On May 25th, 2016, the WWE announced the return of the Brand Split that had been defunct since 2011. Many fans were divided as to whether or not this would actually be a decision that benefited the WWE or whether it would create more problems. On one hand, this brand split could lead to the creation of new stars in the WWE and help bolster the roster in a time were star power and interest in the product is low. On the other hand, the brand split could potentially weaken the show by dividing the rosters with the small number of stars they have. In addition to that, the writing teams that would make up the shows would be the same as before and since they haven’t managed to do a good job, why would they be able to do a better job separated from each other?
Despite the differing opinions, the brand split occurred and the final results of the split rosters were questionable to say the least. SmackDown was supposed to be about wrestling, yet the women’s wrestlers like Charlotte and Sasha Banks are on Raw while green talents like Carmella and Eva Marie represent the blue brand. Raw is going to be home to the Cruiserweight division, yet Kalisto is a member of the SmackDown brand. A lot of odd decisions have been made during this brand split and it will only hurt the WWE in the long run.
So to take a look at some of the fallout from the brand split, whether positive or negative, here are 20 Shocking Observations of WWE’s Renewed Brand Split.
20. The Entrance Sets Are Great
For the longest time, fans were begging for the WWE to go back to the unique brand sets of the original Brand Split. The giant trapezoid titantron for Raw and the big fist for SmackDown were the most notable differences between the two shows and fans had a strong desire to see both shows exhibit unique entrance sets yet again.
After the Battleground show, fans would get their wish as Raw and SmackDown would each have their own unique sets. Raw’s set initially was the SummerSlam set of 2012 and the SmackDown set was more plain without a ramp, but the WWE stepped their game up yet again by changing both shows sets to resemble SummerSlam 2016.
Now this does make the arenas for Raw and SmackDown look a little too similar, but there are subtle differences that make each entrance stage unique and interesting.
19. The Belt Designs Aren’t Creative
In the past, the WWE made an effort to make championships unique and gave them great designs that made them distinct from each other. Just looking back at the past designs of the WWE Championship and you’ll see beautiful championship belts that truly spoke to the value of being the champion.
In 2016, that prestige and uniqueness is gone with the only titles that are 100 percent distinguishable being the United States and the Intercontinental Championship. With the exception of the red strap, the Universal Championship and the WWE Championship look exactly the same. The exact same thing can be said for the Tag Team Championships and the Women’s Championships as well.
Now this could be done to emphasize the idea of equality amongst both brands, but it comes across as lazy.
18. Talking Smack is Excellent
When Talking Smack was announced as a SmackDown post-show, most fans expected it to be uninteresting, with controlled interviews much like we see on Raw fallout, but that would not be the case.
Instead, Talking Smack has been able to expand upon storylines, characters and does an even better job than the actual SmackDown show itself. In what seems to be a less controlled environment, the wrestlers are able to stay true to their characters without having to memorize a script which helps it come across as more genuine.
Examples of Talking Smack’s greatness can be no further exemplified then the critically acclaimed promo from The Miz a few weeks ago. In that one promo, The Miz managed to show more passion and more character than he ever did as the WWE Champion and it’s helped to raise his stock a little. Other promos such as Bryan mocking the Universal Championship name and The Usos blaming Reigns for their lack of crowd support have helped to make these shows more of a competition than anything they’ve actually done in the name of competition.
Hopefully this trend will continue.
17. Raw Needs the Cruiserweight Division
Since the brand split returned, Raw has been filling a lot of their time with squash matches featuring some of their bigger wrestlers like Nia Jax and Braun Strowman against local talent and their usual series of matches. Despite this, there’s a clear void due the split rosters that the WWE can’t seem to fill at this point. A lot of times they end up having to give more matches time or drawing out segments, and neither have really benefited the flow of the show; especially when most people don’t care about the matches taking place. With that being said, the Cruiserweight Division is set to return and it will only benefit the WWE roster when that occurs.
Outside of being fresh faces for the fans who have not been following the Cruiserweight Classic, this will provide the fans with more fast-paced action and clashes of styles than they are exposed to routinely on Raw. Only ten wrestlers have been announced for this division, but that is just enough to help fill the void and make Raw more exciting.
16. Raw Needs to Be Two Hours
Fans have been complaining about this for the past four years, but the crowds desire for a two-hour Monday Night Raw is still a legitimate gripe. Fans assumed that a three-hour show would give more time to midcarders and other wrestlers on the show to showcase their abilities, but after four years, that still hasn’t come to fruition.
