Since the brand split and Smackdown going out live began, I reserved judgement on what show I preferred until the bedding in period had passed. Now we’re several weeks down the line, I’ve definitely begun leaning towards one live show over the other, and that show is Smackdown.
As I’ve said before, living in the UK, it’s difficult for me to watch both shows live as they air at 1am. I record both overnight and watch the next day. I try to avoid any spoilers if I can and take both shows at face value. This past week however, I felt it was a chore to watch Raw, whereas I really enjoyed Smackdown. Raw dragged on, while the sister show flew by. I don’t believe that was down to the hour less running time, but more to do with the structure and content of both shows. Let me explain what I mean by that.
Firstly, I found Smackdown easier to follow. The writing is simple. It’s fluid and basic – that’s not a criticism. Any new viewer who happened to tune in would see:
- Bray Wyatt has beef with Randy Orton
- Tag Teams have beef with one another
- Alexa Bliss has beef with Becky Lynch
- Miz is cocky and Dolph is valiantly chasing him for the title.
- AJ Styles parades around the ring like a peacock, flaunting his title in front of two contenders.
And that’s last week’s show in a nutshell. Simple, eh?
In contrast, I watched Raw and saw a lot of time dedicated to Mick Foley and Steph McMahon. I saw the US title change hands as part of a feud I had little interest in. Cruiserweight matches that while different to the norm and good to watch, seem out of place and break up any sort of continuity on the show. Then to cap it all, a ‘main event’ with comedy skits about best friends. The top guy feuding with a tag team. It all seems too convoluted and made little sense. Not to mention the Seamus/Cesaro debacle and the backstage authority taking up too much TV time – something noted in an excellent article by Matt Corton this week on TJRWrestling.
I’ve started to not look forward to Raw and can’t wait to see Smackdown. I’ve wrote a bit in past articles about heels in WWE and it’s hard to argue that the Miz isn’t the best bad guy on TV right now. I rank Charlotte a close second. Miz has it all and him being on Smackdown is really improving the show. That being said, a heel is no good without a sympathetic face to play off. Dolph may not be the most cheered guy on the roster, but he holds his own very well, he’s extremely talented and his promo this week was, as the Miz would say, awesome.
The Smackdown champ is deservedly top of the tree. Nobody has been able to touch him since he won the title and the contrast between how AJ has been booked compared to Kevin Owens is striking.
AJ was paired with The Club for a while when he was on his ascension to the top. They served their purpose and I was surprised he was removed from them during the brand split. On reflection, that was likely the best way forward. The Club (or are they just going by Gallows and Anderson now – I don’t know, it changes so much), have stalled on Raw, switching between comedy skits and hard-hitting matches. AJ has gone solo and beat all before him, rightly wearing the gold for his efforts.
Over on Raw, Kevin Owens has had his own ascension to the top, but it doesn’t seem as good as AJ’s. I’m a big Owens fan and won’t say he doesn’t deserve his spot at all. To me it seems since he got the title, he’s been let down by the writers in portraying how his character has gone forward. AJ is the lone wolf (sorry Baron Corbin) who goes one on one and wins. Owens has Jericho at his side and the authority at his back. I feel his undoubted talent is being stifled by having too much support. He’s a credible champion, but the plethora of hangers on suffocates what could be a true great if let loose.
Another difference is how the women’s division is portrayed. The Smackdown pool of women wrestlers may be small, but the champ is clearly identified along with the number one contender. The others are on the next tier, fighting amongst themselves to climb the ladder. Over on Raw, the champ is clearly top of the pile, but her challengers are a bit of a mish-mash. Yes, Sasha is in Charlotte’s face, but the presence of Bayley and the dominating matches of Nia Jax, don’t make it simple viewing. If Nia Jax is kicking ass every week, why isn’t she in the picture with Charlotte? The same could also be said about Braun Strowman. Another destroying all comers – why does he seem a separate attraction to the main storyline?
I get it that wrestlers are being deliberately kept apart for storyline. I know it’s all a work, but the writing just appears ‘off’ when it comes to Raw. There’s too much going on. It’s too divided, like a bunch of writers are doing their own thing, but missing sight of the big picture. Over on the blue team, their stories are much more streamlined. One gets the impression the Smackdown team sit around a table and discuss the show from start to finish, each working together to do their best for their segments – all while keeping the bigger picture firmly in perspective. Raw seems disjointed, awkward and shoehorned into place – a worry considering they have an extra hour to play with.
Dedicating three hours of your time to a TV show is hard for some people. They have to make the time to watch, and I tip my hat to those who absorb hours and hours of extra content on the WWE Network every week. My feeling is that I want to switch off from my day to day life and enjoy a good wrestling show, not have to try and work out why it’s subconsciously confusing me.
As of now, I’m on the blue team, but that’s not to say I hate the red team. Far from it. I want to see the competition improve. I want Raw to be the must-see show it once was. I want to look forward to it again. It’s just that right now, I kinda don’t. Here’s hoping they win me back.
What do you think? Is there too much going on in Raw? Is Smackdown more well-presented, or is it down to the running time? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.