What will happen if the WWE Brand extension proves to be a failure? Who takes the blame? We all know Vince McMahon would never blame himself for such a vile circumstance; so who?
Shane and Stephanie McMahon seem like prime candidates for the blame. Perhaps Triple H? Or will Vince equate failure with the fans? The very fans who demanded these "changes" and this New Era? Yes, that sounds about right.
Vince McMahon will blame the people because after all, McMahon delivered Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor, and has even provided Dolph Ziggler with yet another opportunity. Essentially, their failure is you failure.
Not that any true WWE fan wants this Brand Extension Experiment to fail; but there are certainly concerns. Take a look at these 15 early warnings signs that the WWE Brand Split is in trouble:
One obvious sign that any television show is in trouble comes from the ratings. While it was expected that draft night on SmackDown Live was going to draw a huge number, those numbers have since declined.
WWE will never again produce the ratings it did during the Monday Night War, however, the expectations were set high for the Brand Extension. While the Summer Olympics are in full swing, numbers are bound to drop; but there must be a recovery.
Keep in mind that in mere weeks, Monday Night Football will return; placing added pressure on Monday Night Raw to produce some high-profile entertainment. However, can the Red Brand achieve this with their current roster?
Will there ever again be a ratings-grabbing segment akin to "This is Your Life?"
14 Pay-Per-Views on Paper
Separate Pay-Per-View events for Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live look great on paper; as this formula once worked well for the company and maintained the feeling that the "Big Four" were truly special.
On September 11, 2016 SmackDown Live will present the first Blue Brand exclusive Pay-Per-View from the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. The event, an old WWE staple known as Backlash.
This particular Pay-Per-View was once presented as the first event following WrestleMania and would usually include a number of high-level rematches. It appears as though WWE will attempt to duplicate this concept in the wake of SummerSlam.
On paper this sounds good; in practice this event will likely disappoint.
13 Time it Takes Casual Fans to Watch
In recent years, the casual WWE user attained their weekly fix as such: watch Monday Night Raw, forget about SmackDown, find out if anything of significance occurred on the "B Show" via the internet or recap on Raw.
To begin with, Monday Night Raw is too long at three hours. However, even if a fan wanted to watch SmackDown, the program would air Thursday/Friday night (depending on the year).
While five hours of WWE programming over the course of two days seems excessive, think about a Pay-Per-View week: three hours on Sunday, another three on Monday, and then two more on Tuesday.
Eight hours in three days; the equivalent of an entire day's work.
12 Overall Interest Levels
Even the most die-hard wrestling fans can grow frustrated with the product; especially when it does not live up to their standards (and it never does). Therefore, it is safe to assume that overall can drop.
Getting someone excited about watching wrestling is no easy task. There is a great deal of difficulty that comes along with convincing a person that watching half-naked men grapple over pre-determined stipulations is worth while.
In general, less people care about wrestling in 2016 then they did in 2002 (the year of the original Brand Extension). Which is why this split has proven to be a high-risk situation. Of course, should success follow, the rewards will be high as well.
However, what are the odds of general interest rates increasing in the immediate future?
11 Boring Chants
Chanting "boring" at Lance Storm was once a popular thing among WWE fans. However, this act was also entertaining and not a by-product of the entertainment itself. There is a major difference here.
During Lana and Rusev's long post-wedding, reenactment segment on Monday Night Raw, the "boring" chants echoed throughout the arena playing host to WWE's "flagship program." This was a direct result of the entertainment.
With this New Era and new direction, WWE cannot afford to make anything boring. The entire point of the Brand Extension was to provide a fresh take on the product. Such chants are certainly not complimentary.
10 Match Quality
Yes, there have been some exceptional matches since the Brand Extension was implemented but matches as such will continue to take place regardless of any roster split. When watching Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, or Seth Rollins, these bouts will happen.
On the flip side, match quality as a whole has shifted. Monday Night Raw promises two Squash matches each episode as they attempt to build Braun Strowman and Nia Jax into unstoppable forces, respectively.
Over on SmackDown Live, the Blue Brand has pieced together their own Women's Division. However, SmackDown's version of female wrestling has felt significantly less important than the action on Monday Night Raw.
Poor matches equal poor overall quality for both brands involved.
9 Women on SmackDown
As alluded to in the previous entry, SmackDown Live has presented the WWE Universe with its own, exclusive crop of female wrestlers. However, it has become rather clear that Monday Night Raw holds the best female talents.
With Sasha Banks - the best Women's wrestler in WWE right now - currently holding the Women's Championship, the bar has definitely been set high; perhaps too high. Even if SmackDown Live creates its own Women's title, it will feel inferior.
The real female wrestlers should have remained on the same brand; at least for now. The idea of equality between the brands is great but it's also not practical. Women's wrestling is a growing movement in WWE and needs more focus.
