WWE announced that the Brand Split would be returning, with SmackDown airing live on Tuesday nights stating on July 19th, with its own roster and storylines. This announcement was initially met with a lot of excitement, as everyone remembered the glory days of SmackDown, with the 'Smackdown Six' (Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Chavo and Eddie Guerrero) causing the show to overtake Raw in the ratings for a short period (Paul Heyman also helped). However, since then, there has been a lot of fear that SmackDown would be more like the SmackDown that existed towards the end of the brand split, as well as the fear that the roster is not deep enough for this split.
Say what you want about the Brand Split, it will certainly be interesting to see how it goes, especially as watching SmackDown live will remove the dangers of it being spoiled on the internet and it should give some of the Superstars on the roster a chance to shine, as there is less of chance of them being lost in the shuffle. Some Superstars such as John Cena and Batista owe a lot of their initial success to the Brand Split, as it gave them a real chance to shine. Fans have been calling for the Brand Split to return and the WWE has finally listened.
If the Brand Split is to be successful, there are a lot of things to take into consideration with SmackDown. Here are 15 things SmackDown needs to succeed on its own.
15 Separate Writing Team
This one may seem simple, but it's something that could really make a difference to the show. While it may be tempting to have some writers do both shows, if there was a different team for each show, the storylines and matches would feel different and would help to make the angles less predictable if you couldn't spot a trend from both shows. For SmackDown to succeed, this is an essential early step.
14 Unique Set
One of the things that you can criticize the current SmackDown show for is the fact that at a first glance, it looks just like a blue Raw. Back when SmackDown was at its peak, you could immediately tell what show it was, with its giant fist going through the entrance. This helped define SmackDown as its own show. While this isn't saying that the fist set should return (although it would interesting to see), something should be in the set that distinguishes it from Raw, allowing people to recognize it instantly, showing that SmackDown was its own show.
The first WWE Superstar on this list is probably one of the most overlooked on the whole roster. Paige has said that she doesn't really know what Creative are doing with her and the Brand Split is the perfect opportunity for her to pull herself back to the top of the division. With it being likely that there will still only be one Woman's Champion, Paige could establish herself as the No.1 SmackDown contender. Paige is one of the more interesting female wrestlers in recent times and her exclusivity on SmackDown would help to draw in the viewers, especially female viewers.
12 Zack Ryder
Perhaps the most surprising fact about Zack Ryder is that he's only 31. This means he has a lot left to give in WWE. Putting Zack Ryder on SmackDown would not only give Ryder a chance to establish himself as a solid mid-carder, but it would also please some of the more hardcore fans, who still resent the Creative Team for the way that they treated him in 2011-2012. Seeing Zack Ryder finally being pushed in WWE would definitely be a reason to tune into SmackDown.
11 Meaningful Pay-Per-Views
What started to kill SmackDown, as its own show, was the meaningless Pay-Per-Views that they presented. A fear that many people have, such as Steve Austin, is that the roster is simply not deep enough for a good Brand Split. While this is a legitimate fear, if the feuds on SmackDown are given enough time to develop and the upcoming Pay-Per-Views are honed around these angles, SmackDown as its own brand will stand out.
10 The United States Championship
The United States Championship used to be a very prestigious championship and while John Cena helped bring it back to the glory days last summer, it has fallen down the pecking order since then. Bringing it exclusively to SmackDown would help the belt feel important, as it would also give the mid-carders on SmackDown something to fight for, giving them another reason to tune into SmackDown. There was similar plans with Daniel Bryan and the Intercontinental Championship, but his unfortunate injury put a stop to that plan.
9 Sami Zayn OR Kevin Owens
This one is important as it has to be one or the other, not both. Keeping Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn separate would mean that when they did meet at times like the Royal Rumble, it would be even more special for fans. Sami Zayn on SmackDown could become the Daniel Bryan style babyface, as he has incredible matches and would make for incredible television, and Kevin Owens... is Kevin Owens. The best heel currently in WWE, any segment or match that he is featured in is must watch television. This would be best for both the shows and for the wrestlers.
