Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Saturday, September 14, 2002
Pro Wrestling--- This week's Smackdown was one of the better WWE shows in recent memory. I wasn't sure where they were going with the whole "Chuck and Billy's same-sex wedding" angle, but I certainly didn't expect the elderly Justice of the Peace to rip his face off and reveal Eric Bischoff underneath, nor did I expect the Island Boys to run out and attack Stephanie McMahon. It's that kind of writing that makes Smackdown a consistently better show than Raw.

Raw and Smackdown had the same basic feel to them until a few months ago when the writing teams were split in half, with Paul Heyman leading the Smackdown team and Brian Gewirtz leading the Raw team (and of course, Vince and Stephanie McMahon supervising both teams). Is it any surprise that Smackdown has since gotten significantly better while Raw has gotten significantly worse? Gewirtz has been intent on producing the Vince Russo style of "Crash TV" for months while only making slightly more sense than Russo did in his WCW days, and his weaknesses as a writer are being increasingly exposed for all to see now that he's in charge of writing Raw. Meanwhile, Heyman manages to forward story lines and have internal logic while also being unpredictable, and letting the wrestlers themselves carry the bulk of each show rather than "sports entertainment segments."

The show-ending angle with The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman on Smackdown is a perfect example of Wrestling Booking 101. Heyman's scummy manager character threatens Taker's pregnant wife Sara, Taker storms backstage and appears to get his hands on one of the heels (Heyman), then the other heel (Brock Lesnar) whacks him in the head with a steel chair. Lesnar then gets himself over as a stronger heel by threatening Sara, and the angle never goes too far for its own good. If Brock had attacked a pregnant woman, even if it's just a story line, that would have been going too far. Thankfully, Heyman the writer (as opposed to Heyman the on-air character) knows where to draw the line.

It also doesn't hurt that Smackdown has exclusive access to the cruiserweight wrestlers, even if they are relegated to the B-show that is Velocity more times than not. Smackdown routinely has in-ring action that rivals some of the WWE's pay-per-view matches, such as Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio, and The Guerreros vs. Edge & John Cena on this week's show. The only wrestlers on Raw who are really exciting to watch in the ring are Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, and maybe Triple H on a good night for him. Getting rid of the Hardcore division was a long-overdue first step, but serious changes need to be made both in the ring and in the writers' meetings if the McMahon family wants to stop the downward trend of Raw's ratings.