WWE SmackDown is a brand belonging to professional wrestling promotion named WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) in the United States of America. The brand was first created via a Draft on March 25, 2002, on Monday Night Raw which then got into effect from April 4 onwards. The brand was suspended after August 2011 onwards but got revived in July 2016. Wrestlers assigned by the WWE to the SmackDown brand wrestle mainly on WWE’s weekly show named Friday Night SmackDown on FOX as well as branded and co-branded pay-per-view events or WWE Network specials.
Also helmed as the blue brand, superstars from WWE SmackDown appeared in the Mixed Match Challenge and the Interbrand Worlds Collide events. When the first brand split happened in the early 2000s, they were also seen competing on an exclusive supplementary show, Velocity, and on ECW, through a talent exchange deal.
First brand split (2002–2011)
According to the former creative member of the WWE, Bruce Prichard in his Something to Wrestle podcast released in October 2018, World Wrestling Federation (WWF) had a plan to make introduce WWE SmackDown as an all-women brand. But the decision was put on hold as the company’s female division had a lack of talent. In March 2002, the then WWF carried out the “brand extension” process in which WWE was divided into two branches namely WWE Raw and WWE SmackDown with both sides having separate rosters, storylines, and authority figures.
The two divisions would then go on to compete against each other. The split eventually caused WWE owner Vince McMahon to purchase its two biggest rival promotions, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) that in turn doubled its roster and championships. The brand extension was brought into public during a telecast of Monday Night Raw on March 18. The first draft took place a week later on the March 25 episode of Raw which then became official on the April 1 episode of Raw.
Wrestlers assigned to Raw and SmackDown began to wrestle exclusively on their specific shows from that point. Initially, the Undisputed WWE Championship and WWE Women’s Championship wasn’t part of the split as those two WWE belts would get defended on both the shows. In August 2002, the then WWE Undisputed Champion, Brock Lesnar, refused to defend the belt on Raw, which resulted in the title becoming an exclusive property to WWE SmackDown.
The following week on Raw, General Manager of the show, Eric Bischoff presented a reinstated World Heavyweight Championship to Raw’s designated number one contender Triple H who went on to become the champion, eventually. Thus, Lesnar’s championship was no longer had the tag “undisputed”.
After this, the WWE Women’s Championship had also become a Raw exclusive as well. Since the brand split was in full effect, an annual “draft lottery” was introduced to exchange wrestlers from each roster and so to refresh the lineups. WWE SmackDown used to be home brand for some of the legendary WWE stars including Eddie Guerrero, Big Show, John Bradshaw Layfield, Kurt Angle, Edge, The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Torrie Wilson and more.
Guerrero would go on to capture the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar as part of the show and thus go on to be the main event attraction of WWE SmackDown throughout 2004 and the most popular wrestler of that year. The biggest star of WWE for years to follow was John Cena who also started his WWE career on this brand. The “Doctor of Thuganomics” gimmick increased his popularity on the show. He then went on to win his first WWE Championship as his tenure on the brand continued.
On June 6 of 2005, the then WWE Champion John Cena switched brands from WWE SmackDown to Raw as part of the month-long 2005 Draft lottery. SmackDown was left without a world title for the first time since innovation. On the June 23 episode of WWE SmackDown, the General Manager of the show, Theodore Long scheduled a six-man elimination match between Big Show, Booker T, Chris Benoit, Christian (replacing Big Show, who later got picked by Raw in the lottery), John Bradshaw Layfield, Muhammad Hassan, and The Undertaker to crown the first SmackDown Champion.
On June 30 episode of WWE SmackDown, Layfield aka JBL won the match, but the General Manager would go on to declare stated that even though he had won the match, SmackDown did not need a championship anymore as the then World Heavyweight Champion Batista entered the ring as SmackDown’s final draft lottery pick. Long instead revealed that Layfield was the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship to Batista.
At the SmackDown taping on January 10, 2006, that aired on January 13, Batista had to forfeit the World Heavyweight Championship because of a legitimate triceps injury he suffered at the hands of Mark Henry. Theodore Long then scheduled a battle royal for the vacant title, which was won by Kurt Angle, who was on the Raw brand.
But he then switched to the SmackDown brand for the duration of his reign as the World Heavyweight Champion. On the April 7 episode of WWE SmackDown (taped on April 4), Long brought back the King of the Ring tournament (SmackDown exclusive) after a four-year absence SmackDown. The tournament ended at Judgment Day where Booker T became the winner, defeating Bobby Lashley in the finale and thereby became King Booker.
On October 16, 2007, WWE SmackDown and ECW brands began a talent exchange program that allowed their respective talents to appear and compete on either brand, as ECW was broadcasted live from the same arena where SmackDown was being taped. During the 2008 edition of the WWE Draft, WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown, causing two world championships appearing on the same brand (Edge was the then World Heavyweight Champion) and leaving Raw without a world title.
Edge was attacked by Batista on the June 30 episode of Raw allowing CM Punk to successfully cash in his Money in the Bank contract to become the new World Heavyweight Champion and bringing the World Heavyweight Championship belt back on Raw for the first time since 2005.
