Pro Wrestling

Good Idea, Bad Idea: Bringing Back The WWE Brand Split Source:

The original WWE Brand Extension, which began in 2002, was one of the more polarizing times in WWE. Not just a war between Raw and Smackdown, it was a battle between fans who thought it was a great idea, and those who saw it as yet another thing WWE would inevitably mismanage and abandon. The split had its share of high and lows, but ultimately died a quiet death somewhere around 2010, as Smackdown and Raw stars began mingling freely on both shows once more. However, ever since it ended, there have been rumblings that WWE might be considering bringing it back, and even people saying that it might be a good idea. Then, in 2016, coinciding with WWE finally turning Smackdown into a live show, WWE announced that they would, in fact, be resurrecting the brand extension. Frankly, we’re not sure how we feel about resurrecting the brand extension, so we decided to take a look at it from both sides, and we assembled the following arguments both for and against WWE splitting their roster yet again.

10. Good Idea: Less Wear And Tear

The fact of the matter is that injuries have increased exponentially in WWE in recent years, and one of the major factors of that is the fact that since the brand split ended, many wrestlers are back to wrestling five days a week if they’re expected to appear on Raw and Smackdown. And if you don’t think that one extra day of work a week is a bad idea, ask any office worker if their quality of life would be better with a four day work week instead of five. And those are people who aren’t falling on their backs for a living! It may only be one factor of many, but by splitting the roster into two separate shows, almost everyone gets to wrestle one less day a week, and that can only help improve the overall health of every wrestler. Source:

9. Bad Idea: Not Enough Of Some Good Things

While WWE does have a large roster and access to a similarly large developmental roster, as well as the ability to sign pretty much anyone in the world they desire, even with that huge amount of talent, there are still areas of the roster that don’t have a lot of depth, which would be exacerbated by a brand split. Notably, the tag division, which is always in a constant state of flux over the number of tag teams, and the Women’s division, which has made great strides but is still only a small number of wrestlers. Sure, they could (and likely would) promote some people from NXT, but they’re already divisions that are traditionally under-served, and sooner or later, you’d be promoting people who clearly aren’t ready and just diluting the division even further. And if you don’t believe us, look at some of the teams that held the tag titles during the last split. Source:

8. Good Idea: More People Will Have To Get TV Time

It was the company line during the original brand extension, but it’s true. When WWE was two separate brands, a lot of wrestlers got elevated by the simple virtue of WWE being forced to utilize more of their Superstars on each show. As much as we mocked the idea of two World titles (and we’ll get to that), how many wrestlers get to call themselves World Champions, and totally deserve to, that probably wouldn’t have without having separate brands? Would John Cena have ever gotten a chance to rise out of the lower card if he’d had to compete with Evolution and Goldberg for TV time in addition to already established Smackdown stars? Sure, not everyone worked out (because that’s just a fact of life), but at least there were more opportunities to succeed. Source:

7. Bad Idea: Three Hour Raws Are Already Too Long

Raw being a three hour show is this ridiculous anchor around WWE’s neck that just won’t go away as long as USA Network doesn’t think there’s a better option that would get them similar ratings. The show already drags unbearably, has resulted in WWE making all the matches longer (and not just the good ones like Styles-Owens, even Big Show was getting two segments to amble slowly around the ring some weeks), and consistently sheds viewers for the third hour. Splitting the roster in half would exacerbate the problem of Raw’s length, because now WWE will have to fill the same amount of time with even fewer wrestlers. And that could be terrible. Source:

6. Good Idea: Single Brand PPVs Are Now More Viable

One of the more poorly executed ideas of the original brand extension were single brand Pay Per Views. Actually, let’s clarify that. The real bad idea was that WWE expanded to a ridiculous number of PPVs so they were often having two a month, and the WWE audience decided they weren’t going to pay for that many shows, especially since most of them only featured half the roster. This led to single brand PPVs setting records for lowest-bought shows of the modern era, and they were eventually scrapped. But since all WWE PPV’s now air on the WWE Network, which costs $9.99 a month, they have the freedom to do more Pay Per Views, even single brand shows, because the value of the Network is so high that any half-assed show is still worth the investment (see also: airing live events where nothing actually happens). It doesn’t mean the shows will be any good, but since WWE only cares about subscriber numbers, anything that adds more unique and original content to the Network is a good idea. Source:

