It has been just about half a calendar year since the WWE Draft Lottery and the launch of SmackDown Live, and we have had enough time to assess what this means for both brands and their rosters. While we have seen many different changes including new talent, promoted talent, new commentary teams and new champions, there have been examples of the good, bad and ugly on both Raw and SmackDown Live. Of course, there are many differences between the brands, including Raw being three hours to SmackDown Live’s two, and the obvious fact that Raw has been on the air for quite a bit longer than SmackDown Live. However, ratings and viewership have shown since the brand split that the two shows are actually a lot closer than many would realize, especially with the emergence of stars like WWE Champion A.J. Styles on SmackDown Live.
Wrestling fans are one of the most rabid, passionate fan bases in any sort of sport or entertainment product. One quick look on Twitter’s trending list during a Raw, SmackDown Live or pay-per-view event and you will almost always see whatever hash tag WWE is promoting at the top of the list, worldwide. Although some of it may be positive, wrestling fans will openly speak their minds on storylines and superstars when they see something they don’t like. While WWE generally passes on the demands of their fans, sometimes it works. For example, the #GiveDivasAChance trend was one of the leading factors to the women’s revolution. With all that said, let’s take a look at what WWE should and shouldn’t do with the brand split in 2017.
15 Should: Inter-Promotional Champion
This one is a bit of a touchy one, due to the treacherous schedule of the two WWE rosters including house shows and televised events. However, how cool would it be to have one specific champion bounce between Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live? Heck, the cruiserweights can do it, why can’t one other champion?
Many wrestling fans might argue that there are already too many championships within WWE as it is, however an inter-promotional champion could be extremely intriguing. Even if they set it up as something similar to the old WCW Television Championship, where the title is only defended on live, televised events, it could provide a substantial run for a mid-card superstar stuck in the ranks, as well as a challenge for others that are currently going nowhere on the mid-card. With the United Kingdom Championship being introduced to the WWE Universe recently, perhaps this could be the title they use as an inter-promotional belt. Or, as we said, a WWE Television Champion sounds pretty sweet too.
14 Shouldn’t: Cruiserweights on SmackDown Live
Since the huge success of the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network in the summer of 2016, the Cruiserweight division sort of fell off in interest to WWE fans. More recently, with the emergence of stars like Jack Gallagher, the involvement of Alicia Fox and Cedric Alexander and the fantastic, much needed Neville heel turn, the division is finally starting to find it’s place on Monday Night Raw and 205 Live. New storylines, feuds and talent have brought a new life to the division and the Tuesday night 205 Live WWE Network exclusive show has surely brought new subscribers to the WWE Network. While the WWE announced during the draft lottery that the Cruiserweight division would be exclusive to Monday Night Raw, one may ask why the division hasn’t expanded over to SmackDown Live yet.
The real answer to that question would be, they really shouldn’t put them on SmackDown Live. With the show only being a healthy two hours compared to Raw’s three hours, there’s simply no room on Tuesday nights for the under 205 pound competitors. With 205 Live being filmed live immediately after SmackDown Live, there is no need to put the cruiserweights on SmackDown Live and it should stay that way.
13 Should: One General Manager Per Brand
While the whole dynamic of having a General Manager AND a Commissioner on each show seemed intriguing at the start, the idea has seemingly got a little bit unnecessary. Besides teasing a little bit of tension between Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon on Monday Night Raw, the whole idea of having two authority figures on each show seems kind of pointless. Over on SmackDown Live, it’s no shocker that having Shane McMahon on WWE television again tends to drive ratings, but there really is no need to have him and Daniel Bryan in charge of Tuesday nights in WWE.
Obviously, this isn’t a major issue in WWE, as they have their bright spots at times having the four authority figures in charge. However, any wrestling fan from the early 2000s will argue that Mick Foley’s first role as Commissioner of Monday Night Raw was extremely entertaining and many would like to see Foley riding around on an “office golf cart” or setting up shop wherever he could find free space in the backstage area.