It was that same year when for the first time in the history of SmackDown brand a women’s championship namely Divas Championship was introduced. Before that, the Women’s Championship was the only active championship that was exclusive to Raw, meaning that the female stars from the SmackDown brand had no right to compete for the belt. Michelle McCool became the inaugural WWE Divas Champion by defeating Natalya on July 20 at The Great American Bash.
On February 15, 2009, at the No Way Out pay-per-view event, Edge, a member of SmackDown roster won the World Heavyweight Championship in Raw’s Elimination Chamber match, thus making the title, a WWE SmackDown exclusive title. This left the blue brand with two world championships, again.
During the 2009 WWE draft in April, the then WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to Raw while the World Heavyweight Championship was moved to the red brand as Edge lost the title to Cena at WrestleMania XXV and thus leaving WWE SmackDown without a world title.
However, WWE SmackDown soon regained the World Heavyweight Championship at Backlash as Edge invoked his WrestleMania rematch clause and then defeated John Cena to win the championship back in the Last Man Standing match. Besides, Raw and SmackDown exchanged the women-exclusive championships where Raw was in possession of the Divas Championship and SmackDown gaining the Women’s Championship.
WWE Raw and WWE SmackDown also exchanged the mid-card belts, the United States Championship (exclusive to Raw), and the Intercontinental Championship (subsequently exclusive to SmackDown) for the first time since August 25, 2002. On the August 29, 2011 episode of Raw, WWE COO Triple H announced that performers from Raw and SmackDown would no longer be exclusive to their respective brands.
Subsequently, the championships which previously used to be exclusive to one particular show would no longer be effective. This would mark the end of the brand extension as WWE programming and live events started featuring superstars from the entire WWE roster. Stephanie McMahon explained in a 2013 interview with Advertising Age, that WWE decided to end the brand extension as they wanted their content to flow across television and online platforms.
Second brand split (2016–present)
On May 25, 2016, Stephanie and Shane McMahon revealed that the brand extension Draft would return in July. The 2016 WWE Draft took place on the live premiere episode of WWE SmackDown Live on July 19 to determine the rosters of both the brands. Prior to that, on July 11 episode of Raw, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon named Shane McMahon the commissioner of WWE SmackDown.
The next week on Raw, Daniel Bryan was appointed the new General Manager of SmackDown. Since Raw was a three-hour show and SmackDown, a two-hour show, Raw received three Draft picks in each round while SmackDown received two. WWE Champion Dean Ambrose was the first pick of SmackDown.
Since the second brand split, most pay-per-views (except the Big-Four namely WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble) became exclusive to one brand. SmackDown produced brand-exclusive events like Backlash (2016 and 2017), No Mercy (2016), TLC (2016), Elimination Chamber (2017), Money in the Bank (2017), Battleground (2017), Hell in a Cell (2017), Clash of Champions (2017) and Fastlane (2018). After WrestleMania 34, all pay-per-views became dual-branded affairs, again.
During the November 7, 2017 episode of SmackDown, AJ Styles defeated Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship. On April 10, 2018 episode, SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon announced that Daniel Bryan was back as a full-time WWE Superstar and available for the roster after his in-ring return at WrestleMania 34.
Shane thereby accepted Bryan’s resignation from the WWE SmackDown General Manager post. McMahon then named Paige as his replacement as the new SmackDown General Manager, who has retired from WWE in-ring competition due to a neck injury the night before on Raw. During the November 13, 2018 episode of SmackDown, Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles to win the WWE Championship for the first time since 2014.
At the beginning of WWE SmackDown, the Undisputed WWE Championship and the original WWE Women’s Championship were available to both brands. The other present championships were assigned to the brand the champion was a part of. As the brand extension began, WWE SmackDown became a home for the World Tag Team Championships and the original Cruiserweight Championship.
In September 2002, the Undisputed Championship was converted to WWE Championship and got moved to SmackDown as the Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff inaugurated the World Heavyweight Championship on Raw. WWE SmackDown created the WWE Tag Team Championships and then also revived the United States Championship. While the first brand extension draft was going on, these championships switched brands. The Cruiserweight Championship was the only title that never switched brands. It stayed on the blue brand from 2002 until the championship’s retirement on September 28, 2007.
As mentioned earlier, in October 2007, WWE SmackDown and ECW began a talent exchange agreement, which allowed WWE SmackDown talents to appear on ECW programming and vice versa. This also meant that the United States Championship and WWE Tag Team Championships would be shared between the two brands. In July 2008, the Divas Championship was introduced for WWE SmackDown, allowing the blue brand’s female members to compete for a title for the very first time.
When the brand extension ended in August 2011, all WWE Raw and WWE SmackDown titles were merged and allowed to be defended on both the shows. After five years of gap, a new brand extension draft was introduced on July 19, 2016. WWE SmackDown picked the WWE Champion and the Intercontinental Champion, at that time. As SmackDown didn’t have a tag team championship and a women’s championship, the authority figures, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan introduced the SmackDown Tag Team Championship and SmackDown Women’s Championship for the roster.
