And just like that, the hushed whispers and speculation come to an end.
Today, WWE announced that Smackdown! will be heading to USA Network on Tuesday nights and after much pleading from fans, will be broadcast live. However, this isn’t the only change that graces us WWE fans. With the news comes confirmation that a brand extension and split with return.
So what does this return of the brand split mean for WWE? Sit back and relax, while we here at Vulture Hound discuss the implications – both good and bad – this announcements has on the wider world of WWE as a whole.
More time for women’s wrestling
As much as WWE has boasted its rebranding of their females, there is still a fight each week for the women to make a true impact.
Women wrestlers within WWE are still shorted when it comes to having TV time, both on Smackdown! and Raw. By having less talent to compete with, theoretically the three minute matches we are given should become rare. The brand divisions will mean each show can focus on a portion of the women’s division, giving each wrestler more stories and matches each week.
Also, WWE are given the change to explore other options within the women division too, such as the introduction of one show feature tag titles specifically for the women. There will be ample buzz in general, and with the continue promise of a new era edging closer to fruition.
With the amount of injuries WWE stars have suffered over the past year or so, there is no doubt about it that WWE gets every last bit out of their talent. The sheer struggle of the WWE schedule is one of the aspects that is often overlooked by those not partaking in the race; fans never able to fully understand the time-consuming nature and hefty toll that being a pro wrestler entails.
By splitting the roster in half, the theory would have you believe that the schedule becomes lighter. Live events have been split in half for a while, but by essentially having only one TV commitment every week you could theoretically say that it is an extra day for performers to recuperate and hopefully see the drop in injuries accrued.
Better use of Midcard Talent
With Cody Rhodes’ recent frustrations over not being a big enough part of the show being openly highlighted, the brand split helps expand the stage and make room for talents that are often over looked.
After the draft, Superstars will automatically move up the chart as WWE’s need to rely on them more becomes apparent. As a result, someone unexpected is bound to catch fire. Stardom in wrestling is often the result of a performer maximizing an opportunity.
Come July 19, the number of opportunities awaiting to be maximized will shoot up
Push to pick up the (slightly) sluggish product
Ideally the newly-announced split should breathe new life into the sluggish product. The company will be producing five hours of live wrestling per week and if improvements aren’t seen, this will be a lot harder for even the most dedicated fans to stomach.
Dividing the roster in half, should instantly provide a fresh outlook, but ultimately for this to continue it is up to the writers and performers to not rely on the initial buzz and act upon it.
Give us reasons to care about your stars and we will care, give us reasons to invest in matches and feuds and we will lap it up. The WWE Brand Extension can give the facade of something fresh and new but if this isn’t acted upon, it will be the same old same old.
Stretching roster too thin
When the separate brands was last present, WWE boasted several strong players within their roster like Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Kurt Angle. Today, while WWE has an array of fantastic wrestlers, it doesn’t wield that kind of star power
The brand split essentially means WWE is dividing its headliners. When a lot of you talent is a potential megastar rather than an actual megastar, this can be considered a very risky move. This could also be the wises thing WWE has done in a long time, in regards to separating the wheat from the chaff.
It will also mean that the bottom of the totem pole within WWE will be getting a lot more time. Your Fandangos, Heath Slater’s and Zack Ryder’s will be getting more TV time. It’s strange that WWE have decided to do this sort of thing after culling some talent recently, such as Damien Sandow, who would have been on the more intriguing side for the company to pull out of obscurity for the sake of filling in the gaps.
What happens to NXT?
While the quality of the main roster and the two main programmes in Raw and Smackdown have stalled and gained speed countless times, WWE’s developmental brand NXT has gone from strength to strength and then some. For some, hell maybe for all, saying the NXT has become the strongest of WWE’s shows – with logical stories, captivating matches and all sorts of consistency – fans are presented the wrestling they deserve and cry out for.
What happens to NXT now? Arguably with the sluggish nature of the two top programmes, NXT has carved itself as a strong alternative to the main product offerings. WWE has given fans little reason to give them faith with years of failed efforts and promises in making the product strong – why should we believe this?
For sustainability, it is likely that more and more big names will have to jump the NXT ship and head to Raw or Smackdown. How this leaves things down in NXT is definitely going to be an area to keep our eyes on going forward.
A show and B show status
When the brand split was first introduced back in 2002, there was a prominent understanding that neither Raw nor Smackdown was better than the other. They were presented as equals. That was until, even if only for a short time, Smackdown overtook RAW as the top show under Paul Heyman.
The blue band became to the WWE show to watch; a stacked roster from top to bottom and showcasing the so-called SmackDown Six who put on fantastic professional wrestling.
Of course this was short lived; while remaining victorious in the Smackdown vs. Raw matches, this impression of equal brands was simply not mirrored by wrestlers, who thought of moving to the blue brand as a demotion. Towards the end of the split, Smackdown became nothing in comparison to Raw.
Really, will both Smackdown and Raw be equal today? Or has too much damage been done to Smackdown in the meantime, that rebuilding the programme to become every bit as ‘strong’ as RAW? This is definitely one of the more pressing issues that WWE needs to address with the announced brand split.