Professional wrestling is weird. It is unlike any other sport on the planet.
Here we have one brand, Monday Night Raw, being leaps and bounds better as a program than SmackDown. All because an unfortunate injury to the planned face of the company, Finn Bálor. In turn, it forced the WWE’s hand to create a dynamic storyline.
On the other hand, we have a completely healthy SmackDown roster. One that has been built to become a good brand in a marathon fashion, as it is designed to build younger stars, but it is falling far off in the distance as far as engaging storytelling is concerned – at least when compared to Raw.
Through no fault of its own, SmackDown’s stories are eh. Nothing great. Nothing horrible. Simply more of the same type of WWE booking we have seen for the better part of two decades. Sure, some new – and, importantly, talented – guys are getting shots, but save for the pace of the show, everything else pales in comparison to Raw.
If we were only viewing SmackDown in a vacuum minus Raw, we’d love it to insane degrees, but there’s no vacuums here. This is real life.
Again, to be as clear as Crystal Pepsi, SmackDown is still very much a good show. In fact, I’d argue that it is near great on a weekly basis ever since the brands have been split.
Also, as already mentioned, SmackDown’s growth into becoming an absolute must-see show for casual-ish fans is going to be a slow burn. The “stars” SmackDown needs aren’t yet stars, but are certainly special enough to get there. We, as fans, just need to be patient. That last sentence in this graph a point of important emphasis.
All of that being said, Raw was amazing.
Listen, here is a show that is functioning without its cruiserweight division, and yet it remains a mostly quality program. Is it great throughout? Of course not. Is its pacing as good as SmackDown’s? Nope. Not as long as it remains to be three hours.
But at the top of the Raw food chain, it has been an engaging a series of stories week after week as there has ever been on the WWE’s flagship show.
We had Finn Bálor become the first ever WWE Universal Champion, which was set up by way of a fantastic series of matches on the first few editions of the new version of Monday Night Raw. Then, on the latest episode, the WWE continued its New Era, more-risks attitude by giving Internet Wrestling Community favorite – and all-around, no hyperbole, transcendent talent – Kevin Owens the belt.
All of that, plus the fact in how Triple H’s interference in the Fatal 4-Way match to determine the champion on Raw sets up so many potential angles that they are coming out of the wazoo.
Maybe this is preference based, but not only has Raw been engaging the last few weeks as far as the main event is concerned, but the fallout of this last edition has me salivating at the mouth. Sincerely, for the first time since the Attitude Era, I am looking forward to, in great anticipation, the next Monday Night Raw.
That feeling does not yet resonate with many fans as far as SmackDown is concerned.
Yes, we are all in agreement that it is mostly a fine show, but in comparison to Raw’s episodes, SmackDown is trailing behind.
It is very early in these new brand wars. So many things can happen so quickly that we can have this same discussion in a month’s time, but the roles can be reversed.
It is just so odd how a thing that would kill an NFL team (losing its star player, here being Raw’s Finn Bálor) actually improved the product in at least the immediate future. And while losing Bálor still does stink, there’s another silver lining here outside the fact that the WWE creative team is playing with urgency as far as Raw is concerned: It will have Balor’s return in their back pocket whenever he is cleared to come back.
And they are doing all of this without even yet having had the cruiserweights steal shows on a weekly basis.
If anything, what we have learned from the early brand wars is that when the WWE is forced to play its hand to create drama, it can do it as well as it does anything else. Unfortunately for SmackDown, that sense of needed urgency has yet to take place, and it is why it is (figuratively) losing the company’s own brand battle.
But keep your head up, SmackDown. Raw might be only winning these small battles, the war will be won over the course of several months.