WWE Raw and SmackDown Live have slowly but surely been making strides this summer, with the 2019 King of the Ring proving to be the key to quality programming.
This year marks the tournament's first appearance since 2015. It traditionally took place over the course of one or two nights, but WWE made the correct call by dragging it out on the road to Clash of Champions on September 15.
Raw and SmackDown, which had been sorely lacking exciting angles for many months, have benefited big time from King of the Ring's return. Not only has it given fans something to look forward to every Monday and Tuesday night, but most of the participants have also seen themselves become bigger stars.
The execution of the King of the Ring bracket has been brilliant. The first round and quarterfinals took up three weeks' worth of WWE TV, and the semifinals are set to transpire on the forthcoming editions of Raw and SmackDown.
Tournaments are far from a rarity in wrestling, especially nowadays, but when done right, they can be a ton of fun. King of the Ring has historically served as a launching pad for Superstars and given fans some iconic bouts.
Above all else, the return of the tourney is a sign WWE is willing to revive old concepts and try new things as it enters the fall season. Between going head-to-head with football on Monday nights and attempting to combat All Elite Wrestling, WWE must maintain fan interest in the product in any way they can.
Previously, WWE's programming seemed to be stuck in a rut wherein fans could expect the same things week after week. Raw's three-hour length has never helped matters, but tuning in for the entire episode was a lot to ask of viewers when what they were watching wasn't always compelling.
Most of the same storylines and matches were recycled and rarely did wins and losses matter. With minimal stakes, it was difficult to invest in anything the company was putting out.
Despite being such a simple gimmick, King of the Ring has largely been responsible for the can't-miss feeling around Raw and SmackDown of late. The shocking outcomes send the message that anything can happen, which is the vibe WWE needs to have heading into what is widely regarded as a dead period for wrestling.
Not only will WWE be competing with football in the ratings, but now is as important of a time as any for the company to begin building toward WrestleMania season. The Superstars with the most momentum in the final few months of 2019 are primed for the top spots on the WrestleMania 36 card.
If King of the Ring is considered a resounding success by officials, hopefully it will lead WWE to experiment with more ideas that deviate from the norm. There are so many hours of programming that it wouldn't hurt to devote a match or two to a tournament, a segment or something else in a week when not much else is happening.
Raw and SmackDown are far from the best they have ever been, but it's encouraging to see WWE take steps toward reinvigorating the brands and to mix things up at a time when it's desperately needed.
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.