It may be hard for some World Wrestling Entertainment fans to believe that it has been well over a decade since the “SmackDown Six” debuted on television programs. Not only was SmackDown a standalone show that differed from what was presented on Raw those days. SmackDown was the top show of the WWE at that time, one that offered fans the kind of entertainment that makes wrestling so appealing to viewers. There were compelling storylines, satisfying conclusions to feuds, and great wrestling that made even jaded fans want to tune in whenever SmackDown was airing on TV or presenting a live pay-per-view event.
In recent years, however, SmackDown has become a downright missable show that exists seemingly because the WWE has landed that TV spot. Matches occur without there being any noticeable consequences. Storylines and feuds that are begun on Raw or at special events may carry over to SmackDown, but nothing significant happens to advance those feuds during shows. The harsh truth of the matter is that wrestling fans could not be blamed for choosing to not bother with SmackDown due to the fact that the show is basically a longer version of Superstars minus the occasional decent match that may occur.
The WWE is trying to change the perceptions fans have regarding SmackDown as of the start of 2016. With SmackDown making the move to the USA Network, expectations for the show will be different moving forward. SmackDown being a flop of a show and in the ratings could negatively affect the relationship that the WWE has with certain television executives. You may remember learning that ratings for Raw had dipped during the fall months of 2015. How bad could things get for SmackDown if that show doesn’t consistently wow viewers? The WWE will be hoping to never have to find out the answer to such a question.
15. No Offseason
While the WWE has no true offseason, something that has been a hot topic on wrestling websites and forums for years, is that it can seem during the months that follow WrestleMania as if the company is merely going in circles until summer ends. That can no longer be the case for SmackDown because the show has a new television home. SmackDown becoming a lame-duck show would lead to fans ignoring the product, which could result in USA Network abandoning the show, would could then lead to SmackDown going off of cable television. That is something the WWE will be looking to avoid.
14. Gimmick Matches
One criticism that a fan could have about older versions of SmackDown is that the matches that were presented were throwaway contests that happened just because a wrestling show happened to be on. That hopefully will no longer be the case. WWE is already offering a Tables Match, one featuring the Dudley Boyz taking on the Wyatt Family, on a January edition of SmackDown. SmackDown is also becoming a home of championship matches (more on that later). The WWE being keen on putting entertaining and different matches on SmackDown should be proof that the company wants to improve the show.
13. Announced Matches
That WWE fans are excited about the fact that the company is advertising multiple matches days ahead of SmackDown airings says a lot about how the WWE has treated the show in the past. A wrestling company hypes matches before a show because it wants fans to tune in. Those matches had better be entertaining in order to keep people watching and then make them return customers. It’s so simple, it just might work! The WWE seemingly lost its way with this portion of the business, but it looks as if the company is more interested in turning SmackDown around than we have seen in years. Let’s hope the trend continues through 2016.
12. Dean Ambrose
The WWE World Heavyweight Champion, whoever he is, should not be on every edition of SmackDown. It wouldn’t be a special occasion if he was a mainstay of that brand. With that said, the company needs a babyface who can be presented as a standout character on SmackDown shows. Dean Ambrose already showed in January that he can be the man to play the part. Ambrose is over with fans, he is a unique worker, and he can cut compelling promos. Ambrose could, if handled properly, become the face of the SmackDown brand that should stand apart from Raw shows.
11. Kevin Owens
The WWE probably would not get many complaints from fans if the company made a feud involving Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose a part of SmackDown shows for months. Owens is everything that the company would want in a dastardly heel. He is great on the microphone and he can back up his talk by having the best match on any night. Owens can be made to look like an intimidating figure when compared with some babyface performers. Owens and Ambrose were already responsible for a reason to watch SmackDown in 2016. The two will hopefully continue to do so throughout the year.
10. Women’s Wrestling
One would not be overly negative about the WWE to point out that the “Divas Revolution” that was introduced on Raw in 2015 has been nothing shy of a disaster. The first editions of SmackDown on USA Network have given fans some promise regarding the women’s division that needs to be centered around wrestling and not made-up drama that belongs on Total Divas. Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Paige, Sasha Banks and others on the WWE roster can all go inside of the ring. SmackDown should present even further opportunities to see those women in action.