12 Shouldn’t: Pay-Per-Views Every Two Weeks
Even for the most hardcore WWE and wrestling fans, there is definitely such thing as “too much wrestling.” These days, you can literally watch essentially any sort of production WWE has ever created on the WWE Network, and you can watch it on demand. Whether it’s an old episode of Raw or a documentary on the nWo, it’s all there. That brings us to the current product and the constant new content being released on the WWE Network, in an effort to create new subscribers every month.
Near the end of 2016, WWE was seemingly producing a pay-per-view event every two weeks. While this may be appealing to some wrestling fans, statistics showed that it seemed to be a bit of overkill on pay-per-view events on the WWE Network. Attendance and viewership were way down for events such as TLC and Roadblock: End of the Line and WWE should use this as a sign that perhaps instead of creating these events so frequently, there would be more intrigue if they were limited to once a month.
11 Should: Trades
While the idea has cooled off recently, rumours were swirling for months after the draft that WWE would be making some trades in an effort to revitalize some careers. For example, it was teased numerous times that Cesaro and Sami Zayn would be traded to SmackDown Live and possibly a guy like Baron Corbin would be headed to Monday nights. While nothing has happened as of yet, how cool would a couple trades be between Raw and SmackDown Live?
In fact, let’s take this a step further. In most professional sports leagues, one of the most popular and anticipated days of the year takes place because of a league imposed trade deadline. That brings us to the question, why not allow trades between the brands once in a while? Obviously, trades happening all the time would be unnecessary and less intriguing, but a trade once in a while would create some major intrigue for wrestling fans. WWE could definitely bank on a trade deadline idea, such as a WWE draft style episode of Raw or SmackDown live, dedicated to being a “trade deadline special,” much like you would see on a major sports network during a league’s trade deadline. While this would likely never happen, we can only hope for a trade deadline type event some day in WWE.
10 Shouldn’t: Re-draft
While we suggested that WWE should implement some sort of trade structure between the brands, including a trade deadline, they should definitely stick to their core superstars on each show. In order to continue to build the individual brands on Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, WWE needs to keep their cornerstone pieces where they are, at least for the time being. Guys like Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens are the glue of Monday Night Raw, while A.J. Styles, John Cena and Dean Ambrose are the cement base of SmackDown Live and this should remain that way.
Vince McMahon is very well known to like to “shake things up” a bit from time to time, but this is something that is too soon to be changed. With WrestleMania season coming up over the next few months, expect to see a class of NXT graduates make their way to the main roster. Guys like Samoa Joe, Tye Dillinger and Shinsuke Nakamura, just to name a few, will provide that “shake” that Vince thrives on to change things up, without the need to do a complete re-draft in 2017.
9 Should: The Undertaker on Both Brands
Whether he shows up on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown Live, The Undertaker is always a massive draw for WWE and will bring in massive marketing dollars for the company, no matter what type of role he is playing. Although Taker is considered a part-timer and is now into his fifties, The Deadman recently announced that “WrestleMania would no longer define him,” signally that perhaps the man from Death valley was going to be returning to a more regular schedule on WWE television. This brings us to the question, which show would The Undertaker appear on?
The answer is a no brainer for the legend. The Undertaker has always been one to never listen to anyone or take orders, and WWE could hugely benefit on having The Deadman on both shows. Obviously, having Taker on both shows every week would be unnecessary, but imagine having him “takin’ souls and diggin’ holes” all over the WWE in 2017. If The Undertaker is indeed returning to a somewhat regular schedule, he should be on both Monday and Tuesday nights.
