017 and into 2018. How? Well, we have 15 ideas.
Below is a list of the 15 possible ways that SmackDown Live could take over the ratings war and bring most of the viewers to Tuesdays. Think we missed something? Give us your take in the comments section, share with your friends and let them weigh in as well.
Secretly, we’re all cheering for SmackDown Live. Any ideas that could make the show better and get it the credit it deserves is good by us.
15. Actually Repackage Dolph Ziggler
We saw him “redebut” last Tuesday on SmackDown Live and while his attitude was different, it was the same old Dolph Ziggler wearing the pinks tights and leather jacket, whining about how he’s being mistreated and underappreciated. In a way, it’s like the WWE is trying to create a version of The Miz 2.0 and hope that Ziggler delivers a promo that goes viral and has everyone talking. It’s not likely to happen.
The reason? The Miz has his haters, but his gimmick was never annoying or too in your face. Ziggler has been old news for some time and the WWE needs to go a different direction completely. Having him complain even more or come out to no entrance music or fanfare isn’t going to be enough to get fans back on his side. He needs a totally different approach.
14. Put Daniel Bryan In The Ring
If he’s cleared to wrestle, let him wrestle. His comeback alone would be the talk of the WWE and he’d draw in viewers like nobody else’s business. But, this therapy treatment he’s apparently going for his brain needs to work first or it shouldn’t even be considered. There’s no good reason to mess with someone’s health and the WWE medical staff needs to be the one comfortable with how he’s progressing and not Daniel Bryan himself.
Bryan would wrestle now if you let him. That’s not a good idea. But, if he’s cleared, build a storyline around his not being cleared, but he is attacked by someone in the locker room. He’s got no choice but to wrestle despite the risks involved. Half the WWE Universe wouldn’t believe it and the other half would understand his dilemma.
13. Take The Title Off Jinder Mahal
The idea behind Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion was sound. WWE needed to appeal to a huge audience in India and have it coincide with the launch of the WWE Network out there. Mahal might not have been a believable champ, but he looks the part and he’s done much more with the title than anyone would have ever expected. That said, the WWE Universe doesn’t hate him nearly enough to want to watch him.
The matches he’s in aren’t drawing an audience. His bouts with Randy Orton were snoozefests and his latest with Shinsuke Nakamura was surprising, but not in a good way. The company needs to end their experiment with Mahal unless they can show he’s truly drawing in bigger numbers. That seems unlikely.
12. Keep Doing the U.S. Title Open Challenge
The U.S. Championship open challenge is a great thing for a number of reasons. First, it makes A.J. Styles a credible champion (not that he wasn’t already). Second, it keeps the title front and center on the SmackDown Live. Third, it’ss fantastic way to create surprises and introduce new talent.
One of the things that happened when John Cena held the open challenge is that people from NXT or others looking for an opportunity to prove themselves would show up. It introduced the main roster to guys like Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. If Styles can bring the same kind of attention to the belt, this is huge and if a couple new faces show up, viewers will tune in to see who might pop up next.
11. Use Alumni or Legends
We said that for Raw, the WWE should consider using legends and alumni more often. It brings a sense of nostalgia to the show and it keeps things fresh and interesting. The trick is that it needs to be in small doses and for short periods of time. The stories can’t revolve around these former WWE Superstars. The same goes for SmackDown Live.
With a two-hour show, a surprise appearance by a former wrestler is a great way to keep the show fresh and fast paced, while putting over some of the current talent. In the case of the blue brand, there were a number of wrestlers who were main contributors to the show being successful in the first-ever brand split. Talent like Edge and Christian were a huge part of the brand back then.
10. Keep Bobby Roode A Heel
When Bobby Roode debuted on SmackDown Live he appeared to be playing the role of a babyface as he took on Aiden English. It would be a mistake for the WWE to use him this way if that is their intention. Roode’s character played off extremely well as a heel in NXT and he’s much better served to do the same on Tuesday’s.
In fact, Roode has the tools to be the shows biggest heel character and take a run with the title as a bad guy who came to save the show, much like he did when he called NXT merely great, but not glorious. SmackDown Live is looked at as the “B show.” Why not have Roode walk around and call it that? He can claim he’s so great he’ll make it the better of the two shows in no time.
9. Have Shelton Benjamin Turn On Chad Gable
Shelton Benjamin is probably not the piece that puts your show over the top. That said, he’s an extremely talented in-ring performer and he can be used in multiple ways. That the WWE chose to place him with Chad Gable upon his debut and effective squash any singles push for either wrestler is an odd choice. Hopefully, the WWE doesn’t choose to stick with this idea for long.
Benjamin needs to be given serious attention upon his debut to avoid the same fate as guys like Curti Hawkins, Rhyno or others who came back and almost immediately played the role of enhancement talent. Meanwhile, Gable is too good to be stuck in a position where he’s not really doing anything and going from one tag team partner to another. This could be hurting two talents at once if the company doesn’t play this right.
8. Repackage and Emphasize Luke Harper
That the WWE hasn’t done anything with Luke Harper isn’t just odd, it’s mind-blowing. Harper is one of the better talents to come out of the Wyatt Family and all he needs to be a star is a push as a singles wrestler.
