5 Things WWE Must Do During SmackDown's Debut Show on Fox
Things are about to shake up in a major way in WWE with SmackDown Live set to make its long-awaited debut on Fox on October 4.
Based off all the advertising we've seen (not to mention how much money WWE is reportedly making off this deal), it's clear the company will take the blue brand very seriously starting this fall. That isn't to say the show has been underperforming lately, but with the Wild Card Rule still in effect, it has basically been a Raw rerun in recent months.
In June, WWE appointed Eric Bischoff to be the new executive director of SmackDown, meaning significant changes to the blue brand are on the way. Of course, October 4 would be as good of a time as any to kick off the newest era in the show's 20-year history.
That episode is bound to have the highest viewership SmackDown has had in several years, so the company should be looking to take advantage in any way they can. Not only do they need to entice fans to watch that night, they must also do enough to convince them to tune in the following week as well.
With less than two months to go before SmackDown's grand premiere on Fox, now is the time for WWE to begin formulating ideas to ensure they put together the biggest show possible.
These five suggestions would help with that.
The Brand Split Is Officially Brought Back
WWE's brand split is technically still a thing, but let's face it: Raw and SmackDown Live haven't had truly distinct rosters since well before the Wild Card Rule was introduced in May.
The company gave up on trying to treat the brand split with respect long ago and is now suffering the consequences for it.
Ideally, WWE should have started to phase out the Wild Card Rule after Sunday's SummerSlam, but there was no mention of it officially being axed. Stars of SmackDown and Raw continue to appear on both shows, so apparently nothing will change until further notice.
It's fine if WWE wants to mix and match the wrestlers over the next months, but SmackDown should go back to featuring its own roster by the time the blue brand arrives on Fox. New viewers should be accustomed to seeing the same faces every Tuesday night and not be confused over who belongs to which brand.
WWE wouldn't necessarily need to do a full-on draft or Superstar Shake-Up, as long as it's clear the Wild Card Rule is no more. A refresher in terms to what the rosters look like for both brands would be appreciated as well.
From there, SmackDown can finally start to build up its storylines without worrying about any Raw overlap and utilize those who rarely get television time, such as the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Ali, Apollo Crews, Chad Gable.
A New, Fresh Feel
When that first episode of SmackDown Live started on July 26, 2016, it felt like a completely different show from Raw right off the bat.
From the people who were getting opportunities to the emphasis on the in-ring action, everything about it felt fresh and exciting. It's no coincidence the blue brand went on to produce some of the best programming in its entire history over the next six months.
SmackDown eventually lost its way, though. The show isn't quite as tedious as it was before the brand split returned, but it may soon get to that point unless WWE does something to change the composition of the show completely.
On the bright side, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingNews.co) reported in June that WWE will be testing out new camera angles for the Fox premiere in an effort to give SmackDown a unique feel. While that won't have any effect on storylines, it will be another thing to differentiate it from Raw.
In order for the brand split and the move to Fox to work, SmackDown needs to separate itself from Raw. Whether that means making it edgier or something else, the blue brand needs its own identity to survive.
The Rock Returns
Raw Reunion was less than one month ago, yet WWE has already gone ahead and announced a number of notable names for SmackDown Live's debut on Fox. The long list of legends includes Hulk Hogan, Sting, Kurt Angle, Trish Stratus and Goldberg to name just a few.
SmackDown will be celebrating 20 years on the air that night, so it's logical for WWE to want to load up the show with as much star power as possible. However, all of those icons have appeared on WWE TV at some point or another in 2019, so there isn't much excitement over them returning so soon.
The Rock, on the other hand, has not been seen anywhere near a WWE ring since WrestleMania 32 in April 2016.
This is the longest WWE fans have gone without him during his most recent run with the company, and it's safe to say we have waited long enough.
In The Rock's defense, he has been busier than ever before in Hollywood and with other projects. But a one-off appearance on a show as grand as this one coming up is a must.
After all, there would be no SmackDown if it wasn't for The Great One. The least he could do is show up, lay the smackdown on someone from the current roster and electrify the audience like only he can.
Advertising The Rock for this episode would cause ratings to skyrocket, but a surprise comeback would be just as awesome.
The WWE Championship Is Defended in a Marquee Match
It's rare the WWE Championship is defended on SmackDown Live these days and for good reason. Title matches should largely be reserved for pay-per-views to make them feel more special, but there's nothing wrong with putting the belt up for grabs on an episode of the weekly show every now and again.
If promoted properly, a WWE title match on SmackDown could generate greater ratings in addition to fan interest, especially on a show as heavily hyped as the Fox opening. Assuming Kofi Kingston is still WWE champion by that point, he must defend the prestigious prize on that historic night.
It then becomes a question of who he should face. Randy Orton would probably be the most obvious choice, if only because they have been feuding for the past month and have unfinished business coming out of SummerSlam.
Brock Lesnar is another option WWE could go with. How the company would make sense of that match is unknown, but since The Beast Incarnate hasn't featured in action on an episode of SmackDown since 2004, it would be a major attraction for him to compete on that show.
If WWE wanted to get over a fresh face, Bray Wyatt and his Fiend persona would be perfect. He stole the show at SummerSlam and has the hottest act in all of WWE right now, meaning another world title run should be in the not-so-distant future for him.
No matter who steps up for the WWE title that night, a marquee matchup would be a welcome addition to a stacked SmackDown show.
A Debuting Star Makes an Immediate Impact
It's great WWE will be bringing back all of these legends to celebrate SmackDown Live's move, but the first episode should largely be focused on the future and showing viewers what they can expect on Tuesday nights.
Unless significant changes are made before October, SmackDown's current roster is filled with a ton of promising prospects. Buddy Murphy, Andrade, Apollo Crews, Ali and Chad Gable all deserve to be on WWE TV much more they than are and should have bigger roles on the program come October.
Evidently, there's a lot of underutilized talent WWE isn't doing anything with at the moment, so it should probably focus on them before bringing anyone else into the fold. Then again, all eyes will be on that Fox premiere and thus an NXT top talent making their main roster debut would go over huge.
Johnny Gargano has been main roster ready for a while now and is almost guaranteed to be called up by October if his performance at TakeOver: Toronto II was any indication. Matt Riddle is another individual who would be a fantastic fit for SmackDown and would have no trouble finding success from the get-go.
It's possible both could wind up on Raw, but they have a better chance of remaining relevant on SmackDown. And if Fox is looking for legitimate athletes to build around in the fall, Gargano and Riddle would be the strongest candidates.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.