Well, the WWE Draft is over and it was a mixed bag. There were some good moments, like Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose being treated like true marquee players or Finn Balor being drafted fifth overall, some bad moments, like Big Show being drafted before Cesaro or Carmella not being drafted to RAW with Enzo and Cass, and a whole lot of questions, like "Why wasn't Kalisto drafted to RAW, so he could be apart of the Cruiserweight Division?" or "Why was Mojo Rawley drafted, but not Samoa Joe, Shinsuka Nakamura, Bayley, the Revival, or Austin Aries? Why did RAW and Smackdown care about the sanctity of NXT's main event scene?"
Nevertheless, the Draft's over, and all we can do is hope Vinny Mac and company don't run it all into a ditch. The first post-Draft shows have fresh and promising, and even more change is on the horizon. In the spirit of separation, Smackdown has announced that they'll be unveiling their own Tag Team and Women's championships soon, as well as their own exclusive PPVs, and RAW has announced that they'll be bringing back the Cruiserweight championship (the ultra-prestigious belt last held by the legendary Hornswoggle).
Without further ado, this article will look at some of the positives and negatives of the WWE making these new additions to their flagship show(s). Trigger warning: at least one of these entries will mention the Great Khali. Sorry in advance.
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29 Positive - True Brand Separation
One of WWE TV's biggest problems in the last few years has been that RAW and Smackdown weren't really separate shows. RAW was the flagship show where everything important happened and Smackdown was essentially a RAW recap show that almost always ended in six man tag matches. Now, thanks to the brand split, the shows are completely separate again. Unfortunately, this means that announcers will be contractually obligated to rave on and on about brand loyalty during the Royal Rumble (Seriously, watch the 2005 Royal Rumble and try not to hate Tazz), but for the most part, it's a change for the better. Smackdown is an actual show again, instead of an unnecessary and unneeded addition to RAW. By giving Smackdown its own Tag Team and Women's championships, tag teams and women wrestlers from the two brands won't have to float between shows to challenge for gold. It gives the company more chances to elevate new stars, create interesting matches and storylines, and makes possible clashes between the brands, like at Survivor Series or the Royal Rumble, special and more exciting.
27 Negative - Struggle for Championship Prestige
It's no secret that prestige for WWE's many championships isn't at an all time high. The US and Intercontinental championships have been mired in mediocre booking for much of the last few years (with the very obvious exception of John Cena's excellent US title run); the Tag Team titles have slowly risen back to prominence, largely thanks to the New Day; and the Women's championship is still trying to recover from a decade of absolutely horrible booking. So it stands to reason that adding three new championships won't go super well. While the Smackdown Tag Team and Women's titles have obvious front runners in American Alpha and Becky Lynch, respectively, it'll be a challenge keeping them aloft with limited rosters and the WWE's often poor writing. Meanwhile, the Cruiserweight championship on RAW faces an entirely different challenge. Vince McMahon himself, the only man in the company that truly matters, has never been a big fan of smaller wrestlers and may stifle the potential of the new division, sticking them with stupid gimmicks and storylines, and limited ring time to win crowd support.
25 Positive - Increased Network Value
The WWE Network is awesome. It just is. There's an incredible treasure trove of old content (Pro tip: go watch Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon from the 2001 King of the Ring. DO IT!) and a steady stream of great new content, such as NXT, the Cruiserweight Classic, and Edge and Christian's Non-Stop Festival of Insanity (An approximation of the actual title). Adding Smackdown exclusive PPVs to the Network's already sizable schedule makes the streaming service's $9.99 price tag even more of a steal. At first glance, adding a new slew of PPVs sounds exhausting, considering that during PPV weeks, WWE fans are looking at between 9 to 11 hours of wrestling across four straight days. However, it's still unconquerable value and, at least hopefully, the better the shows are, the shorter and less painful they'll feel. At the very least, more PPVs means a chance for more lengthy, high quality matches, which should excite any wrestling fan.
23 Negative - Could Hurt Midcard Feuds Even More
Here's a very obvious statement: the WWE isn't incredibly adept at booking non-title midcard feuds. Really, they're generally not very skilled at booking most non-title feuds (This John Cena and AJ Styles feud is pretty great, though, right?), but midcard feuds seem to suffer the most. Many midcarders get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day WWE booking, and exist almost exclusively to do battle and fill time on one of the two major shows. When the WWE does find money in the midcard, such as with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (A blind Sonic the Hedgehog cosplayer couldn't have screwed that up, though), the company has a tendency to overexpose the hell out of it. Now, with five titles on RAW and four on Smackdown, even more focus will shift onto championship feuds and less so on the midcard. While it does offer midcard stars more opportunities to compete for gold (more on that soon), it also offers an increased chance for the WWE to waste talented wrestlers on unimaginative booking.
