5 Reasons Why WWE Raw Has Been Better Than SmackDown Since Move to Fox
Since rising to power as the executive director of WWE Raw in June 2019, Paul Heyman has crafted a weekly show that features more grown-up storylines, fresh faces, strong in-ring content and a greater sense of urgency from week to week.
The result has been a consistently enjoyable show that has eclipsed the more marketed and advertised SmackDown on Fox.
With WrestleMania 36 on the horizon and just over a month of television to go, let's dive into each of Raw's strengths and examine why it has become superior in comparison to the blue brand.
More Grown-Up Storylines
SmackDown has been defined recently by dog food and puppy love, but Raw has provided its fans more adult-oriented storylines, making it a more enjoyable option for the older members of the WWE Universe.
While the blue brand has featured Roman Reigns seeking revenge for King Corbin's humiliation and Otis' high school romance with Mandy Rose, Raw has seen Drew McIntyre' begin his march to WrestleMania, Seth Rollins live long enough to see himself become a villain and Randy Orton's slow descent into madness.
The red brand feels like a clear alternative to the more mainstream product that is SmackDown. Paul Heyman has implemented a storytelling method that has appealed to the older demographic by keeping things more realistic and relatable than the over-the-top nature of its counterpart.
Raw has benefited exponentially, striking a nerve with fans who have demanded more than the child-friendly storylines that have dominated WWE programming for the last decade.
While the red brand is hardly perfect here—the most glaring offender being the recent program involving Rusev, Lana and Bobby Lashley—the show has been more consistent in churning out storylines older fans can appreciate.
Better in-Ring Content
While SmackDown touts some of the most talented wrestlers on the planet, including Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, The New Day, The Revival and The Usos, Raw has done a better job of putting its own Superstars in better, more competitive matches.
Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and The Viking Raiders vs. Seth Rollins, Murphy and AOP have produced some extraordinary tag team variations while Becky Lynch and Asuka's rivalry over the Raw Women's Championship provided fans an intensely competitive, hard-hitting series of matches.
Throw in an undercard that includes Angel Garza, Andrade, Humberto Carrillo, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet and Charlotte Flair, and you have talented individuals who have repeatedly sought to provide excellence between the ropes.
The result has been a much easier to watch three-hour broadcast than it was just six months ago.
Concentration on Fresh Faces
One thing Raw has done infinitely better than SmackDown is its unwavering focus on, and presentation of, new faces as integral parts to the product.
Aleister Black, Murphy, AOP, Liv Morgan, Lana, Rusev, Humberto Carrillo, Andrade and Angel Garza have all benefited from increases in television time.
They have all assumed significant roles on the brand, but it is Drew McIntyre's push that has really put over the red brand as the land of opportunity of late.
The Scottish Psychopath had spent years toiling in the midcard, left to portray the role of nondescript muscle or henchman while others received opportunities that should have belonged to him.
Now allowed to showcase his personality and raw charisma, McIntyre is thriving ahead of a WrestleMania 36 that will see him challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship.
Black appears to be on his way to a significant push, too, if his victory over Erick Rowan on Monday's episode of Raw is any indication.
The former NXT champion has torn through the competition and was a dark-horse candidate in the Royal Rumble match. While he didn't win on the night, expect a post-Mania push of epic proportions for one of the most gifted and compelling performers in WWE.
And do not be surprised if Carrillo defeats Andrade for the United States Championship sooner than later.
More Interesting Characters
Outside of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde nature of Bray Wyatt and The Fiend, the SmackDown brand suffers from a lack of multidimensional characters. Everyone on the blue brand is written as simply as possible, lacking depth so that they may appeal to a greater at-large audience.
Raw's creative team, though, has taken the steps to provide its most prominent stars more in-depth personalities.
Seth Rollins went from the valiant hero to the self-obsessed villain who felt the fans betrayed him and were unappreciative of his efforts to bring about change, and he turned to the dark side as a result. Now, he suffers from a god complex, going as far as to refer to himself as The Monday Night Messiah and address the WWE Universe in "sermons."
Aleister Black has thrived as a competition-fueled wrestler who wastes no opportunity to unload on the competition and will not stop until he captures gold. It is a simple, relatable character the likes of which always strike a nerve with fans.
Zelina Vega is the manipulative businesswoman always looking to put her clients and partners in a position to succeed.
They are just three characters who have benefited exponentially from Paul Heyman's creative genius and Raw's change in tone over the past few months.
The more Heyman can find the emotional centers and motivations of the red brand's characters, the better and more enjoyable the brand will be. It is already head and shoulders above SmackDown, where the characters are far too one-dimensional for an audience to really invest in beyond the bare minimum.
Greater Sense of Urgency
The most underrated element of a wrestling show, especially to fans who are giving up their time to watch, is a sense of urgency. The men, women and children in the audience want to know that the three hours they are giving up are worth it.
Raw does a much better job than SmackDown of making it feel as though the segments on the show matter to the ongoing stories. Rarely is a match or segment wasted.
Take Monday's episode for example: Natalya battled Kairi Sane in a match that may have felt like it existed for the sake of existing, but it was really the latest chapter in the former's battle with The Kabuki Warriors, which dates back to two weeks earlier, when Asuka left her with a black eye.
Charlotte Flair set up her rivalry with Rhea Ripley, cutting a promo that laid out her reasons for choosing the NXT women's champion as her WrestleMania opponent. In a short, innocent in-ring promo, she laid the foundation for a feud that will make Ripley a household name among WWE fans.
While it is still hardly perfect, as witnessed by what felt like the 1,000th match featuring Kevin Owens, The Viking Raiders, Seth Rollins, Murphy and AOP in some form, the show is crafting a broadcast that feels like a must-watch program in comparison to SmackDown.