While I'm sure that most fans reading grew up through the Attitude Era, I lived through the Ruthless Aggression era being the one close to my heart. This was the era where the brand split actually meant something with both shows having distinct identities and rosters (unlike the 2011-2012 era of the brand extension).
Yes while Raw struggled sometimes with the over-emphasis on Triple H and his Evolution stable, SmackDown picked up the slack with the solid Cruiserweight division, the uplifting presence of The Undertaker and the abundance of main event talent like Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar and Batista.
If something was obvious about why the SmackDown roster worked so well was the depth. From the bottom of the card to the top, the audience had something to look forward to. While the current WWE roster is nowhere near weak, I do think there is no such thing as too strong a roster. Through the past few years, WWE has had some wrestlers loaded with talent that they let go for a variety of reasons but in 2016, they could sure use them once again.
It is absolutely spot on for WWE to focus on their "New Era" and rising talent pool courtesy of NXT. I do think it would be a mistake for the company to completely ignore any potential stars just because they already had a go in the company. While it is most likely that these names aren't going to be headlining acts if they return to the company, they would definitely add to the depth of the split rosters. Here are 15 alumni the WWE should consider getting back for the brand split.
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15 Cryme Tyme
The tag team division is growing in WWE but now the pie is going to be cut in half with the brand split. We don't know yet whether there will be one or two sets of tag team champions but either way, Cryme Tyme was a pretty entertaining team. It was a terrible decision to split Shad Gaspard and JTG up, as neither of their careers went anywhere following the split. They've teamed on the independent circuit in recent years and wouldn't be a bad addition at all.
14 Justin Roberts
It was a bit curious as to why Justin Roberts wasn't re-signed by WWE when his contract expired back in 2014. Perhaps Roberts was just the odd man out, as the WWE had been grooming several in-ring announcers. However, the brand split back in the day had a ring announcer for each show and with Eden recently being released, it'd be a good move to bring Roberts back. Since leaving WWE, he has continued to announce, most notably for the Kurt Angle/Rey Mysterio match at the UR Fight iPPV event.
13 Ethan Carter III
Ethan Carter is a great example for guys currently struggling on the WWE roster. Just because creative can't find anything to do for you, doesn't mean you can't find yourself elsewhere. After wasting away as Derrick Bateman, Carter debuted in TNA in 2013 and has been a top star ever since. If TNA were to keep sinking and Carter needed a place to work, WWE should bring him back. He's now proven himself as a star and a brand split would help him shine in WWE.
12 Matt Sydal
Far from the most well-rounded performer in WWE history, Sydal (Evan Bourne) still had some gifts that made him one of the more exciting crusierweights in WWE history.
Equipped with a picture-perfect shooting star press and some other aerial dynamics that would make any wrestler blush, Sydal has spent his post-WWE career bouncing various promotions including Ring of Honour and as of present time New Japan Pro Wrestling.
He finds himself so low on the list because there are honestly other guys who can do the same stuff Sydal can, but he is solid nonetheless.
11 Brodus Clay
Talk about someone being much better than he looks. Brodus Clay may have initially seemed like a run of the mill super-heavyweight, Clay was actually a surprisingly agile wrestler for size and possessed a lot of charisma.
Clay has spent his post WWE run in TNA, but come on now, it's time for the big boy to flee the sinking ship. While I have fears that WWE wouldn't view him as anything more than a comedy act if he came back, I would hold out hope that they could do more with him if he indeed returned.
If he does have to be in a comedy act though, please put him with The New Day. I think that would be funking awesome.
10 Rob Van Dam
If not for two returns in 2013 and 2014 diluting him a bit, RVD would be a hell of a lot higher on this list.
As it is now though, there is still a whole lot to love about The Whole Damn Show. At the age of 45, Van Dam still has most of the atheistic talent he did nearly a decade ago but now tuned to perfection with the benefit of experience.
As long as WWE treats as a bigger deal than they did in his last run, the Raw or Smackdown brand would get a huge boost with RVD on their roster.
9 Drew Galloway
While being the TNA World Champion may be like being the captain of a sinking ship, it shouldn't take away from the growth and development that Drew Galloway has undergone since leaving WWE in 2014.
Shedding his comedic 3MB gimmick, Galloway has finally started to show some of the talent that made him Vince McMahon's "Chosen One". There's zero chance that Galloway would be a main eventer in WWE, but I do think he's better off there rather than sticking around in TNA.
