Raw is three hours and the addition of that third hour seems to be putting the entire company out of sync. WWE has struggled to booked the five major hours of TV each week and now the ratings are starting to suffer for it. Smackdown has become unnecessary to watch for many fans, but the WWE has a simple solution to right in front of them if they want to take it.
NXT has risen to popularity. Where that level of popularity truly is remains to be seen, but the stars of NXT seem to be over big time with the smart fans. The recent show in San Jose seemed to have the electricity of an Attitude Era Raw and it was just a house show. With Smackdown dying a slow death due to the overbooking it’s time for WWE to act. NXT needs to take over Smackdown’s two hour slot on Syfy and eventually when it goes to USA network next year.
That move sets a lot of dominos in motion. For those who believe that NXT is an attraction for the network they are correct, but the four specials that WWE currently airs would stay on the network and could increase to six. They should not go beyond that. The importance of these specials would go up in value because of the increased exposure of NXT on network television. So therefore the WWE network would have a stronger selling point. Four or six months out of the year fans would get two live specials in one month, a WWE main roster one and an NXT one.
Some would argue that expanding the NXT to two hours would kill the brand as expanding the main roster product has caused the WWE issues. That’s true, but if NXT is put on network television they are technically only expanding by 30 minutes because of commercials. The solution to keeping the brand strong and not over exposed is adding in a few more matches, making a few matches a bit longer, and more promo time to go around.
The big problem with the way WWE books Smackdown and Raw is caused by the fact that they have to book with both shows in mind. That’s why they make some of the bad decisions they do. NXT would still just be one show and not subject to those same types of mistakes. NXT could keep stars off the show from week to week to keep them fresh as they currently do.
Some will argue that while the smart fans are huge fans of NXT the main fans may not be and bad ratings could lead to the show flopping. Any show could flop, but why would main fans not take to something new and fresh? Especially if WWE puts some main roster talent on the first few shows and goes out of their way to promote the show. Many people feel that Itami, Owens, Zayn, and Bálor are the future of the WWE. So why would the future flop?
In this scenario Raw would still be three hours, but it would be three hours where every second would now be more vital. With air time being so valuable the stakes would be raised for all the talent on the main roster. Even if the quality of the writing doesn’t improve the performances by the talent likely would. That being said with less TV to write the quality of the writing should go up because the creative staff would have a much easier task. They would only have to book one show, which is a massive help and a decrease of two hours of major programming.
Some would point to this as a new version of the brand split, but it is not. The previous brand split had it’s successes and failures, but this would not be treated in the same way. The WWE can still bring up talent as they might, but as long as they treated the two programs as separate they would have a greater level of success. This would not be the same type of crossover situation.
This would not kill developmental. WWE should continue to keep their philosophy of bringing fresh talent through the performance center, then NXT, and the main roster. The progression would not change.
WWE should be able to make up any lost show revenue by increasing the arena size that NXT is currently working. It would be no surprise if NXT jumped into big buildings in a few years as they grow.
The benefits of this move are plenty and the downside is simply having to switch things back to the way they were before. What does WWE have to lose? Smackdown has been in a rut for the past 5 years and NXT is basically free on the network these days. Perhaps they should simply test market NXT by having them Take Over Smackdown once a month for the next few months and see what happens. In the long run the results would be surprising.