SmackDown as we know it will be no more once the show moves to FOX in October 2019.
According to the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, SmackDown will be changing significantly, as FOX wants the show (and the channel) to be more sports based.
FOX wants to do this in order to maximise its investment. They can get behind a broadcast centred around athletic competition by airing pre and post SmackDown panel shows akin to what they had for UFC. They can also promote SmackDown during other sporting events if it is something to be taken seriously.
That potentially means the end of silly comedy skits (sorry, New Day) and goofy wrestling angles (sorry Road Dogg) and a shift more towards the sort of presentation that the likes of New Japan offer.
This is far from Vince McMahon’s strong suit. Wacky comedy and toilet humour have always been his strength. The only time WWE came close to a more sports-like product was in 2002-03 when Paul Heyman was booking SmackDown.
There is an internal answer though: Triple H. The COO has been presenting a more athletic, realistic show for years with NXT and has worked similar wonders on the vastly improved 205 Live. The differences between his vision and Vince’s presentation of the show are startling.
According to reports, SmackDown needs to average roughly 3.2 million viewers per week when it moves to FOX, which is feasible due to the increased availability of the channel but looks a million miles away at the moment.
That was brought into sharp focus by SmackDown 1000, which should have been the highest rated show in years but only ranked as the 13th highest of the year.
The change in ethos could be the kick the brand needs in order to truly stand out from Raw, give fans more variation and become the ‘A’ show.