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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Raw versus Smackdown - The Breakdown
May 24, 2004 by Eric Jenkins


Lately, there has been a lot of talk about how WWE Monday Night Raw is being booked and the fact that it appears that Raw is being given preferential treatment over the WWE Smackdown brand. While it is true that the most recent run of television shows and pay-per-view cards and favored Raw over Smackdown, it is still worth a closer look to determine which brand, in its current state, is actually the superior brand. So, let's compare the two WWE brands:

World Champion: The Raw World Champion is Chris Benoit, a man who had been overlooked several times in the past for title runs and should, to be honest, be on his second or third title reign by now. The Smackdown World Champion is Eddie Guerrero and for a description of Eddie, see Chris Benoit. In comparing the two, it seems that a mistake was made. Smackdown is the "wrestling" show, but they have the better mic man while Raw, the "sports entertainment" show, has the all business ring tactician as champion. It seems that Benoit should actually be on SD, but since Eddie Guerrero is a great showman who can also perform in the ring, it wouldn't matter what type of wrestling promotion he were in, he would still be a charismatic figure. As far as which man is the better champion, not considering the condemners to the title, Benoit is the better wrestler. Unfortunately, professional wrestling has very little to do with wrestling and more to do with performance in and out of the ring, and that is where Eddie excels. He can perform equally in and out of the ring, as evidenced by his recent fainting spell at the end of a six-man match with the Dudleys, Bradshaw, Mysterio & RVD. Lastly, Eddie and his feuds are the central stories on SD while Benoit's title defenses are forced to take a back seat to the ongoing Triple H-Shawn Michaels war. Edge: Smackdown

Secondary Champion: John Cena is the Smackdown United States Champion. I know this because he is an electric figure who is being featured as the number two good-guy on the show and his title gets mentioned every time his name is mentioned. Randy Orton is the Raw Intercontinental Champion and I know this because I had to research it to be sure. His association with Evolution and their singular pursuit of helping Tripe H regain the World tile is burying Randy Orton. Triple H's war with HBK is not only overshadowing the World Champion, it is also making the IC title less significant each time Orton finds himself caught in a tag match with the other members of Evolution. True, Orton gets his solo spots each week, and I understand that it is really hard to drum up any support for his title right now because neither Orton nor Cena has any spine-tingling opposition for their straps, but does anyone really care about him when Randy Orton gets in the ring by himself and grabs a microphone? I think not. It has been said that the public is tiring of Cena's act, but love him or hate him; they would choose Cena over Orton any day. Edge: Smackdown

Other Champions: Raw has Victoria, the women's champion and Benoit & Edge, the tag champions. SD has Chavo Guerrero, Sr. as their Cruiserweight champion and Rico & Charlie Haas as their tag champions. Victoria is a credible champion and her list of contenders (Trish, Lita, Molly, Jazz, Gail Kim, Nidia) would stand up against any era of women's wrestling. Even Madusa, one of the greatest woman wrestlers in the last 40 years would struggle against this field. Benoit & Edge won the titles from the Evolution team of Ric Flair & Batista and several different combinations of Evolution members have tried to relieve the World Champion & his partner of the straps but were unsuccessful. Unfortunately for Edge & Benoit, once they are finished with Evolution, they will have only La Resistance to deal with, which will not help their reign gain any credibility. Even though Rico & Haas was a mongrel team that was thrown together just as a joke, they gained the SD titles and will have to deal with the likes of former champions the Dudleys, the Bashams, Scotty & Rikishi & perhaps the dark horse team in the federation, Billy Gunn & Hardcore Holly, who were brought together because of their mutual hatred for the newly obtained Booker T. On the other hand, though the cruiserweight division has several quality contenders, the title itself was made into a joke by awarding the title to Jacqueline and then having Chavo, Sr. win the belt from his son. The Cruiserweight title is no longer worth pursuing and I still prefer the Raw tag champions to the SD champions and except for the Dudleys, though I am a fan of all of the contenders, there is still not much there. Edge: Raw

Top Talent: Other than Evolution, Raw boasts Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Christian, Matt Hardy, Rhino & Tajiri. SD counters with Booker T, RVD, Mysterio & the Undertaker. The SD roster is loaded with tag team specialists and cruiserweights while Raw has a much bigger and stronger roster. Determining which one is better depends on what you prefer. If you are an action fan and prefer technical excellence, then you turn to SD. If you like promos and brawls, then you watch Raw. The biggest difference is in which group sells the most tickets and unfortunately for this business, that is the bottom line. Where that is concerned, Raw is always going to have it over SD, just because Triple H and HBK attract a lot of attention and the other big names will want to be where they are. Edge: Raw


