WWE has announced a brand split ahead of July 19 when SmackDown will officially go live every Tuesday for the first time in its history.
Questions are filling the air with the unexpected timing of this announcement. Fresh off of Monday Night Raw, many wonder why WWE did not make the monumental reveal in Baltimore, opting to release a statement online instead.
The method of delivery aside, there are exciting and worrisome aspects alike about another brand split.
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Here is a look at the major questions.
1. What will be the top title in each brand?
The last time WWE attempted a brand split, there were several successes en route to ultimate failure due to WWE’s greed. One of those successes was arguably the use of a variety of talent in their pursuit to the top title of their brand.
However, with the unification of the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship less than two and a half years ago, should WWE separate the two titles once again? If not, the current WWE World Heavyweight Championship will likely be non-exclusive to a single brand. Does that, then, defeat the purpose of a brand split, if members from either roster are able to challenge for a single title?
Some fans will make the case that a single championship raises the importance of the title, and creates exciting matchups over the ultimate prize. However, as the WWE universe has witnessed over the past two and a half years, many superstars deserving of main event status fail to gain so due to the lack of space in that territory.
The best decision will be for WWE to separate the belts, although the execution and the reasoning behind the split must be flawless. With two world titles to chase, one for each brand, stars like Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, and AJ Styles will have more opportunities to fight for world championships.
On the other hand, what about the women’s division? Will WWE introduce a second title for the division, or will the women’s division be non-exclusive?
Unlike the situation with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, a second women’s title should not be introduced – yet. This will prevent over-saturation of championships in the company, at a time when the women’s division does not have enough stars to compete for two separate titles.
Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and eventually, Bayley, are deserving of championship challenges and reigns over their respective careers. However, with Charlotte holding the title, the Four Horsewomen can deliver sensational matchups with one another.
Beyond the four mainstays of the women’s division, most of the company’s important female assets are currently competing in NXT. Wrestlers like Asuka and Nia Jax are thriving in the developmental brand, fighting over their own prize.
When there are more options for two championships, WWE should introduce a second title. For now, the WWE Women’s Championship should be the ultimate prize for every woman on the main roster.
2. Who should run each brand?
The general manager title has made stars out of non-wrestlers over the years, with Teddy Long’s name at the top of that list. Thus, although the role is likely only in kayfabe, the person put in charge of either Raw or SmackDown matters to the overall brand.
The obvious choices will be Stephanie and Shane McMahon for the two brands as the pair teased in a video released online soon after the big announcement. The two bickered over their credentials to run SmackDown, before ultimately agreeing that a McMahon should run it regardless. Barring a nonsensical reveal of Linda McMahon running Smackdown, that points directly to the two siblings.
Shane is a popular figure in the WWE and has been extremely over since his unannounced return ahead of WrestleMania 32. His insane leap of faith off the top of Hell in a Cell only adds to his legend, leading many fans to align with the older McMahon sibling.
Stephanie has been a hated figure throughout WWE’s history, playing an excellent heel during her run with the company. Fans have come to appreciate her work ethic and talent on the microphone, nudging her toward babyface status.
Between Shane and Stephanie, the latter wins out as a better general manager candidate. Stephanie has the experience of appearing on-screen as the leader of a brand, and her promos and interactions with superstars are undeniably more captivating than those of Shane.
For that reason, however, Stephanie should be placed in charge of SmackDown instead of the flagship brand, Raw.
The blue brand has suffered after years of uninspired matches, online spoilers, and lack of storyline development. With the new brand split, SmackDown may very well receive the rejuvenation it sorely requires, and Stephanie at the helm of the revival will ease the process.
In the meantime, Shane will lead Raw with his popularity, and if he fails to live up to expectations, the reputation of the brand will cushion his fall.
3. How will NXT talent receive promotions to the main roster?
NXT has been the hottest brand in the wrestling industry for over a year, with the biggest stars converging to create sensational matches and exciting storylines.
Some of the loudest pops since 2015 have been given to NXT stars making their unexpected debut on Raw, regardless of male or female.
With the new brand split, how will it be determined off-screen and on-screen as to which brand a debuting wrestler will join?
In reality, the wrestler will likely join the brand that holds the most potential for future rivalries, leaving the decision to the hands of WWE creative. Assuming that the creative team does not miss its mark – albeit, a bold assumption – this would make the most sense.
On-screen, however, will be the difficult area to justify. Why would a wrestler choose one brand over another? WWE must be careful with its reasoning, as it could damage the reputation of the opposing brand, or diminish the importance of the other brand’s titles.
4. Should brand-exclusive pay-per-views be introduced?
Although the brand split will provide almost twice as many opportunities for stars to shine in their own storylines, having just one pay-per-view per month for both brands may not be enough to showcase the superstars on pay-per-view events.
However, having a pay-per-view event for each brand every month will undoubtedly wear out the product. Even with the WWE Network subscription, that is simply a large time commitment to ask of fans.
Thus, the best solution may be to host alternating brand-exclusive pay-per-views every month, with the big four events playing host to both brands. For example, all superstars will be eligible to enter the Royal Rumble in January, while Raw hosts its own pay-per-view in February and SmackDown with one in March. WrestleMania will then feature both brands.
At Money in the Bank, however, the WWE will be wise to continue featuring just one ladder match for a single briefcase, with four participants from each brand. The winner of the contract will then be deemed non-exclusive to a brand, creating a sense of unpredictability for both shows, as Mr. Money in the Bank can show up at any time and cash in on either world champions.
The WWE brand split is a sign of a bright future to come if the company makes the right decisions. Although it has been done once before, it really does feel like a new era in the WWE.
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