8 Shouldn’t: Three Hour SmackDown Live
One major edge that SmackDown Live has had over Monday Night Raw since the brand split is that extra hour that WWE doesn’t offer on Tuesday nights. While the three hour episode of Raw may look good on paper, many wrestling fans have found that the extra hour is extremely unnecessary and tends to make the show drag on. Seemingly filling time with meaningless segments and matches, a lot of fans would love to see Raw go back to being a two hour time slot. While this may provide an opportunity to show off more talent in a wider range of time on Monday nights, SmackDown Live provides more “bang for your buck,” putting on a quality two hour show with no time for filler or pointless segments. With the addition of 205 Live being taped immediately after SmackDown Live, there really is no need for a three hour show on Tuesday nights and it should stay that way.
7 Should: King of the Ring Tournament
One of the biggest traditions in WWE of the 1990s, WWE has seemingly distanced itself from the concept of the King of the Ring tournament. Likely due to to a lack of direction for the eventual winner of the tournament (they win a crown?), there's probably a good chance we won't see the King of the Ring for the foreseeable future. However, this type of tournament would be a perfect set up for a showdown between two top stars on their respective brands at a "top four" pay-per-view, whether that be the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam or Survivor Series. Setting up qualifying matches on Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live could lead to eventual dream matches at one of the previously mentioned shows that would never happen with the brand split.
AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins for a King of the Ring final sounds pretty damn good.
6 Shouldn't: Completely Raid The NXT Roster
One thing the WWE has been consistently good at since the emergence of the immensely popular NXT brand is that they have never gone and completely emptied the cupboard from the NXT brand. Although they have called up a significant number of stars from the developmental brand, they have always left stars behind and are constantly adding to their already stellar roster from different wrestling promotions all over the world.
It's been a few months since we've seen any NXT call ups, but with WrestleMania approaching, it's no secret that we could see some familiar faces from Wednesday nights starting to appear, quite possibly as soon as the Royal Rumble match. Many superstars currently in NXT are more than ripe and ready to debut on the main roster, but it's imperative that WWE sticks to the plan of waiting until the time is right, as well as making sure the brand is well stocked for the foreseeable future.
Rumours have been swirling that names such as Samoa Joe, Tye Dillinger and Shinsuke Nakamura could be debuting anytime now, but with the exception of a few other select names, that's about all it should be. NXT has been the hottest brand in WWE for a while now and WWE needs to keep it that way by keeping the roster well stocked and popular.
5 Should: Finn Balor to SmackDown Live
2016 was a huge year for the NXT brand and for wrestlers being promoted to the main roster after years of building the developmental brand on the WWE Network. After being drafted in the top five to Monday Night Raw in the WWE brand draft, former NXT Champion Finn Balor was the most anticipated call up of the entire calendar year. In his short time on Raw, Balor definitely delivered. After winning two huge matches on his first night on Raw before defeating Seth Rollins at SummerSlam to become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion, Balor was off to one of the hottest career starts in WWE history. However, a running powerbomb into the barricade by Seth Rollins essentially destroyed Balor’s shoulder at SummerSlam, ending his one day reign as Universal Champion and putting him on the shelf for months.
While many may think Balor should return to Raw to avenge his injury and get back the title he had to give up, why not have him shockingly show up to SmackDown Live? Tuesday nights are known as the “land of opportunity” and while Balor would undoubtedly be a top guy on Raw, feuds with guys like A.J. Styles and John Cena would make for fantastic television and give Raw a solid run for their money. Where will The Demon King show up once he returns from injury? We can’t wait to find out.
4 Shouldn't: Bury The Women's Divisions
The WWE and NXT Women's Divisions have been one of the most entertaining aspects in the entire company over the past few years. From Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover Brooklyn, to Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte at WrestleMania, there has been no shortage of instant classics in the newly re-invented division.
The original "women's revolution" in WWE started with The Four Horsewoman, consisting of Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Bayley. With three of the aforementioned appearing on Monday Night Raw and Becky Lynch being the lone Horsewoman on SmackDown Live, WWE has been developing new talent on the blue brand to compete with Lynch, along with veterans like Nikki Bella and Natalya. While the competition for Charlotte Flair seems quite intriguing with the likes of Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax and the impending return of Emma, the SmackDown Live women's division has essentially been limited to one championship feud between Lynch and the impressive, current champion Alexa Bliss. It's highly likely that Lynch re-captures the championship sooner than later, but where does it go after that? Rumours have been swirling that Mickie James is set to return on SmackDown Live anytime now, which would provide an enticing rivalry for The Irish Lasskicker.