21 Positive - More Veteran Returns and NXT Call-Ups
Some of the most thrilling moments in WWE history have been superstars returning (either from an extended absence, injury, or, in Brock Lesnar's case, taking over Skull Island) or popular NXT stars being called up to the main roster. With the main roster effectively being cut in half (kinda) by the draft, each show is going to need more bodies to fill out the roster. With a need to bolster numbers, it makes sense that the WWE would look outside the company and within Full Sail University for help. Many veteran talents have been "scouted" (Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, etc.) Rhyno has already been brought in (Unfortunately, Shelton Benjamin has been sidelined for an extended period of time with a torn rotator cuff), and NXT was raided during the Draft, but more superstars are needed, especially with the new championships being added. Expect to see more veterans and top NXT stars pop up on RAW and Smackdown in the coming months as the company expands their hordes.
19 Negative - SmackDown's Diminished Roster May Falter
This point goes hand-in-hand with the previous entry. Of the two shows, Smackdown has the smaller roster and that decision made sense at the time of the Draft, since RAW is three hours long to Smackdown's two, therefore RAW needs more bodies. However, with the addition of two new championships, the Blue Brand is running the risk of a roster crisis. With only a handful of tag teams and women on the roster, those divisions could quickly become a maelstrom of unoriginal matchmaking, which the brand split was brought back to address. If the company decides to put singles competitors together to bolster the tag division, they could potentially eliminate Intercontinental and World title challengers. The Smackdown women's division only has a handful of competitors as is, and even fewer of them have the combination of star power, charisma, and in-ring ability to elevate a new championship (Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss come to mind). If the WWE doesn't add to the Smackdown roster quickly, the show could easily turn stagnant.
17 Positive - Gives Deserving Workhorses a Chance at Glory
There is one undeniable benefit of having two major championships, and that's that more superstars get a shot at main event glory. Smackdown is a prime example of this: the current WWE Champion is Dean Ambrose, who's been mired in poor booking since the Shield split up, and Dolph Ziggler and Bray Wyatt, two criminally misused talents, have been implanted in the WWE title hunt right off the bat. Because the company had two major titles in the past, deserving men like Eddie Guerrero, Christian, and Jeff Hardy received championship pushes they may never have gotten if the company only had one top prize. Giving men like Dolph Ziggler and Bray Wyatt the exposure they deserve at the top of the card not only helps bolster the main event scene, but also gives these men opportunities they deserve and the fans wrestlers they care about.
15 Negative - Could Overexpose Everything
If you're a UFC fan, you're no doubt aware that the promotion's schedule has become a bit congested, trotting out many cards with little to no name value and tons of inexperienced fighters. Unless you're a super hardcore fan, the schedule has become a slog (they had three shows in three days earlier this summer). While the WWE doesn't have to worry about not having big names on their cards, they are facing the same kind of overexposure with how many events they currently have slated. The WWE normally does one PPV show a month, in addition to RAW, Smackdown, and NXT every week, along with various Network specials they may or may not decide to televise. Now, they'll be adding Smackdown exclusive PPVs to that schedule, ensuring that many months will feature two long events, in addition to the usual six hours of TV a week. This extended schedule could lead to some fans deciding against watching PPVs, or worse (for WWE's ratings, at least), not watching RAW and Smackdown.
13 Positive - Makes the Big 4 PPVs More Important
The WWE's Big 4 PPVs are Wrestlemania, Summerslam, Survivor Series, and the Royal Rumble. Wrestlemania and Summerslam are the biggest events on the company's PPV schedule, and Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble feature iconic and (usually) important match stipulations. While the WWE always makes a big deal of these four shows, they're especially important now, as they will be the only times when the RAW and Smackdown rosters are on the same card. This is important for two reasons: one, it means that any one of these shows could feature a litany of big money title matches, and two, there's a chance for cross-show shenanigans. Superstars with unsettled beefs could clash or some superstars could angle for a chance to switch brands if they so wish. Whether or not those things happen is anybody's guess, but at the very least, the viewing audience would be treated to two separate announce teams, which should help alleviate Michael-Cole-itis.
