WWE’s “SmackDown” is trading the Cylons and ghost hunters of Syfy for a new tag-team partner, the USA Network.
The only pro wrestling show named after a catchphrase, “SmackDown” moves to USA after a five-year run on Syfy and stints on three other networks since its inception in April 1999.
USA has long served as the home of WWE’s flagship show, “Raw,” live every Monday night since 1993.
Now, USA has solidified its spot as the one-stop basic cable network for all WWE programming. “SmackDown,” which is taped each Tuesday, moves to its new home at 8 p.m. Thursday.
All that’s missing is the Ovaltron and giant fist from the show’s original set.
Before he was blockbuster movie star Dwayne Johnson, the man known as The Rock inspired the show’s title with his famous “Lay the smackdown” trash talking and often boasted “SmackDown” was his show.
The Rock’s show could now belong to Roman Reigns, his real-life cousin who stands tall as the WWE World Heavyweight champion.
“I wish I could say (USA) makes a huge difference and it’s a super positive move and everyone’s so pumped about it,” Reigns said. “But as a competitor, all I need is the ropes and hopefully people show up in the arena. From a wrestling standpoint, not too much has changed for us.”
What could change, what needs to change as WWE inches closer to WrestleMania season, is “SmackDown’s spot as the promotion’s B show that lags behind “Raw” in both ratings and can’t-miss storylines.
WWE stalwart John Cena rarely appeared on the show, and neither did the McMahon family over recent years, sending the message that “Smackdown” could be easily skipped and fans could quickly catch up with video recaps on “Raw.”
“I don’t look at it as any less of a show, it’s pretty much the same talent,” Reigns said.
WWE needs a dose of star power and a second primetime spot could help showcase the young talent the promotion is desperately scrambling to push as injuries have taken out Cena and former champion Seth Rollins for WrestleMania on April 3 in Dallas.
Does anyone have Goldberg’s number? How about Batista?
But instead of relying on veterans, WWE could use the show to build the company around Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn or a healthy Antonio Cesaro. Owens can cut a biting promo as well as any heel or fan favorite in sports entertainment and has the size and in-ring ability necessary that should make him WWE’s next true franchise superstar.
WWE had mixed success in its bid to keep separate rosters on “Raw” and “SmackDown” that tried to create perception there were two distinct brands. The dream matches that should have been built never really developed and the brand split was abandoned in 2011.
“It’s been seen and proven that a split brand, it can work. It can create really cool storylines,” Reigns said.
Just not in 2016.
With more than 800 original episodes, “SmackDown” is one of the longest-running weekly episodic program in U.S. television history, and has aired in seven countries including Iraq, Japan, Italy and Mexico.
WWE has revamped the broadcast booth, as well, making veteran sports announcer Mauro Ranallo the new voice of “Smackdown.” Ranallo, who called the international feed for the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight, joins Byron Saxton and Jerry “The King” Lawler in the booth.
Owens vs. Dean Ambrose headlines the first USA card.