Fan interest in the WWE peaked on August 17, 2014 when Brock Lesnar destroyed John Cena to win the WWE Championship. The product was stale through the fall, awful through the winter and we are currently in the midst of the least exciting WrestleMania season in years. The WWE has 8 hours of televised wrestling every single week across 5 shows. The WWE needs to shake things up to keep the WWE Universe wanting to invest that much time out of their week to watch the product.
In March 2002, the WWE officially split into two brands, Vince McMahon “owned” Smackdown and Ric Flair “owned” RAW. Both owners took part in a brand split Draft. This led to the WWE operating under these separated brands until August of 2011 when Triple H extinguished the very idea of separate brands by announcing on TV that Raw and Smackdown superstars would be able to compete on both TV shows.
The WWE can add value to their 8 hours of television every week by bringing back the brand split the night after WrestleMania. This proposal is going to include some “fantasy booking”, but will be kept within a realistic realm in which the WWE would actually operate.
Monday Night RAW – The First Tier: Monday night’s will operate much like they did during the original brand split. This is the show that you have the most eyeballs on and it will continue to be WWE’s flagship brand. The top stars will migrate to Monday’s and this show will be the same Kevin Dunn/Vince McMahon production you see now. Heavy on storylines, and not so focused on the in ring action. This will cater to the casual fans. The Raw brand will be showcased on “Monday Night Raw” and “WWE Superstars”. The WWE Championship will be exclusive to Raw since this is the top tier in this three tier system. The United States Championship will also be exclusive to Raw to help build the mid card of the First Tier and will be the focus of “WWE Superstars”. The top six superstars that Raw will be built around are:
- John Cena: The flagship show is going to need the flagship Superstar.
- Roman Reigns: In this scenario Reigns wins the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, and he can continue his ascent to the top of the WWE.
- Rusev: Working within the “tier” system Rusev has already developed good enough to be a top heel for the flagship show.
- Bray Wyatt: This will create another top heel for Raw that is completely different from Rusev and can add to the storyline heavy Raw.
- Randy Orton: Orton provides Raw with a top superstar that can be a gate keeper for the rising superstars on Raw.
- Seth Rollins: Seth is an elite heel in WWE right now and at 28, Seth has many, many years ahead of him to work as a top star.
Thursday Night Smackdown – The Second Tier: Smackdown will be the “workrate” brand that will be catered to the ardent fans. Smackdown will serve as a showcase for the best in-ring work in WWE, as well as give up-and-coming Superstars a chance to work out any kinks they may have before making it to Raw. Promotion to the first tier can be explained with a Superstar’s contract expiring on Smackdown or an occasional trade between brands. Smackdown can serve as a place for floundering Raw superstar can go to evolve or change their gimmick with some added spotlight. The Intercontinental Championship will be the top title for Smackdown superstars. A prominent position on Smackdown will help elevate the prestige of the IC title as well as avoid confusion over “world championships” that ensued when the WWE had two world titles. The Smackdown roster will be showcased on “Thursday Night Smackdown” as well as “WWE Main Event.” (At the time of this article, access to Main Event in the United States is up in the air, but it is accessible on Hulu Plus, so why not advertise this to please WWE’s sponsors?) The top six Superstars that Smackdown will be built around are:
Daniel Bryan- In order to create a difference between both brands it is important that the star of Smackdown is the antithesis of the top star on Raw. Bryan will also bring the
hardcore/savvy fans to Smackdown.
- Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler is not quite ready for the top tier of WWE, but he is close. Ziggler needs to work on his promos and working a style that elevates him as well as
his opponent. Smackdown provides Ziggler with this opportunity.
- Luke Harper: Harper is one of the best workers in the WWE and could benefit most from a brand split. Harper could be in the “Kane” role. A big man/monster for the next
10 years, only he would have better matches.
- Dean Ambrose: Smackdown is to be the workhorse brand, but it will still need storylines. What better guy for that than Ambrose? This will bring in those die hard fans and keep Ambrose separate from Rollins which is a big money feud the WWE can always go back to down the road.
- Sheamus: Already has four World Championships to his name and can be the top heel or the gate keeper for Smackdown.
- Bad News Barrett: Much like Ziggler, Barrett has been bobbing around the top tier his whole career, but hasn’t been able to break through that glass ceiling yet. Barrett can be a top heel or babyface whenever you need him.
Take a look at these 12 superstars and think of the rest of the roster that went unmentioned and could be dispersed between these shows. The WWE still has Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, the Uso’s, Erick Rowan, The Miz, Damien Mizdow, Kofi Kingston, Ryback, Cody Rhodes and a plethora of guys not getting quality TV time.
NXT – The Third Tier: NXT will operate as is. NXT is the developmental brand of WWE. The only difference will be how the Superstars get called up. Whenever an NXT Superstar is ready, they will be a “free agent,” eligible to sign to Raw or Smackdown. The majority of the time they will end up on Smackdown to complete the tier system. Superstars will develop their act on NXT, evolve it in front of a bigger audience on Smackdown where everything is pre-taped giving them a chance to hide their weakness, and then make it to the Promised Land on Raw. There will be rare occasions where NXT Superstars are ready to leap frog the second tier (see: Balor, Finn).
