My Two Centsss - Is WWE Trying To Sabotage Live Editions Of SmackDown?
By Super Chrisss
Nov 11, 2012 - 12:31:11 PM
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Before I get into today's column, I just want to give a shout-out to my fellow LOP columnists who have been stepping up their game like crazy lately. Not in quality, as I feel every one of our Main Page writers is an excellent writer in his own right. Rather, they have been pumping out one great article after another. November is the first month since last July that hasn't featured a 30 Day Challenge, yet these guys have been working their asses off to bring you loads of new material. So once again, thank you guys for helping make Lords of Pain an even better website.
With that being said...
WWE is really starting to piss me off. I know the whole Survivor Series card overhaul has been ridiculed to death by my colleagues, so I won't beat a dead horse, but like The Doc, I no longer plan on spending money to watch the show next Sunday. Team Foley vs. Team Punk - whether or not you liked the team members was a minor complaint - was a match to look forward to. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena? Enough said. Big Show vs. Sheamus II? I've actually been enjoying Sheamus a lot more since he dropped the title at Hell in a Cell, so I won't complain. But Punk vs. Cena vs. Ryback does not scream Survivor Series main-event to me. That match would have been better suited for TLC next month. WWE's whole booking system is a mess, with the current SmackDown being no exception.
Let me just say, THANK GOD WWE did the smart thing and worked out a deal with JBL to return as a full-time commentator for SmackDown. Because honestly, there's not much to get excited about on Friday nights. Over the past few years, SmackDown has been slowly transitioning into an extended version of RAW. We get at least two recaps/video packages from the past edition of RAW every show, and continues a lot of RAW's storylines, but without really finishing the angle or starting a new feud. For those of you who are video game nerds, RAW is like a major title (Kingdom Hearts 1, Final Fantasy VII, God of War 1) while SmackDown is an added accessory to the franchise, but nothing ground-breaking or concluding (i.e. Kingdom Hearts re:coded, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, God of War: Ghosts of Sparta). In other words, RAW is primarily the show where stories start and end, while SmackDown simply adds in other details.
It wasn't always this way. I remember a time not too long ago when SmackDown was easily superior to RAW. That's because they had their own roster, their own feuds, and weren't using RAW's leftovers to create a two-hour show. I still believe the unofficial end to the brand split has hurt both shows more than helped them, especially since the two brands continue to tour separately. I understand the move was done to increase RAW's ratings and fill up time on three-hour RAWs, but "RAW SuperShow" hasn't received any kind of ratings bump since merging with SmackDown, and WWE doesn't need the entire SmackDown roster to fill out a three-hour RAW. All they had to do was increase the size of the RAW roster (since three hours is obviously longer than two), put on longer matches, and devote more time to their midcard division. While the tag team division has been on fire lately, the United States and Intercontinental titles have become extremely watered down.
For years, wrestling fans have always joked that SmackDown is RAW's "ugly, little brother" (despite JBL's constant efforts to label the blue brand the "A show"), but there was always some truth behind the remark. The show has fallen so far in recent times that I can't help but wonder if WWE no longer cares about the blue brand. They seem content with drawing between a 1.7-2.1 rating every week for the last few years, as RAW remains their top priority. Since the show moved to Friday nights, countless fans have been begging WWE and praying for SmackDown to either return to it's old timeslot (Thursday nights) or simply go live on SyFy every Tuesday night. Well, WWE sort of tried to change things up by hosting a number of "Super SmackDown LIVEs" the last few years. Unfortunately, most of these live specials were a disaster, either ratings-wise, quality-wise, or both. And there's a reason for that.
WWE doesn't want to move SmackDown away from Friday nights.
That probably sounds crazy, doesn't it? After all, Friday nights are the second-lowest night of the week when it comes to the number of viewers (after Saturday nights, of course). Ideally, WWE would like to air SmackDown on a night where there are plenty more potential viewers (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday). Yet, when I think about the last few editions of "Super SmackDown LIVE", one word comes to mind - train-wreck. WWE did a piss-poor job of promoting every one of those live episodes, and for the majority of the program, the quality was simply not there. Don't believe me? Then let's take a trip down memory lane...
-November 29, 2011 - Special Live Christmas Episode: Probably one of the worst SmackDown episodes in the show's history. 'Highlights' included a random battle royal won by Hornswoggle of all people, a semi-main-event consisting of Randy Orton vs. David Otunga, and Daniel Bryan vs. Mark Henry in a steel cage match (the only entertaining part/match of the entire show). The show got a 2.0 rating, which was low compared to the 2.1-2.2 ratings SmackDown on Fridays had been averaging that year.
