For the first time in five years, WWE is splitting up their roster to create a Raw and SmackDown brand, and for some, it’s about time. The first brand split lasted nearly a decade, and while it had its moments, the entire idea could have been done better. Like, when you had two brands (WWE and WCW) you should have kept them separate as opposed to completely burying your competition within six months thanks to the Invasion angle. But hope springs eternal, especially when you’re a member of the IWC and nothing is ever good enough. Perhaps they’ll get it right this time around.
The split gives WWE the chance to create more storylines, promote more superstars and differentiate between the two shows. Of course, that could be a good thing and it could also be a bad thing as we’ve seen recently that the promotion has a tough time building storylines for one roster.
In addition, there is still the third brand, NXT, which is what WWE thought they had with ECW in a sense. It gives them a third brand distinct from the other two, with its own title, but it’s also a showcase for the future superstars of Raw and Smackdown giving it a different feel. The GMs of those shows will be fighting to sign developmental stars to their brands adding a whole new dynamic for the WWE to explore.
It’s a whole new world for a roster full of superstars hoping that this new era will be one they can make their own and while many will likely benefit from the change, others could find themselves struggling even more to get over.
20 Suffer - Bayley
Call me crazy, but I think WWE’s best chance to promote Bayley to the main roster and give her a solid push has already passed. A split of the roster could hurt the impact she might have had if there was an opportunity to promote her on both Raw and SmackDown for an extended period of time. She would have been set up much better for the incoming brand split. Even if she comes up before the split, she’ll get relegated to a brand before she has time to catch on with fans who may not know her.
There's still no guarantee either that her gimmick will work with the main audience. She's built a great following at Full Sail University, but Emma had a great thing going there too and that didn't transfer to the main roster. I hope I'm proven wrong and Bayley is able to thrive on a main brand, but it's hard to see that now.
19 Benefit - Lana
She was on her way to being the second coming of Vickie Guerrero (well, that plus her ridiculously good looks) before WWE had Rusev lose the U.S. title to John Cena. Then they ruined Lana’s character even further by putting the pair in a lover’s feud storyline with Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae. Why? WHY?! Now she barely does any talking when accompanying Rusev to the ring. Lana was printing money before and can do that again if Rusev remains a top heel carrying a title on either show. Just do it WWE. With the company now able to place a further emphasis on talents on each brand, Lana will be a prime beneficiary. Rusev is starting to regain momentum and that should only help Lana further as she looks to rebound.
It really doesn't matter what brand she is on; she'll find a way to thrive if WWE gives her the chance.
18 Suffer - Dolph Ziggler
What happened to Dolph Ziggler? A few years ago he was the man as the reigning World Heavyweight Champion with A.J. Lee and Big E in tow. After suffering a concussion and losing the title to Alberto Del Rio, Ziggler has barely been a midcard player. He's gotten some flashes of a push, including being the sole survivor at Survivor Series 2014, but WWE didn't capitalize on the momentum. From there, they have yet to really do anything of significance with Ziggler.
Is that going to change with the brand split? I wouldn’t assume so. He’s had a string of lame storylines and why are we to believe that anything will change? Don't forget, Ziggler is well into his 30s and with the recent departure of Cody Rhodes due to frustrations with creative, you have to think Ziggler may be having similar thoughts. Ziggler though is a solid worker and his struggles aren’t entirely his fault so maybe I’ll be surprised.
17 Benefit - Cesaro
I like to think that Cesaro will moved up to be a top face thanks to this brand split. He’s proven to be over with the fans for a while now and is near the top of the card already. Perhaps the brand split is just the thing to finally put Cesaro over the top. I for one am all for it. Is there a better entrance than him ripping off the suit? Nope. While Cesaro now has the look down and obviously has the work rate, but it's now up to creative to do something significant with him.
They've built up Cesaro pretty well since his return from injury, but the real test will be when the company has two split rosters. It'll be a tremendous opportunity to build Cesaro and one the WWE can't afford to squander. This could be their last chance to take Cesaro to the next level.
16 Suffer - The Ascension
As if these guys didn't suffer enough since their "promotion" to the main roster. Honestly, I can’t believe these guys are still on the roster. When they came in, there was a slight chance they were going to have a run, but any such plans seemed to go in the toilet within a couple weeks. They were quickly jobbed out to The New Age Outlaws and were manhandled in the ring by old nWo members. Not many teams have had their heat ruined as quickly as their was.
They’re the Road Warriors without the charisma or ring ability or fanbase or mic skills. With fresher tag teams being featured more prominently already, this duo will likely continue their losing ways on whichever brand they end up with. It's not entirely their fault, as they never should have been saddled with a gimmick so heavily reminiscent of the Road Warriors, but their work hasn't exactly earned them sympathy from fans.
15 Benefit - Golden Truth
I hate to say it, but Golden Truth is likely to benefit from this roster split. With two shows, the tag team divisions will need to be a little deeper, meaning fringe teams like this, which Vince McMahon obviously likes or they would be together in the first place, will get a little more of a run. Teams like these usually have a very short shelf life, but the brand split has bought this duo some time. Maybe with a little more time they could improve and have a decent run on either RAW or SmackDown.