There are rumors he’ll be revealed along with Erik Rowan as one of the attackers of Breezango and if the WWE isn’t going to take Harper seriously, there are worse ways to go. But, he deserves better. Harper has all the tools to really add to the SmackDown Live brand. He’s just going to have a hard time doing so if he’s always in the shadow of Bray and a Wyatt Family that isn’t together.
I would put them all back together (sans Braun Strowman) and introduce an actual Sister Abigail, but that’s just me. If Vince was still really keen on the whole incest storyline, this is a good way to do it without actually promoting incest. Two brothers, fighting because one “brother” is secretly having a relationship with the “sister” could be an interesting idea. And because none of them are actually related, it works without being too creepy.
7. Quit Wasting Sami Zayn
If there’s one wrestler on either brand that is being underutilized, it’s Sami Zayn. When is the last time Zayn had a match that wasn’t good? He was arguably the strongest talent in NXT and his matches with guys like Kevin Owens have been top notch. Yet, the WWE feels the need to bury him and pile up losses to guys like Aiden English or have him feud with Mike Kannelis. That wouldn’t even be so bad if the company actually paid attention to that feud (which they aren’t).
Zayn is the wrestler who has the fans with him all the way. He can put on a great match with almost anyone and he deserves a legitimate shot at going on a long run, perhaps even setting up the stage to give him a surprise title run. SmackDown Live was supposed to be his opportunity. It has been anything but.
6. Reunite Lana and Rusev
It was insanely stupid to break the pair of Lana and Rusev up. Now, both are floating in obscurity and not doing anything relevant on a show that should be showcasing them as two of the top heels in the company. It started when the WWE viewed Rusev as a guy who could be used to lose to John Cena and it has led all the way to his being squashed by Randy Orton at SummerSlam. Now there are rumors the two have asked for their releases.
Lana quickly put those rumors to rest when she answered a fan on Twitter, but it won’t take long if the two are continually wasted and there are no meaningful angles for them to be a part of. They don’t even need to push the whole Bulgarian angle any longer. Just put them together and let them run rampant on the SmackDown Live locker room.
5. Give SmackDown Live The Cruiserweights
If the show is meant to be about the best wrestlers and Raw has no desire to have or use them properly, give the Cruiserweights to SmackDown Live and let them shine in matches fitting of their styles. It could be the resurgence the division needs and it might tie in better to 205 Live which is already shot after SmackDown on Tuesdays.
The format is simple. Like I suggested for Raw, open your show with your most relevant promo and then let the Cruiserweights have a five-star match on the program to start in-ring action. The only downside to this is that the show is already much shorter than Raw and the red brand has the room to fit an extra match where the blue brand might not.
4. Bring In Jim Ross
Sometimes what works for Raw will also work for SmackDown Live and that includes changing up the announce team from time to time. The beauty of a guy like Jim Ross is that he has no affiliation to a brand. Like John Cena, he’s kind of a free agent and whenever there is a big match that is being promoted weeks in advance, why not bring him in to call the action?
Ross makes that match a headliner no matter what is happening. Just having him on commentary makes people feel there is something significant happening. If he show up once every couple months, the wrestlers might feel their match is more important too and gives them something to work toward. Like a football player playing on a Monday night or a hockey player on Hockey Night In Canada, wrestlers would get up for matches called by JR.
3. Pre-Show Interviews (a la Saturday Night’s Main Event)
When you have a two hour show, you want to fit as much action into those two hours as possible. One great way to do so is to set the scene of the action for the night by having the wrestlers call each other out. The WWE used to do this wonderfully when they introduced Saturday Night’s Main Event each month and SmackDown Live might be served well to try something like this.
These intros always got me pumped when I was young and it gave me something to look forward to throughout the entire card. Every match in the lineup meant something and the music just got you amped as a viewer to stay tuned into to see what might happen.
2. Trade Randy Orton to Raw
Randy Orton is and was a star, but he’s also dragging the future stars of SmackDown Live down. The master of the RKO is always going to be a big deal, but it’s not his time any longer and by pushing down the likes of Rusev or other up-and-coming talents, he’s stunting the blue brand’s growth.
It’s not necessarily his fault. Orton seems to be willing to do the job for people and while he’s got a reputation in the past for being a bully, those days seem long behind him. Still, Raw is the show that has the “A-List” talent that has been there and done that. He’s not a draw any longer, so trade him for a talent like Cesaro and get the focus back on wrestling.
1. Bring Back Talking Smack
Taking away Talking Smack was the strangest decision. It was a platform for talent to get over while not in the ring. If the promo between Cena and Reigns is any indication of what guys can do when given the mic for a few minutes, imagine what others can do when given the same opportunity.
The Miz already proved that you can make a star using that show and the Uso’s arguably took the next step there as well. Just because Vince didn’t like the unscripted nature of the show doesn’t mean it was a wide decision to cancel it. The WWE Network needs more unique programming the WWE audience can’t see anywhere else, not less. Taking away Talking Smack removed a big chunk of what made Tuesdays worth watching on the Network.
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