Roman Reigns’ Success Shows Raw Is No Longer WWE’s Top Show
SmackDown is doing gangbusters right now and most of that success can be attributed to one man. Roman Reigns. The Big Dog returned to WWE last summer and much to the surprise of fans who had been waiting to see it for years, he had turned heel. Reigns quickly won the Universal Title and has proceeded to make SmackDown must-watch TV in the process. So many fans have been tuning in to see what Reigns will do next that it’s a minor miracle Vince McMahon hasn’t done what he has done so many times in the past. Move his prized possession to Raw.
Acknowledge Your Tribal Chief
Reigns’ returning with a turn was so unbelievable that some fans actually didn’t believe it at first. Most assumed Reigns would live in the grey area between face and heel, or that the hope his heelish actions the night he returned would extend beyond that was just wishful thinking. Here we are nine months later and there is no doubting Reigns is a heel. WWE even pipes in boos when he comes to the ring.
Everyone finally has everything they always wanted. Reigns is WWE’s top Superstar and it’s a version of him fans were asking to see for years. The one element of all this McMahon must hate is that it is happening on SmackDown. Or does he? In the past, a star as big as Reigns would have been plucked from the blue brand and awkwardly shoehorned into an angle on Raw. Not only has that not happened but there hasn’t even been a hint of Reigns being switched.
Raw Over All
Raw has been around a little longer than SmackDown and for the longest time, McMahon made no effort to hide that he thought more of the red brand. The ratings usually reflected that, but for the first time ever, at least consistently, that is not the case. Raw currently draws 1.8 million viewers on a good week. Meanwhile, SmackDown comfortably draws an audience of more than two million per episode.
It’s hard to know whether McMahon values Raw more, or it’s the ratings element that has made him refrain from performing the old switcheroo with Reigns. Although SmackDown has never beaten Raw in the ratings in this way before, whenever a star has been deemed too big for Team Blue by the chairman, he has moved them back to Raw. Kurt Angle recently spoke of a time that happened after switching brands just days before. It also happened with Triple H during one of the first drafts. The Game was moved to SmackDown in a groundbreaking trade, only for McMahon to realize what he had done and move The Game back almost immediately.
Plenty Of Chances
It’s not as if McMahon hasn’t had the opportunity to switch Reigns to Raw. There was a full draft back in October of last year. Fans might have even been okay with Reigns changing brands at that point, even though the reason for the switch would have been somewhat transparent. McMahon neglected on that occasion, and honestly, has not needed an excuse in the past as demonstrated above. WWE Superstars are his pawns. McMahon can place them wherever he likes, even if there is no rhyme nor reason for the switch. Remember the Superstar Invitational where people could basically show up on whatever show they liked? Proof of that in action.
SmackDown is obviously a lot different than it was during previous eras. Prior to 2016, the show wasn’t even live. In defense of McMahon, the live show should probably take precedent over one that is pre-taped regardless of seniority. It is also on Fox, a network that paid more than $1 billion for the rights to air the show. If McMahon were to take Reigns from Fox with either no explanation or, even worse, “we need him on Raw, you know, the show on a rival network”, odds are that wouldn’t have sat well with the executives who coughed up that cash.
The feeling that Reigns is safe from an inexplicable switch at any time is rather comforting. Not only would it damage SmackDown, it’s hard to imagine what the anchor of the show would be without him, but it might also derail what WWE is trying to do with The Tribal Chief right now. A story is being told and the company is demonstrating it does still know how to long-term book.
The beauty of a two-hour show is Reigns doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. That would almost definitely happen on Raw no matter how many segments he appears in. Raw has no stand-out star right now because with three hours to fill every single week, there simply can’t be. Well, Tribal Cheif Reigns might be good enough to make that happen, we just hope WWE doesn’t roll the dice and tests whether he can.