Pay Per Views:
In 2003, WWE had the idea to have brand exclusive PPVs. The WWE will bring that back in this scenario. The “Big Four” PPVs (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, Summerslam, Survivor Series) will be the only time we will see desegregation between the Raw and Smackdown rosters. The other 8 PPV’s will be split into exclusive PPV’s with four per brand.
Brand exclusive PPV’s are a great idea. Storylines and feuds are allowed to breathe when you have to wait up to two months for the blow-off matches. Championships feel more important when they are defended in big matches less often. The only reason brand exclusive PPV’s didn’t work in 2003 was because the WWE was asking fans to pay $30-$40 for only half their roster. The inception of the WWE Network makes this an easy model that won’t cheapen the fan’s dollar.
Brand Segregation: The most important aspect of the brand split is to keep the brands separate. The aforementioned PPV model will only give the rosters four times a year to interact with each other. Even then, the rosters will only interact in the following scenarios:
- Royal Rumble PPV: Each brand will enter 15 superstars into the Royal Rumble match. This will give fans glimpses of interaction amongst the brands without giving away any future dream matches.
- WrestleMania: The granddaddy of all PPV’s should only ever include a onetime match between brands here and there (i.e. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21)
- Summerslam: This PPV can act as a big time event to showcase both rosters without segregated matches.
- Survivor Series: Survivor Series can include one Raw vs. Smackdown 5 on 5 Survivor Series main event in the same vain as the “Bragging Rights” PPV of old. This will, again, keep future dream matches to a minimum and maybe could be the beginning of that one rare Raw vs. Smackdown match at WrestleMania.
- WWE Tag Team Championships: The WWE does not have enough of a tag team division to have separate tag team titles. The WWE Tag Team Champions will be able to travel to both brands similar to how the NWA champion would travel to different territories back when the territories were relevant. This can still hide those 1 on 1 dream matches while building up the tag division.
- Divas Championship: Ever since the debut of the Total Divas TV show on E!, the WWE has increased the number of Divas storylines on TV. We have seen a slow ascent in the focus on the Divas division as they have been given more time on PPVs and have had longer matches, sometimes even more than one match. The Divas champion will be able to float between Raw and Smackdown to defend their championship. If the Divas champion is feuding with a Diva on Raw, then WWE can focus on a different Divas feud on Smackdown.
Brand Separation: The WWE will create an atmosphere that these are two totally different brands. Raw will continue to be the Kevin Dunn production and will not operate too differently from how it does now. Triple H and Stephanie can still be the authority figures on Raw. Smackdown will have a different authority figure. If you want to go the route of Sting coming out of WrestleMania somehow gaining 50% of the company that would be fine and a thing WWE would probably do. Paul Heyman would be an obvious choice if we are trying to cater to the hardcore fans. Heyman will need something to do if Brock Lesnar doesn’t re-sign with the WWE. To style things differently than Raw, Smackdown should have a different production team altogether (meaning no Kevin Dunn). This is an idea that Alex Greenfield and Court Bauer have mentioned proposing back when they were both on the Smackdown writing team and would make Smackdown look completely different than Raw. Smackdown could also be a place for the WWE to branch out and try different production techniques, different camera angles, different backstage segment styles, etc.
WWE has already reported wanting to add an emphasis on Smackdown since moving to Thursday nights this past January. Daniel Bryan has already claimed to want to be the face of Smackdown. WWE puts out 8 hours of TV every week and the majority of their fans only watch three hours of Raw and get their fill. Smackdown, Main Event, and Superstars are just shows with longer matches and lots of recaps of Raw. Let’s change this philosophy and make Smackdown must-see TV as well as adding interest to the C-shows, Superstars and Main Event.
Bring back the WWE brand split.
Weekly Soapbox Awards:
Wrestler of the Week – Finn Balor: This guy continues to look like a star every week on NXT. Balor had a really good match with a returning Brian Kendrick, continued his storyline feud with Rhyno and added anticipation for the eventual Balor vs. Kevin Owens match for the NXT Championship.
Diva of the Week – Paige: This was a quiet week for Divas. Becky Lynch had a decent showing on NXT, but this award goes to Paige. Paige’s interaction with her new tag team partner, Emma, is intriguing. Paige’s anti-diva attitude is a nice combination with Emma’s infectious personality. Paige had a solid showing in the Bella Twin vs. Paige and Emma match on Main Event. Paige came in off the hot tag and looked like the Paige we remember from NXT. Paige’s Triple Short Armed Clotheslines is a great signature for her. This match proved that Paige has floundered on the main roster only because the Divas don’t get the focus or time they do in NXT. #GiveDivasAChance
Match of the Week – Lucha Dragons vs. Brass Ring Club on Main Event: The Lucha Dragons returned from their roster debut the previous week and had their best performance as a tag team against Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. Kalisto entered the ring to little fanfare, but quickly got the crowd behind him with a flawless execution of all of his signature moves. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd continued to show their chemistry when Kidd hit a stiff kick and Cesaro hit an even stiffer uppercut for the win.
Hidden Gem of the Week – Luke Harper vs. Kofi Kingston on Superstars: Luke Harper is the most underrated worker on the WWE roster and he continued to show that talent here. Kofi was able to work his signature high flying offense around Harper. This was a really solid match and I recommend everyone to seek it out on the Network.
That’s all for this week! Stepping off the soapbox! You can follow me on Twitter @MrTCMitchell for more, and leave YOUR feedback about the WWE brand split in the comments or on the VOW forums.