A few months back, I wrote a piece entitled What’s wrong with Raw? In that post, I posited that Raw had too much talking and not enough wrestling, and that it was making the show nearly unwatchable. It turns out I was wrong. It’s not that there was too much talking, it’s that the people who were talking didn’t give the fans enough of a reason to care about what they were saying.
If you’re not emotionally involved in a feud, and you’re watching or attending a wrestling show, you’d rather just see them wrestle than talk. The feuds I mentioned in that piece were Reigns-Lashley, Bliss-Jax, and Rawley-No Way Jose. Reigns-Lashley was a snoozefest until they finally just started beating the shit out of each other one night, and then the feud disappeared. Bliss-Jax focused more on Ronda Rousey than the two competitors, and Mojo and No Way Jose are too far down the card to do anything meaningful. That’s what Raw did/does wrong. They don’t build feuds well enough for the fans to care.
Which brings me to SmackDown, and, as the title of this post suggests, why it is appointment television right now. Randy Orton for multiple weeks destroyed Jeff Hardy with extreme prejudice. He memorable tore away and Jeff’s ear holes on more than one occasion. He cut an eerie promo about why he was targeting Jeff, and how Jeff represented the fans themselves. It made it personal not just with Jeff Hardy, but with the fans. That feud is better than any feud on Raw, and it may only be the fourth-best feud on SmackDown. The torrential nature of the feud has lead us to a Hell in a Cell match between the two.
Daniel Bryan and The Miz have so much history and have been building their feud for years. Also fuck Brie Bella. But they now have their families involved and Miz and Maryse cut promos and commit heinous sneak attacks which bring so much hate and vitriol from the fan base. I watch because every week I want to see him get punched in the face. How could you NOT want to punch this:
Samoa Joe is stalking AJ Styles’ family. Each week I can’t wait to see what Joe is going to say and do next, and how AJ is going to respond and finally put a stop to it. How much more personal can you get by having one man trying to cuck another’s family. It’s the ultimate insult and the ultimate attack on AJ’s manhood, not to mention a threat to his wife and children. It makes it feel real, and people can relate to it, and think about what they would do (or even have done) in AJ’s position.
Then there’s the crème de la crème, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. Charlotte was initially positioned as the face and Becky as the heel, but that’s not the way it’s playing out with the WWE Universe. Charlotte is not very relatable. She’s a child of privilege, growing up in one of wrestling’s royal families. She’s cocky and arrogant, went to college on a volleyball scholarship, and wins titles seemingly at will. Of course it’s obvious that she works hard, is an incredible athlete, and deserves all the accolades, but in kayfabe world, she’s a stuck up bitch who’s been handed everything. Then you have Becky Lynch, who left home to become a wrestler as a teenager, and has been portrayed as the bridesmaid but never the bride. She is the sidekick, the friend, the runner-up. She always comes up just a little short, and constantly had to watch her best friend succeed where she failed. It’s no wonder the crowd has been behind her over The Queen. This is the quintessential relatable feud. It harkens back to when Dusty Rhodes feuded with Ric Flair. The Flairs are perfect foils to the relatable blue-collar wrestler.
I am certainly drawn in by the feud between The Shield and pretty much the entire heel locker room on Raw. But none of that is relatable. It’s entertaining for sure, but not relatable. It’s not personal. I can’t think of a single feud on Raw that is personal or relatable. SmackDown has long been referred to as the “B-Show”, but it’s certainly been an A+ this summer.