Missing Talent: Among the names listed on the Raw roster, currently out of action for some reason or another are The Rock and Mick Foley while SD counters with the Big Show as their top missing talent. Kurt Angle should be on this list, but he is still heard from each week on SD broadcasts as the acting General Manager. When the Big Show returns, he will be put into the mix, probably given a shot at whomever is holding the world title at the time, and the he will fade back into being the unbeatable monster with no true place on the show. On the other hand, Rocky & Mick will always find themselves involved in main events against the top guys on Raw. The two of them are stars and they will only face stars or up-and-coming stars for as long as they decide to. As for stars that the brands have lost altogether, SD parted ways with Brock Lesnar, which was a huge blow to their roster, but not as huge as the loss of Goldberg & Steve Austin was to Raw. Edge: Raw

Announcers: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler are the current standard by which all other announce teams will be measured in the near future. The team of Tazz & Michael Cole is the team that is currently being measured. The WWE wants Tazz to be more like Lawler, a heel announcer who seldom actually watches the matches, cheers for the bad-guys and believes that the bad-guy is always right and is always the victim of some dishonesty whenever the good-guy wins. Tazz prefers to be an announcer who calls the match as he sees it and gives credit where it is due, even though he operates under heel sensibilities, similar to Bobby Heenan & Jesse Ventura. Jim Ross is not the best pure play-by-play man in the game right now as that distinction belongs, in my opinion, to Joey Styles, but the gap between 1 & 2 is not that great and when he is allowed to call a match without discussing other happenings within the federation, because of his extensive background in the sport, Ross has no equal. Michael Cole will get there, perhaps in 20 years, but by then, he probably will have been replaced with someone else. Edge: Raw

Secondary Show: Sunday Night Heat versus Velocity. Because of the constant appearances on Raw by Jonathon Coachman, he is becoming a star in his own right, and by combining him with Al Snow, who has one of the best senses of humor in the business, they are becoming a pretty good announce team. WWE Experience could make Todd Grisham a star, if the show were worth watching. Bill DeMott has the makings of a good announcer, but so should be wrestling, but then, so should Al Snow. Snow & Coach are funny and Josh Mathews & Bill are more serious, but their inexperience shows at times. As for the shows, they are showcases for the secondary talent. Guys like Steven Richards & Paul London earn their money on these shows. While Heat only gets 3 weeks of action per month, the other week being used as a PPV pre-game show, Velocity always has new matches.

Fans of new material will watch Velocity, especially now that it airs at a time when most fans are awake. As for the PPV pre-game, by the time that the PPV arrives, there is nothing about the matches and the storylines that anyone who has been paying attention does not know, thus running the show in this fashion is probably unnecessary. For those who do not know, Heat is the Raw show and Velocity is the SD show. Edge: Smackdown

Analysis: In these seven categories, it would appear that the Raw brand is superior to the Smackdown brand 4-3, but by giving extra weight to the World Champion, this does not seem to be the case. If you were to apply a double point for the World Champion category, then the challenge would end in a dead heat. The Raw writing is significantly better, and there are various theories as to why, from Triple H being Vince's son-in-law to Vince viewing SD as his own personal WCW, but if the SD story lines were as good as Raw's, then their show would produce a more pleasing product week to week. Raw is the better brand, but only by a small margin.

by Eric Jenkins (Wrestling: In Your Face)..


Kevin Bufton wrote :
Great article, with some interesting points raised. That said, I'd like to argue with your decision to put JR and Lawler over Tazz and Cole...

Admittedly they *used* to be a great announce team, but these days all we get is Lawler talking about puppies in that irritating whine of his and as for Good Ol' J.R., the man is well past his point of excellence. Seriously - watch Raw this week and see how many moves he actually calls correctly - I think you'll be surprised. He seems to refer to every move in a limited number of ways. It's true, it's true. Over the last couple of month's he's called a spinebuster a modified powerbomb, a side suplex was called a modified slam and a senton was called a moonsault. For the best play-by-play guy in the sport, that's pretty poor.

