For wrestling fans, it's become posh to proclaim that SmackDown is better than RAW. The discrepancy between shows has given us an ironic conundrum. How can WWE seemingly obsess over the execution of their Monday night show and have it routinely be bad? Conversely, WWE allows more room for creative liberty on Tuesday and that show has organically become the better watch.
The answer to this logic puzzle is a simple one. SmackDown isn't better than RAW because it has a more appealing roster. It's not better than RAW because it has Daniel Bryan or better writers. It's better because it's two hours.
WWE has never been this popular. It's never made this much money (over $700 million last year). It's never had this much content. It's never been more prone to overexposure.
For wrestlers, protecting their novelty is one of the chief concerns of their profession. If we as fans see them on a regular basis, we build up an endurance to their character. The more we see them, the less charm they will have. And in 2017, there's not a whole lot of charm going around.
WWE can't be blamed though. From their perspective, why wouldn't they have more TV, more pay-per-views, more merchandise, more movies, more everything? The world WWE sprung from, wrestling territories, is no longer a relevant measuring stick. In fact, it could be argued that WWE is playing a different game altogether.
Instead of comparing WWE to NWA or Mid-South Wrestling, think of them as Disney. Under that scope, WWE is an entertainment company that uses wrestlers - a shift from say the Attitude Era, where WWE was a wrestling company that happened to entertain.
Now, billions of dollars are a great thing. But in WWE's capitalistic conquest to take over the world, they've begun to ignore some of their product's fundamentals, most notably novelty.
Do you remember the EA Sports game NBA Live from the 90's? If so, then you'll definitely recall that the world's greatest player, Michael Jordan was totally absent from the game. Because Jordan bailed on the NBA Players Association, no video game could legally include him. It proved to be a savvy business move, because Jordan believed that the Players Association was overselling Michael Jordan, thus diluting his brand and ultimately his profits. To protect his image and wallet Jordan walked.
Jordan's likeness wouldn't be playable from 1992-2000. So when he became available again, it was a big deal. For the same reason, Shawn Micheals, sporadic WWE career was always fresh. It's why every time Chris Jericho returns he's the most over Superstar on the roster. Under this same umbrella, it's why John Cena and Roman Reigns get showered with boos.
As the machine's favorite toys, Cena and Reigns headline everything WWE touches. While this is not a new concept, the infinite access and exposure the internet creates is. In 2017, we're all getting the reminder that less is more.
And it couldn't be more apparent with the SmackDown vs. RAW experiment.
This Tuesday marked the second consecutive week that Shinsuke Nakamura didn't compete. Even further, both Becky Lynch and Charlotte were absent from the in-ring action. If they were to miss RAW like that, then we would be concerned that WWE had lost interest, because the 3-hour behemoth needs to utilize every talented wrestler they employ. But on SmackDown, WWE simply cannot fit everyone on the show. This is a great thing.
With a compact show, WWE is forced to creatively vet everything they put on camera. No wrestler is being sent out to the ring to kill time, everything counts. Even better, wrestlers are protected from diluting their brands by making weekly, non-consequential appearances. To top it off, wrestlers are further shielded from poorly written material that can damage their image if not halt their momentum entirely (re: Alexa Bliss and Bayley).
Perhaps no one embodies novelty like Shinsuke Nakamura. And until recently, WWE was pimping him out at an alarming rate. He was wrestling every SmackDown and given his full, dramatic entrance just to compete in toss-away 6-man tag matches. Well, someone in WWE must have played NBA Live 1998, because, like Jordan, Nakamura has disappeared.
But don't worry Shinsuke fans, this is the correct way to build this guy. Now with his appearances becoming rare, we'll know to appreciate them. Hopefully, this can serve a microcosm that all of WWE can recognize.0comments
With all of this said, we can't expect WWE to slice RAW from 3 hours to 2 - there's just too much money to made. However, WWE can still apply the success of SmackDown to other principals. John Cena just returned from hiatus, a comeback that WWE highly promoted. Brock Lesnar makes his appearances count. Braun Strowman's injury may have launched his career to an atmosphere that would have taken a year to reach. Maybe this can lead to wrestlers taking breaks within their "season," or at least taking a few RAW's off here and there.
In the meantime, keep watching wrestling, especially SmackDown. The Blue Brand stumbled onto something and the future of WWE may lie on Tuesday nights.