In an exciting development for WWE fans, SmackDown is going live — and moving to 8pm Tuesday nights — on USA Network starting July 19.
And if that weren’t enough, the sports entertainment juggernaut announced the blue brand will feature a distinct roster, storylines and dedicated writing team.
This isn’t the first time when WWE made Raw and SmackDown their own separate entities. A similar decision came in 2002 regarding a draft and brand extension. However, the fact that the two shows are going to be on USA Network — and live — helps raise the profile of SmackDown immensely. It’s also a great opportunity for WWE to promote its “New Era” of talent by giving emerging superstars the spotlight, as well as time to grow and develop an audience.
So who is going where? Will the champions be on both shows? Will there be separate big events for Raw and SmackDown? How will this impact touring and NXT, if at all? These are just a few of the questions still unanswered. My view is having the WWE world champion, tag champion and women’s champion defend the gold against challengers from the two programs keeps the importance of the titles intact. Separate title holders for Raw and SmackDown creates a bit of confusion and over-saturates the landscape. There should be one top duo and a sole king and queen to rule the WWE kingdom at any given period of time.
By the same token, the Intercontinental and United States championships could see their profiles raised with one exclusive to Raw and the other to SmackDown. The possibilities are endless, and that is what creates discussion and intrigue. I think WWE and USA have made a great decision to infuse some interest into the product heading into the summertime. The ultimate task at hand will be presenting two quality shows with a diverse mix of talent and star power to get fans watching both.
I also like the idea because it provides a competitive atmosphere within WWE for the roster — Team Raw wanting to outperform Team SmackDown and vice versa. There is an added motivation there. And then you think about the star power with the recent return of Seth Rollins, coupled with John Cena and others like Randy Orton not far behind. This is perfect timing for a brand extension.
It is also chance to really give new faces a platform, and maybe even get some called up from developmental and NXT. The leadership is another hot topic with Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon currently the authoritative figures on Raw. A built-in rivalry seems on the horizon. The battle lines are about to be drawn. No matter what side you are on, it’s a fun time to be a fan. One of my favorite times in WWE history was the brand extension. SmackDown was perceived as the “wrestling show” and Raw was more character and story-driven. They each had their own identities. I’m looking forward to watching how things play out this time around.
One does have to wonder where this will leave TNA Impact Wrestling, which currently airs Tuesdays at 9/8CT on Pop TV. The company is currently trying to rebuild, and having WWE on at the same time for an hour isn’t going to help. Perhaps TNA and Pop should adjust accordingly or risk losing viewers.
USA is banking on SmackDown to be a big draw by premiering its new original drama Shooter, immediately after at 10/9CT. The show stars Ryan Phillippe and is based on the best-selling Bob Lee Swagger novel Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter and the 2007 Paramount film starring Mark Wahlberg.
The series follows the courageous journey of Swagger, a highly-decorated ex-marine sniper who is coaxed back into action after he learns about a plot to kill the President. Mark Wahlberg (Boardwalk Empire, Entourage) of Closest to the Hole Productions serves as executive producer along with Stephen Levinson (Boardwalk Empire, Ballers) of Leverage Entertainment; Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers, The Real O’Neals) and John Hlavin (The Shield). The series is a co-production between Paramount Television and Universal Cable Productions.
WWE SmackDown moves to Tuesday nights at 8/7CT on USA Network beginning July 19. The new series Shooter premieres immediately after at 10/9CT.
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