The brand split is back.
The WWE recently made the bombshell announcement that SmackDown will be going live on Tuesday nights starting July 19th and it will come with its own unique brand, roster and writing team. Splitting the brands is going to take a lot of work and every little detail needs to be filled out in order for this long term move to succeed. July 19th is not too far away and that leaves WWE with a lot to figure out between now and then.
Here are a few of the important questions WWE will need to answer before re-launching the blue brand.
How do they reintroduce a new Heavyweight Championship to SmackDown?
SmackDown will need its own championship, there’s simply no way around that. This means the RAW Championship will have to be rebranded back to the WWE Championship and SmackDown will need to reintroduce the World Heavyweight Championship. They have two options with this, they can either bring back the old World Heavyweight Championship belt or they can design a new belt for the brand.
Considering how heavily they’re pushing this new era of WWE, introducing a new belt would suit the theme of the brand more than bringing back the big gold belt. Either way, the best thing to do would be to hold a long tournament in order to determine the first champion. That fills your first few months of tapings with the content to carry the show and makes the title feel more prestigious with it getting two months of build up.
Do they introduce other new championships to both brands?
With the rosters split, the WWE should consider bringing back tertiary titles. Tertiary titles don’t appear on the show every week and are designed to give the undercard something to fight for and build a name over. Back in 2002, championships like the Cruiserweight Championship, the Hardcore Championship and the Light Heavyweight Championship all helped keep the roster afloat and it would be smart to do so again.
With the Cruiserweight Classic taking place at virtually the same time as the brand split, giving the winner of the tournament a WWE contract and the Cruiserweight Championship would be a smooth way to transition the title back into the brand. The other option is introducing Women’s Tag Team Championships to go with Tag Team Championships on both brands in the male division. These titles don’t need showcasing on the brands every week, they can be used every few weeks to fill time and create some more depth in the rosters.
What does WWE do with the Women’s Division?
What WWE does with the women’s division seems to be the biggest issue in setting up the brand split. Considering they’ve only recently reintroduced the Women’s Championship, they cannot introduce a second Women’s Title as that would significantly devalue the title brought in at WrestleMania. The roster also isn’t deep enough to exist as two separate rosters and even at full strength, splitting the roster would fall apart with any injuries.
Yes, that might mean a few of the undercard women aren’t used very often, but it’s much better than splitting the division in half and it floundering long term. Introducing Women’s Tag Team Championships is a good way to get more female superstars involved, but keep everything on one brand. The best thing to do is keep the women’s division entirely on one brand, and this also happens to be the solution to another problem.
How Do They Fill Three Hours of Raw?
It’s still early, but there’s been no indication that Raw will be returning to two hours and this could create a bit of an issue. The WWE struggle to fill three hours as it is with a full roster so doing so with half of the roster, logically, must be twice as difficult. The solution to this is the women’s division.
As already mentioned, the women’s division should remain entirely on Raw and the brand split gives the WWE the opportunity for more women’s storylines and possibly even Women’s Tag Team Championships to help fill time. Keeping Raw at three hours will give the women’s division a great opportunity to be utilized to its maximum potential and take up a bigger part of the show. Bringing up the likes of Bayley and Alexa Bliss will help fill the depth of the roster considering the injuries that are currently plaguing the division.
What happens with Mr Money in the Bank?
Money in the Bank takes place in a few weeks and since there will only be one briefcase match, you’d assume the winner will still be holding the briefcase come the brand split. Will (Kevin Owens) the winner be able to cash in across both brands or will the case be confined to the brand that they’re on? What happens if the briefcase holder is on SmackDown and they don’t have a championship to cash in on for a while, can they just cash in and claim the new SmackDown championship? These are all questions that they will need to answer and it might even effect where the briefcase holder is drafted to.
Who Should be in Charge of Both Brands?
This one is quite simple, Stephanie should be in charge of Raw along with Triple H and Shane should run SmackDown. Regardless of what happens storyline wise between now and July 19, Shane must be running SmackDown as he represents the new era. You can’t have the established Authority (Stephanie and Triple H) in charge of SmackDown as they’re the heels and you can’t introduce a new brand and expect people to tune in if it’s the same people in charge that have been in charge for years on Raw.
This means the babyface Shane has to be in charge of SmackDown which will make casual fans want to tune in. SmackDown should be a reflection of the new era and that means Shane must be in charge of the brand.
Who should be in Charge of SmackDown creatively?
This is a different question as now we’re talking about who should be running SmackDown behind the scenes. When SmackDown launched all those years ago, Paul Heyman was its mastermind along with Stephanie McMahon and they should do something similar now. Whether Shane runs it creatively himself or they bring in people from outside the company to run the brand, someone who isn’t Vince, Triple H, Stephanie or the other senior Raw writers should be running SmackDown in order to give it a different feel. You need to create the same distinction between Raw and SmackDown that exists between Raw and NXT. That must be the goal.
How will Pay-Per-Views Work?
At their peak, SmackDown and Raw ran their own separate pay-per-views and only came together for the big four. They should do something similar here and give both brands their own pay-per-views and only combining for the big four, Money in the Bank and some kind of Bragging Rights event. The Network gives the WWE a massive amount of power here and they could do six to eight pay-per-views for each respective brand which will give them almost double the amount of Network content.
This means there will be closer to 20 pay-per-views in a year, but with the majority of them being distinct to each brand, it won’t feel over crowded and if anything, it means more time between each event per brand. Expect the distinct pay-per-views to kick in late in 2016, possibly after Survivor Series, and not happen immediately as SmackDown will need time before it can host its own full event.
It might be worth reducing the length of pay-per-views from three hours down to two for the brand exclusive ones, while leaving the Royal Rumble, Survivor Series and Money in the Bank at three hours and WrestleMania and SummerSlam at four. This subsequently makes the combined pay-per-views feel even bigger like they once did. For example, there will be six to seven weeks between Raw pay-per-views rather than the current which is four to five weeks. The Network allows WWE to do so much more with this brand split than they once did and in turn, it makes the Network a must have for WWE fans.
How do you do the initial draft?
The best way to do the draft would be to dedicate an entire episode of Raw to it in the lead up to July 19, possibly even the week before. Have the already announced general managers making selections one by one and set it up similar to the NBA, NFL and AFL drafts to make it feel like a big, legitimate deal. Crucial to this will be making sure the rosters don’t leak to the media beforehand which means keeping it as private as possible until the day of the event. As every superstar is drafted, they should be interviewed backstage in the old school Raw and SmackDown t-shirts to talk about what the draft means to them. They should then have a draft show every year in order to shake up the rosters.