When I first started watching wrestling about 15 years ago, I was watching SmackDown. I don’t even think that, in my first run as a fan, I ever watched RAW. SmackDown is what got me hooked. When I returned to watching the WWE product in 2013, I was really surprised by the fact that SmackDown was now the B show. It became painfully clear that it was an after-thought, and not really necessary to watch in order to follow the story lines.
Between RAW and SmackDown, the main roster of WWE currently has five hours of cable television programming airing per week. You know what else has five hours of scripted programming every week? Soap operas. Soap operas air one hour programs every weekday, every week, for the entire year. I think the only time they get preempted is for national holidays or emergencies. But they are there, chugging along through their plots and many outfit changes.
Am I suggesting that WWE is currently putting out a soap opera? No. And if they are, it’s a very bad one. Soap operas work for a few reasons. First off, they understand their audience. They know who is home at 1pm on a weekday and they make sure to play to the things those individuals want to see. The writers have built histories and intricate backstories for all of their characters, once you start watching, you become quickly invested. They also always give the viewer a reason to tune in to the next episode, even if you have to wait the whole weekend to see it.
WWE hasn’t seemed to nail any of these particular points yet. They are plagued by their desire to broaden their audience, so they are affectively pandering to no one while attempting to reach everyone. They seem to disregard most of a character’s backstory or history because it sets up parameters that they don’t know how to work within. They also can’t seem to give anyone a reason to actually tune in lately, either.
I did not watch SmackDown tonight. There was no reason to. Nothing was going to happen on that show that was going to drastically affect a storyline or a match currently set up for Sunday’s TLC PPV. If you are killing your characters and boring your audience with your awful storytelling, why even bother producing an entire second program? At this point SmackDown is simply the RAW recap, and we all hate RAW so why would we put ourselves through more of that nonsense?
If it’s not plausible to return SmackDown to its glory days of being a completely separate entity from RAW with its own roster and storylines, at least it could be a necessary part of the furthering of the storylines. Maybe if things actually happened on that show, people would tune in to watch. A title hasn’t even changed hands on SmackDown since 2013 – that’s almost three years.
In honor of the annual Twilight Zone marathon that I will be watching on New Years Day, I would like to make a suggestion to WWE: don’t let SmackDown become “The Obsolete Man,” if it isn’t already.