WWE’s arrangement of programming could use some tweaks, so here’s my proposal. The goals are to spread programming out to different days, test emerging platforms, and give buried talent more chances higher up the card.
First, let’s talk about changes to the existing shows. On Raw, I would reduce the runtime to two hours (from three). That will lead to some ad money loss, but it should be worth it to run a shorter, a tighter show. Plus, we’ll need that hour elsewhere in the week, and we don’t want to have too much programming.
On Smackdown, the big change is to move it off a cable network. We want to protect against dwindling cable subscribers, and give people without cable exposure to the product. I have personal experience with this, because my attraction to wrestling began with Smackdown’s run on UPN, an over-the-air network. Without that, I never would have been able to watch it at home, and wouldn’t have been hooked by Attitude Era shenanigans.
On NXT, I would move the show to Thursdays (we need Wednesday for something else…), and be quicker to call up talent that’s ready for the main roster. Basically, we want to make sure NXT is fulfilling its mission of being a developmental system, and doesn’t get clogged up by big names from outside sticking around for too long. You could also extend NXT to two hours, but I’d let the other changes settle before deciding to do that.
We’re going to cancel 205 Live because we need that hour of programming in our pocket. The cruiserweights as a division will be disbanded, with the talent spread over the other brands. The Cruiserweight Title will stay, and will be a floating title across all brands. That will lead to some interesting cross-roster matches and will allow smaller performers to take part in any storyline without being pigeonholed into a group. For example, Finn Balor could contend for the Cruiserweight title while other things are happening in the main event scene without ‘becoming a cruiserweight.’ These sorts of things could lend some major legitimacy to the belt.
Okay, that covers the existing products. We made Raw shorter, put Smackdown in new homes, cleared the schedule on Wednesdays, rededicated to NXT’s purpose, and canceled 205 Live while freeing the people and belt to do better things.
It is time for the next big step: a new brand on a new platform. I’m proposing the creation of WWE Thunder, a two-hour show on Wednesdays. It will air on an ‘new media’ platform such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Twitch. This will allow people who prefer to get content from those sites (damn millenials) or don’t have a TV to experience WWE’s product. I think you could also convince a non-zero number of them to pick up a WWE Network subscription if you give them a solid product. Facebook or Twitch seem like the most natural fit, but don’t sleep on the goodwill WWE could gain with independent promotions and fans by starting a partnership with YouTube and convincing them to mark wrestling as advertiser-friendly (it’s an issue right now).
Thunder’s two hours would be a substitute for Raw’s third hour and 205 Live, so we aren’t net gaining any airtime, but we are creating interest with a strong new show in a new place. The Thunder name is a callback to an old WCW program, which I enjoy. I imagine Thunder would use the color green or something as branding. Thunder would use a separate roster, just like Raw and Smackdown, so there will be three main brands. This will open up more upper- and mid- card spots for deserving superstars. The titles are easy to figure out: revive the big gold World Championship as the main event belt, use the UK Championship as the mid-card belt, use the Mae Young Classic to introduce a women’s belt, and use an upcoming tag team tournament to introduce a tag belt.
For the roster, we’ll first expand the main shows’ talent pool through the Mae Young and tag team tournaments, promoting a wave of NXT stars, adding some cruiserweights back in, and grabbing some of the UK Tournament folks. Thunder’s launch will be prefaced with another brand split / superstar draft, because those special events are always fun and draw lots of attention. Doing a three-brand draft will help distribute talent relatively evenly and prevent the expansion-team feel that could occur if staffing Thunder with just NXT call ups and Raw/Smackdown castoffs. Personally, I would try to give Thunder an indie feel (similar to what NXT is now), and staff it accordingly. I would emphasize having great performers, excellent matches, and stories that make sense. Because Thunder is available to ‘everyone,’ put your best foot forward and see if you can convert some fans.
For PPVs, I would promote Money in the Bank to become one of the new ‘Big 5’ (alongside Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam, and Survivor Series). MITB is a fun concept that has major implications for storylines, so I think it is deserving of being a cross-brand show. NXT would get Takeovers alongside those five. I would give each of the three brands three PPVs per year. I would also have a once-a-year Southpaw Regional Wrestling show because that’s one of the best things WWE has done in years and would be a great break. I would also bring back King of the Ring as a yearly tournament on the WWE Network (potentially as a replacement for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale), and do a yearly tournament aimed at finding new talent in the vein of the UK Tournament, Cruiserweight Classic, and Mae Young Classic. That’s a solid lineup.