On Raw, every wrestler must try and watch their back because there aren’t many rules and strict authority figures to ensure order.
The two flagship shows need to stop feeling the same…
By Mo Hussain, Contributor
The biggest issue with WWE’s flagship programs is how similar they are. Outside of different colours, rosters, and commentators, Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown are just extensions of the same show. It doesn’t mean anything to be on one show or the other. If a star gets moved from one show to the next, it’s basically like an average worker just moving their work shift to a different time.
Both shows need their own identity to have meaning and intrigue for wrestling fans, and here’s how they should make that happen.
Monday Night Raw
Monday Night Raw need’s to be more unpredictable, edgy, and barbaric given how much airtime the show has compared to Smackdown. Producers of that show have the task of making every minute of a three-hour television program interesting. There’s no way that technical wrestling on its own can do that for 180 minutes straight. That show needs chaos and mayhem for viewers to pay attention for that long. This is where gimmicky matches like cage matches, inferno matches, ladder matches, street fights, etc., should happen. There can also be room for celebrity appearances and interference throughout the program. The jam-packed action makes wrestling more fun to watch for those who weren’t aware of it before.
On Raw, every wrestler must try and watch their back because there aren’t many rules and strict authority figures to ensure order. This is because the chaotic culture of the show would allow for sudden surprise attacks backstage or common in-ring interferences. Different wrestlers must find ways to survive and work with others to get through this chaotic setting. This would then make for different factions and groups to form within the show, which would, in turn, make for cool confrontations and the inevitable break-up of groups leading to even more stories to tell.
There would also be little details like the commentary tables being nowhere near the ring because of the hazard risk, or cameramen being overprotective because they don’t want to get hurt. The overall tone of this program should turn every wrestler into a barbaric version of themselves that needs to do anything to survive.
Friday Night Smackdown
Friday Night Smackdown, on the other hand, should be the absolute opposite of what Raw is. This show’s presentation should be much more formal and professional like a regular sports broadcast like the UFC or SHOWTIME Boxing. There would be a clear ranking system, win-loss records, definitive match cards, press conferences, more focus on the individual wrestler, and absolutely no gimmicks whatsoever. Contrary to Raw’s “fight of the fittest” attitude, if a wrestler on Smackdown didn’t abide by the rules, they would get fined or suspended indefinitely.
That might sound boring compared to Raw, but there should be a place for long-term meaningful storytelling that allows wrestlers to showcase their pure wrestling abilities. There needs to be a show that has a cohesive and logical system that shows where each wrestler is going to be on the card. Not every match needs to have ridiculous gimmicks for it to be entertaining. Triple H’s NXT showed everyone that. Smackdown would be the show that would build up a match for a couple of weeks like a big combat sports matchup.
The show would also have certain distinctions like wrestlers on that show do press tours, exclusive interviews, red carpets, and “all-access” documentaries that would give the show a big-time feel.
The rosters of the two brands should be reflective of each show’s identity, but not entirely. It would be important to have a mix of wrestlers that completely fit the identity of the show, but also have wrestlers that don’t. This makes for great conflict that can arise as the show progresses.
On Raw, for example, it would be interesting to see how a pure wrestler would adapt in a “no holds barred” environment. On the other hand, it would also be intriguing to see how a wacky, barbaric wrestler would perform in an environment that doesn’t have any room for that chaos.
In today’s WWE, Monday Night Raw’s roster would consist of guys like Seth Rollins, Edge, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Tommaso Ciampa, and Brock Lesnar. These would be the guys who would thrive and relish a chaotic environment. On the other hand, Raw would also have guys like the Miz, Sami Zayn, and NXT’s Joe Gacy, who would have a harder time comprehending the amount of chaos surrounding the show.
Friday Night Smackdown would be headed by the likes of Roman Reigns, Gunther, Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, etc, who have a very good history of putting on matches that have a “big time” feel to them. The stars who would have trouble in this system, for example, would be guys like Riddle, Drew McIntyre, Randy Orton, etc. It would be intriguing to see how they would adapt to that environment.
What this can do
This new sense of identity for both brands not only makes them unique but also gives characters a chance to re-invent themselves whenever they switch brands. The increased polarity also adds more tension and anticipation if both brands must go face to face with each other. One brand has performers who know how to purely wrestle. The other brand has performers that know how to maneuver when the rules don’t apply. There will obviously be more nuances that would need to be applied for both shows to make sense. However, this at least gives them a better sense of identity than they have now.