Will the WWE Brand Split Work?


AS I SEE IT: Will the WWE Brand Split Work?
Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

So tomorrow we’ll see what happens with WWE’s latest attempt to create 2 (or 3, if you count NXT…which seems appropriate) separate brands.

TV ratings have not been what they should be, or what USA Network expected them to be, when the network took Smackdown from SyFy Network back in January.

The fact that Smackdown has always been seen as the secondary show…not to mention the fact that the show is taped in an era of social media and immediate availability of spoilers hasn’t helped Tuesday night ratings.

Neither has often stale booking, 50/50 booking, and the perception, fair or not that Roman Reigns is being jammed down the throat of fans.

So Smackdown is going live, every Tuesday night…and WWE is again spitting brands.

So the draft means changes for viewers. You’ll have to tune in to one show or the other to see a particular favorite wrestler. There’s no way of knowing if this will have a negative effect on WWE’s flagship TV show RAW, given that not all “superstars” will be available on RAW, potentially splitting off some of the audience. No provisions have been made to allow champions to work both shows.

Yesterday, WWE announced the following rules for tomorrow’s draft:

Raw will have the number 1 selection. Since it runs for an hour more every week, it program will receive three draft picks for every two selections SmackDown makes. This won’t help the continued perception that RAW is STILL the primary show.

Here’s one interesting wrinkle: any recognized tag team will be drafted as a whole UNLESS unless a show’s commissioner or general manager specifically drafts one wrestler. Presumably this ensures some degree of continuity with tag teams.

The names listed by WWE for drafting are:

Male: AJ Styles, Alberto Del Rio, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, Big Show, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt, Brock Lesnar, Cesaro, Chris Jericho, Darren Young (w/ Bob Backlund), WWE Champion Dean Ambrose, Demon Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, Jack Swagger, John Cena, Kalisto, Kevin Owens, Mark Henry, Neville, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, US Champion Rusev (w/ Lana), Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Intercontinental C Champion The Miz (w/ Maryse), Titus O’Neil, Zack Ryder

Tag Teams:
Breezango (Fandango and Tyler Breeze), Enzo and Cass (Enzo Amore and Big Cass), Gallows and Anderson (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson), Golden Truth (Goldust and R-Truth), Shining Stars (Epico and Primo) ,Social Outcasts (Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Heath Slater), The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor), The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley) ,Tag Team Champions The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods), The Usos (Jey and Jimmy Uso), The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch)

Female: Alicia Fox, Becky Lynch, WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Eva Marie, Naomi, Natalya, Paige, Sasha Banks, Summer Rae

Notably…WWE didn’t add the potential names for those 6 draft slots (also announced) for NXT wrestlers that will see a promotion from NXT to the main roster. Since its inception, NXT has been used as a developmental territory (but seems to be transitioning to an alternative brand, rather than developmental). Names like Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bayley, Nia Jax and the American Alpha team are names rumored to make the move…and certainly ready to make the move to Raw or SmackDown. But we don’t know who is actually “on the list The trick is that there has never been a mass promotion of talent to the main roster before, so how to add this talent while not ruining the main reason that many have bought into the WWE Network…will be a difficult challenge.

The thought of Mauro Ranallo getting to potentially call matches for Smackdown with Shinsuke Nakamura (more so for those of us heard Ranallo call New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV) makes my eyes light up. So does the thought of a full blown Finn Balor “Demon” entrance for a RAW…or a PPV. If you haven’t seen one, check it out online.

Here is the

And……on tonight’s, on announced Stephanie McMahon will run Raw, while Shane McMahon will be SmackDown’s commissioner, while they will handpick “general managers”, presumably announced tonight.

So the next two nights will certainly be newsworthy. Websites like this one won’t be running Smackdown spoilers on Wednesdays as we have for years…but will be running actual results.

Plus we’ll get to see what happens when the six wrestlers selected from NXT have to deal with the oft-notorious WWE booking, versus the booking of NXT and the protective parenting of HHH.

The next two evenings should be VERY interesting. Stay tuned.

Until next time…

— Bob Magee