May 30, 2004
Smackdown gets Raw deal
By DON CALLIS - Winnipeg Sun
The numbers are in for the Smackdown pay per view Judgment Day and they are the lowest of any WWE pay per view since 2001. Estimates are 200,000 buys, down from more than 300,000 for Judgment Day 2003 and 375,000 from Judgment Day 2002.
Many were wondering about this pay per view going in with rampant speculation being that with the weakness of the Smackdown brand in general and with John Bradshaw Layfield as the new top heel that it might be a very tough sell. At this stage it would appear that that speculation was on the money.
While the initial reaction may be to look to the talent as the reason for not selling well, WWE must bear a good portion of the responsibility as well for clearly positioning Smackdown as the weak sister to Raw. Having a new heel who had never been above mid-card during his tenure in WWF/E certainly does not help.
Eddie Guerrero has been a great champion, a talent that the fans truly connect with who also happens to tap into the fastest growing demographic in America, (Latin American). What's more, fans look at guys like Guerrero and Chris Benoit and see two guys who have paid their dues and then some to get where they are and as a result there is a lot of respect and admiration for the man, and not just the character. It doesn't hurt that both men are near the top of the food chain when it comes to in-ring ability.
Hopefully WWE will not start questioning Eddie as champion due to the low buy rate. As has been stated on these pages before, the hardest thing to do in getting talent over is to truly have them connect with the fans on some level. That is often less a result of a monster push and more about the character of the individual.
WWE cannot create that connection, but they are the best at recognizing it, and then delivering the marketing expertise to take it to another level. If they could create it from nothing, you would have an entire locker-room of Rocks, Austins and Hogans. So when you get a guy like Eddie who is getting over and generating genuine emotion from the fans, you need to be very careful how you handle it.
As for Smackdown, it will always have the built-in disadvantage of not being live and being the second show in the WWE life cycle after Raw. All the more reason, then, to do something to make it must-see-TV.
Fixing the problem wouldn't be that difficult, simply a matter of moving one or two truly top-tier talents from Raw and having the next big name (perhaps Sting) debut on Smackdown instead of Raw. That and a few hot angles with top level talent and you would have a more even dispersion of brand equity, which would lead to better buy rates.
My old pal Scott Damore is now officially the most powerful man in Canada as it concerns the wrestling industry. With TNA Impact debuting in the States on Fox Sportsnet every Friday at 3 p.m. and with Scott's role in the backstage stuff, he is certainly a person not to be trifled with ... WWE returns to Winnipeg for a TV double-header in July for Smackdown and Raw, good tickets are still available.
Pre-order WWE Bad Blood 2004 DVD