A new calendar year in WWE doesn't normally mean a new beginning or a fresh start. In WWE's world that is normally reserved for the few weeks following WrestleMania. If the rumors are true then that will be the case this year as reports are suggesting the first draft in almost two years will take place at Backlash, less than a month after the biggest show of the year in New Orleans. Despite all that there have been a few subtle changes since we moved from 2017 into 2018, most of which have been for the better.
Most of the changes have taken place on Raw. WWE's flagship show under went a face lift a few years ago following the Royal Rumble getting new graphics and a new theme song performed by Papa Roach. Normally changes such as these are purely aesthetic but in this instance they seem to be going hand in hand with some tweaks to the show that have made the three plus hours every Monday night a lot easier to sit through.
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It's hard to put our finger on what exactly it is that has changed about the show but all of a sudden Raw isn't that bad any more. Previously three hours of Raw felt like a chore but now it can positively fly by some weeks. The change seems to have come following the massive viewership WWE pulled in via Raw's 25th anniversary show. The company realized that they needed to do all that they could to keep a lot of those new or returning viewers watching and that's exactly what they've done. A week later the road to Elimination Chamber began. The first match on the show was a last man standing match between Braun Strowman and Kane and it will have been hard to change the channel after watching that opening chaos.
On the flip side of things SmackDown Live appears to be suffering. There was a time a few months after the initial draft that the blue brand was easily the better show each and every week when compared to Raw. Match of the year candidates between AJ Styles and John Cena, the gripping work/shoot promos between The Miz and Daniel Bryan. SmackDown Live was can't miss! Now the booking of the show's top angle has consumed Tuesday nights and is doing SmackDown Live as a whole a serious injustice.
The angle in question is the one that began with the vendetta between Shane McMahon and Kevin Owens. Four or five months ago the storyline was one of the best in all of WWE. KO's brutal interaction with Vince McMahon was one of the best segments of 2017 and the whole thing should have really culminated at Hell In A Cell. It didn't though and here we are four months later and the whole thing has become incredibly confusing with no real end point in sight.
Owens and Zayn are friends then they're not, AJ Styles has been unwillingly dragged into the equation as have Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin, plus it all seems to be building to a Daniel Bryan in ring comeback that WWE won't end up signing off on anyway. When you watch SmackDown Live nowadays a large chunk of the two hour show is dedicated to this long and confusing angle and most fans are likely thinking as they're watching it is 'where is this going?'. Unfortunately at this point it doesn't seem like anybody, including WWE creative, seems to know the answer to that. That is worrying considering how close we are to WrestleMania.
While it's frustrating that WWE can't seem to make both Raw and SmackDown Live interesting and watchable at the same time, we should be thankful that at least both shows aren't in the shape that the blue brand is in right now. It's just a shame that once again SmackDown Live is hurtling towards WrestleMania without much momentum behind it. Even though there will likely be a dream match between Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles on the show, the build to that has been almost non-existent. It's almost as if Vince McMahon reverts back to believing that Raw has to be his top priority at this time of year and SmackDown Live is merely an after thought. That can't be the case any more. There are talented Superstars on both brands and both need to be given equal amounts of attention. Yes Mr McMahon may believe that Roman Reigns versus Brock Lesnar will be the be all and end all on April 8th but let's be honest, The Phenomenal One versus The King Of Strong Style would be a far better show closer.