The WWE brand split is now less than a month away and anticipation is building for one of the most monumental moments in WWE history, and a draft that will shape the company for the next few years. Mock drafts and theories are running wild, but there’s one element that is yet to be explained or fleshed out: What happens to the women’s division?
The women’s division has been up and down since WrestleMania, but it’s undeniable that the current women’s roster is better than it ever has been and that’s thanks to about five or six women who have revolutionized the way divas were viewed in the WWE. NXT has shown that when you treat women as equal competitors, they steal the show and become just as big a draw as the male counterparts. This is something the main roster still struggles with to an extent.
The future of the women’s division is on shaky ground however. This draft could determine the success of this rise in women’s wrestling and it will be the catalyst that either makes or breaks it. So how do you draft and split this division to create a viable and successful women’s division that utilizes the talent in it?
It’s a trick question, folks.
The WWE women’s division cannot be split across two rosters for the sake of women’s wrestling. There simply is not enough depth for it to work long-term for a number of reasons, and we’re going to break them all down here. Let’s get the depth-factor out of the way first. There are currently 14 women on the WWE main roster. Of those 14, four are currently injured (Emma, Naomi, Tamina and Nikki Bella), two are not wrestlers (Lana and Eva Marie) and three are arguably nothing more than enhancement talents (Summer Rae, Alicia Fox and Dana Brooke).
That leaves you with FIVE women currently active who you would consider as capable of being week-to-week performers who can keep the women’s division at a high standard (Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Natalya and Paige). On top of that, Natalya is much closer to the end of her career than the start of it and this current feud with Charlotte has highlighted that she is too one-dimensional when it comes to promos and acting skills to be at the top of the division. This essentially leaves you with four main-event level women.
You may be thinking NXT can be used to top up the women’s talent, but at MOST you could call up three to the main roster (Bayley, Carmella and Alexa Bliss). You can’t call up Asuka, Peyton Royce and Nia Jax as one is the champion and the other two still need developmental time. Even Carmella isn’t quite ready yet and shouldn’t be called up straight away. This gives you six to seven women to carry the division with Emma, Naomi, Nikki Bella and Tamina still on the shelf.
Let’s look at those four women closer. Nikki Bella certainly does not have much longer left as a WWE performer. She’s got a post-wrestling career with her sister and her body simply may not be capable of doing it much longer. Furthermore, she’s had her time at the top and the division has moved beyond that diva-era and whether she can survive in this new era is a question in itself, especially considering the severity of her neck injury. The next one is Emma who slots straight back into the top of the division and is someone you can rely on, assuming she gets her body right. Naomi is in the Natalya mould of serviceable in the ring, but barely passable as a character, making her a mid-carder at best and Tamina is an enhancement talent who doesn’t have the in-ring or promo skills to be anything more.
So let’s put together the best case scenario here. Let’s say these four women are miraculously fit within three weeks, we call up Bayley, Carmella and Alexa Bliss despite the fact that there’s nothing for them storyline wise or they’re simply not ready and we assume the Four Horsewomen and Paige can carry both brands. This is what the roster split would roughly look like:
RAW: Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Paige, Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss, Dana Brooke, Summer Rae and Eva Marie.
SmackDown: Sasha Banks, Bayley, Natalya, Emma, Carmella, Naomi, Tamina, Alicia Fox and Lana
Now remember, those are the best case scenarios. At MOST, you have four women per brand who could effectively be a Women’s Champion. That’s barely acceptable as it is, but it raises other long-term issues that can’t be glossed over or dismissed.
Firstly, you have to remember that these rosters aren’t going to change for a long time. There’ll be nobody coming up from NXT (outside of Asuka) and no re-drafting for at least 12 to 15 months. This means we’re going to get a lot of repeat matches, especially if there are more than eight brand exclusive pay-per-views. In terms of SmackDown, you’ll be seeing Sasha Banks and Bayley feuding often, Sasha and Natalya, Bayley and Emma etcetera, it will get repetitive and it’ll quickly lose its shine. Women’s wrestling will quickly become an afterthought due to the lack of diversity in match-ups and even if you have a more frequent draft for the women, you’re still limiting the potential of the division by 50 per cent.
