Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow and Brian Damage
This past week the WWE announced that as well as Smackdown going live in July, there would also be a brand split. Always keen to keep our fingers on the pulse, today’s Sunday Sermon will look at the ramifications of this move going forward and what it means for the product.
Craig: in reality, this maybe isn’t the most surprising news is it? Quite inevitable on many levels when you consider the strength in depth available to the WWE.
Is it the start of several changes perhaps? Its certainly going g to freshen up the shoe. Maybe allow the company to focus on pushing more talent which betters the product overall.
So what is your initial reaction to the news? Who do you expect to headline each shoe and will it result in the return of the big gold belt?
Jamie: My initial reaction is fairly positive. My glass is usually half empty with WWE these days, but I’m very interested by the brand split. Given that they have been running a McMahon power struggle storyline it does strike me as odd that this announcement did not work it’s way into this angle. It’s also a little odd that this announcement comes at a time when the Shane and Stephanie characters appear to be working quite well together. On the bright side, maybe this is an indication that the brand split will not just be part of McMahon storyline.
As it is a drum I usually bang, my mind went straight to the length of Raw. It’s currently an hour too long, but now without Smackdown also advancing the same storylines we may see a faster paced shows. My mind also then drifted to how good Smackdown was in the original brand split. I do hope they keep just one top title though, with the Champion appearing on both shows. The title that gets introduced, be it the Big Gold Belt or a new design, would always be considered second best next to the real top title that Roman Reigns currently holds.
Craig: I hadn’t thought about the split resulting in a faster episode of Raw. That’s a very good point indeed. That’s another plus to add to the list. And I’ll add the McMahon storyline bit in as well. Two very fair points.
Now, the last brand split may have been botched but it was a good idea and it is an even better idea now. In the post-PPV era, it raises questions about events too. Do we go back to Raw PPVs and Smackdown PPVs with a mix at the big 4/5?
If Smackdown is the b-show, which we expect it will be, perhaps it will focus on, say, the Intercontinental title and that show will be used to build up some future stars. Unless, that is, champions move across both shows…
Brian: I think what will make this brand split better than the original is a couple of factors. First, the talent level nowadays is so much better than during the original incarnation in my humble opinion. It could see guys that might never get an opportunity to experience main event booking otherwise get that opportunity now.
Secondly and more importantly, they are FINALLY doing the split correctly by making Smackdown a LIVE telecast every Tuesday night. No more reading spoilers and deciding not to watch. With a live show, it forces fans to tune in every week.
Craig: I think you’re absolutely right. It puts a lot more emphasis on Smackdown, who have just poached Ryan Ward, the former lead writer for NXT. If the WWE were clever, they’d do the brand split so that a number of NXT graduates are on Smackdown under his writing – particularly those that have come up but have been lost somewhat amongst the shuffle. i.e. Apollo Crews, Tyler Breeze, Emma etc. Also, a lot of times Smackdown is very good. It may not have the same prestige as Raw but going live with level out the balance a bit.
Smackdown live doesn’t make for good news for TNA, though as it means on a Tuesday it’s a 9ET head-to-head between Impact Wrestling and Smackdown. There’s only one winner there, isn’t there?
Is there any negatives, then, at all regarding the brand split and Smackdown now being a live broadcast?
Jamie: Any negatives you say??? I’m sure my pessimistic self can help out there! In all seriousness though, I am overwhelmingly positive about the possibilities stemming from a brand split.
I guess my main reservation would be the depth of the roster. Numbers wise they probably have enough guys and gals to fill a 3 hour Raw and 2 hour Smackdown. The problem is, a lot of these guys will need to be established in position quickly while others will need a little bit of repair work, which will also need to be done quickly. For example, Enzo and Cass may have hit the ground the running – literally in Enzo’s case – but the other side of this is Apollo Crews. Kevin Owens is ready to be the top heel on one of the brands, but Dolph Ziggler will need refurbished for fans to accept him as anything more than just a guy who will work a good match. Will fans also be required to all of a sudden start caring about the likes of R-Truth and Sin Cara purely because there’s nobody else to make up the numbers?
I’d shy away from calling these negatives, but it will be a challenge to get two separate rosters – likely with a good number of new faces – bedded in. I hope and pray that we will get two separate writing teams, and hopefully Vince dangles some sort of carrot in front of them – and the Superstars – to manufacture that sense of competition we have missed since WCW went the way of the Doddo.
It was certainly a big move from the WWE to announce a brand split. The most surprising news? Probably not. It’ll be interesting to see what it means in the coming weeks and months and its impact once introduced.
What do you make of the brand split? Leave your comments below.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.