In the summer of 1999, WWE programming was entering the most popular era of its existence. Generation-defining stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Triple H were nearing their peak, fierce competition from Ted Turner’s WCW was forcing creative to produce the best storylines the company had come up with since wrestling’s heyday in the 80s, and attention from mainstream media was drawing new eyes to professional wrestling every day. In the wake of all of this success, the company decided to launch a new show, named after one of The Rock’s ever-popular catchphrases, to bring even more WWE content into millions of homes. That show was SmackDown and it started for the same purpose as it is primarily used for today: to supplement existing storylines.
Fast forward to 2001, and WWE had purchased all the rights from then-floundering WCW. After a failed attempt at a “WCW Invasion” storyline with the intention of re-launching WCW under the WWE umbrella, the company was left with little to no competition in the wrestling marketplace. Never content with resting on his laurels, Vince ordered SmackDown to fill the void of competition, initiating a brand split that would end up bringing the show to the forefront of wrestling, as under the direction of Paul Heyman and with future legends like Rey Mysterio, Edge, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, and Eddie Guerrero, SmackDown quickly overtook RAW as the most must-see wrestling show on TV.
As the years passed and the brand split era came to a close, SmackDown quickly faded into B-show obscurity. But it doesn’t have to be this way. This list features 12 improvements that could easily be made by WWE to thrust the blue brand into prominence once again. No single one of these ideas will make SmackDown the number one show, but a combination might just be what WWE needs to return to the early 2000s glory of Thursday night’s wrestling extravaganza.
12 A Clearer Focus
11 Less Filler
10 Improved Advertising
9 Less Rematches
8 Establishing Relevant Storylines
7 A Presentation Revamp
6 Surprise “Big Draw” Appearances
5 A Tonal Shift
4 A Focus on the Undercard
3 3, Hyping Matches on RAW
2 Creating/Assigning a Smackdown-Specific Title
1 Establishing SmackDown-Specific Superstars
Yes, the most important thing SmackDown can do to regain relevancy is to, in effect, reignite the brand split, though it doesn’t necessarily need to be that drastic. All that really needs to be done is to establish a few top-tier superstars that people genuinely want to see, like Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, or a debuting Finn Balor, and make them the top face of the brand. Have them wrestle exclusively on SmackDown, forcing fans who are desperate to see their favorite wrestlers to tune into the show every Thursday to watch them compete. They can still wrestle on PPVs, have intense feuds, and be involved in major storylines, but all that can be accomplished on one show, the only change being that that show is Thursday Night SmackDown.
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