Placing all the proper talent on one brand would help this process move along.
8 Returns Have Been Weak
Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy ... These were only some of the names mentioned in the rumour mill in anticipation of the WWE Brand Extension. And then, on draft night, who returned to the company? Nobody.
Since then WWE has brought back Jinder Mahal to little response and attempted to use Shelton Benjamin on SmackDown Live as a veteran Superstar. That was until Benjamin found himself injured prior to his return.
Needless to say, these returns have been less than satisfying for WWE fans. Where are the big names from the past? Yes, this is a New Era but a little bit of old-school never hurt anybody without direct intention.
Perhaps these returns will improve in the coming months.
7 Thrill is Gone
What an exciting day it was when WWE announced that SmackDown was set to go Live; and with that, the second-coming of the Brand Extension. Leading up to the big night in July, the internet was suffocated with speculation.
And then the night came along and with the split, hope for a brand new WWE. The kind of WWE that would take fans higher than they had ever been before; a new kind of buzz to reinvigorate the hopeless fan.
However, the thrill was a cheap one at best and the buzz has quickly subsided or worn off entirely for many fans. Those goosebumps and the tingling of spines have ceased as we moved forward into the New Era.
Such is the way of the world; thrills are cheap and fast and nothing ever lasts.
6 The McMahon Siblings
At this point, are fans really that invested in the Shane and Stephanie McMahon? The shocking return of Shane to WWE earlier this year came as a major surprise and delighted the WWE Universe.
However, small doses of Shane McMahon could definitely prove more effective than massive amounts of "The Boy Wonder." And the same can be said for Stephanie McMahon. The siblings have occupied far too much air time.
WWE fans can and will quickly turn on the McMahon Family and Shane is no exception. The McMahon's constantly making themselves the focal point of programming could prove disastrous in the end.
The people have seen this McMahon saga one too many times.
Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton at SummerSlam was made official prior to the WWE Draft. While Lesnar was drafted to Monday Night Raw, Orton was chosen to compete on SmackDown Live.
So, an inter-promotional match was already set to take place following draft night and that was fine as long as WWE kept Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton away from one another until SummerSlam.
It is far to early in the process for brand "invasions" but of course each man would appear on the other's program. The ideal time to have one confrontation between Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton would have been the Battleground Pay-Per-View.
One brand should not have anybody (including Daniel Bryan) appear on the other.
4 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan was one of the greatest wrestlers in the world while performing as an active competitor. Bryan was an underdog story for the ages and as such the beloved Superstar will forever hold a place in the hearts of fans.
Of course, Daniel Bryan lacks one very important qualification needed to serve as SmackDown Live General Manager; strong mic skills. The only requirement for the job. Bryan does all right on commentary for the Cruiserweight Classic but struggles in the ring. (Stage fright?)
While the "Yes" chants will continue each and every time Daniel Bryan makes his way out to the arena, it will not take much for fans to tire of Bryan as an authority figure. Should Bryan receive one "What?!" chant, it's all over.
Let's see how long Daniel Bryan can maintain the attention of fans.
3 Thin Rosters
Sure, WWE pulled some fish out of the NXT Pond to help with the Brand Extension but all-in-all, both shows have been spread thin with the recent split. This could help or hinder Superstars in the long run.
With less talent on each brand, the opportunity to "step up" presents itself. However, this thin talent pool will also cause WWE to second-guess their decisions. Finn Balor and Dolph Ziggler each competing for a major championship at a Pay-Per-View?
These names will appease the die-hard fan but WWE will soon revert back to their casual audience. No matter what the company may say, their product is geared towards the causal fan base.
Don't believe that? Wait until WrestleMania rolls around and the part-timers return.
2 Lack of Mega-Star Power
In 2002, the original Brand Extension was incredible. This was due in large part to the extensive number of mega-stars involved. The Rock, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Hulk Hogan were all drafted.
Add the free agency of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Triple H serving as WWE Undisputed Champion (available for both rosters) into the equation and the Brand Extension was a huge hit.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose (the first and second choices) are holding their own in WWE but the only true mega-stars drafted during the recent Brand Extension were Brock Lesnar and John Cena.
Stars continue to rise in 2016 but are not as prominent as 2002.
1 Raw vs. SmackDown
There is one thing that will never change in WWE as it pertains to programming: Monday Night Raw will forever be considered the top show. Raw has been labelled the company's "flagship program" for a reason.
SmackDown Live has steam but not enough to truly power that train ahead of Monday Night Raw. Even with John Cena on board - the company's biggest star - SmackDown remains the "B Show" in WWE.
Until SmackDown Lives feels as though it stands on the same level as Monday Night Raw, there will always be problems. The only time SmackDown ever felt better than Raw was during the days of Paul Heyman at the helm as Head Writer.
Perhaps WWE should hand SmackDown Live over to the Extreme Advocate.
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