How WWE can make Raw vs. SmackDown feel like a rivalry
Whilst the brand split has been a success thus far, we as fans need to see more animosity.
Raw vs. SmackDown is an age old rivalry that began once the brand split kicked in 15 years ago. The premise was that there was a red brand and a blue brand, with the two competing for supremacy and to be called the top dogs in the company.
In reality, we all knew that Monday Night Raw would continue to hold that honour, but it became fun to see two sets of unique rosters.
However, over the years that rivalry seemed to become increasingly watered down and the only real impact it had was on the "Raw vs SmackDown" video game series. Eventually, both sets of Superstars began to appear on each other's shows, with no real divide taking place when it comes to their "home" turf.
But in the summer of 2016, all of that changed, as the brand split was brought back and two completely unique shows were produced on a weekly basis once again. With the introduction of Bryan, Shane, Stephanie & Foley as the leaders of the respective teams, it felt like a genuine beef was starting up once again.
However, aside from some bouts at Survivor Series that felt quite forced, things haven't necessarily had the intended effect. It's definitely nice to see how well the split is working for the most part but there are definitely some tweaks that could be made in order to make things feel a bit more organic.
First of all, and this is a risk, don't have Raw or SmackDown advertising for the opposition's upcoming pay-per-view on their show. There's nothing more frustrating or bizarre than seeing Backlash or Roadblock being plastered across the titantron, in addition to numerous advertisements because it just doesn't make any sense.
Sure it's smart for the company, but it completely destroys the kayfabe feeling that they really don't want one another to succeed. Also, it contradicts the fact that they've been bragging about winning the rating’s war week in and week out. Just pretend the other side doesn't exist, and that natural animosity will soon come.
Plus, the digs and jibes need to be more subtle. As opposed to having Steph or Foley call out SmackDown Live for something they may or may not have done on TV, implement things in the way that Daniel Bryan does.
For example, Talking Smack allows Bryan to make subtle comments here and there about the Raw product, while not broadcasting it as a poor piece of storyline enhancement on the main show.
It just comes across as 'forced', which is the one word that can sum up how weirdly the whole situation has been handled up to this point. Hell, maybe go as long as a month without the word Raw or SmackDown even coming up on either program to get that shock factor when they are.
Then there's the Royal Rumble. As we know a variety of Superstars from both brands are set to compete in the Battle Royale and whilst it's every man for himself, you could add in little tidbits on commentary to really enhance the atmosphere.
Maybe Zayn goes in harder on a SmackDown guy because they're the enemy, which leads to Cole making a comment regarding the tension of Raw and SmackDown competitors coming face to face for the first time in months.
On the topic of coming face to face - make the matches between the two sides annual. It may be a risk, but allowing for a less diluted amount of match-ups will make things feel incredibly special and fresh once they actually do go head to head in the squared circle.
Also, when they do fight, bring back Bragging Rights. Whilst Survivor Series is a logical place to host these kinds of bouts, you can use the 5 vs. 5 format to enhance some individual brand feuds, Bragging Rights can be utilised for sole SmackDown vs. Raw purposes.
Can there be interactions on the big four pay-per-views? Sure. You can even continue the State of the WWE Universe address as a quarterly event, just don't flood us with the storyline so much that it becomes dull. Keep things interesting for once.
We end on one of the most important ideas: free agents. As we’ve already seen with Jack Swagger, both sides possess the ability to sign someone from the other brand if their contract runs out.
As people like CM Punk have proven, this can be quite an entertaining story arch. Perhaps a big name Superstar is nearing the end of his contract and both sides are begging to secure his services, leaving fans on edge regarding which team he’s going to pick. It’s simple, but it's also effective which is the most important thing to consider.
Make Raw vs. SmackDown great again, WWE.
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