With the shorter time slot on SmackDown Live on Tuesday nights, let's hope that WWE can continue the momentum of the women's division and not let it slip into the one hour Superstars broadcast.
3 Should: The Shield Causing Mayhem
One thing many wrestling fans will argue these days is that the WWE is lacking something. What could they be lacking during the “new era” compared to past eras? Straight up chaos. If you’re looking for chaos, there are three guys you look to on the current roster to create it.
The WWE has been teasing a Shield reunion for years now. Whether it’s putting them in a six man tag match on Raw, Stephanie McMahon teasing it in a promo, or a Triple Powerbomb on A.J. Styles at Survivor Series, WWE fans have been salivating for a reunion of The Hounds of Justice in the WWE. Currently, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are two of the top guys on Monday Night Raw and Dean Ambrose is wearing the Intercontinental title on SmackDown Live. If it’s chaos the WWE could use to drive ratings and viewership, why not put them back together as a unit and cause carnage on both shows? One of the most destructive forces in the history of WWE showing up and destroying everyone in their path would surely make for “must watch” television for wrestling fans, something that has been somewhat lacking over the past few years. Although with two different road schedules between the two brands would make it difficult logistically, there’s no doubt the Shield taking over WWE again would take the company to another level.
2 Shouldn't: Four Man Broadcast Teams
Remember the good old days when Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live had two solid, two-man broadcast teams? The dynamic between teams like Michael Cole and Tazz on SmackDown and the legendary duo of Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler provided the voices of WWE for many years.
To be clear, the current Raw broadcast team is the best it’s been in years. The quirky and highly wrestling educated banter between Byron Saxton and the immensely popular Corey Graves provides a huge entertainment value, combined with the experience of Michael Cole as lead commentator. While SmackDown Live has quite possibly the greatest commentator in sports entertainment today in Mauro Ranallo, the Tuesday night brand has been trying out a four-man team recently and it hasn’t exactly sat well with WWE fans. While the recent addition of Tom Phillips to the broadcast team is a sign of great things to come based on his excellent work in NXT, the whole idea of four guys calling a match just seems unnecessary. With JBL and David Otunga essentially playing the same role, it’s a wonder why WWE hasn’t moved one of them into a new role with the company. And based on a quick Twitter search, it’s pretty obvious that the WWE Universe would be fine with a Tuesday night without David Otunga.
1 Should: Brand Warfare
Let's be clear here. We are DEFINITELY not asking for another version of WWE Bragging Rights. Between that and the entire WCW/ECW "Invasion" angle, there are many different ways WWE could approach this and bank on it, without becoming a disaster like the aforementioned events in WWE history.
When the brand split happened in July 0f 2016, many wrestling fans were hoping this would create a war similar to the famous Monday Night Wars of the late 1990s between WWE and WCW. While the two brands have been battling back and forth for ratings and viewership, there has been very little interaction between the two brands, with the exception of a few meaningless (yet highly entertaining) traditional elimination matches at Survivor Series. With that said, how would WWE create a more intriguing competition between the two brands?
Vince McMahon said he wanted "blood" between Shane and Stephanie before announcing the brand split and things have generally been quite calm since the split took place between the two brands. The best way to create tension in this situation would be to have the brands fighting over something worthwhile and something that is not "bragging rights." With the annual WWE "call up season" approaching, why not have the WWE battle over who gets to draft the new NXT graduates? Not only does it create exposure for the NXT stars themselves, but could create that sense of competition and create an opportunity for a mini "NXT Draft" to change things up a bit on both rosters.