I saw Rachel Miller's article this morning and had to post a full response instead of just a comment, as I was none too happy:
I can't believe this contributor actually typed this article up and hit Publish with a straight conscience. I'm pretty offended, not only because the opinion put forth carries with it very little facts to back it up, but also because this person would even bother writing so little and expecting any kind of support.
However, people actually agree with this position. So perhaps, I should set some records straight.
WWE has about two, possibly three, times the roster TNA has. Now, in case you don't understand the implications there, it means the more programs they have on television, the more chances they have to showcase talent. That's why the rumors of a brand merger months ago are not likely to come to fruition.
Brief history lesson #1: when WWE bought out WCW long ago, they took on a ton of WCW performers that they wanted to put on TV. Today, many of those stars are either in TNA or other companies, but the move brought about both the brand extension and the subsequent WWE Draft, dividing the roster in half (one half for Raw and one half for Smackdown). This way, their larger roster could put a wider variety of wrestlers on television.
The idea was a sound one. Not only could we see more fresh faces and incorporate the surprise of wrestlers being "traded" and "invading" the other show, but the biggest names on both Raw and Smackdown could be showcased once a week, on average.
Brief history lesson #2: in Stone Cold and the Rock's day, the "faces of the company" would appear on BOTH programs. Those two got jammed down our throats whether we liked them or not, and now look at the landscape. They got so burned out that Stone Cold is too injured to wrestle full-time and the Rock has no interest in returning to wrestling at all. Besides which, neither have much interest in even reappearing on WWE programming.
These days? People can actually make a choice of which big show they like better, because Raw and Smackdown tend to be so different on intricate levels, like style, commentary, scheduling (i.e., abundance of promos, amount of matches, etc). People still call Raw "the A show," but really that's just because of its long history. Smackdown easily rivals it in quality much of the time.
Like many, I watch both because 1) I can't choose which I like better and 2) many times lately, there are crossovers.
That's right, things are still changing. Titles are in the process of being unified and any title holders, no matter what title they wear, seem to be allowed on both big shows. This changes the subconscious incentive for wrestlers striving to win titles, and also inspires fans to root for certain wrestlers to win them.
Put it together. Their favorite wrestler wins a belt, their favorite wrestler gets more visibility. In time? Everyone's new favorite wrestler wins a belt? That person gets more visibility. Additionally, with a bigger roster to defend their titles against, and a vaster battlefield of competitors to compete for those titles, it makes each title that much more meaningful to the one holding it because it means they're better than that many more wrestlers.
In the meantime, while the big names are fighting over title belts on the big shows, the rest of the roster can't be expected to sit on their laurels and wait for their pink slips. Thus, WWE made the decision to bring back a wrestling staple in WWE Superstars. As Rachel Miller stated in her article, it started as a grand mix of huge names from Raw and Smackdown.
But come on, you had to have seen the Smackdown premiere on SyFy. They brought out their biggest names to appear on that show for higher ratings. They wanted to promote the new program on WGN America, so they did the same thing. With many of those stars currently busy in storylines on their own shows, they want to offer viewers of WGN America something different than they see all the time on Raw and Smackdown.
So lately, they've been featuring wrestlers who haven't gotten much airtime. If you've been watching closely, it's been pretty impressive.
If you happen to read it, you'll notice that the above article didn't include any of the Divas. However, if you check out WWE.com's section on the Superstars program, you'll see that this past Thursday, Gail Kim had a terrific match against Alicia Fox. While much of the match is cut off, and the limited footage shows Gail getting beat down, she turned things around extremely skillfully and scored a victory on a former Divas champion.
Whether WWE decides to run with this development or not is anybody's guess. It seems more and more likely that Natalya will be our next Divas champion the way things are going, but for a genuinely talented mat wrestler like Natalya to carry the belt, as opposed to the promo-driven Laycool pairing, we may see the Divas division pick up some real steam.
For Natalya to defend the title against talents like Gail Kim, Melina, Beth when she returns, and potentially Lita for a one-time appearance, in technical, back and forth exchanges, the matches would be tremendous to watch.
