What we were promised of SmackDown now that it has become its stand-alone show with a unique roster, led by Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, was it would take a different and fresh direction than we had become accustomed to on Monday Night Raw and a show in which the wrestlers and their craft became the focus.
In execution, it has not been all roses in these opening establishment weeks. First with the draft and then the first true episode of SmackDown Live.
The draft did not treat the SmackDown brand very well at all in delivering its roster. WWE could have made up for that though and made SmackDown feel like a special show all its own, capable of delivering in a way which would live up to the promise of wrestler-focus and a fresh feel all in one swoop: the new cruiserweight wrestlers should have been added to the SmackDown brand, not Raw.
WWE’s new brand split was born as a result of the SmackDown show not receiving good enough ratings and being widely viewed as an expendable piece of programming to the vast majority of WWE viewers — it was the well established B show, and the gap between it and the A show, Raw, was quite a distance in every way.
Raw exclusively holds both the women’s title and the tag team titles, meaning the SmackDown women and tag teams are essentially fighting for nothing. The first week’s Raw show blew SmackDown’s out of the water in almost every way. And the SmackDown roster is considerably weaker than Raw’s, to a degree that it became a noticeable impairment by the end of the very first episode.
Sure the debut of Jordan & Gable next week will help, and Rhyno returning as well as the announcement that Shelton Benjamin was coming back to WWE as a SmackDown wrestler were fully positive additions, but the plain-as-day right move would have been adding the cruiserweights to give SmackDown that incredibly strong perk over Raw to set it apart in a positive light.
There is not a single doubt about it, the Cruiserweight Classic has been one of the best things WWE has done in many, many years. The introduction of some of the best talent from around the world, as well as the return of some notable ex-WWE wrestlers, into a huge tournament, showcasing something that genuinely feels fresh for the WWE promotion.
For the time being, the cruiserweights are mostly exclusive to the weekly CWC shows. WWE is rumored to have been gradually been signing talent from the tournament who will stay with the promotion once the CWC is over, and those signings are absolute top-notch in quality.
The CWC has been nothing but a success so far. The fans love it. It gives WWE a whole new dynamic. The wrestlers involved are some of the best from all different parts of the world, bringing in many different unique wrestling styles. And once again, it seems the old habit of favoring Raw persists with the cruiserweight division to be hosted exclusively to the Monday night brand.
Why? With everything going for Raw already, why on Earth does Raw also need the cruiserweights on top of that?
SmackDown hosting an inferior roster, having less titles, and having to climb itself up from the deep hole WWE dug for it over the years, at least give SmackDown something. The brand couldn’t even enjoy its exclusive hosting of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, because the very next night after Dean Ambrose retained the title for the SmackDown brand, Raw just decides a new WWE Universal Championship will be created instead.
You want to make SmackDown the show where the wrestling takes precedent? Fine. Give it the elite cruiserweight wrestlers who have made their way to the big stage after all these years. Allow them to showcase their skills on the brand being co-led by the name who personifies performance-driven quality wrestling.
SmackDown from the get-go needed a boost and something major to set it apart like WWE made us believe was going to be the case. So far, nothing of the sort has happened, and the one thing that could have really turned that around was instead given to Raw where it is in no way, shape, or form needed. With the weak foundation provided and hardly any perks given to it, the New Era of SmackDown looks well on its way to being exposed as a facade and will soon return back to its lowly form unless a big change is made and made fast.
Old habits do indeed die hard it seems.