Now with the rosters split, the Raw show has to stretch matches out and have included more enhancement talents matches instead. Even having more women’s matches and more time for that division to shine hasn’t filled the void that has existed on Raw with a roster split in half.
Now with the Cruiserweight Division set to come back to the WWE in two weeks, the company will have a much better shot at filling up time slots, but that doesn’t mean fans want the show to be three hours. Look back at WCW Thunder and SmackDown during the Ruthless Aggression Era and you’ll see an engaging Cruiserweight division all packed into a two-hour time frame. The WWE have been trying this three-hour show for years now and it’s time to call it quits; especially with half of its star power.
15. SmackDown’s Two Authority Figures Are Pointless
As demonstrated last week, the dynamic between Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley is a lot more engaging than the dynamic between Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. Where Stephanie and Foley seem to collide with each other and disagree every once and a while, Bryan and Shane seem to almost completely agree 100% of the time. This is more than likely a way of distinguishing both shows and their authority figures, but then that also begs a particular question; why are they both being used at the same time?
Considering they seem to agree on just about everything, then it makes a lot more sense to have Bryan take center stage until Shane needs to come back for important storylines or announcements. For example, the new tag team and women’s belts being introduced definitely warranted an appearance by both Shane and Bryan, but on a weekly basis, with no contract signings or Raw Superstars invading, having both ultimately seems pointless.
14. Raw has the Better Commentary Team
The SmackDown commentary team consist of Mauro Ranallo, JBL, and David Otunga whereas the Raw commentary team consist of Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Bryon Saxton. Both teams do a good job in calling the action and bringing fans up to speed for storylines and some of the things that occur throughout the show, but for the past few months, Raw commentary team seems to be better than SmackDown’s.
Mauro Ranallo is a great announcer as shown through his commentary with Daniel Bryan for the Cruiserweight Classic. He is probably one of the best commentators, if not the best in the WWE. Despite this, his commentary team doesn’t seem to jell the way Raw’s does. For whatever reason, there seems to be a balance with Cole, Saxton, and Graves that just isn’t there with Ranallo, JBL, and Otunga, which can likely be blamed on Otunga’s lack of ability. SmackDown does a really good job, especially with Ranallo at the forefront, but Raw’s commentary is where most people would probably give the edge.
13. John Cena is More of a Part-Timer Now
After fourteen years of being the face of the WWE and the man who is consistently there, it seems like John Cena will slowing down a bit as he has been making less and less appearances on both WWE television and was absent for SmackDown’s first solo PPV, Backlash. This comes as no surprise, as Cena is closing in on being a mainstay on WWE television for 20 years. No other top guy in WWE has ever been more consistent or reliable for the company than Cena, so it’s only right that he should become more of a part-time wrestler than a consistent Superstar.
With several wrestlers who need time to grow and develop, taking Cena off of TV and giving more time to the lesser known stars will only help the WWE in the long run. This is more than likely just the result of some of Cena’s other media ventures, but the fact remains that he is the most deserving of any wrestler on the roster to take it easy at this point. It remains to be seen how involved he’ll be following his No Mercy main event match.
12. The Squash Matches Aren’t Helping
Braun Strowman and Nia Jax are billed as the WWE’s resident monsters who are seemingly unstoppable. For whatever reason, the WWE didn’t want them mixing it up with the members of the current roster just yet, so they have been using local wrestlers from the cities they go to as enhancement talent. This has resulted in multiple squash matches week after week for both Strowman and Jax. With Bo Dallas having one this past week, that would make three wrestlers having squash matches every week if the WWE wishes to do so; but should they?
Though it’s true that squash matches were an old school part of wrestling that worked most of the time, a lot of those matches weren’t back to back to back. Squash matches are good in doses and having three wrestlers doing them on the same show is too much at once.
11. Cesaro Needs to Go to SmackDown
Rumors are circulating that Cesaro could potentially leave the WWE after the end of the best of seven series with Sheamus. If this is true, then it ultimately proves that the WWE made a big mistake by not drafting Cesaro to SmackDown.
Being a member of the Raw roster, there ‘s very little for Cesaro to do. The WWE neglected to include him in the Fatal 4-Way for the Universal Championship, Roman Reigns was feuding with Rusev for the United States Championship, and other wrestlers were occupied during this time.
