In the wake of Mr. McMahon’s earth-shattering announcement that next week will feature a Superstar Shake-up, competitors on both Raw and SmackDown LIVE are wondering which brand they’ll call home when all is said and done.
Arguably, the Women’s division will be impacted the most from the Shake-up. Since the Brand Extension Draft last July, the two-brand system has helped propel the Women’s Revolution to a whole a new level of success, but which brand is better for the future of female competition moving forward?For the Women’s division, SmackDown LIVE is the brand of opportunity
Ever have that overriding, intangible sensation when you walk into a room and you can just feel the uncanny amount of passion, grit and sacrifice that it’s filled with?
That, without question, is precisely the atmosphere that’s been created at SmackDown LIVE, a brand that has served as an incredible environment for the advancement of the women’s locker room. With that in mind, every female competitor should be hoping that they will be a member of the SmackDown LIVE Women’s division when the dust settles after next week’s Superstar Shake-up.
Since the Brand Extension this past summer, SmackDown LIVE has been the destination for the best the Women’s Revolution has to offer. Team Blue touts itself as the land of opportunity, and quite simply, the treatment of the Women’s division is proof and parcel of that fact.
“Our women are all featured all the time,” two-time SmackDown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss said. “We have such a strong division — we don’t have a weak link. And we’ve been given the opportunity to show multiple times that our women can showcase and showcase well. The overall philosophy of the show is definitely going to allow us to bring this revolution to the next level.”
And what a philosophy it is. The blue brand has never been afraid to allow its women to carry the ball and operate on the same level as their male contemporaries. SmackDown LIVE’s female Superstars have innovated and delivered in equal measure, as fans have witnessed everything from a SmackDown Women’s Championship Steel Cage Match main event between Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch to a raucous Falls Count Anywhere bout between Nikki Bella and Natalya that left the WWE Universe buzzing.
Natalya reflected on what the women have done on SmackDown LIVE and does not mince words on how the energy and general underdog nature of the brand has helped move them forward.
“We’re just better,” The Queen of Hart(less) said. “We have this energy about us [that] we can conquer anything. We’re like the little engine that could. When [your show] has this underdog vibe, that is the uprising that people just bite onto.”
It’s notable that the smaller roster size of Team Blue has played into its success. The women get a real opportunity to be the focal point of SmackDown LIVE week after week, and because of that, a focal point of the WWE Universe’s reaction to the show.
Perhaps the greatest reflection of this idea came on the Feb. 21 edition of SmackDown LIVE, where the Women’s division commanded most of the two-hour show: Naomi had to relinquish the SmackDown Women’s Championship due to injury in a heart-wrenching address to the WWE Universe, Bliss edged Lynch to claim the vacated title and Natalya bested Nikki in the previously mentioned Falls Count Anywhere Match.
Raw Women’s Champion Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax rocked WrestleMania 33’s Raw Women’s Championship Fatal 4-Way Match, but SmackDown LIVE has offered so many fresh matchups and new Superstars. The Women’s division overall is the strongest it’s ever been, but the core of that strength resides on SmackDown LIVE, an environment that will continue to breed success for whichever women are a part of Team Blue after next week’s Superstar Shake-up — period. — RYAN PAPPOLLA
As WWE’s flagship show, Raw is the place where the Women’s division reaches the next level
A polite word, first, for the competition: SmackDown LIVE’s Women’s division has come alive in a way that even the most optimistic of the WWE Universe probably didn’t expect. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan have taken comeback kids (Nikki Bella, Mickie James), experienced veterans (Natalya), momentous young talent (Becky Lynch, Naomi) and raw, untested prospects (Alexa Bliss, Carmella) and turned those ingredients into a potpourri of tremendously entertaining, compelling television. Kudos.
That being said, the Women’s Revolution has always been about breaking boundaries. And when there are boundaries to be broken and taboos to be dispelled, you always, always — before and after the Superstar Shake-up — look to Raw.
“We did a Falls Count Anywhere Match,” Charlotte Flair said of the opportunities that Team Red has offered herself and Sasha Banks. “We main-evented Raw three different times, we main-evented a pay-per-view, [and] we were in the first-ever [Women’s] Hell in a Cell Match.”
Apart from those historic matches, the three-hour Raw is a brand where a Superstar can truly receive maximum exposure and where the WWE Universe will whole-heartedly embrace a dynamic persona.
Case in point, the emergence of Bayley and Nia Jax, a universally beloved underdog and a pure powerhouse, the likes of which haven’t been seen in the Women’s division in a long time. The Huggable One, in particular, has struck a prescient chord both in the audience and the locker room as one of the most unconventional and respected champions since Daniel Bryan. The net total of all of this leaves Raw as the go-to destination for WWE viewers who prefer their history to be made on a weekly basis, a distinction that’s unlikely to change no matter who ends up traded to SmackDown LIVE in the imminent Shake-up.
“Our Raw Women’s division has put on some of the greatest matches in WWE history,” said Nia Jax, who challenged for the division’s championship at WrestleMania along with Charlotte and Sasha.
And while each Superstar interviewed acknowledged the intrigue of the SmackDown LIVE ladies’ locker room and the mutual benefits the two shows provide each other, they were quick to say that Team Red sets the tone.
“It’s actually crazy to think if you sit around and think about it; we’re equal to [the men],” Banks said of the Raw women’s main-event status, which is something SmackDown LIVE has yet to replicate. (They did, however, smash one taboo Raw missed out on: The first-ever Women’s Tables Match.)
With Emma’s return, Alicia Fooooox shaking things up by splitting time between Raw and 205 Live and who knows what else on the horizon, the stage is set for the women’s various goals — Sasha threw out tag team titles; Nia advocated for a Women’s main event at WrestleMania — to be realized. Given SmackDown’s current reputation as a proving ground, it stands to reason that the ladies of Team Red might be getting that nod first, though few went so far as to call the women of Team Blue their outright rivals.
“Any kind of competition is healthy competition,” said an ironically diplomatic Charlotte.
But given that the Superstar Shake-up will likely feature some crisscrossing within the division’s members, it’s both fair and expected that some Team Blue members would want to jump over to the flagship. SmackDown LIVE may be the show where opportunities are given, but Raw is the show where those opportunities bear fruit. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
Which brand do you think is better for the future of the Women’s division?