The entire landscape of WWE changed today as it was announced SmackDown will air live on USA Network from July 19, splitting the rosters, writing teams and storylines in the process.
WWE has announced a monumental change in its company today as they officially announced SmackDown will be moving to USA Network and airing live every week from July 19 at 8pm EST. In a statement, WWE CEO Vince McMahon said:
“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV. This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”
The move comes as confirmation of rumours of a roster split have been around all year, with WWE’s roster being larger and arguably more star studded than it’s ever been. In addition to the three-hour RAW shows every week, this gives USA Network five hours of WWE television 52 weeks a year.
WWE will create obvious and immediate differences between the two shows, as both will feature unique rosters, writing teams and storylines. A draft will take place before the first live SmackDown to determine which superstars will be performing on which shows.
It’s not yet known what will happen in terms of championships and if WWE will stick with one WWE World Heavyweight Championship or if there will be two separate top titles for each brand, as there was in 2002.
It cannot be understated that this is a huge move going forward for WWE. With NXT airing Wednesday nights on WWE Network, this brings six hours of top shows on three consecutive nights of the week.
WWE have split their rosters previously in 2002 following the purchase of World Championship Wrestling. Each show then had separate rosters, titles and writing teams which went on until the draft ultimately ended in 2011.
In 2003, Raw and SmackDown began hosting their own Pay-Per-Views, with the “big four” shows of Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series seeing joint productions. It’s not known if this will be the case.
In the process this also raises a lot of questions – will the draft be annual? Will we see trades? Does this jeopardise potential feuds we haven’t seen yet? Will tag teams get split up? What happens at Pay-Per-Views?
One thing we do know – UK fans will be happy as for the first time ever, they will also get to see SmackDown live as Sky Sports announced they too will air SmackDown live Wednesday mornings at 1am.
We’ll endeavour to bring you more news on the developments of this story as we get it, but for now it’s time to get excited about SmackDown again.
UPDATE: TWM News has learned the WWE draft will take place on the July 11 edition of Monday Night Raw.