Before the WWE brand split happened, it was well established that Smackdown was the “B” show. The show largely consisted of Raw recaps and consequence-free main events. It was not where surprise appearances would happen.
When the recent brand split came about, it was established that Smackdown was going to offer a different product than Raw. Not only would the talent and announcers be different, but the set and the show’s graphics would also hold its own. It was implied that both shows would be essential weekly viewing for WWE fans.
Arguably, the first few weeks of Smackdown Live were as good or better than Raw. But since then, Smackdown has gone back to seeming like a “B” show for a few reasons:
– Brock Lesnar was notably drafted to Raw, so it is not surprising that his feuds have been centered around Raw. However, Randy Orton is part of the Smackdown roster, and Goldberg was never drafted to either brand. In turn, Raw has had almost all of the Brock appearances, leading Smackdown to show recaps of segments from Raw.
– When WWE has a celebrity or musical performer on its weekly television, they are headed to Raw, not Smackdown. Not that Diddy’s recent appearance was intended for the diehard fans of the company.
– Raw is three hours and Smackdown is two hours. Personally, I would prefer that Raw return back to being two hours, but this difference gives Raw talent more time to shine. Especially when some of Smackdown’s two hours is used for recaps of Raw.
– The Authority storylines, which a lot of the WWE Universe grew tired of, have been kept to Raw. Triple H interfered to help Kevin Owens win the title on Raw. I don’t recall a recent Vince McMahon appearance on Smackdown Live.
– I think that everyone can agree that Becky Lynch is a great performer. But the women’s division of Smackdown is inferior. That is not to say that a lot of talent will not develop further in the near-future, however.
– The Smackdown Live tag team division is also inferior to Raw’s tag team division. American Alpha, The Usos and the team of Heath Slater and Rhyno are all great, but the Smackdown tag team scene has a lot of filler. The Smackdown tag division has featured non-contracted teams (e.g. The Headbangers, The Spirit Squad) on several occasions.
– Talent has been traded from Raw to Smackdown, like Jack Swagger. Talent has been rumored to be moved from Raw to Smackdown due to not being prioritized, like Cesaro. Technically, James Ellsworth began on Raw and recently received his full-time Smackdown Live contract. A similar situation of sorts with Heath Slater, who is a Smackdown tag champ. So far no talent has been moved from Smackdown to Raw.
In defense of Smackdown Live, however, The Undertaker recently appeared on the show. So Smackdown Live isn’t necessarily where all the WWE leftovers are intended to go. But given how Smackdown Live currently has four titles in its control — World Champion, Intercontinental, Tag Team, and Women’s Champion — more ought to be done to elevate Smackdown and its roster.