A couple weeks back, WWE SmackDown achieved a landmark achievement in reaching its 1000th episode after being on the air for nearly 20 years. Around the same time, an interesting rumor regarding the show’s future would surface on the internet.
Word on the street is that when SmackDown makes the jump to FOX Sports next fall, the show is expected to be apart of a four night sports programming block alongside its other, more legit sports programming, like the NFL. So that it fits alongside its other sports programs, FOX would want SmackDown to be presented as more of a sports heavy product than an entertainment product.
The reason being that they want their sports commentators to promote SmackDown Live alongside their legit sports, and they don’t want the trademark WWE comedy to make the show stand out in a way that’s silly. So the idea would be for SmackDown to be booked in a way with a deeper focus on in-ring competition, the athleticism of the Superstars, and the sports aspect of professional wrestling.
We can see how this move could work wonders for reinvigorating the product, and how it might not.
On the bright side, this would be a good way to distinguish the brands of Raw and SmackDown. Right now, both shows are somewhat interchangeable. Both have a similar tone and similar storylines, but with a different roster. This new change for SmackDown could help provide fans with a real alternative for fans. Fans who prefer the silly stuff can watch Raw, while fans who want a more serious product could watch SmackDown.
Speaking of serious products, this could be the biggest issue with the adjustment to a more sports-oriented focus. Most fans of professional wrestling – more specifically, WWE – are fans not because of the actual wrestling, but because of the sports entertainment aspect of wrestling. The crazier the storyline, the more entertaining the product is how a lot of fans view wrestling.
Some readers may recall that filmmaker Max Landis released a parody short film a couple years back called Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling. The man’s checkered past aside, he did make a valid point when insinuating that wrestling is focused on everything except wrestling.
To quote Landis directly:
This show does not pretend to be an athletic competition. Instead, it’s a tv show about a wrestling show. It has more in common with Game of Thrones than it does with UFC.
The real beauty of professional wrestling is that it focuses on charismatic figures and dynamic Soap Opera-esque storylines.
When you take that mystic away from professional wrestling, you take away what makes wrestling, well, wrestling. Perhaps the FOX product could be presented in a way that still works, but when that same silliness is what brought fans to the big dance to begin with, we’re not sure if fans would still be interested to watch when that silliness is gone.
On the other hand, this new direction could bring more mainstream attention to the brand and the wrestling product as a whole in way that we haven’t seen in years. As much as we love the silliness, we have to admit some silliness is exactly why some people are turned away from the product.
Silliness like the Katie Vick storyline – for one example – only hindered the product and made wrestling a dirty word for some people. It made fans embarrassed to be fans, and ultimately, they tuned out because of it.
This new direction to bring legitimacy back to SmackDown could also bring legitimacy back to the wrestling business. It could bring old fans back, help the show garner more positive attention, and make it okay to be a wrestling fan again.
Only time will tell if this possible new direction works to benefit SmackDown. We see the positives and negatives of how this new direction could turn out. We’ll just have to wait and see if FOX on SmackDown proves to be a wise investment or not.