9. Wrestling Show
An unannounced perception that has, intentionally or not, been put out there by the WWE over the past 15 years is that Raw is more of an “entertainment show” and SmackDown is more of a “wrestling show.” That will hopefully remain the case with SmackDown making the move over to USA Network. SmackDown should be noticeably different from Raw, as fans do not need to see over five hours of the same program every week. The WWE has some tremendous in-ring workers signed to the roster. Many of them should be mainstays of a SmackDown brand that features top wrestling.
8. Jerry Lawler
If you are anything like us, you miss hearing the voice of Jerry “The King” Lawler while watching Raw shows on Monday nights. Lawler is still signed by the WWE and he is part of the commentary crew for SmackDown programs. Yes, there can be times when it seems as if Lawler is not thoroughly invested in a particular storyline. When he is fully motivated and into the show, though, Lawler is unquestionably one of the better commentators that the WWE has had over the past 20 years. “The King” helps make SmackDown a fun show that is easy to enjoy.
Some WWE fans choose to do something else with their time rather than watching SmackDown because of the fact that they can read spoilers for the taped show earlier in the week. Those viewers are looking at the situation all wrong. Spoilers can, in fact, be a reason to tune in and watch at least a segment of SmackDown if you read that something big or entertaining occurred during that week’s show. It is no different than when a Raw that occurs outside of the United States is taped earlier in the day. SmackDown spoilers serve as a preview of sorts for the show.
6. Secondary Titles
While we cannot see into the future, the opening stages of the experiment that is SmackDown airing on USA Network have been promising as it pertains to title such as the Intercontinental and United States Championships. Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens were featured in an entertaining match with the Intercontinental Championship on the line, and that title was actually treated like it meant something and was a big deal. SmackDown should be a show where these championships are occasionally defended. Fans should be conditioned to think that they could see a title change every now and again when watching SmackDown.
5. Skip Raw
If you are a diehard National Football League fan who isn’t missing Monday Night Football regardless of what the WWE advertises for a Raw show, SmackDown could be for you for multiple reasons. Every edition of SmackDown presents at least one breakdown of the most important angles and events that occurred during that week’s Raw. This allows you to remain caught up on all of the major WWE storylines without having to watch both Raw and SmackDown on a weekly basis. Even a huge WWE fan could find that he needs a break every now and again.
4. Additional Programming
It is easy and maybe even a little bit lazy to criticize all that is wrong with the WWE as of the start of 2016. With that said, SmackDown gives WWE fans over an hour of original programming (commercial breaks not included) just about every week of the year minus a recap show or two that may air. These shows are made available for free for those with the necessary television subscriptions and they can be watched over and over again without you having to pay for the WWE Network. Even when at its worst, any version of SmackDown that airs on cable is better than the show being placed on the Network or not existing at all.
3. Mauro Ranallo
The WWE is nothing if not repetitive. One thing that makes NXT such an intriguing product these days is that those shows are just different than other WWE events. SmackDown will at least be different from Raw because Mauro Ranallo will be serving as the lead commentator for shows. The Canadian announcer has called multiple sporting events in the past, including mixed martial arts and pro wrestling shows. Ranallo will be a welcome edition for a WWE announce crew that had become somewhat stale. It would be nice to hear him call a match or two at a WrestleMania.
2. Two Hours
One of the negatives that could understandably keep somebody from watching every new edition of Raw is that the show is three-hours long. That does not even account for the overrun that keeps the show on the air up through 11:05 PM ET. There are no such worries with SmackDown, though, as the show airs for only two hours. Those who catch up on SmackDown via Hulu, OnDemand or DVR do not have to worry about dealing with commercials while watching! SmackDown is an easier watch than Raw if for no other reason than the show is shorter, something that wrestling fans should not take for granted.
1. USA Network
What does a network change mean for SmackDown? Possibly plenty depending on what occurs in 2016. The USA Network has a wide variety of programming that the station could feature on a weeknight if SmackDown fails to bring in an influx of viewers. This reality should theoretically lead the WWE to wanting to present SmackDown as a show that is, at worst, equal to Raw in entertainment value. Those of you out there who are skeptical about the future of SmackDown should be willing to give the show another chance because the WWE is now in a position where the company has to improve the show. USA Network doesn’t need SmackDown nearly as much as the WWE needs USA Network.
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