In the 2017 Superstar Shake-Up, the Intercontinental Championship was moved to Raw and in return, the United States Championship was moved back to WWE SmackDown. The following year during the 2018 edition of Superstar Shake-Up, the United States Championship became a part of Raw but returned to WWE SmackDown the very next night.
At Crown Jewel pay-per-view on October 31, 2019, SmackDown superstar “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt won the Universal Championship from Seth Rollins that brought the title to SmackDown. On the next night’s episode of SmackDown, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar quit SmackDown and went to Raw and thus the prime title became part of the flagship show, again.
Universal Championship: Braun Strowman won on March 25 or 26, 2020 Orlando, Florida by defeating Goldberg at WrestleMania 36 (Aired on tape delay on April 4, 2020)
Intercontinental Championship: AJ Styles won on June 8, 2020, in Orlando, Florida by defeating Daniel Bryan for the vacant title on SmackDown (Aired on tape delay June 12, 2020)
SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura won on July 19, 2020, in Orlando, Florida by defeating The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) in a Tables match at The Horror Show at Extreme Rules
P.S. – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships and the WWE 24/7 Championship can also be defended on SmackDown as they are shared across all the three brands.
World Heavyweight Championship
June 30, 2005 – June 30, 2008
February 15, 2009 – April 5, 2009
April 26, 2009 – August 29, 2011
ECW Championship January 22, 2008 – March 30, 2008
WWE Divas Championship
July 20, 2008 – April 13, 2009
WWE Women’s Championship
April 13, 2009 – September 19, 2010
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
March 25, 2002 – September 28, 2007
Original World Tag Team Championships
March 25, 2002 – July 29, 2002
WWE Tag Team Championships (new)
October 20, 2002 – April 5, 2009
WWE United States Championship
July 27, 2003 – June 23, 2008
July 20, 2008 – April 13, 2009
April 26, 2011 – May 1, 2011
April 11, 2017 – April 16, 2018
April 17, 2018 – April 22, 2019
September 5, 2002 – June 6, 2005
June 23, 2008 – April 13, 2009
July 19, 2016 – November 1, 2019
Pay-per-view and WWE Network events
First brand split events
October 26, 2002: Rebellion at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. Brock Lesnar (c) and Paul Heyman vs. Edge in a Handicap Match for the WWE Championship (each match mentioned in the list are the main event for that respective pay-per-view)
July 27, 2003: Vengeance at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Big Show vs. Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship
October 19, 2003: No Mercy at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. Brock Lesnar (c) vs. The Undertaker in a Biker Chain match for the WWE Championship
February 15, 2004: No Way Out at Cow Palace in Daly City, California. Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Championship
May 16, 2004: Judgment Day at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Eddie Guerrero (c) vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield for the WWE Championship
June 27, 2004: The Great American Bash at Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley) vs. The Undertaker in a Concrete Crypt match
October 3, 2004: No Mercy at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. John “Bradshaw” Layfield (c) vs. The Undertaker in a Last Ride match for the WWE Championship
December 12, 2004: Armageddon at Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia. John “Bradshaw” Layfield (c) vs. Booker T vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. The Undertaker in a Fatal Four-Way Match for the WWE Championship
February 20, 2005: No Way Out at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. John “Bradshaw” Layfield (c) vs. Big Show in a Barbed Wire Steel Cage match for the WWE Championship
May 22, 2005: Judgment Day at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John Cena (c) vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield in an “I Quit” match for the WWE Championship
July 24, 2005: The Great American Bash at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. Batista (c) vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield for the World Heavyweight Championship
October 9, 2005: No Mercy at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Batista (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero for the World Heavyweight Championship
December 18, 2005: Armageddon at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Randy Orton vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match
February 19, 2006: No Way Out at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. Kurt Angle (c) vs. The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship
May 21, 2006: Judgment Day at US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Rey Mysterio (c) vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield for the World Heavyweight Championship
July 23, 2006: The Great American at Bash Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rey Mysterio (c) vs. King Booker for the World Heavyweight Championship
October 8, 2006: No Mercy at RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. King Booker (c) vs. Batista vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Finlay in a Fatal Four-Way Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
December 17, 2006: Armageddon at Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. Batista and John Cena vs. King Booker and Finlay
February 18, 2007: No Way Out at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Batista and The Undertaker vs. John Cena and Shawn Michaels
Second brand split events
September 11, 2016: Backlash at Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship
October 9, 2016: No Mercy at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
December 4, 2016: TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match for the WWE Championship
February 12, 2017: Elimination Chamber at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz in an Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship
May 21, 2017: Backlash at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship
June 18, 2017: Money in the Bank at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a Money in the Bank ladder match for a WWE Championship contract
July 23, 2017: Battleground at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison Match for the WWE Championship
October 8, 2017: Hell in a Cell at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon in a Falls Count Anywhere Hell in a Cell match
December 17, 2017: Clash of Champions at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. AJ Styles (c) vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship
March 11, 2018: Fastlane at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. AJ Styles (c) vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. John Cena in a Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Championship
July 27, 2019: Smackville at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee