When comparing WWE’s two weekly shows on USA Network, I think it’s obvious that WWE Smackdown Live on Tuesday nights is a superior show to Monday Night Raw. I don’t think it’s significantly better every week, but on a consistent basis, Smackdown is a lot more fun to watch than Raw is. There isn’t a secret formula either. It’s simply based on the storylines, which Smackdown is doing better than Raw.
This isn’t about television ratings or how Raw had the lowest number in the history of the show this week. That’s obviously not a good sign, but I’m sure WWE executives care more about WWE’s stock price, which is over $96 on Thursday, and WWE’s $7.33 billion market capitalization. We also know that WWE has massive TV deals they signed earlier this year that will pay them over $2 billion for Raw on USA Network and Smackdown on Fox. The stock price matters more than anything to them, so in WWE’s eyes, everything is wonderful. It’s really not if you watch Raw, but that’s how they probably think.
One of the advantages that Smackdown has over Raw is that it’s “only” two hours long compared to Raw going about three hours and ten minutes every week. However, a lot of WWE fans may only choose to watch Raw in a given week because that’s what they have been used to for over 20 years on Monday nights. It’s what wrestling fans know. Smackdown has only been on Tuesdays for two years, so the audience isn’t as big as what Raw has, although it’s pretty close.
I know that some people reading this are going to say that NXT is WWE’s best show and I would agree with that, but I’m talking about the main roster shows that are longer and that are also live. I can focus on NXT another time, but for now this is about Raw and Smackdown.
Looking at the rivalries that represent why Smackdown is thriving
To break it down, here’s a look at some of the key feuds currently carrying Smackdown.
AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Championship – It would have been easy to just make this about the WWE Championship because Joe has never held it. while Styles has been champion for ten months. Instead, it has become a very personal rivalry because Joe has brought AJ’s wife and daughter (but not AJ’s three sons) into the story. Controversial finishes in their first two WWE Title matches will lead to a third match at Super Show-Down on October 6.
This past week on Smackdown, Joe went to AJ’s “house” (or at least a house that he said was AJ’s) and AJ freaked out about it because Joe was going to torment his family. It’s a very personal feud that has the WWE Championship in the background. It’s easy to support Styles in this story, but that doesn’t mean Joe will fail again.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship – I think this is the best feud in WWE right now. I have enjoyed the heel actions of Becky Lynch even though the crowd is booing here. Becky turned on Charlotte because she was jealous of Charlotte winning the SD Women’s Title at SummerSlam, so Lynch attacked, and Lynch beat her for the title four weeks later at Hell in a Cell.
They’ll wrestle at Super Show-Down on October 6 again and most likely they will be in one of the featured matches at the all-women’s Evolution PPV on October 28 perhaps with a stipulation. It could go on after that too. If it does, I’m not going to complain about it because it’s been one of the best stories to watch. Lynch continues to be booked like a heel after a cheap attack on Smackdown, but some fans want to cheer her because she’s a lot more interesting now. I can’t get enough of this feud. More please.
Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz – It’s another personal rivalry based on their history in WWE going to back to NXT in 2010 when The Miz was Bryan’s mentor. It continued in 2016 when Miz and Bryan had an altercation on Talking Smack (see above video), which only added to the issues they have now, leading into SummerSlam. Miz won that SummerSlam match due to the dreaded brass knuckles given to him by his wife Maryse. That led to a match at Hell in a Cell, where Maryse pinned Bryan’s wife Brie in a mix tag team match.
Their match at Super Show-Down may be the best on the card because it’s for a shot at the WWE Championship. The feud has been building to something big, when one of them will get back to that next level where they are competing for the WWE Championship. That’s how these storylines *should* go, where two rivals face off and the winner of the feud is rewarded while the loser has to watch it happen and work his way back up. I hope Bryan is the one that earns the title shot, but if it doesn’t happen, that’s fine too. Anyway, I doubt the rivalry will end at Super Show-Down.
Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy – This feud is over for now after Randy Orton beat Jeff Hardy at Hell in a Cell. Think about the build up to that match. Orton turned heel, attacked Hardy randomly, and said he did it because he hated what Hardy stood for as a person. Orton also hated that the fans liked what Hardy represented. The build to Hell in a Cell was very good and the match had a big ending, with Hardy crashing through the top of the of the cell through a table in the ring.
Aiden English turning on Rusev by blaming Lana – Aiden English has been an ally of Rusev for one year. They started “Rusev Day,” which was a silly heel thing at first to annoy the fans, but then fans warmed to the idea of a “holiday” every day celebrating Rusev. English turned on Rusev last week on Smackdown after they failed to win the Tag Team Titles at Hell in a Cell. English blamed Rusev’s wife Lana for his actions and claimed to have some evidence of some Lana video from a night in Milwaukee. Again, this feels more than a typical wrestling feud because they are trying to tell a personal story to add to the rivalry.
Those stories are carrying Smackdown. The Tag Team division is pretty good too in terms of depth, but there’s not a singular feud there that is really standing out. I’d like to see The Usos used more although you can’t push everybody at the same time. Most of the women’s division is utilized in a decent way too. Asuka is the forgotten one, which needs to change, but hopefully she can get some momentum back soon.
Raw is lacking in terms of interesting storylines
When you shift the focus to Raw, there is one main feud that started after SummerSlam when Braun Strowman failed to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase during the Roman Reigns Universal Title win over Brock Lesnar.
The rivalry has seen Universal Champion Roman Reigns team up with his Shield buddies, Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, against Strowman and Raw Tag Team Champions Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. The issues between the two sides will lead to a big six-man tag team match at Super Show-Down on October 6.