8 Mickie James
The end of her WWE career may have been insultingly stupid courtesy of the Piggie James storyline, but that shouldn't discount the rest of Mickie James' WWE career.
One of the shining women in an otherwise lackluster era for WWE's Divas division, James always brought great energy and great wrestling skills every time she entered the ring. As a 16 year veteran of the wrestling circuit, it would help a great deal for James to give the rub of her experience to developing women like Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Dana Brooke.
Whichever brand she would be on, James would be a great addition to the roster.
7 John Morrison
The king of egotistical nicknames (my favorite has gotta be the Ambassador of Abdominals), Morrison had the look of a modern sports entertainer down pat. Long flowing hair, ridiculous athletic talent and abs you grate the hardest of cheeses on, Morrison came close to hitting the top of the WWE mountain but always fell a little bit short.
While he lacked some mic skills, he does have innate charisma and the kind of ring style that would make Vader go bananas. I doubt that WWE would want to pay enough money to get Morrison out of his Lucha Underground contract, but he would be a solid addition to either of the split rosters if he signs with them again.
6 Gail Kim
Yes yes, she has said in the past that she would never re-sign with WWE but come on this is wrestling. Nine out of ten times, that statement never sticks, and this won't be the exception.
Kim was last seen in the company in 2011 when she left disgruntled with the company, feeling that they were holding back the female talent. With the renewed focus on the Women's Division though, it seems like Kim's problems with them should dissappear now. And thank God for that as she is one of the most talented female wrestlers in the world.
If Kim can get in there with any of the new female talent on WWE's roster, that would be a great benefit to either Raw or SmackDown.
You know what would be cool? Like really cool? For Carlito to come back to the WWE.
One of the shining stars in the mid-card of the mid 2000s, Carlito was poised to be one of the breakout stars for the company. With smooth ring work and good mic skills, it seemed like the Puerto Rican superstar was set. It didn't quite work out though and Carlito has spent his post-WWE career in the Puerto Rican promotion WWC.
If he could be brought back in to give a shine to some rising stars, Carlito can make a fine return to WWE. That'd be cool. Alright that's the last one.
4 The Hardy Boyz
If the return of the Dudleys has shown anything, it's that the teams from the Attitude Era can still have a place in WWE circa 2016. An Edge and Christian return is out of the question, but the L in TLC has yet to make a WWE comeback.
Possessing one of the most loyal fanbases in wrestling, Jeff Hardy's creativity and death defying risks has carried him to a successful career. While Matt has had to scrape more for his success, but still carved out a good career for himself.
As brothers who haven't teamed up in years, it would be great for the Dudleys to be on Raw and the Hardys to be on Smackdown to have a legendary tag team on each brand.
3 Shelton Benjamin
One of the greatest mysteries in wrestling history; how in the hell did Shelton Benjamin not reach a higher level in WWE? While it may be too late for Benjamin to be a big main eventer in WWE, he can still make a return and show off his tremendous talent.
One of the most athletic people ever employed by Vince McMahon, Benjamin could do things in the ring that would make your jaw drop. It's almost like the current talent has caught up to the athleticsm he was showing off years ago. Having said that... Sami Zayn vs. Shelton Benjamin? Cesaro vs. Shelton Benjamin? Seth Rollins vs. Shelton Benjamin? Yes, yes and yes.
2 Rey Mysterio
He isn't the healthy athlete he was in the heyday of the SmackDown brand. He is getting up there in age. But, this is the most influential Mexican wrestler on the planet. This is Rey Mysterio.
The only masked luchadore in history to win a WWE World Championship, Mysterio's list of accomplishments is lengthy and his impact on professional wrestling cannot be understated. While Mysterio left the company back in 2015 and is competing in Lucha Underground now, Mysterio needs one last run on the global stage. No better time than now with the brand split.
1 1. Kurt Angle
What wrestling fans would give to hear that triumphant red, white and blue theme one more time...
Kurt Angle may have been in WWE for only seven years, but his legacy stacks right up there with men like Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. He could get you to buy a ticket with his words or his wrestling talent as either a heel or babyface. That multi-dimensional talent is as rare as a honest politician and something WWE could always use.
While Vince McMahon is hesitant to hire Angle back due to his injury and substance abuse history, I think Angle being sober for a few years now and giving him a Shawn Michaels style schedule would be more than fitting for someone of Angle's caliber.
If we could only get one WWE alumnus for the brand split back, it would have to be pro wrestling's only Olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle.
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