Meanwhile on SmackDown, The Miz is still the Intercontinental Champion and Cesaro was trying to win that title from him earlier in the year. There would’ve been a perfect scenario for both men especially after The Miz’s epic promo on Talking Smack. Instead, Cesaro is stuck in a series of matches with Sheamus; who hasn’t been relevant since he lost the World Title. Hopefully the WWE can realize their mistakes with The King of Swing before he’s no longer a wrestler under their employ.
10. The Midcard Title’s Status Hasn’t Changed
During the Golden Era of the WWE, as well as the early years of the Ruthless Aggression Era, midcard championships were presented as important parts of the show. There were unique storylines for both the United States and Intercontinental Champions, occasionally main event level Superstars would fight for the titles and make them feel that much more prestigious, and the champions themselves did their best to stand out.
After the brand split ended a few years ago, the status of midcard championships became nothing more than something for wrestlers to hold every once and a while and it never was treated as it was in the past again. When news of the brand split broke, everyone hoped that it would mean that midcard championships would get a chance to stand out on their perspective shows. To this day, none of that has happened.
Now there have been moments of brilliance in midcard feuds such as the intrigue people had for Roman Reigns and Rusev fighting for the United States Championship as well as the brilliant promo The Miz cut on Talking Smack, but neither of them had a follow up good enough to sustain the little momentum they garnered.
9. Raw Barely Has Main Eventers
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar (when he’s there), and just recently Kevin Owens; that is the entirety of the main event level players on the Raw roster at this time and that’s a big problem.
Owens won the championship, which very few wrestling fans had problems with, but to see him go from an opening match at SummerSlam to main eventer seems a bit too fast. Regardless of this, Owens is now a main event level Superstar and will confirm this by main eventing the Raw exclusive PPV Clash of the Champions, but what will happen next? It’s doubtful Rollins will beat him, so Owens could headline the Survivor Series Show in Canada and there aren’t a lot of midcarders who have been built up to be a credible opponent for a World Title holder. Now a lot of this stems from Finn Bálor being out of action as he was the next main eventer for the company, but the same problems would persist had he been healthy. Raw lacks a legitimate main event scene and it could hurt them in the long run.
8. The Tag Team Division Has No Life
As sad as it is to say, this applies to both Raw and SmackDown. The tag team division in the WWE seemed like it was going to be somewhat interesting for both shows. Raw had Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows of The Club, The New Day, The Dudley Boyz, and Enzo and Cass while SmackDown had American Alpha, The Hype Bros, and The Usos. Both shows had a decent amount of tag teams at the very least, so the WWE had a good enough chance to make these divisions for Raw and SmackDown interesting. Unfortunately, that has yet to be the case.
The feud between The Club and The New Day has been subpar at best, Enzo and Cass lack any sense of direction or proper opponents, and The Dudley Boyz have left the WWE.
Meanwhile on SmackDown, Heath Slater and Rhyno have won the Tag Team Championships with no big team to feud with. Whether it’s the lack of character amongst the participants, lack of a heel/face dynamic, or something of this nature, the WWE needs to do a better job of making the tag team division entertaining.
7. Raw Has Women’s Wrestlers, SmackDown has Divas
When looking at the two women’s rosters for Raw and SmackDown, the best description that could be given is that Raw has legit women’s wrestlers while SmackDown is a call back to the days of the Divas Division.
Now this isn’t to insinuate that there aren’t talented women’s wrestlers on SmackDown, but the fact remains that Raw is home to three-thirds of the Four Horsewomen of NXT (Charlotte, Bayley, and Sasha Banks) and those three individuals have been having much better matches and more interesting storylines than the women of SmackDown.
On the other hand, the women of SmackDown like Eva Marie and Nikki Bella have more interesting traits and exhibit more character and personality than the women of Raw. Now this is only on the surface as neither roster has been given a big enough storyline or feud to judge it completely, but for now it seems like this is the direction the WWE is going in.
6. Lesnar isn’t Being Used Well
Brock Lesnar has been one of the most talked about WWE Superstars in the past few months. Whether it was his decision to come back to the UFC to fight Mark Hunt, his controversial ending to the match with Randy Orton, or just the fact that he doeshows up on TV, no current wrestler generates as much buzz as The Beast Incarnate. With that being said, the WWE don’t seem to know what to do with him as he has been fighting at random, similarly to how he was before the end of The Streak.
