In two thousand and sixteen, the WWE re-introduced the brand split creating separate rosters for both RAW and SmackDown Live. The decision started out strong, it was evident from the get-go that both shows represented something different and quickly fans chose a side to back. The WWE stuck to the RAW vs SmackDown Live root, with the two brands going against one another. The decision looked positive and won over many fans. Fast forward to twenty nineteen, however, and the cracks have most certainly begun to show. In recent months its become very clear that the brand split is once again falling apart, and the WWE Universe have picked up on the fact that it is inevitable the brand split comes to an end.
As we just touched on, when the brand split kick-started once again the WWE were keen to push the idea of the shows going up against each other. There was an idea preached to fans that RAW and SmackDown Live would go head to head in a battle of ratings, better quality shows, originality, and general better competition/superstars. While the Survivor Series PPV reminded us of the shows going face to face like this. Each week we would see commissioners and general managers make digs at the opposing brand but aside from that the WWE never paid true attention to an angle that could have been huge in making this brand split a success. There hasn’t been a feeling of the two sides going against each other or having a problem with another and the fact there is no element of competition between the two shows has been problematic. It seemed like a promise broken and a key factor in bringing in ratings for both shows seems to have been abandoned, with positive discussion amongst fans completely non-existent.
Looking at how the NXT call ups have been handled the WWE has been very smart in allowing these stars to create a stronger connection with fans. Appearing on each show every week has given these superstars the opportunity to not make the same mistakes previous call ups have made and it has in fact been affected. Fans are more aware of these young stars and the build has helped shape their momentum and popularity, however the WWE has once again missed out on something great. Here they had a chance for each brand to compete to get these stars on their show but instead, NXT talent have come out of nowhere and there has been no attention paid to what show they will actually appear on full time, why they will, and why they should. It’s taken away the importance of the brand split and competition among the shows. Months after these stars made their arrival, not one has a permanent home on either side.
One of the main reasons the angle of the shows going head to head to earn and fight for these NXT call ups hasn’t worked out is because of the decision to ditch general managers and put the McMahon family in full control of both brands. General managers for each show and commissioners for each show reinforced that idea of RAW and SmackDown Live going head to head but with the same faces in control of each show, it means the original idea and point of the split has completely disappeared! It is simply two shows with different rosters being run by the same names, no competition, no originality on either show and nothing that truly makes each brand different from each other.
The introduction of the Women’s Tag Team titles has made things slightly more difficult in terms of keeping talent off of each brand but in this case, it can most certainly work when done correctly. The Women’s Tag Team division is still rather small and so, of course, it makes sense for the champs to appear on both brands and at times even NXT but looking at the bigger picture it’s yet another indication that the brand split is losing its touch and original point. It has meant that the female talent, in particular, has no choice but to compete on both brands at times with a recent tag team bout involving the IIconics competing on RAW is a prime example of that.
But it’s not only the women’s tag team division where we have seen cross overs. The Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair rivalry was the first time the WWE went back to mixing talents and while the story worked and made sense and has resulted in the biggest matchup in the history of the women’s division, it was one of the first signs of the brand split falling apart with Becky Lynch and Flair being a part of both shows nearly every week since the end of last year. In recent weeks and months, we have also seen the likes of Rey Mysterio appear on RAW as well as Shelton Benjamin in a random contest against Seth Rollins. The decision to book these stars on the opposing brand left fans feeling as though there isn’t truly brand split anymore and most certainly the original idea has disappeared.
One of the very first signs of the brand split falling apart was the decision to have dual PPVS. In the long run, it has helped to create matches for each card that matter and draw people in and the reduction of PPV’s has in my opinion been a better decision, but that was the first indication that things were just not working. Cards were not strong enough, big enough or living up to certain standards and so the WWE had to take a step backwards. More recent examples of the split failing include Kevin Owens’ return who went from competing on RAW before his injury to returning to action this time on SmackDown Live. These may appear to be small changes, but they all contribute to why the brand split has fallen apart.
The brand split is most certainly something that If done correctly can work at any point but as we have seen today the WWE have already made changes and decisions that resulted in the idea completely falling apart. As with anything, there are pros and cons to the WWE splitting the roster and creating a brand split and with a superstar shake-up on the way they have another chance of turning things around once again but has the damage already been done and have we have already seen the end of the brand split?
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