Raw and Smackdown have become extremely story-heavy over time, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. It just means that the matches we take in and the wrestlers we're offered tend to be slightly different. Rachel Miller's article above briefly mentions that TNA Impact is "pounding" Superstars in ratings. Could this be because Impact is on Spike TV, a heavily promoted television network, and Superstars is on WGN America...whatever the hell that is? Perhaps.
Here's a different take: WWE Superstars is the exact opposite to what TNA wants to accomplish with their ReACTION program.
Brief history lesson #3: when ReACTION first premiered on August 12, the night of their "free PPV, The Whole F'N Show," many here at Bleacher Report speculated that ReACTION would change TNA's format, and that they were looking to keep Impact strictly to WRESTLING and leave the storytelling and promos for the third hour of TV.
Despite my bias toward WWE, I would've LOVED for this to have happened. Unfortunately, promos are still extremely prevalent on TNA Impact, and the third hour merely extends the last Impact match, or features the last Impact match in its entirety because they ran over, after which comes a series of backstage, reality show promos.
Since August, absolutely nothing has changed when it comes to how TNA presents their programming, with the exception of adding a third hour, and look how much that did for WCW Monday Nitro during the short period they did that (oops, should've made that Brief History Lesson #4, sorry).
WWE Superstars is the exact opposite. With the exception of a scarce promo by Nexus on a recent Superstars episode, it's NOT story heavy and only occasionally features highlights from Raw and Smackdown. We don't see nearly the abundance of promos we see on the big two shows, NXT, Impact, or even the short-lived return of ECW on SyFy.
The majority of the show is actual wrestling matches between talents that do deserve to be on TV, but who just don't have much direction currently. They're talented enough to be featured on national television, but lack the storylines, plots, creative direction and appeal to be on the big shows. Makes perfect sense to me...
WWE Superstars should not be referred to as the C or D show any longer. If it can make guys like Darren Young, Luke Gallows, and Chris Masters look good after all they've been through, I'd say that's impressive. The Usos had a brief pair of matches with Mark Henry on Superstars, and last night on Raw, they were allowed time to right the wrongs of their feud against the Hart Dynasty and score a win.
Granted, it was tarnished by the Harts' infighting, but a win is a win. It still elevates them and "enhances" their rep, which is what "jobbing" is supposed to do.
I'll be honest, even a seemingly throwaway wrestler like Luke Gallows, former soldier in the Straight Edge Society, looked like a possible contender during his match against a big guy like Vance Archer. With an updated theme song, a new direction for his character, Luke could be back on the big shows in no time.
The only thing I really don't enjoy about Superstars is commentator Scott Stanford who sits alongside Jerry Lawler during the "Raw" half. I don't know where he came from, but he just comes off like a smarter Mike Adamle, or some Sportscenter broadcaster. The upside is that his lack of personality inspires The King to be more off the cuff with his jokes, which is great.
On October 12, I posted an article about Jerry Lawler, and how he should consider giving up commentary, found here:
However, as you'll see, even I admit how much I hate implying that right at the top of the article.
Lawler probably jokes more during his half hour of Superstars than on two whole hours of Raw, but in the end, Stanford really doesn't belong and should be replaced with Josh Mathews, who has only been stepping up his game on commentary as of late. The same effect of getting more comedy out of The King would occur, and Josh would have another medium to display his broadcasting talents.
During the Gail vs. Alicia match, Stanford actually called Gail's powerslam a "body to body flip." Yeah, get rid of him.
All in all, WWE has taken a crop of stars, some brand shiny new to WWE, others slightly more experienced, and given them their share of the spotlight. By separating the show from story heavy Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown, wrestlers entering the ring on Superstars can let the focus lie on their in-ring talents as opposed to their mic skills.
Sports Entertainment may be an effective combination of charisma AND wrestling talent (probably focusing more on the former than the latter), but there are still people out there that watch professional wrestling to see passionate, competitive fights and compelling in-ring psychology, as opposed to just big name stars yammering on about their rivalries and opinions.