WWE: How SmackDown Live became the show to watch

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As wrestling fans prepare for the first episode of WWE SmackDown on FOX, it’s time to take a look back at how the Blue Brand became the promotion’s “A” show.

Raw is WWE’s flagship show. We see it in the ratings, we hear it whenever Paul Heyman speaks, and Vince McMahon himself likes to reinforce the red brand’s superiority in some subtle and not-so-subtle (remember the Survivor Series sweep?) ways. But ever since the brands split in the summer of 2016, WWE SmackDown captured the fan base’s hearts as the show to watch for consistently great wrestling on a weekly basis.

Becky Lynch. AJ Styles. Nikki Bella. Dean Ambrose. The Miz and Maryse. The Usos. Naomi. John Cena. Alexa Bliss. Bray Wyatt. Randy Orton. Natalya.

These were the Superstars who helped make SmackDown Live what it is today by setting the tone in the brand’s first days following the 2016 WWE Draft.

Though SmackDown has changed since then – frustratingly, there’s no more Talking Smack, which was instrumental in building some of WWE’s best characters – the character work and in-ring quality remains at a high level with champions like Kofi Kingston and Bayley. And with Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair, and Kevin Owens on the roster, star power behind the titles isn’t in short supply either.

Here’s a look at how SmackDown became the WWE Universe’s show of choice, focusing on the show’s roots and its unique pillars of strength compared to WWE’s other brands.

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