One of the major stories this week is the shuffle of the wrestling television schedule. With “NXT” moving to Wednesdays and “Impact Wrestling” heading to Fridays, the big move is “Smackdown” moving back to its original Thursday night spot where the show spent its first six years. This might be the cure for a lot of WWE’s current problems, if they actually use it in the right way.
Back in 1999, the WWF was as hot as they had ever been. They had their boot on WCW’s throat and kept the pressure on. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange and everything was rolling. With the energy at an all time high, the decision was made to add another two hour show to Thursday nights. The show would be named after the Rock’s catchphrase and “Smackdown” was born.
For years, “Smackdown” was considered a second branch of “Monday Night Raw” and even had its share of World Title changes. Back in the days before the brand split, “Smackdown” was a show that actually mattered in the grand scheme of things for the WWE. It was a show you had to watch if you wanted to get the full story of what was going on in the company.
Then came the brand split in 2002 which changed everything in WWE. “Monday Night Raw” and “Smackdown” became two separate brands with their own rosters, champions, authority figures and stories. This was seen as a glory period for the show as names like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Shelton Benjamin, Rey Mysterio, Brock Lesnar and others made the show the most entertaining part of WWE, regularly out performing “Monday Night Raw’s” performances.
However, everything changed a few years later. In the summer of 2005, WWE moved “Smackdown” to Friday nights and gave it the very creative name of “Friday Night Smackdown.” Around the same time, WWE Champion John Cena was sent to “Monday Night Raw” and World Heavyweight Champion Batista took his place on “Friday Night Smackdown.”
The combination of these two things signaled the demise of the show. With new episodes airing on Fridays, the audience went through the floor and the show became far less important. At the end of the day, a lot of fans just aren’t going to sit at home and watch a wrestling show on Friday night. The WWE caught on to this concept in a hurry and turned “Friday Night Smackdown” into a far less important show with less important top stars and made it clear which show was the A show.
Then the true death knell came on August 29, 2011 when Triple H announced the end of the brand split, meaning “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night Smackdown” would have the same rosters and, unofficially of course, the same continuing storylines. Without their own unique stories and talent, there was no reason for the fans or WWE to care about “Friday Night Smackdown” any longer.
That’s exactly what happened too. “Friday Night Smackdown” became the wasteland for WWE as slowly but surely, the blue show stopped meaning anything and became just a place to air two hours of passable wrestling that had no impact on the main show. To give you an idea of how dominant “Monday Night Raw” had become in comparison to “Friday Night Smackdown”, from the date of the end of the brand split to present, one title has changed hands on “Friday Night Smackdown”. By comparison, “Monday Night Raw” has seen 20 title change in the same time span.
However, all of that might start to change. Starting tomorrow night, “Friday Night Smackdown” will once again be just regular “Smackdown”, back in its original time slot. While I can’t imagine the change taking place over night, this could be the chance to make the show matter again. If nothing else, this could relieve a lot of the pressure on “Monday Night Raw”.
With “Friday Night Smackdown” being so meaningless, WWE hasn’t allowed any major stories to take place on the show, likely due to the small audience. As a result, “Monday Night Raw” feels completely packed with storylines and matches, meaning everything has to be crammed into three hours. Now that there’s another show moving to a night with a larger audience, maybe WWE will allow some stories to take place there and allow “Monday Night Raw” a chance to breathe.
Look back a few weeks when half of the roster was at a house show. “Monday Night Raw” was allowed to space some things out a bit and wound up being one of the more enjoyable episodes in recent memory. There was time for promos, some long matches, and actual story advancement instead of just doing the same things over and over again. It allowed time for the writers to look at what they had and focus on a few things instead of having to get everything in one show.
“Friday Night Smackdown” moving back to Thursdays isn’t going to solve the long list of problems WWE is experiencing at the moment, but it might alleviate some of them. If WWE treats it like they used to instead of just letting it be an optional supplement to “Monday Night Raw”, this could be a very positive direction for the television product.
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