WWE SmackDown Live will move to FOX in October next year, as the TV Network signed the “Blue Brand” to a five-year, $1 billion deal earlier this year. They reportedly want Ronda Rousey to be a part of the show, furthering the concept of SmackDown being a more sports-centric show.
In 2018, SmackDown Live has blown away Raw in terms of quality, and while WWE decided to book their FOX-bound show to lose 6-1 at Survivor Series, fans have clearly noticed a difference in quality throughout the year.
This week’s episodes of both shows provided an example of SmackDown’s superior quality. Raw was an embarrassment featuring Drake Maverick urinating on Bobby Roode’s robe as a highlight, whereas SmackDown made its exciting Women’s Division a central component of the show, booking a dream Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match between champion Becky Lynch, Asuka, and “Bootleg Becky” (Charlotte Flair).
FOX has to be impressed with the quality of SmackDown Live this year, but they seem interested in imprinting their own vision on the Tuesday-night show. WrestlingInc.com’s Justin LaBar reports that FOX wants Ronda Rousey to be a member of the SmackDown roster in October 2019, when SmackDown Live officially moves from the USA Network to FOX. (The first episode on FOX airs on Friday, Oct. 4.)
This latest reported request from FOX is the least surprising, given that Rousey is the biggest mainstream name in WWE. With bad blood among top stars Rousey, Becky, and Charlotte, the move could make sense, even if either Becky or Charlotte moves to Raw. And if Asuka remains a member of the SmackDown roster, there could be a great story there, especially after fans cheered loudly when Becky teased selecting Asuka as Rousey’s Survivor Series opponent.
Earlier this year, the Wrestling Observer News’s Dave Meltzer reported that FOX, which previously owned the television rights to the UFC, would like WWE SmackDown to take more of a “sports direction” on their shows, even cross-promoting SmackDown Live on their sports-talk shows or NFL broadcasts.
So the news that they’d like Rousey to appear on SmackDown Live makes plenty of sense for FOX. It also makes a world of sense for WWE, because Rousey will have nothing to do on Raw by October 2019. She’s already run through essentially all the heels in the Raw Women’s Division, and there are only about a handful of wrestlers she hasn’t faced yet.
Plus, if FOX is interested in having more former MMA stars on SmackDown, given that they apparently want current UFC star Daniel Cormier on commentary, Rousey could team up with Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir if the latter two NXT stars are deemed ready for a call-up by then.
Rousey moving to SmackDown Live in 2019 seems like an inevitability, and the FOX deal is merely one more additional – and strong – reason to do it.
The only question is, will she move from Raw to SmackDown during the Superstar Shakeup after WrestleMania, where she will presumably face Becky or Charlotte (or both)? Or will WWE, as LaBar wonders in his report, wait to move Rousey and a few other superstars until the fall when SmackDown transitions to FOX and a new look?
SmackDown has been an enjoyable show this year, and fans will hope that changes in format, changes in commentary, and the addition of Rousey don’t halt the momentum of a weekly program that has been a fun, breath of fresh air, especially in comparison to Raw.
The SmackDown Women’s Division has been particularly excellent, shining more than any single division in WWE lately, so hopefully Rousey adds to it instead of detracting from it. Though she has been holding back the storylines in the Raw Women’s Division this year, perhaps a more sports-centric approach helps Rousey by focusing on her in-ring work and less on her offensive promos.