A lot of fans still don’t like that WWE turned Strowman heel after SummerSlam, given that they have spent the last year building him up as a face. It feels like a decision that wasn’t considered long term and they just did it because they realized they have no good heels on Raw right now.
I don’t know what the long term goal is, but at least there was an interesting tease on Raw this week with the story that maybe Ambrose will turn on his Shield brothers to join Strowman and friends. They can tease that for months until it happens, but it is it enough to excite the cranky Raw audience? I doubt it.
The Raw Women’s division is boring
If you look at the women’s division on Raw, Ronda Rousey is the centerpiece of the division as the Raw Women’s Champion. The feud she had with Alexa Bliss over the past couple of months was okay, but it’s not like anybody watching thought that Bliss had a chance to beat Rousey. It gets boring when you know it’s going to be an easy win for one side. Now, Rousey is part of a story where she is teaming with the boring Bella Twins against The Riott Squad. Yawn. I don’t care. It doesn’t help that Brie Bella gave Liv Morgan a concussion due to two errant kicks to the head.
Most of the other women on Raw have no storyline other than Natalya supporting Rousey while Mickie James and Alicia Fox support Bliss. Bayley has barely done anything this year other than tease a feud with Sasha Banks, only for WWE to make them become friends again. Now, Banks is out with an undisclosed injury. Bayley should be a much bigger star than she currently is.
Smackdown is giving us three huge singles matches at Super Show-Down with Styles vs. Joe, Lynch vs. Flair, and Miz vs. Bryan. What’s Raw doing? Two six-person tag matches. It’s just not that interesting.
Look for WWE to try to prop up the women’s division on Raw over the next month as they head to Evolution on October 28, but right now they are really lacking in terms of stories that are supposed to excite the fans.
Several Raw male wrestlers have nothing to do
There are a lot of key guys on the Raw brand that have been lost. Here’s a listing of some names that should be doing more.
Kevin Owens – He got beat up by Braun Strowman repeatedly for months, the fans loved it, and then WWE chose to turn Strowman heel, so it was as if the feud between Owens and Strowman was just a placeholder to keep Strowman busy while hurting the status of Owens. When Owens was on Smackdown, he was a top heel. On Raw, he just seems like just another guy and that’s a shame because he should be so much more.
Finn Balor – I’m more frustrated with the booking of Balor than anybody else on the show. At WrestleMania, he was part of that three-way feud with Seth Rollins and The Miz, but since then, he has had nothing to do. The rivalry with Baron Corbin was boring. Balor should be in a much bigger role, yet he’s doing nothing of note. A year ago, Balor was beating AJ Styles in a PPV match. This year, he’s barely visible on the Raw brand.
Bobby Lashley – A lot of people seem to have forgotten this, but two months ago at Extreme Rules, Lashley beat Roman Reigns clean. Reigns rarely loses clean and you would think a win like that would propel Lashley to the next level. Nope. He is not connecting with the crowd that well, so WWE gave him Lio Rush as a manager. Lashley has a weak storyline right now against Owens and Elias to set up a tag match with part timer John Cena on Lashley’s side.
Elias – It’s weird how WWE will have Mick Foley on Raw calling this guy a future World Champion, yet WWE hasn’t given him a single feud worth getting excited about. I don’t get it, either. His gimmick is to sing a song, piss off the crowd, get interrupted, and so on and so forth. Why not try to build him up more? It just seems like that is a lack of focus with Elias.
Jinder Mahal – This guy was the WWE Champion one year ago at this time. Right now, he’s the guy that chants “Shanti” to try to bring inner peace to people and he loses nearly every match. I wasn’t a fan of the idea of Jinder as WWE Champion, but at least he was doing something that was important at the time. The “Shanti” gimmick is lame.
The Revival – I will give WWE some credit for booking them in a competitive tag team title match against Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre this past week on Raw. It was great. Prior to that, they have not been booked well. Raw’s tag team division is not good, especially when compared to Smackdown’s tag team division.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable – They were both booked better on Smackdown, yet here they are on Raw doing nothing for months. At least this month they formed a tag team that wrestles The Ascension every week. It’s not that interesting, and Roode really needs a heel turn.
Mojo Rawley – He was moved to Raw, given a few wins a few months ago, and he has been off television since with no explanation given. There’s no injury. It’s just a case of WWE choosing not to use him anymore. At least he had that memorable moment with the No Way Jose “cheeseburger” guy. Sure yeah, that’s compelling television!
Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil – The “Titus Worldwide” gimmick has helped neither man, nor did it help Dana Brooke, who broke away from the group to do nothing in the women’s division. They’ve been talking about Crews’ “potential” for years in WWE. Great! Let’s see it.
I won’t mention Baron Corbin because he is used a lot although it’s boring a lot of the time. The feud with Balor didn’t help either man and I think Corbin as the acting GM is hurting Raw more than it helps.
What is Raw’s “creative team” doing? Not much! They really should be doing a lot more.
I think the WWE roster is full of talented wrestlers. I just don’t think the creative team on the Raw brand are doing them justice with storylines that lack widespread interest right now. Smackdown is a lot more interesting than Raw right now.
That leads to this question: Does it really matter in the big picture? Probably not, because as I mentioned earlier, WWE’s stock price is over $90.00 right now and the company’s valuation is over $7 billion, and I doubt WWE is that concerned that their viewers are frustrated with Raw. The low viewership numbers for Raw this time of year are always concerning against tough NFL competition, but again, if the stock price doesn’t react to it, then I doubt WWE’s upper management will worry about it that much.
The next major WWE pay-per-view style event is Super Show-Down from Australia on Saturday, October 6. I’ll have a preview of that event next week.