8 Unique Announce Team
This is something that SmackDown is working towards at the moment, even before the Brand Split was announced. Their announce team consists of Mauro Ranallo, Bryon Saxton, and Jerry Lawler. with their best option being to make Bryon Saxton exclusive to Raw. This would move the focus even more on to Mauro Ranallo and would also give SmackDown its own voice and identity. People tuning into SmackDown would instantly recognize the sound and Ranallo is so good at his job that he can make even the most mundane match seem like the main event of WrestleMania.
7 Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose is the definition of 'always the bridesmaid, never the bride' in WWE. He's constantly being put into big matches, only to lose them. Despite this, Ambrose is still incredibly popular with fans with his wacky persona. Ambrose has mentioned his excitement for the Brand Split and him featuring on SmackDown could prove to be a huge success, as whatever feud he is put in, he manages to make it entertaining. Also, it would satisfy many of the more hardcore fans if Dean Ambrose was the leading man on WWE television, a role that many feel he should already be in.
6 Higher Concentration on Wrestling
The reason that SmackDown was so successful in its peak era, and the reason that NXT is so popular today, is that the vast majority of the show was purely focused on wrestling. When you remember the bad bits about the last era of SmackDown, what springs to mind are the terrible backstage segments with awful attempts at comedy and the cringeworthy interviews. While there will always be backstage segments, it would be better to use these sparingly and have the majority of the show dedicated to wrestling matches, meaning that the casual viewer flicking through the channels is more likely to stop and check out the product.
5 Shane McMahon
Something that WWE has overused recently is the heel authority figure controlling the show. One way to freshen this up, and to truly establish SmackDown as a totally different and unique show, is to have Shane McMahon in charge. Shane McMahon is probably the only truly popular member of the McMahon family and has earned a lot of respect from the boys in the back. Since his return, the whole product has felt fresher and better. This would also help with the New Era vibe that WWE are trying to give out.
4 Appearances by the Women's And Tag Team Champions
Unlike the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the WWE needs to keep the Woman's Championship and Tag Team Championship on both shows. In order to make both shows appear equal, the champs need to appear on SmackDown as much as they appear on Raw, and have system where both Raw and SmackDown have their own #1 Contender for the championships. This would show everyone that the shows are equal and it would be interesting to see the inter-winding stories, and how the champs would cope with contenders from both shows.
3 A.J. Styles
A year ago, the concept of A.J. Styles as the leading man for a WWE television show would be an absurd thought. Now, however, it almost seems that the idea of not having A.J. Styles as the leading man is ridiculous. Not only is A.J. probably the best wrestler on the whole roster, any high profile match he's in can be considered a dream match. People would be tuning in just to see what the former TNA man would be doing that week, as anything he does seems to be among the best things in wrestling right now. You cannot praise A.J. Styles enough and the positive effect he would have on SmackDown would be tremendous.
2 The World Heavyweight Championship
While some might say that this would water down the importance of both World Titles, there was a time when having two World Championships really did work. Around 2002-2005, when both shows were treated with equal importance, both of the championships felt as important as the other and if SmackDown was to be treated the same way as Raw, it would work. Having this championship on SmackDown would also give the company room to experiment with some wrestlers such as Dean Ambrose and see how they are received as champion. It is also probably the best looking title belt in WWE history.
1 John Cena
It's quite simple really: if WWE want SmackDown to succeed by itself, they should put John Cena on the show. John Cena is the reason that anyone under the age of 16 watches wrestling. Despite what the hardcore fans think of him, Cena is the most popular star in WWE today and putting him on SmackDown would give an instant boost to the ratings. WWE need to load SmackDown up with big name stars in order to get the viewers in and John Cena could be all they need, as the 15 time World Champion is the biggest draw in the industry.