5. Bad Idea: WWE Creative Isn’t

That said, even keeping the same number of Pay Per Views while making some of them single brand will still require WWE Creative to actually do their jobs well, in order to make those shows worth watching. And to be frank, there is no indication that WWE Creative is capable of adequately writing for a united WWE roster, let alone two different brands. It’s a harsh criticism, but in the current situation, Raw is quite often a three-hour long death march, and Smackdown is a glorified recap show, so what will the creative team do when suddenly asked to write twice as many storylines and feuds? You can always split them up to focus exclusively on each brand, which is what basically happened the first time, but just like the roster, you’re now expecting half as many people to put out a better product than already exists. Does that seem likely? Source:

4. Good Idea: Two Brands, Two Midcard Titles

Two titles that actually did slightly better during the brand split are the Intercontinental (well, other than that short period where they got rid of it for no good reason) and United States titles, which got significantly more focus. This was mostly because there was only one midcard title, which meant each brand only had to build a single division for their non-main eventers, as opposed to the current situation, which is an amorphous blob of wrestlers who randomly challenge for the IC or US title depending on what week it is. Granted, WWE could have also solved this problem by unifying the two titles, but they clearly weren’t seem to be in any hurry to do so, and resuming the brand split makes it unnecessary. Those titles being more meaningful would especially be true if WWE continues to only have one WWE World Heavyweight Champion who moves between brands, making the other titles more important to their specific show. Of course, as the past has shown, that’s a fairly big “if”… Source:

3. Bad Idea: Two World Champions, Again?

The original plan for the first brand extension was to have one Undisputed WWE Champion who defended the title against contenders from both brands. However, WWE didn’t plan that out very well, and began ignoring the brand that wasn’t getting a WWE Title shot at the next multi-brand show. Eventually, they split the title back into the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles, a situation that remained until late 2013, when the titles were finally unified again. The problem, of course, is that when you have a single company with two World titles, one is always going to end up looking far less important, and it probably won’t come as a shock to you to find out that it was usually whichever belt was on Smackdown. WWE just got back down to a single World champion, if they were to split the belts once again, along with the brands, that would be a ridiculous mistake, but given what we’ve heard so far, it’s one we can’t help but assume they plan to make once again. Source:

2. Good Idea: Make Smackdown Great Again

It’s no secret that Smackdown has fallen off a cliff since the brand extension ended, to the point where almost nothing that actually might progress a storyline or feud happens on the show. As a result, viewership has also declined, and the running joke that isn’t really a joke is that Smackdown is mostly a show for airing recaps of what happened on Raw, interspersed with meaningless wrestling matches. WWE made some lip service towards improving the brand when the show moved to USA Network early in 2016, but other than adding Mauro Ranallo to the announce team (who immediately made everyone on the Raw team look even more like garbage), nothing much has changed for the blue brand. Smackdown would see the most benefits of a brand split, since it would instantly become relevant again, with its own unique roster and storylines. The only bad news we can see is that it would mean we’d have to start watching Smackdown again, which is another two hours of wrestling every week. But hey, if it’s actually a show worth watching, that’s not so bad. Source:

1. Bad Idea: Raw Would Still Be #1

The biggest issue of the original brand split was that even though WWE would make occasional nods towards parity, it was clear that Raw was still the “important” show (even though at the time, Smackdown was technically getting more viewers, due to airing on an actual broadcast network), leading to occasional talent raids that would often force Smackdown to scramble to find new stars while Raw poached the best and brightest. When the “Smackdown Six” ruled the world, WWE quickly moved Chris Benoit and Edge over to Raw. Literally the week after John Cena became WWE Champion, he was drafted to the Raw brand. It’s actually a testament to the Smackdown writing team at the time that they continued to rebound from being turned into a feeder show for Raw on a regular basis. While Smackdown now also being on USA might force WWE to make more than the occasional gestures towards equality between brands, ultimately, Raw is the show that is seen as the cornerstone of the company (Vince even called it the “flagship” when giving control of Raw to Stephanie), and if it comes right down to it, Raw is probably going to get all the good stuff. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.