SmackDown was pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good in the immediate fallout of the second brand extension.
WWE attempted to differentiate the show from the flagship, and initially, it succeeded. The slight alteration to the hard camera angle literally framed it as something new. Mauro Ranallo's impassioned commentary, while often goofy, lent the action a sense of frenzied urgency. The easygoing chemistry shared by dual babyface stewards Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan was welcome reprieve from the blue balls induced by Stephanie McMahon's constant search of heat. The premise - SmackDown was now the 'Land of Opportunities' - really drove the brand as something refreshing, if not entirely brilliant.
Ultimately, in 2016, this philosophy and the cult affection it generated somehow contrived to get Dolph Ziggler over as a big-time babyface. For a month.
The show has receded drastically, mostly as a result of the personnel changes (we'll get to them). WWE also mistook the popularity of Shane McMahon and pushed him, as an in-ring performer, to an hysterical extent. The change in onscreen administration, much like in politics, revealed in the end that nothing really changes. The same old problems rematerialised. The show's fatalistic B-brand status allowed WWE to experiment with Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion.
That is now a distant memory, and with a strict and demoralising adherence to formula, so much of the show is...