I’ve been a Smackdown guy ever since I started watching wrestling in 2005. I always prefer the blue brand for its upcoming talent and emphasis on in-ring competition over drama regarding “The Authority”. However, I’ve noticed in recent weeks that WWE creative and graphic design departments have been taking some odd liberties with the production of the Tuesday night show.
The introduction of cartoonish screen graphics along with recent promo fixtures seem to point to one thing; Smackdown Live may very well now be WWE’s program for children- as if PG wasn’t enough.
I’m all for effectively using imaging and word art to enhance wrestler personas, but there seems to be no real reason for the odd screen graphics we’ve been seeing on Smackdown each week. Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance was met with “ROCKSTAR” going by in big red letters on the screen in a style akin to a shoddy iMovie edit, and The Usos were accompanied by the animated closure of a jail cell everytime they uttered the words “locked down.”
Both of these instances read as not only weird, but childish. It’s almost as if someone told the writers that nobody knows what a penitentiary is or “how do we let them know that he’s a rockstar without letting Tom Phillips annoy us with his voice?” These seemingly minor reinforcements not only illicit a cringe, but they also make me believe that WWE thinks I’m an idiot and that I need extra attention to understand what they’re trying to say. If your product isn’t engaging, maybe it’s because the characters aren’t engaging, not because there is no written reinforcement on my screen.
The New Day also had their “Don’t you dare be sour” intro put up on our TV screens in bright colors. That may have been characteristic because of who New Day are, but still it felt very unnatural, almost like WWE wanted to brainwash me into singing along.
The graphics are something I can deal with. But the promos are absolutely abysmal. I honestly believe that if you walked into the writers room and said to them that they can’t use the words “beat” or “win” or “better” in that night’s Smackdown, they would be stumped. Almost every promo on every episode of Smackdown for the past month has been shallow and dull, like they’re trying to make kids understand what’s going on.
Take the Bobby Roode/Jinder Mahal segment from Smackdown this past week. Jinder comes out and says that he can beat Bobby Roode. Bobby Roode comes out and says Jinder cannot beat him. Jinder claims Roode thinks he’s better than Randy Orton. Roode tells Jinder that he knows he’s at least better than Jinder. Playground tussle ensues.
It’s similar in the long term WWE title picture to a degree. I’m not really seeing any storyline between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura besides Shinsuke telling AJ that he will beat him at WrestleMania. I understand this is a sport surrounding competition, but can we please add some layers to the feuds on Smackdown? It seems that nothing tries to make you think anymore on the Tuesday night show. Nothing comes off as unique and fun anymore in the “I’m better than you” format, we’ve heard it before so many times.
The Verdict for Smackdown
This fairly new problem should be fixed after Fastlane as WrestleMania draws closer. The lackluster, dumbed down promos and the cartoon graphics must stop if the show wants to be taken seriously by a bulk of the audience it attracts (adult males). Children are one demographic, but Smackdown has too much starpower to be wasted on one dimensional storylines and ridiculous branding. Save the show in time for ‘Mania, WWE. Make it an interesting watch by progressing stories and letting the wrestlers speak for themselves.