As of June 2016, most people have heard the news of WWE reviving the Brand Split. Whether fans are in favor or against the decision, bringing back the Brand Split has created a significant buzz around the WWE. Fans are anticipating which wrestlers will join Monday Night Raw and which wrestlers will join what will become Tuesday Night SmackDown. Some fans are hoping for SmackDown to return to the prominence it once held under the direction of Paul Heyman, while others are hoping that this will fix a lot of the problems with pacing, storyline development, and the development of characters.
However, there is a concern that surely many fans have had about the execution of the Brand Split in its previous incarnation. While it did have its positives and managed to cater to both of their audiences, the Brand Split was ultimately flawed in the fact that wrestlers would cross over between brands far more often than they should have. Not only that, but the two World Championships alternating main events of big PPVs ended in the worst way possible with the World Heavyweight Championship often opening up the show. And because of their booking and the amount of big stars who left, there was still a deficit in regards to main event talent.
The Brand Split wasn’t a complete failure, as it did lead to the creation and rise of new stars, but with the current state of booking in WWE, even the resurrection of the Brand Split might prove pointless if the WWE doesn’t abide by certain rules. If there aren’t changes to the previous incarnation of the Brand Split, then WWE might find themselves in the same boat as last time, with two World Titles with one meaning significantly less, two sets of rosters that interact far too much, and two shows that are equally uncreative.
So when thinking of what would make the Brand Split work to the best of its ability, there are a couple of rules that would need to be followed. With that being said, here are the 12 Rules the WWE needs to follow for the Brand Split in order to maximize the effectiveness of this business move.
12 Make the Entrance Sets Unique
When most people think about the current WWE product, they generally think of one word: stale. From storylines to match booking, the WWE product is the same old thing with nothing that stands out. This is especially true for the entrance sets for both Raw and SmackDown that are only different because of the color of the lights for the crowd, the label on the ring apron, and the video on the titantron. Back in the day, SmackDown had the big fist and Raw had the silver trapezoid titantrons and everyone enjoyed them. The creativity and the effort to make the two brands feel different were appreciated and this is sorely missed, not only from Raw and SmackDown, but from PPVs as well. PPV sets like Over the Edge and Bad Blood made for aesthetically pleasing sets that made the overall event feel different from just another episode of Raw or SmackDown. If custom events come back in the near future, it would definitely add something to the difference between the brands for custom sets to return as well.
11 Limit the Supershows
While this concept was done to death in 2011 and ultimately killed the Brand Split even further than it already was, the concept of doing Supershows makes a lot of sense. Sometimes, in the place of more PPVs and Network Specials, the WWE could have a couple of Supershows to showcase both rosters. However, these Supershows can’t happen too often, otherwise they’ll ruin the concept of the brand split entirely. If the roster is to be truly separate, then these wrestlers should avoid interactions with the other brand and that can’t happen with 20 Supershows in a year. Now, on the Raw after WrestleMania, during a holiday, or some other special event, then it would be okay to bring all the wrestlers into one show. But unless there’s a significant reason to have both brands interact, then these Supershows need to be limited to truly keep the brands separate.
10 Create An Incentive for Competition
One of the main problems with the initial Brand Split was the fact there were no real incentive for the battle of the brands. The shows were on different nights, so there was no real head-to-head competition, whike the General Managers wanted to sign wrestlers and never really gave a clear cut reason why. So creating an incentive for the brands to have competition would add another layer of storyline development to the show. It doesn’t have to be a huge reason, but there has to be a clear and concise reason. One example could be the brand with the most wins against the other will have be able to host more Supershows, which would mean that the other brand would have to cancel their show during that week. In the case that they revert back to the two title system, the brand that has more wins between their World Champions would get to main event the big four PPVs or something of that magnitude. It doesn’t matter what it is, but as long as it’s a believable motivation for the two brands to be competing against each other. then it will make the shows better.
9 Part-Timers Should Be Signed to A Specific Brand
Superstars like Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker would make for great additions to any roster whenever they come back for matches and help to elevate the ratings for a particular brand. And if other well-known wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Goldberg come back for their last run in professional wrestling, then dividing the part-timers between shows would be great for increasing the added star power. If the idea behind the Brand Split is to increase ratings while simultaneously catering to two different audiences, then having part-timers on different shows would make for some great television. If the Raw show will be more for the casual fans, then having Brock Lesnar and Goldberg on that roster would be great and if the SmackDown crowd is more for the hardcore fans, then having a great technical wrestler like Kurt Angle or the highly beloved Undertaker would also be great for that brand. Now this isn’t to say that these part-timers should be dominating the shows and take up all the TV time and high profile matches, but when you need that extra oomph, knowing that fans of a particular part-timer will have to watch only one show would be great for both the fans and the wrestlers themselves.
8 Have Brand Exclusive Events
One of the notable things about the history of the Brand Split was the brand exclusive PPVs, which showcased only one roster at a time. The practice was abandoned after WrestleMania 23 and it was one of the decisions that led to the decline of the Brand Split as a whole. With the Brand Split revived, Brand Exclusive PPVs and Network Specials would be great for both the WWE and their fans. From a fan standpoint, the shows will require the creative team to develop feuds each week and focus what they spend time on and from a business standpoint, more PPVs means more money for the WWE and the amount of money it would cost fans would still be a great deal with the WWE Network costing only $9.99. Fans get more roster showcases, the creative team gets more time to build up their feuds, and everyone can be satisfied.
