What exactly does WWE think their From the Vault segment on SmackDown achieves?
For those unaware: every week a match from the past is played on SmackDown. It’s always a blue brand match and it’s usually about three years old. It’s sort of like a flashback segment that’s not actually acknowledged by the announce team and is seemingly chosen at random without any thought given to how it will fit with the rest of the show.
The basic concept isn’t a bad one. SmackDown has an extensive backlist of enjoyable matches to draw from featuring talented and popular wrestlers. Putting these matches on TV with ads and entrances edited out is a good way to utilise that backlist and highlight underappreciated workers or matches that are particularly enjoyable. As SmackDown is a wrestling show putting on entertaining wrestling matches is never going to be a bad idea.
Sadly the approach WWE takes with From the Vault is pretty haphazard. The segment currently exists simply to fill time in the broadcast because SmackDown, being a taped show that is recorded on the same night as NXT and the bulk of Superstars, doesn’t run as long as RAW. The reason the announcers never acknowledge From the Vault is because the segment is inserted into the show after the recording has finished. That it’s not introduced or mentioned wouldn’t be a problem if everything else concerning it was done right, but that’s not the case at the moment.
From the Vault would be a great tool to help elevate talent if some thought was put into it. Take Cody Rhodes as an example. 2011 has been one of the best years of his career and he routinely appears in a prominent position on SmackDown. Is it too much to ask to select one of his better matches from a year or two ago to play during From the Vault? That would allow him to appear twice, doubling his air time without making him do any extra work. Surely that’s preferable to a generic match involving Crime Tyme in the same slot?
Another approach that could be tried is taking matches from farther back in the show’s history. The standard FTV seems to be around three years old but SmackDown first aired twelve years ago. There are matches “in the vaults” featuring ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, the Undertaker and many other big names. The promotion is happy enough to rely on these names to help draw buy rates for their current pay-per-view product so why not use them to boost TV ratings as well?
Equally appealing is the idea of opening From the Vault up to include non-SmackDown matches. The Attitude Era is considered one of the greatest periods in wrestling history and WWE owns all the footage produced for it, including ECW and WCW shows and pay-per-views. There are hundreds of matches to choose from, featuring some of the biggest names in wrestling. WWE paid good money for the video libraries of their competitors and worked hard on creating their own so why not put it all to good use in a weekly segment on SmackDown?
Of course, it could be replaced entirely with an fresh idea. A weekly sit down interview would be a nice addition to SmackDown and would help set it apart from RAW. With two television recordings each week and TV studios at their headquarters WWE could easily find time to record interviews of to five to ten minute length. As with From the Vault the interviews would be a great opportunity to put the spotlight on a young wrestler to flesh out their character or gimmick (or both). Some of the veterans under contract could probably be coaxed into telling stories or offering insight that modern fans would find interesting. WWE even has the perfect host under contract: Jim Ross. It’s not like they’re using him for anything else, and as far as wrestling personalities go he’s one of the best choices I can think of for candid interviews.
WWE is unlikely to do any of the above. They see From the Vault simply as a way of filling the minutes in a show that routinely under runs. It’s something that is only ever going to receive the bare minimum amount of attention. The promotion would be against using WCW or ECW footage as they believe it looks like an admission that “the competition” produced better TV than them. The interview idea probably wouldn’t appeal either, because the company has moved away from that approach for television over the years and recently discovered they can make money producing them for DVD releases.
For now we’re stuck with the same bland, uninspiring From the Vault we’ve always had. Let’s just hope SmackDown starts going live on Tuesdays. That should change things for the better.