The latest on the WWF’s ”Smackdown!”
I’m worried about the World Wrestling Federation’s ”Smackdown!” on UPN. No, I’m not one of those doomsday TV writers who’s going to decry the presence of ”sports entertainment” on — Lord help us! — broadcast television.
I’m a WWF fan, and I was excited to get an extra two-hour fix each week (in addition to USA Network’s ”Raw Is War” on Mondays) of the league’s sweaty, avant-garde performance art — until I watched ”Smackdown!” in its entirety and was completely underwhelmed. It seems distressingly clear that those fecund, brilliantly sick minds over at WWF headquarters just don’t have enough plotlines in their heads to fill an extra two hours each week.
If the Sept. 2 ”Smackdown!” was any indication, the WWF’s UPN incarnation is going to be chockful of… filler. Sure, the new show has slick, futuristic graphics and a ”Lost in Space”-style set — cool oval Titantron! — but when it comes to content, this is ”Raw” without the punch. First of all, in order to come up with 120 minutes of action, the stories had to be stretched woefully thin, meaning each of the characters came out way too many times during the night.
Now, I love the Rock as much as the next jabroni, but even the most electrifying man in sports entertainment today can fall prey to overexposure. And when the big stars weren’t on the screen, ”Smackdown!” wasted way too much time on boring B-listers in meaningless, non-story-line-advancing matches. I doubt even WWF owner Vince McMahon was interested in that snoozer tag team fight featuring Viscera and Mideon versus the Holly brothers.
What’s so frustrating about this is that ”Smackdown!” has the potential to be a creative expansion of the WWF oeuvre. The show I watched did display some flashes of genius — as in the hideous yet hilarious taped piece (shot in a hotel room) where the Big Bossman served Al Snow a Chinese meat dish that turned out to be made from Snow’s kidnapped little doggie, Pepper!
While these out-of-ring antics are nothing new for WWF, they offer the best way for ”Smackdown!” to a) set itself apart from ”Raw” and b) serve as a supplement to the storytelling rather than a retread. Wrestling fans would still flock to the UPN show if it was a forum for funny filmed segments — the Rock does man on the street interviews, Chyna relaxes at home while waterproofing her leather bikini, Mr. Ass works out to ”Buns of Steel.” (Of course there could still be matches -? say two big-name bouts and one interesting undercard fight.)
So take a camera along and let these ”sports entertainers” loose in the world on Thursday nights — THEN I just might choose UPN over Must See TV.