Over the last few months I’ve been watching SmackDown. I used to watch it. Then I stopped watching it. And for quite a while I would give it no credence whatsoever – I wouldn’t look at results, read spoilers or reports or go out of my way to watch any of it. It was a dead show. I guess it still is. Rarely, if ever, is there anything newsworthy or of note on SmackDown.
I suppose, if I’m honest that’s the beauty of it.
When NXT rebranded itself, moved to Full Sail, got rid of the reality show contest gimmick and became a FCW/performance centre training ground show, it became the most admired of all WWE programming. In fact, if you were to ask most people who have the Network – particularly in the US – what their viewing habits are, they’ll usually tell you that NXT is the only current programming that they’ll watch on the Network.
Rarely on NXT does the show open up with anything other than a wrestling match. Simple, right? A wrestling match on a wrestling show? Well, you’d think so.
9 times out of 10, Raw will open with a 10+ minute promo that meanders and winds its way round to a point (sometimes, but not always) and then by 20-30 minutes in you have your first match. And that’s fine. I’m used to that and sometimes those promos can be pretty compelling (see the work of Paul Heyman, Dean Ambrose, HHH). For the most part, NXT doesn’t do this – they keep promos short and to the point, they keep the focus on wrestling and turn it away from angles, skits and filler. Why? Because it’s a 1 hour show.
SmackDown shares some of these traits. When I started watching it again, it was because it was summer, I was too ensconced on my sofa and couldn’t be bother to fire up the laptop to watch something on the Network. But it was also because I discovered a rather wonderful service on Sky. They’d recently launched their catch up and on demand services.
On Sky, you can now navigate to a WWE section in the catch up area and download the shows to your box. The real beauty, though, is that they are advert-free. I can now watch Raw, SmackDown, NXT and Superstars without adverts to fast-forward through. In fact the only adverts they show are WWE tour adverts or ‘don’t try this at home’ ads that are 30 seconds long.
Again, this comes back to my laziness. I was fed up with taping shows and then tapping the remote every 5-10 minutes to get through the breaks and back to the show. Here, I found a service that is perfectly suited to my weekend lethargy. Disgusting to admit, but true.
So where is SmackDown in all this? Well, once I started watching it, it became, like most things, habitual to an extent. But it was also satisfying: if the show opened up with talk, it was soon done with. If the show didn’t have anything newsworthy, it didn’t matter, it still had some good wrestling. I’d get to see different matches and different wrestlers than the ones on Raw. In fact, Raw had been so bad over the summer and into this autumn that I was glad not to be left frustrated by a WWE show. And when there is something newsworthy on there, it just makes the whole process more pleasurable.
SmackDown can also be a lot of fun. Yes, fun. Wrestling is (or at least should be) fun. Over the last few months I’ve seen: Dean Ambrose put ‘the cruiserweight division’ through tables, Rusev and Mark Henry arm wrestle, the 15th anniversary show, less Divas action, the focus on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, little John Cena, plenty of Cesaro and lots of Damien Mizdow. Fun.
To moan about Raw is a bandwagon I’m not trying to get on but if you ever find yourself just wanting something a bit simpler, less frustrating and often more fun, get yourself a Sky box and cut a 2 hour show down to 80 minutes. And then enjoy it.
Hell, if you don’t, there’s always NXT.
I’d love to know your thoughts! Share them in the comments below.