WRESTLING fans are counting down the days to Wrestlemania 36.
The annual showpiece is still going ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic and former NFL star Rob Gronskowski is set to host a two-night extravaganza.
But if you’re new to the WWE universe, the terms SmackDown, Raw and NXT might mean nothing to you – so SunSport is here to help.
What are the WWE brands?
SINCE 2002, the WWE has split its talent pool into two distinct brands.
Originally, Raw and SmackDown were the names of the two most popular shows featuring then WWF wrestlers.
With an ever-expanding amount of performers joining the organisation, it was decided to split into two groups to give all wrestlers the same exposure.
This means that fighters in Raw have their own storylines, separate to those in Smackdown – and the shows are broadcast on different evenings.
There were several changes to the formula under 2016, when the so-called ‘new era’ came into force.
Raw and SmackDown wrestlers will rarely mix and they come together just four times a year in big pay-per-view shows.
These shows – known as the Big Four – are WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble.
Here are the key characteristics of each:
- The ropes are blue in SmackDown, red in Raw.
- Raw wrestlers include Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and Sasha Banks.
- SmackDown stars include John Cena, Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton.
- Raw shows run for three hours, SmackDown for two hours.
- Different storylines, although they sometimes intertwine.
Some wrestlers, such as Brock Lesnar, have appeared in both brands – he was signed to Smackdown in the 2019 draft despite spending most of his career with Raw.
Lesnar is the current WWE champion having won his crown at SmackDown’s 20th Anniversary in 2019.
But in November 2019, Lesnar dramatically quit SmackDown and headed back to Raw, taking the title with him.
Stars from both Raw and SmackDown will be appearing at Wrestlemania 36.
What is the NXT?
ALONGSIDE SmackDown and Raw, there is also the NXT and NXT UK.
Founded in 2010, it was designed to be a talent pool for wrestlers who wanted to then graduate into the WWE through the draft.
Over time though, NXT has become a brand all of it’s own and has established its own unique characters and storylines – with one of its most famous names being British star Paige, who won the inaugural women’s championship back in 2012.
The NXT has made it’s way to these shores, with the NXT London takoever in 2015 a resounding success as Finn Balor beat Samoa Joe in the main event.
While the most recent event on this side of the pond was NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool II.
When is WrestleMania 36?
THE annual extravaganza was due to take place in Tampa Bay on April 5 until the coronavirus outbreak forced it off.
This week the historic announcement was made that WrestleMania 36 will now be hosted by NFL legend Rob Gronkowski over two nights in various closed set locations over Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 of April.
As such, it will be pre-recorded and no fans will be in attendance.
Stars such as Lesnar may not be able to attend though, with the WWE champion hampered by Covid-19 border closures between Canada and the USA.