By now, it’s no secret that World Wrestling Entertainment is moving its secondary show, SmackDown, to Tuesday nights beginning July 19th and will be airing it live. If that news weren’t big enough, WWE is also bringing back the brand extension, meaning that both Raw and SmackDown will have unique rosters that will only appear on their respective shows. Now many media outlets have lambasted this decision, citing that this was ultimately a failed endeavor the last time WWE did this. However, I posit that this will be beneficial for the brand and for the entire promotion in general. I could think of a hundred reasons why, but I’ve narrowed it down to the top seven.
1. It Provides a Much Needed Shake up in This ‘New Era’- For nearly a year, the Authority, hell, the entire marketing department of World Wrestling Entertainment, have been beating us over the heads with this whole new era that they keep going on about. You can’t call it a new era if all you’re doing is bringing up a bunch of new talent from NXT, only to have your creative team make the same mistakes with them that they make with the veteran talent over and over again. A paradigm shift like a brand extension could breathe new life into a product that has, excluding blips like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan for example, been stale for the better part of five years. Come July 19th, it will truly feel like a ‘new era’.
2. SmackDown Will No Longer Be the Red Headed Stepchild of WWE Television- When SmackDown debuted in 1999, it really shook up the foundation of the product…for all of about a year or so. With it being on network TV and having an earlier start time than Raw, the show at times felt like a sterile version of Raw. Also, it didn’t help that important angles or guest stars would appear, nine times out of ten, on Raw. If you also factor in that SmackDown is taped AND that WWE has a habit of editing in crowd cheers and boos to show certain protected superstars in a certain light, it’s easy to see why casual viewers have tuned out due to lack of importance and the hardcore audience would rather read the live results online than watch. The move to USA (the same network as Monday Night Raw) and the addition of possibly the greatest announcer of this decade, Mauro Ranallo, were huge steps in the right direction. This next step should make SmackDown as close to an equal of Raw as possible.
3. Shane and Stephanie McMahon Can Each Run A Show- It was interesting seeing both of the McMahon siblings trying to coexist peacefully, while each trying to stress their concept of what’s “best for business”…for about two weeks. Creative seems to be hitting the same story beats with this particular angle. Shane retaining control of Raw while Stephanie is running SmackDown, or vice versa, will bring a merciful end to their passive aggressive game of one-upmanship on each episode of both shows.
4. Unique Roster Means Less Overexposure- There are more than a handful of fans that not only detest company babyfaces like John Cena, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton, but will actively boo them at televised WWE events. There’s a vocal portion of the WWE universe that will cheer heels like Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens or Seth Rollins, even though the commentators will beat you over the head with how ‘evil’ they are. One of the things that pushes the fan base towards trolling tactics is seeing the same thing presented in the same way ad nauseum. Separate rosters means that WWE won’t be able to lean on the usual suspects over and over. They will be forced to go deep into their bench and shine the spotlight on those who haven’t been given the proper chance to showcase what they can do. At least, with distinct rosters, the audience won’t feel as if the same superstars are being forced down their throats to the degree they are right now.
5. Unique Roster Means Less Injuries- Over the past eighteen months, the WWE roster has been plagued by the injury bug. Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Emma, Sasha Banks, Enzo Amore, Seth Rollins and even John Cena himself have been out of action for time ranging from several weeks to several months. These athletes work over 300 days per year and put in hard matches on live television and at untelevised house shows. Cutting their television appearances in half should significantly decrease the chances of freak rotator cuff injuries, ACL/MCL tears or concussions.
6. Survivor Series Will Actually Be Considered One of the Big Four Pay-Per-View Events Again- The traditional five-on-five tag team match at WWE’s November event, Survivor Series started losing meaning going into the 21st Century. But once the first brand split occurred in 2002, World Wrestling Entertainment had an interesting idea when they decided to pit Raw versus SmackDown at this yearly event. It finally reinvigorated the importance of Survivor Series. Said importance was all but snuffed out when WWE ended the brand split a few years back. A return of the brand split could mean that Survivor Series may be as exciting as Summerslam, the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania once more.
7. The Yearly WWE Draft Party- The first draft that occurred nearly fifteen years ago was something that had never been done in professional wrestling before. Superstars getting drafted exclusively to Raw or exclusively to SmackDown brought excitement levels to new highs. The subsequent drafts had an air of intrigue to them as you never knew which mainstay of one show may get drafted to the other one (the John Cena or Triple H debacles notwithstanding). The draft may be the perfect opportunity to gain some mainstream attention and bring back some of the 3-9 million (depending on who you ask) lapsed wrestling viewers. I know I will be watching every moment of this upcoming draft.
I am sure that plenty of wrestling journalists, bloggers and podcasters may vehemently disagree, feeling that the same trick won’t work again as the prior brand extension is still fresh in many fans’ memories. But a whole generation of viewers has started watching since then. I think the reward is by far worth the risk.
What say you, wrestling fans? Do you feel that revisiting the brand split is a great way to freshen the product up, or do you feel it’s going back to a well that quite frankly dried up years ago from a creative standpoint?
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