Now don’t get me wrong, they aren’t going to win the title or anything, but they’re sure to get way too much screen time. If there are indeed two special events a month, we may even see them on Network specials (sigh). It may be a rough adjustment period at first. Maybe you'll want to use their segment to take your snack break or even a bathroom break.
14 Suffer - Kane
My assumption is that WWE will probably keep one big man with each brand. Seeing as The Big Show seems to be super over with the kids and one of the main WWE ambassadors, I figure he stays on the Raw brand. That leaves Kane to the SmackDown brand, but who knows what that even means at this point. He’s been off TV since WrestleMania and even if he was to appear on SmackDown, will anyone care?
The WWE says they're in the New Era and with this transition, Kane should probably take it as a hint that he should just retire from the squared circle. Him sticking around won't see him accomplish any more than he already has, and he'll just be considered an afterthought. His onscreen presence has already suffered in recent years, and the quality of his work isn't the same. He's said he has no intentions of retiring, but maybe this brand split will change his mind.
13 Benefit - Darren Young
Look, I’m just gonna come right out and say that I think the “Make Darren Young Great Again” gimmick is terrible. Bob Backlund adds nothing to the character and doesn’t do anything to make me like either of them. I get it’s an election year and while I find no appeal in the character, the WWE is obviously trying to push him and as we’ve seen before, they don’t care if we like some characters or not, they’re getting pushed. The problem with this gimmick is that is has a very short shelf life. Once the election passes in November, the gimmick is no longer relevant and they'll be back to square one. This clearly isn't a long term solution to make Darren Young a star. It was simply the best creative felt they could come up with at the time. If this is the best they could do with Darren Young, it's not an encouraging sign.
12 Suffer - Carmella
She’s already been separated from Enzo and Big Cass on the main roster, does that mean she’s set to stay in NXT? If she does get brought up to join the two, it won’t likely be on the same level as Enzo and Big Cass’s debut. She’s in the hunt for the women’s NXT title and she should remain there which might serve her better than being brought up to the main stage.
Fans probably have mixed feelings on this one. While we would love to see Carmella get a run with the Women's Championship in NXT, something feels like it's missing with Enzo and Cass. Hopefully the WWE is able to reach a good conclusion and maybe have Carmella manage the team, while also holding the title on NXT. That would build her up slowly as a future star on the main roster.
11 Benefit - Breezango
This pairing is here much for the same reason as The Golden Truth. You need more tag teams with them being mutually exclusive and these guys are the perfect blend of comedy and talent. Fandango and Tyler Breeze can hold their own in the ring and I hope that doesn’t get buried along the way as to push the comedy aspect. But they’re a fresh pairing with the chance to imprint themselves on a particular brand. I like their chances.
Some might argue they want to see Tyler Breeze built as a singles star like he was in NXT or for the WWE to resume the push they began with Fandango a few years ago, but this may be the best way to build them up for the time being. The brand split will allow them to slowly build a following and who knows what could happen from there.
10 Suffer - Zack Ryder
How Ryder made it through the most recent roster cuts is beyond me. While Ryder has worked to build a fan base, WWE doesn’t have a storyline for him and hasn’t in a long time. They gave him perhaps the most meaningless title reign in history earlier this year, when they shockingly had him win the Intercontinental Championship ladder match, only for him to lose the title the next night to The Miz.
I don’t expect to see him on many episodes of Raw or SmackDown, whichever brand he ends up with, and when we do, plan on him jobbing out to whoever he’s facing. If there’s anyone in need of a fresh start away from WWE, it’s Ryder. Ryder should see Drew Galloway and Ethan Carter as examples of guys who have gotten away from WWE and went on to thrive in other promotions. Sometimes the grass is in fact greener on the other side.
9 Benefit - Mauro Ranallo
Sure, Mauro Ranallo isn’t an actual wrestler, but he is one of the best announcers in pro wrestling and combat sports. Why will he benefit? For the past few years, SmackDown hasn’t been seen as must see viewing by fans and while he hasn’t been part of WWE for all that long, the brand split will encourage fans to watch both shows. As a result, fans who are currently unaware will be able to enjoy real analysis of what’s happening in the ring. That'd be a welcome change from the pointless banter we have to sit through on RAW.
This brand split is supposedly going to paint RAW and SmackDown as equal shows. If WWE follows through on that promise, then viewers will in fact be encouraged to give SmackDown a chance. Who knows, maybe after a few SmackDown episodes, viewers will have trouble going back to RAW, knowing they'll have to sit through Michael Cole commentary.
8 Suffer - Curtis Axel
Unfortunately, Axel is on his way to Buriedville once this brand split happens. The whole Social Outcasts gimmick took a hit with Adam Rose’s departure, but let’s be honest, where was the group really headed in the end? Axel’s failed to gain traction in his previous incarnations so why would this be any different? He’ll be a jobber to the stars no matter what brand he ends up with. All I ask is that he shuts up about the chains being off. It’s stupid.
