5 mistakes WWE made with SmackDown Live in 2017
The 19th of June 2016 marked a momentous day in Smackdown history. WWE promised a new era which they delivered in the form of a draft. The highly anticipated draft saw WWE’s main event talent shuffled across both brands and it presented underutilised talent with a rare chance to break Vince McMahon’s ‘solid steel’ glass ceiling. Thus, the “B show” became the land of opportunity.
The blue brand did not have Brock Lesnar’s megastar presence, a comfortable three-hour runtime to execute their narratives, or an extra Cruiserweight Division to excite crowds. Even though the brand was lacking those luxuries, Smackdown Live managed to use their limited resources exceptionally well to create compelling television.
The land of opportunity had indie darlings, lovable underdogs, and a well-balanced spread of respectable veterans and all those factors meshed well with each other to make Smackdown Live must-see television in 2016. However, after Wrestlemania 33 had concluded, WWE was champing at the bit to obtain the blue brand’s polished assets.
While WWE’s 2016 draft was a blessing in disguise for Smackdown Live, the 2017 Superstar Shake Up saw WWE extract cornerstones from the land of opportunity. These were underrated Superstars who finally found their place on the blue brand, but WWE thoughtlessly halted their momentum. Raw now had main eventers such as Dean Ambrose, The Miz and Bray Wyatt when Smackdown Live needed those Superstars the most.
From taking the above into account, WWE uses Smackdown Live as a secondary developmental brand, as previously struggling stars such as Bray Wyatt and The Miz discovered themselves on Smackdown Live only to return to Raw. Now that former Raw Superstars such as Sami Zayn and Rusev are thriving on Smackdown Live, they are most likely heading back to Raw in 2018.
Although this system implemented by WWE is effective, the success of the blue brand has been hampered by it.
#1 The prodigal son takes center stage
When “the boy wonder” had interrupted another ‘McMahon’s hog the spotlight’ segment in 2016, the WWE Universe erupted to a huge ovation. Although the segment was drawn out, set up a disappointing match with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 32 and had the Chairman drop a rare ‘F-bomb’, Shane had truly cemented himself as the anti-McMahon.Therefore, his inspiring return had lit a fire under the WWE Universe to rally in support for the “B show”.
“The prodigal son” had promised fans he would bring change to Smackdown Live, and to his credit, he did just that. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were and are a refreshing take on WWE’s authority figures and seemed to construct a well-layered show that highlighted the Superstars rather than management. As time went by, the commissioner and his GM put the blue brand back in the spotlight.
After WWE spent months building up Shane O’Mac as the new era McMahon, they had seamlessly demolished that perception when they presented him as the focal point of the brand on numerous occasions. Smackdown Live went from a non-typical WWE show to the Shane McMahon highlight reel.
Although Shane’s constant presence in the main event scene prevented rising talent a chance to grow, his matches with AJ Styles and Kevin Owens were well-crafted matches that had the right result.
But WWE is failing to realise that not even kayfabe can justify a 47-year-old non-wrestler taking highly skilled athletes to the limit. From outlasting former World Champions in the Survivor Series main event to possibly being the man that will face Daniel Bryan in his first match out of retirement, the blue brand’s boss is starting to feel less like the anti-McMahon that endeared him to the fans and more like a typical McMahon.
A McMahon that has stolen hours of the spotlight from more deserving ‘wrestlers’.