11 Negative - Could Lead to Excessive Title Changes
Excessive title changes are some of the most annoying things in professional wrestling. Every company ends up playing hot potato with one, or more, of their belts eventually. Even New Japan, in all their beautiful wrestling glory, can't seem to find an extended home for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles. At the moment, the WWE is seemingly in a good place with their titles: the New Day have been tag champs for almost a year, Charlotte just finished a lengthy 300+ day reign, and the Miz has, surprisingly, been Intercontinental champ since the night after WrestleMania. However, with the sheer number of titles soon to be in play, one or two of them may get stuck in juggling purgatory, especially if top brass thinks a champion isn't good enough or helping ratings. The new Cruiserweight title could suffer the most, as the WWE might very well switch between a number of transitional champions until they find their "guy."
9 Positive - More Chances For High Quality Matches
For the most part, the best matches in WWE take place on PPVs. While there have been a few notable exceptions, such as John Cena and Shawn Michael's 52-minute long marathon match on RAW in 2007, or Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle's 60-minute Iron Man match on Smackdown in 2003, most of the WWE's best contests have taken place on PPV. Therein lies one of the biggest positives of the brand split: with more PPVs on the way, possibly 6 or 7, there's a higher possibility that the audience will be treated to great, lengthy matches. With both brands trying to create new stars or revitalize old ones, they'll want to give them a decent amount of time to showcase their skills and build a connection with the audience, because nothing captivates a crowd like good ring work (Sorry, Vince, it's surprisingly NOT height and bicep size).
7 Negative - Runs the Risk of Repetition
See the alliteration with the entry title? Get it? 'Cause repetition?
One of the biggest problems with the WWE pre-brand split was that every show was beginning to run together. A match would happen on RAW, then again on Smackdown, then AGAIN on RAW, then the whole thing would be warped into a six man tag match on Smackdown. It happened a million times. The hope is that the brand split will eliminate that kind of redundancy, providing the audience with fresh match-ups and rivalries. So far, so good, as RAW and Smackdown have presented a handful of unique segments (If you didn't like Enzo and Sasha Banks' promo, who hurt you?). However, that could quickly change and the shows could revert to carousels of mediocrity, showing the same tired matches over and over again instead of coming up with anything interesting (Sheamus and Randy Orton are still fighting somewhere). With the limited rosters, there's a very real chance the same lazy writing could take hold all over again.
5 Positive - Makes Smackdown Stronger
This was arguably the entire point of the brand split. Smackdown was mired in bad writing, uninspired matches, and terrible ratings. By making the show live and, most importantly, ACTUALLY MATTER, they've ensured that more people will actually watch. The company has actually done a good job as portraying the two brands as separate, equal entities, instead of treating Smackdown like RAW's red headed stepbrother. They put the WWE title, the defacto #1 prize in the company, and John Cena, the face of the company, to the blue brand, making it seem like a bigger deal than it has in years. Now that they're adding tag team championships and a women's title to Tuesday nights, Smackdown superstars don't have to look idly on as their RAW counterparts get all the glory. By all measurements, Smackdown isn't the B Show, it's show 1B on the WWE's schedule, and that's a very good strategy to garner more interest and ratings.
3 Negative - Increased Chance of Bad Champions
This is the biggest concern anyone should have with the brand split. Do you remember the Great Khali's World Heavyweight Championship reign? It lasted a couple months and was dreadful. Punjabi Prison matches were created by the Devil to ruin wrestling. Remember when the Big Show was World Heavyweight Champion twice in one year? What about Jack Swagger's very ill-advised title reign with the same belt in 2010? In the case of Big Show and Khali, the company opted for giant men the audience had no love for, and with Jack Swagger, they rushed the development of a promising young wrestler, blowing up his credibility. All of these reigns were obvious mistakes to the viewing audience, but the company went ahead with them, anyway, because they knew it wouldn't matter in the long run. They had two world championships to toy with and as long as at least one was in the hands of a credible wrestler, the other could be passed could be given to whoever. With even more championships to play with, the WWE Universe can almost certainly prepare for more obviously ill advised title reigns.
1 Positive - Helps Create New Stars
There is no better reason to have multiple major championships than the effect it can have on creating new top stars. Already, the WWE has used the WWE title to cement Dean Ambrose as a certified main eventer and face of Smackdown. At the same time, they're using the new WWE Universal championship, and main event of SummerSlam, to build up Finn Balor as a major player in the company. Although a world title won't always turn a wrestler into a bonafide megastar (Sorry, Roman Reigns), but when handled correctly, it can cement a star's place at the top of the card, as it has with Seth Rollins. Perhaps the best example of this is Edge. Edge was always a good performer who possibly wouldn't have been given the opportunities he was had there not been a surplus of gold in the company. On RAW, he was a minor pest to John Cena, but he ruled over the Smackdown brand for years, becoming one of the most popular and beloved superstars in WWE history. The world needs more of that.
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