The only time Axel ever managed to gain some sort of momentum was when he was riding the AxelMania angle. Unfortunately, once the WWE had to disassociate themselves from Hogan, the gimmick died with it. Since then, Axel has yet to regain any momentum, granted he's never really been given the chance to rebound from it.
7 Benefit - American Alpha
The pair are dominating NXT and are expected to join the main roster soon. If the WWE Tag Team belts are on one show, Jordan and Gable could be featured prominently as challengers for the title. Vince McMahon is reportedly high on the pair which can only mean good things. The tag division seems to be growing to something strong and these guys can only help. It may not be that long before they're the World Tag Team Champions on the main roster. The New Day has had a long run on top, and being dethroned by the American Alpha would do wonders for the young duo's careers.
Another exciting possibility is the news that Vince McMahon is contacting former WWE stars on returning to the WWE to help with the brand split. Kurt Angle has expressed his desire in returning to the WWE and has even praised Jordan and Gable. Angle thinks this duo could be the new Team Angle and there's no doubt that fans would love to see that happen.
6 Suffer - Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio is going to get lost in the sauce, if he isn't already. He’s not one of the up and comers, he’s not one of the stars, he’s sort of just toiling in the midcard right now with no direction. Don’t get me wrong, I love Del Rio and think he could be a top heel, but this run has been less than encouraging. With the former world champ relegated to one show, he’s could have a tough time getting consistent camera time.
There have been countless rumors about Del Rio possibly having an enemy in Triple H backstage. It's unclear how true that is or how much of a factor it plays into Del Rio's role, but judging by the storylines or lack thereof that Del Rio has been given, it can't be good. You have to wonder if Del Rio regrets coming back to the company that fired him previously after he took offense to a racist joke.
5 Benefit - Sheamus
Does anyone really want The Celtic Warrior to continue getting chances at the top of the card? It doesn’t seem like it, but with the promotion dividing its talent among two rosters, Triple H’s buddy is sure to get more chances against top talent. The good thing for fans is that we’ll get to keep chanting “you look stupid,” which is rad. Sheamus is getting up there in age, as he is now in his late 30s. This is the New Era and it's hard to see WWE having any logical reason to keep pushing Sheamus but they don't need logic. Sheamus has always clearly been a favorite of the WWE's for one reason or another and the brand split won't change that.
He inexplicably was given the Money in the Bank briefcase and had a lackluster feud with Roman Reigns once he won the title at Survivor Series last year. WWE just doesn't learn from their mistakes so easily though.
4 Suffer - Roman Reigns
It’s been a difficult road for Reigns as he’s had a tough time getting over with the WWE’s hardcore fans and that could be even tougher when the brand split happens. WWE has been able to hide him in a sense by putting guys like John Cena and A.J. Styles in the main event. That could change once the split happens, forcing Reigns to carry more of the load. That will likely determine if Reigns stays atop the food chain. What's also unclear is whether there will be one or two world champions once the brand split happens. If there is only one champion and that man is Reigns, he will be forced to carry the torch on both shows, which will only expose his weaknesses further. In a way maybe it's good, because as Randy Savage once said, the cream has to rise to the top.
3 Benefit - John Cena
Roman Reigns is in place as the face of the Raw brand (to the pleasure or dismay of many) and it doesn’t look as though that will change any time soon. So why would WWE put their top face on the same show to compete, and possibly, hurt Reigns? They won’t. Like this guy needs any more help? Cena is going to continue his dominance as long as he can wrestle as the likely focal point of his own brand. Rumors have pointed to Cena taking on the SmackDown brand. Like it or not, Cena gets attention and he'll likely be the more bearable of the two main faces. If you were forced to sit through a segment would you rather have Cena or Reigns? For all the faults with his character, at least Cena can cut a great promo and in the past year, he's actually had some of the best matches of his career.
2 Suffer - Charlotte
Right now, Charlotte gets run on both Raw and SmackDown thanks to her title reign, but that seems like it could change once the split happens as the title may just be featured on one brand. Sure, she will still be the focal point of the women’s division, but when you cut someone’s camera time in half, it’s tough to find benefit in that. Charlotte has had some growing pains on the main roster as she is still very green. She hasn't been in the business that long and needs as much work as possible to get better. She's held the Women's Championship since September and you have to believe her reign is going to come to an end soon, possibly at SummerSlam.
Of course, none of this matters if they decide to let the main male and female champion appear on both shows.
1 Benefit - Samoa Joe
The man atop NXT can stay on the roster and still make an impact (pun intended) on the Raw and SmackDown rosters. Think about how hard the GMs can go after Joe, trying to get him to come to their show. All of this while he continues to promote the NXT brand saying he wants to stay there and be the man. It could make for some fun storylines. Remember back in 2002 when Stone Cold Steve Austin was the roster's only free agent following the brand split? While Joe doesn't quite have the hold Austin had over the audience, this possibility is still very intriguing. It instantly builds him as a top star and that's what WWE needs to do when Joe is called up to the main roster. In his late 30s, the WWE can't afford to waste the good years Samoa Joe has left in the squared circle.