7 Alternate Title Contenders Between Brands
If the WWE decides to ultimately stick with the one World Title plan, then it would help to elevate the one World Championship, which in reality hasn’t even been unified for that long. And if the WWE does this, then the best way to make both brands feel important would be for the title contenders to alternate between Raw and SmackDown. Now when there’s a long term feud occurring, this won’t be possible, but when a feud has resolved, it would be great for both brands to have alternating title contenders. Not only would it make both brands look equally strong, but it could make for some great programming. Airing a network special entirely dedicated to something, like a Gold Rush tournament, every once and a while would make the World Championship feel that much more valuable and could help to build up other wrestlers by having them advance and go the distance in the tournaments. This would only work under the one World Championship system.
6 Only One World Champion
There have been rumors that the WWE is planning on creating a second World Title for the SmackDown Brand and if that’s true, then this point might prove irrelevant. However, despite the rumors, having only one World Title would be the best situation for the Brand Split. One World Championship floating between both brands would allow for both shows to feel like they matter and would make it clear that there can only be one guy on top of the WWE. In previous years, the Brand Split would see two World Championships being defended at PPVs where both brands would be showcased, which would ultimately undermine the idea of having one champion for each brand. The World Heavyweight Championship, which landed a few main events during big PPVs in the early years, became relegated to opening the show. So in order to avoid this all together, it would be best if WWE just made their World Heavyweight Championship a title that both brands compete for. The champions themselves would have to be signed to a specific brand, but having the World Title represent the WWE entirely would be the best outcome.
5 Make the Mid-Card Championships Brand Exclusive
Following the formula laid out so far, the World Champion would be drafted to a particular brand, but would be allowed to go between both shows. This same rule could apply for the Tag Team Championships and the Women’s Championship. However, there should be two titles that are brand specific, in order to elevate their mid-carders and those would be the United States Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. Having the United States Championship on Raw and the Intercontinental Championship on SmackDown would be the best way to showcase the different championships and the history behind them. With the SmackDown brand historically having more of a focus on the in-ring competition, having the workhorse title on the show would truly demonstrate the brand's differences. On the other hand, the United States Championship has been held mostly by some of the bigger wrestlers on the roster like John Cena, Big Show, Booker T, JBL, Rusev, etc., so having that championship on Raw would be great for catering to a casual fan base. Following this formula would make the midcard important, lighten the load for the World Champion, and prepare mid-carders to take the next step and become stars.
4 Separate, but Equal Star Power
One of the problems that developed later on in the Brand Split was the division of talent. While initially both brands had a relatively equal amount of stars, SmackDown’s brand would become very lackluster. A perfect example would be 2011 when John Cena, CM Punk, and Rey Mysterio were the biggest stars on Raw leaving only Randy Orton and Christian on SmackDown. With the lack of star power amongst the current roster, the WWE will need to be careful with how they divide the roster in order to make both brands equal while maintaining their separation. Because if John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton are all on one brand, then the other brand will be viewed as inferior. If WWE can balance the roster in an effective way and distribute talent properly, then this Brand Split will actually have a chance.
3 Actually Keep the Brands Separate this time
This point should go without saying, but we all know the WWE’s past history with the Brand Split. The Brand Split should’ve been two separate shows with separate rosters for the entirety of its existence. Instead, the WWE treated this with the same worth as the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Wrestlers would hop back and forth between each show, long before the Raw Supershow became an official thing. The draft didn’t matter and as a result, the incentive to watch SmackDown lessened. After all, why would anyone waste time watching a show that had tons of spoilers versus a live television show with the same wrestlers on it. If this Brand Split is to truly work, then these wrestlers, excluding the bigger champions, should only interact at the Big 4 PPVs and at Supershows.
2 Improve the Writing & Booking Overall
This should go without saying, but if you’ve been watching the WWE over the past few years, then you know how bad the booking and writing can get. Angles dropped out of nowhere, start-and-stop pushes, pointless mid-card matches with no buildup or story, and everything else in between makes following a cohesive storyline extremely difficult. Storylines are often way too predictable, twists and turns make little to no sense, and characters contradict themselves through both their actions and words almost every other week. The writing and the booking are the most important parts of the show, even more so than the actual quality of the matches because WWE television is still a TV show and a TV show requires characters and good stories. So as long as the creative team and Vince McMahon write these shows in these abysmal ways, then the product will remain bad no matter what brand you watch. Whether that means Triple H and Shane McMahon doing more to book the shows, having Paul Heyman write for the company, or firing most of the current writers and replacing them, something will need to change and soon.
1 Make Raw Two Hours Again
The truth is, no matter how many changes they make to both Raw and SmackDown, there is still an inequality amongst these shows as long as Raw remains a three-hour program. How a two-hour show can compete with a three-hour show is beyond me. If the goal is to divide the shows and make their audiences different, then perhaps that can be used to somewhat justify keeping the extra hour, but the fact remains that watching three hours of wrestling is a task that takes a lot out of wrestling fans. WWE can have great storylines and great wrestling, but if Raw is three hours, then the sense of competition that comes from it will be pointless. And if that isn’t a big enough reason to reduce Raw, then the immense ratings drop in the third hour, as well as the years worth of fans complaints should be a bigger persuading factor. No one wants Raw to be three hours and they’re clearly having trouble filling a three-hour show, so the ratings will likely improve if USA Network and WWE cut the third hour. Aside from certain shows like the Raw after Mania, a two-hour Raw would be great for everyone.