One of the tools that makes SmackDown such a compelling watch every week is the WWE Network-exclusive show, “Talking Smack,” which airs immediately following each episode, because it features a lot of genuine discussion from Daniel Bryan and Renee Young on the direction of the blue brand. The conversations feel unfiltered, as seen by Daniel Bryan’s often “no holds barred” approach to raising his own brand’s stock while diminishing that of Monday Night Raw each and every chance he gets.
This past week was no different, with the SmackDown GM going so far as to call Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon cowards in the way they book their product.
Bryan noted how the management on Raw relies on bringing in big names from wrestling history to draw an audience to their show, as opposed to how SmackDown has faith in its current competitors to set the precedent for the brand and maintain its strong viewership that way.
Naturally, you’d expect to see the claws come out between Raw and SmackDown ahead of their clash at Survivor Series, and considering how this whole brand extension came about due to Vince McMahon’s desire to pit his children against each other in a ratings war – vying to deliver the best promos, commentary, matches, pay-per-views and overall revenue.
But the funny thing about Bryan’s verbal barrage is that what he says about Raw actually holds water. It’s not just a case of Bryan saying “our stars are better” or “we have the best wrestling” as a means of building towards Survivor Series. It’s an authentic commentary on the way the flagship show has been managed since the draft, which is vastly different than that of SmackDown.
His comments about Raw’s reliance on past names to draw big momentary viewership is quite a factor in why the red team’s product has come across as exceedingly inferior to SmackDown’s.
Goldberg’s monumental return to the WWE came across far better than a lot of fans expected it to, and actually ended up being a very special moment that will live on for quite some time as one of the WCW legend’s most iconic moments under the WWE umbrella. But as a whole, the fact that the episode of Raw was built around his re-emergence to the company, and his show-closing promo was the “main event” of the evening, is evidence that Monday Night Raw holds outside names like Goldberg, and his new adversary Brock Lesnar, in a higher regard than its full-time combatants.
If you need proof, just look at the man’s entrance. In typical Goldberg fashion, “The Myth” was seen walking backstage to thunderous roars of the man’s name heard from fans around the arena before stepping through the curtain and making his way to the ring. This time, however, he walked amidst the majority of the Raw roster, some of whom were overwhelmed with anticipation of the man’s return to the company, and it really just made a lot of those stars look weak in comparison.
Sure, very few names – if any – on today’s roster strike as much awe from sheer appearance as Goldberg, but having so many of them stand there with jaws agape made them come across no different than the kids in the front row. It’s not the kind of impression you want to associate with some of the industry’s finest athletes, and it only served to diminish the brand’s credibility.
There’s nothing obscenely wrong with booking a big-time match between two legends, but when it makes the remainder of your roster look incredibly fragile, then that’s when the red flags go up.
Another point that stems from this is Monday Night Raw’s incessant habit of setting a date for a match or appearance and expecting that to be enough to hold the fans over for the time being.
They announce names like Goldberg and Lesnar for upcoming episodes, and make “history-making announcements” of things like the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match or the Raw brand putting on three cell matches in one night, and they pretty much draw the line there with the build-up.
With the exception of maybe Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins and the apparent degradation of Jeri-KO’s relationship, how much of the week-to-week build for the remaining Hell in a Cell matches taking place next week has actually altered the nature of the feud?
You could miss every segment from the moment Reigns vs. Rusev and Banks vs. Charlotte were announced, and you wouldn’t be struggling to catch up with the story ahead of the event.
They basically just make the matches and call it a day, while SmackDown puts effort into making each week count. With the blue brand, the week-to-week build is as important as the eventual pay-per-view, because it’s the build-up that makes the event worth watching – not the other way around. It’s a simple process that makes each episode come across as less filler and more must-see, further contributing to the show being considered superior on a weekly basis.
As cheesy as it may sound, SmackDown proves that it truly is about the journey, not the destination, and Raw’s over-reliance on past stars and innovative upcoming matches, as opposed to telling a story each and every week, definitely sets them back in the brand wars.