WWE SmackDown will spend the next several months building around AJ Styles, Shane McMahon, Shinsuke Nakamura and the returning Vince McMahon.
SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan revealed that Vince will make his return to the blue brand next week to deal with the controversial actions of his son. But it may not be enough. In fact, nothing may be enough for the blue brand.
SmackDown, of course, has a serious problem, and it’s not one that can be easily fixed. The issue? WWE’s B-show is clearly that, the B-show, and there are no clear indications that can or will change anytime soon. Even the pending return of the WWE boss isn’t a sure thing, as his last major TV return didn’t exactly increase viewership the way those within WWE expected it to and may not result in a massive ratings boost this time around, either.
Just over a year ago, the brand split chopped WWE’s roster in half, and anyone who’s consistently watched both SmackDown and Raw since then will tell you that, for a long time, SmackDown clearly had a better product. Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, The Miz and Alexa Bliss formed the nucleus of a brand that became the overachieving underdog, one that clearly and consistently slayed the Goliath that is Raw.
Then, the “Superstar Shakeup” happened and ripped SmackDown of its core. Then, John Cena was sent to Raw and ruined it even further.
Cena’s move to the red brand will prove to be a massive blow to SmackDown, which is already feeling the effects of the loss of “The Champ.” According to WrestlingNewsWorld.com, the first Cena-less episode of SmackDown since he returned on the Fourth of July featured a massive drop of 230,000 viewers from the prior episode, making it quite clear that fans have caught on to the fact that Cena will be on Monday nights for the foreseeable future.
For the past several weeks, Cena’s return had SmackDown’s viewership trending in the right direction on the road to SummerSlam after viewership had hit a 2017 low the month prior, but SummerSlam is now in the rearview mirror to go along with any sort of hope for the blue brand. The loss of Cena, after all, was a dagger to the heart of SmackDown, which now faces the inevitable loss of viewers this fall, even with Vince back in the mix.
Cena joins the vast majority of WWE’s biggest draws on Raw, a star-studded list that includes Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar, leaving the blue brand with a largely unproven roster that, other than perhaps Styles, lacks the marquee stars who are capable of carrying the brand. Even last year, when SmackDown boasted more star power than it does now, the show was unable to keep fans interested for a long Cena-less period in the fall, as evidenced by its viewership plummeting in September and October.
—The article is originally published by Forbes