The WWE continues to go back in time to fight off declining television ratings. A recent announcement confirmed rumors that the company will undergo a brand extension, splitting RAW and SmackDown through a lottery and adding a new world champion.
Dave Meltzer provided some insights in the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. “The idea of the split was decided upon in the last two weeks after talks between WWE, USA and its other key television partners, Sky and Sportsnet, had taken place. But there was serious talk about it dating back to just before WrestleMania and there were promotional materials that indicated a brand split that were being done before WrestleMania so there was a strong chance of it happening dating back at least ten weeks.”
WWE.com reports “A SmackDown shakeup is about to completely reshape all of WWE. Beginning July 19, the second longest-running weekly episodic program in television history, SmackDown, will move from Thursday to Tuesday nights and air LIVE each and every week — for the first time ever — at 8/7 C on USA Network, the exclusive cable home to WWE’s marquee properties.
This bold move will have major ramifications for all of WWE and exemplify the New Era, as both Raw and SmackDown will each feature their own unique rosters and rivalries following an imminent Superstar draft.”
Early speculation is that the draft would take place live on RAW July 11 in Detroit, although that is not confirmed. It will be interesting to see what kind of draft takes place. The original drafts were presented better in my opinion as true drafts. The draft concept got watered down through the years with a random drawing, used to prevent crushed egos and hurt feelings. The random drawing drafts had their merits but overall they were hardly as excited as a true draft which has more of a sports-feel to it.
While this hasn’t been confirmed by the company, most reports indicate that there will be a second world champion who will be added to SmackDown. I have read some complaints with many hoping for one traveling world champion, like the old-school NWA champion. I think there are pros and cons to both. It’s really hard to keep guys hot with one world champion. Once they finish their program with the champion, they generally fail to sustain any momentum. Adding a champion could really help establish more guys as headliners and main-event players. It also opens up the depth of challengers as there can only be one champion and one challenger as things stand today. Now, you can take a guy like AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and give them a world title which keeps them hot and truly elevates them.
Ironically, I think the biggest loser in this decision is Monday Night RAW. Splitting the brand cannibalizes rather than strengthens RAW. Now if part of this split was a reduction to two-hours I’d be all on board. However, the show completely drags as it is with three hours and a full roster of stars to book. Now, you are tasked with having to fill a three-hour show with half of the stars. Good luck!
On the plus side, the new brand opens up a ton of opportunities for guys in NXT like Finn Balor and Samoa Joe who should be on the main-roster but would be watered down in its current environment. Guys like Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, and Rusev can also be repackaged and sustained in the upper cards as opposed to being reduced to the bottom.
Finally, nothing will matter without a conscious mind-shift away from the 50-50 booking. If SmackDown turns out to be nothing more than a show with one champion, one strong challenger, and an evenly placed undercard, this whole experiment will be all for nothing.