On the other side of the fence, you have Cole, who may not be the best but is certainly improving and acts as an excellent straight man to Tazz's witty commentary. As for Tazz, as a colour commentator he truly is one of the best in the business, calling moves accurately and with enthusiasm. This is not what makes him the best announcer in the WWE today, however. Tazz concentrates on *psychology* when he calls a match. Look at his Keys to Victory before certain main event matches, which add an extra level to the proceedings, giving us, the viewers, things to watch for and enhancing the story of the match being played out in the ring. Or, there again, listen to Tazz explaining to Cole how certain moves shouldn't be applied to certain wrestlers (headbutting Rikishi, trying to knock Big Show down with dropkicks, for instance) and suggesting what the wrestlers should try instead. I also like Tazz, because his commentary occasionally harks back to the good old days of colour commentators, where they sided with the heels. Just listening to Cole try and argue the case for the babyface, while Tazz says that Booker T (or whoever) is perfectly justified in using a chair shot keeps a grin on my face, more so than the in-ring product, it has to be said.

How about a final category, as well...GM's and authority figures. Raw has to win here with Johnny Nitro, the Coach and, of course, the uber-slimy heat machine that is Eric Bischoff. Angle is great on the mike but, with his constant switch from heel to face and back again that we have all seen over the last few years, he doesn't quite make it. Whenever I see ischoff on my TV screen I want to stick my fist into that smarmy, grinning face of his. However...if Heyman came back as GM for SD!, then it would be a different story as that man is just pure gold...
Joe Huber wrote :
Great article Eric. I found myself agreeing with you a lot of the time. Just trying to be supportive of my fellow OWW columnists. To be fair though I do have a few differing opinions. Nothing wrong with a little constructive criticism.

I agree Smackdown's Eddie Guerrero is more entertaining then Chris Benoit. I also agree that since RAW is the story based of the two brands that it would have made sense for Eddie G to move to RAW, but I guess WWE figured Benoit couldn't carry Smackdown on his own like Eddie could. I also agree that John Cena is much better then Randy Orton on the mic. Again I agree that Smackdown's tag team division dominates RAW's. Sadly, I couldn't even remember the RAW tag-team champs until you mentioned that they were Benoit & Edge.

I disagree that the top talent on RAW is better then the top talent on Smackdown. I even think that when Smackdown does promos they do them better then RAW does. Witness the Undertaker & Mordecai promos and the recent Heyman/Bearer promo. Sure I hand it to RAW that they have more drawing power, but if you listen to the crowds on recent Smackdown and RAW shows the Smackdown shows are always alive and that adds to the show, in my opinion. RVD/Mysterio/Undertaker and others have me interested while I am bored to death of Kane/HHH/HBK.

At least Mysterio & Undertaker change up their looks from time to time. HHH & HBK are, dare I say it, over-the-hill. Sure like Ric Flair they can still tell a story in the ring and put on good matches, but their characters are boring and bland. With most of the RAW talent we've seen it all before. With the exception of the younger guys. At least Smackdown is building on their future now. What will RAW do once they've bled the HHH/HBK feud completely dry and those guys no longer wrestle? What will they do when Ric Flair finally does hang up his tights? Sure they got the Main Event guys now, but once they are done they will be hurting more then Smackdown ever has.

Missing talent here I would say is equal. Considering Stone Cold didn't wrestle anymore and Brock Lesnar was the top man on Smackdown and also considering that Goldberg was a man of limited appearances. When you add in that Kurt Angle is hurting and not doing too well in the GM role, I'd say Smackdown suffers more here. At least RAW has Kane, HHH, HBK and other big names to fall back on. Smackdown is falling back on a limited appearance Undertaker, John Cena & Eddie Guerrero. They are not even taking advantage of Kurt Angle's one skill he has outside the ring and that is his humor. He needs to give up the monster heel angle and go back to funny heel Kurt Angle.

Announcers. Well this one is a toughie. I like the announcers for both RAW & Smackdown. I don't like how they are trying to make Tazz out to be the heel announcer. He is more natural calling it like he sees it. If I had to judge the announcers on who adds the most to matches and who distracts most from what is going on in-ring, I'd have to name Tazz/Cole the top announcing team. Mostly because Lawler & JR tend to get completely off matches at times and talk about puppies, other matches/feuds, and ignore what is going on in the ring. It annoys me. I've heard it said that the best announcers are the ones you notice the least and Tazz/Cole are it for me. Sure they are no Heenan/Monsoon or Vince/Ventura, but neither is JR/Lawler.

Secondary show I agree with you all the way. Velocity rules. I can't watch Heat. While RAW does have the bigger drawing feuds (HBK/HHH) I would rather see an Eddie Guerrero/JBL feud then see HBK/HHH one more time. I've seen these two fight so many times in my short year back as a wrestling fan that if I never see them wrestle each other, or wrestle again period, I would be OK with it. These two have grown beyond stale and need character changes immediately.

After all is said, I must say your column is thought-provoking and entertaining, and that's what a column should be. Good job.
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