Notes from a live Smackdown Live

The last time I was at a Smackdown show was in the summer of 2004. A lot has changed since then, but two things were eerily similar: the WWE Champion was a repackaged tag team loser turned into a xenophobia-rustling cartoon character, and Smackdown still feels like the B-show, even if it’s better than Raw.

These notes are from the 8 August 2017 episode of Smackdown. Actual results are here.

  • It feels like a treat to just see wrestlers live. On TV, they’re larger than life, but live in front of you, the performance is king. It’s easier to follow a match live: there are no distracting camera cuts and no commentary. It’s just you and the wrestlers. This Smackdown was no different, even if there were no real standout matches, it’s still special.
  • Wrestling is objectively just better live. Even wrestlers you barely care about are more interesting in person.
  • I was at Raw last year, and the 3-hour runtime was pretty exhausting by the end. Smackdown seemed to fly by. It wasn’t just that it was only two-hours. Commercial breaks seemed shorter. Each scene felt compact, as if they knew they had a lot of ground to cover and needed to keep it moving.
  • Smackdown and Raw really are both the same length of time for the Live audience: roughly 3 hours of televised wrestling with 1 or 2 untelevised matches. Smackdown’s third hour is dedicated to the cruiserweights on the Network-exclusive 205 Live. It’s a lesser show, and it’s presented after Smackdown. It’s a strange setup, and it feels even stranger in person. 205 feels like it should happen as a prelude to Smackdown.
  • The crowd knew 205 was the lesser show, too, as more than a quarter of the people left just after it began. During the commercial break, the announcer let us know there would be a tag team Main event (AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kevin Owens & Baron Corbin), and I wonder if they began doing this as a way to keep people around for 205 Live.
  • That tag match was just pure fun, and reminded me that untelevised WWE matches are much looser, safer, and way more fun to watch than most televised WWE matches. WWE has an untelevised show in Toronto again in December, and I’ll be there for that.
  • Naomi has the best entrance in the entire company.
  • As for what I said above about Smackdown still feeling like a B-show. It’s probably just inertia, but I’ve never really been on “Team Smackdown” as a thing. Even when it’s good, Smackdown still feels like a slightly lesser brand than Raw. Perhaps because it’s not differentiated enough. Perhaps because it went years as a taped, canned, unexciting show, and the brand feels tainted.
  • I was strangely disappointed that John Cena and Baron Corbin sniping at one another at the top of the show didn’t somehow turn into a tag team match. I thought I was watching Smackdown?
  • I had a great time. Go watch live wrestling.