For a while it’ll be fine, but the women’s division simply isn’t deep enough to maintain two rosters long-term. Not in 2016.
Yes, the women’s division was split in the late 2000’s, but women’s wrestling was nothing more than a side-show based entirely around their looks and was not taken seriously by anyone. That joke of a system is now gone and women’s wrestling is on the verge of something special, but this draft split could derail that.
You have to remember, those rosters above are if everything goes right. Injuries happen, that is an everlasting fact of professional wrestling. What if Sasha Banks gets injured? Then you’re left with a SmackDown effectively being run by three women. Yes, you could push the likes of Alicia Fox and Naomi as Sasha Banks substitutes, but then you’re hurting the quality of your product. It’s as simple as this: ONE injury to a major player in either roster and the women’s division is crippled. All it would take is one. You simply cannot work in those circumstances. Not to mention, Bayley versus Sasha Banks should be a WrestleMania match that happens a handful of times a year, not every few months because there’s a roster of seven women.
That’s only HALF of the issues with splitting the women’s division. Next, we have to look at the introduction of a second Women’s Championship and the problems that causes.
At WrestleMania, the WWE re-introduced the Women’s Championship and ushered it in as the beginning of a new era of women’s wrestling. The title is the top prize in the division and one that cannot be split in half. Adding a second Women’s Championship would significantly devalue both titles. Even if they’re brand exclusive, that doesn’t matter; the title is now half as valuable. Think about it, there will be roughly 15 women actively competing on the main roster after the brand split. That means you have two World Championships between 15 people. That means 14 per cent of your roster is holding a title. It also means you can’t introduce tag team titles or any other secondary titles. They’d be no more valuable than participation awards with two rosters. Two or more championships devalues the women’s division as a whole and needs to be avoided.
Okay, so obviously that means you just have one championship, right? That is actually, somehow, worse. Let’s say for example Charlotte is the champion at the time of the brand split and she is on Raw. You then have an entire women’s division on SmackDown that has nothing to fight for. Feuds are all well and good, but when there’s no prize to build toward, what’s the point? Does SmackDown have to wait until a co-branded pay-per-view before it can get a shot at bringing the championship to the blue brand? It’s a preposterous situation that will leave half of the division completely stranded and wasted.
So we’ve now established that there isn’t enough depth for two rosters and also no situation title wise that makes sense for those rosters. Surely this is all that’s needed to show that one roster is the way to go – but wait, there’s more. We still need to look at the positives of one roster.
Firstly and most importantly, let’s not forget that Raw is three hours long. The WWE struggles to fill three hours of Raw with a full roster and now they’re going to have to do it with half of a roster. This is the women’s divisions’ time to shine. If it remains entirely on Raw, there’ll be room for at least three storyline’s running concurrently which will give plenty of exposure to the division and make the Women’s Championship picture even more prestigious, as it’s harder to break into. It also allows the roster to perform at its absolute peak with the best feuds possible, instead of picking out of half the roster. All of a sudden, you throw Bayley and Alexa Bliss onto the main roster and even with the current injuries, there’s enough depth to get you to WrestleMania running three or more storylines.
Another possibility would be to have the women’s division run as it is, unaffected by the brand split. Have the women’s division exist across both Raw and SmackDown as it does now and just allow them to continue ticking along as normal. They’d still get more time on Raw due to the three-hours-factor, but they’d also exist on SmackDown to fill time.
Yes, this is a long article, but that is the point. There are so many reasons as to why splitting the women’s division is a bad idea and yet as the weeks go by, it seems more and more likely that will be the route they take. If they do separate the division, it’s going to take a lot of work to get right and if they don’t, which they probably won’t, it’ll undo all the hard work that has gotten women’s wrestling to where it is today.
What are your thoughts on the drafting of the women’s division? Send your thoughts to @NicNegrepontis and @CamelClutchBlog on Twitter.