With a star as big as Lesnar, even with his enhancement use, the WWE should at least be having him in feuds with more build up and more interest. The feud with Orton was okay, but now Lesnar could possibly be fighting Shane McMahon; not the best way to use a big star. Whether it’s putting him back in the title picture or building up more interesting feuds, Lesnar should be used much better than he currently is.
5. Triple H’s Absence is Problematic
When Shane McMahon returned to the WWE, many fans were looking forward to a possible feud between Triple H and the son of Vince McMahon. However, that wasn’t at all possible because both men had matches scheduled for WrestleMania already. Once WrestleMania was over, fans expected some type of interaction to occur, instead Triple H just seemingly disappeared without a trace and he wasn’t seen again on WWE television until a few weeks ago when he betrayed Seth Rollins and practically gift-wrapped the Universal title for his other boy, Kevin Owens.
This got fans really excited as they were ready to see Triple H come back to TV and explain himself. Instead, he has been absent yet again for two weeks straight and the angle has lost some of it’s luster. Triple H was an established figure in the company for the past few years and for him to not be on TV consistently, while making himself one of the focal points, is just dumb.
4. Only SmackDown’s Viewership Has Benefited
When SmackDown was brought to the USA Network, the ratings were not good enough and even showed signs of decline. So by going live and by placing some of the big names like Randy Orton and John Cena on SmackDown, the WWE was propping up SmackDown and helping to increase the number of eyes on the show. The results have been clear as SmackDown got back up to the three million viewership mark, but the results for Raw has not been anything noteworthy.
Raw’s ratings this year were low in comparison to 2015 alone, but look at just the viewership since the Brand Split and you’ll see disappointing numbers. The highest number of viewers since the first Brand Split show has been 3.4 million while the lowest of lows was just reached for Raw bombing its last episode, which scored a 1.8 rating (2.69 overall), the lowest in over 20 years. This trend doesn’t bode well especially with Monday Night Football back in full swing. SmackDown may be fine, but Raw may be taking some big hits very soon.
3. The World Championship Storylines Are Improving
When the Brand Split started, the first feuds for the World Title were average. Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose cut some really good promos on each other, but the result of their match were way too predictable. Meanwhile on Raw, Finn Bálor and Seth Rollins were having bad talking segments. Now that SummerSlam has passed and the first SmackDown exclusive show has taken place, the World Title storylines have finally begun to garner interest.
For Raw and the Universal Championship, Kevin Owens is the new Triple H guy after Hunter betrayed Rollins so that Owens could win the title, but he still doesn’t get along with his GM. Owens and Rollins are set to fight at Clash of Champions for the title and an appearance by Triple H is more than expected. Meanwhile on SmackDown, AJ Styles is the new WWE Champion and now has to contend with Cena looking for his 16th World Title and an angry Ambrose looking for revenge.
Some good stuff so far.
2. SmackDown is the Better Show
When comparing Raw and SmackDown as overall shows, it is clear that SmackDown is a better show overall. Raw being three hours is a major reason why the show isn’t structured right. A lot of the problems that Raw had before the brand split are still present such as pointless midcard matches, long-winded promos, and random squash matches that lead to nothing.
Meanwhile on SmackDown, promos are much smoother, the matches on the show tend to happen for a reason more often than not, and there currently aren’t any squash matches taking place. The structure is better, but the actual writing is much better. Every once and awhile the promos on Raw will be good, but SmackDown has been more consistent and with a better midcard and a tag team division that has yet to tap into its potential, SmackDown is often the better show more times than not.
1. More Star Power is Needed
This is the most obvious point on this list, but the magnitude of this issue warrants its place on the list. Ever since the end of the Ruthless Aggression Era, the WWE has failed to create enough stars to sustain their viewership and keep the interest of both casual and hardcore fans. The members of The Shield are the only wrestlers who can claim to be stars and even they haven’t been drawing good numbers. This problem with creating stars is probably a reason the brand split occurred, but now that problem has been magnified as a result of it.
SmackDown has John Cena and Randy Orton, but they are working on more of a part-time basis than anything else. So excluding them, AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose make up the entirety of the main event scene. On Raw, only Reigns, Seth Rollins, and recently Kevin Owens make up the main event players for their brand and that’s a huge problem.
Previous incarnations of the Brand Split saw loaded rosters divided equally with the booking to match. And despite SmackDown being the better show, both stars are ultimately failing at creating interesting storylines and building upon them consistently so that stars can be created or current stars can bolster themselves.
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