-February 21, 2012: Another live episode of SmackDown, and much like the one before it, the main-event (Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk - Champion vs. Champion) was the show's only saving grace. No other bout on the show went over five minutes long, and with a card consisting of David Otunga vs. Ezekiel Jackson and The Great Khali vs. Drew McIntyre, there's probably a reason this show pulled in a 1.7 rating. That, and the poor hype from WWE.
-April 10, 2012 - "Blast From The Past" Live Episode: When this show was first announced, I got really excited. I assumed WWE would structure this show like they did with "Old School RAW" a few years earlier, but I was unfortunately mistaken. We got one too many legends competing in matches, and by the end of the night, the only 'active' superstar who was truly put over was new world champion Sheamus, who was still feeling the backlash from squashing Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 28 less than two weeks earlier. Once again, next-to-nothing promotion resulted in the Tuesday broadcast receiving a 1.5 rating, one of SmackDown's lowest ratings in history.
-July 3, 2012 - "The Great American Bash" Live Episode: This was a patriotic episode of SmackDown which featured the largest battle royal in the show's history (at the time, of course) with the winner becoming interim general manager for one night only the following week. Despite WWE having the likes of John Cena and CM Punk in the house, they filled up the rest of the card with Money in the Bank qualifying matches (one good, one brief) and squashes like The Great Khali and Layla vs. Antonio Cesaro and Aksana as well as Ryback vs. Curt Hawkins. Oh, and let us not forget the mandatory "party scenes" backstage, which make the show so much more exciting [/sarcasm]. Other than Zack Ryder winning the battle royal, nothing really stood out from the episode, and the show got another low 1.7 rating. Take a guess how much effort WWE put into promoting that Tuesday episode...
-November 7, 2012: The most recent one, last Tuesday's episode. I was actually impressed with the show's quality, as Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz, Sheamus/William Regal vs. Big Show/Wade Barrett, and Randy Orton vs. Alberto del Rio were all a lot of fun, I had no idea the show was airing on Tuesday until the announcers started mentioning it during last Friday's broadcast. By the way, who's bright idea was to put it up against the Presidential Election, especially since the "live" show had it's spoilers posted hours earlier? I wasn't surprised by the low 1.5 rating, that's for sure.
What was the point of all that? It's impossible that WWE simply 'forgets' to hype/promote their upcoming live episodes of SmackDown - that's a ridiculous thought. Rather, I believe WWE purposely does next to nothing to remind their fans about the special air time because they want Friday's rating to beat Tuesday's number. This way, they can tell SyFy and the fanbase that ratings-wise, SmackDown constantly performs better on Fridays, so there's no sense in moving it.
Obviously, WWE doesn't try and promote their live epsiodes. Think back to when the company announced RAW would be permanently moving to three hours this past summer. They spent MONTHS airing video packages reminding the fans about the time change because they know the 8pm-9pm timeslot always suffers in the ratings. The result? An immense success, as the first hour of the 1,000th RAW (including the DX reunion) gained a far larger number than past episodes ever did. It just shows when WWE wants to promote something they truly care about, they put in the effort.
So why is it so hard to remind the fans about SmackDown airing on Tuesday instead of Friday once every three-four months? All it takes is a reference by Michael Cole or J.R. during a RAW match (since they already spend so much time talking about anything besides what's happening in the ring) the weeks leading up to the live episode to remind the fans about "Super SmackDown LIVE". But they don't do it. Like I said, WWE is a multi-billion dollar company and Vince McMahon is no dummy. I find it funny that no one has snapped backstage over the low ratings for SmackDown (for both live and Friday episodes) and decided it might be time to start promoting SmackDown.
The way I see it, there are only two explanations. Either WWE simply doesn't care about the blue brand and is simply focused on what's going on with RAW, or WWE are comfortable airing a taped edition of SmackDown every Friday night. While either theory could wind up being true, I think there is enough evidence to support the latter. The days of SmackDown airing on Tuesday or Thursday nights are a thing of the past, and WWE wants to keep it that way. We'll just have to be content with SmackDown being a shell of it's former self.
But hey, at least we have the Wrestling Gawd back on commentary, so maybe things are looking up, right? Right?
Did You Know?
After Hell in a Cell last month, CM Punk is now 1-3 while The Miz is now 0-3 at the annual Pay-Per-View.
Some things never change, most notably my:
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Until next time, whenever that might be, take it easy...