5 Reasons the WWE Brand Split Has Succeeded
The WWE’s brand split can be considered a success for several reasons. Some are noticeable and others are based on what can potentially happen in today’s product.
The WWE spent a few years in the middle of creative mediocrity. It started shortly after the decision was made to end the original brand split in 2013. The rosters of both Raw and SmackDown were merging together and it made no sense to have two separate shows. But today’s product is very different than it was in 2013.
The quality of superstars and the diverse collection of in-ring styles provides something the WWE hasn’t had in a while. The opportunity was there for there to be another roster split. This eventually led to the WWE’s brand split in the summer. With the rosters set after the draft and the return of former superstars, today’s WWE has evolved since WrestleMania 32.
Not even a year into the current brand split and fans have a lot of reasons to look forward to what else WWE has planned. The quality of matches has improved and now there is an improved focus on not just one show each week. Fans have more options that truly feel unique through the week. But the WWE’s brand split has been successful for reasons beyond what is seen currently.
There are a number of opportunities that can be utilized by WWE officials moving closer to WrestleMania 33 and beyond. Things that wouldn’t have been possible with just one main roster and one WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Looking at the current landscape of the fans, the following are the five main reasons the WWE’s brand split has succeeded.
5. More Opportunities for More Superstars
When there was just the one roster on both shows, there wasn’t any reason to have multiple heavyweight championships. Why have the WWE Champion on one brand and then the World Heavyweight Champion on another? This was the question that revolved around social media when the WWE slowly merged both Raw and SmackDown to end the brand split in 2013.
But merging both champions for a singular WWE World Heavyweight Championship did two things. First, it meant that there was one title that was considered “the” major championship. But that leads to the second thing; less main event opportunities for up-and-coming superstars. The WWE has a lot of big-name superstars on their roster.
Some they have established themselves and others who have been brought in from outside the WWE Universe. Most of them are deserving to be in the championship picture. Unfortunately, there are limits when there is one world champion. That’s why it’s good to have the WWE Universal Championship on Raw and the WWE Championship on SmackDown.
It’s easier for someone like Sami Zayn to become a number-one contender for Raw’s main championship in the brand split. It also allows for main event matches to feature a variety of talents from both rosters. The quality of matches on all WWE shows is also likely to improve.
4. WWE Forced to Improve Depth
When WWE’s brand split was first announced, there might have been some concerns about the number of wrestlers. The main roster before the split was obviously going to be stretched thin between two shows. But this led to the WWE needing to bring in more wrestlers to help fill out both shows.
The WWE made the decision to reach out to a number of veterans in an effort to provide depth for both Raw and SmackDown. Even though not all rumored names made a return (i.e. Kurt Angle, Carlito), it shows WWE’s direction. They want to have a combination of established veterans and younger superstars for a diverse roster. A diverse collection of wrestlers does provide different matches with various styles.
The in-ring action is more likely to evolve in front of the fans. It’s an exciting time to see how the wrestling is going to continue it’s progression in the WWE. Additionally, the need for more roster depth is certainly a reason for the return of the Cruiserweight Division. There’s also excitement surrounding the class of potential call-ups from NXT.
The brand split has led to officials making adjustments to the product to be different than the last brand split.
3. SmackDown Has Become Relevant Again
When there is just one WWE roster, the previously taped SmackDown suffered to be relevant. Because it wasn’t aired live on television, many fans didn’t spend the time watching the actual show. Admit it, you usually looked up the taping results ahead of time and then skipped watching. Maybe unless you had nothing better to do on a Thursday or Friday night.
WWE’s brand split made changes to give fans a reason to watch the blue brand once again. Unlike the original brand split, SmackDown became a live broadcast on Tuesday nights. There were no more looking up spoilers if you had other plans that night. With the roster split, SmackDown once again feels like a unique show that isn’t the B-option of programming.
After the WWE Draft, SmackDown is now the exclusive home of main event superstars like AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. It also features established veterans like The Miz and Dolph Ziggler and up-and-comers like American Alpha and Bray Wyatt. Many of these wrestlers might not have gotten the same opportunities on Raw.
No longer does SmackDown have rematches from Raw that don’t really further storylines towards the upcoming events like the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.
2. NXT an Integral Part of Future Drafts
The future of the WWE Draft should not have to put every superstar up for selection. The best thing the WWE could do is have the authority figures on each show select from NXT. Superstars in the NXT brand are kind of like college football players. The storyline could promote NXT with weekly power rankings. The focus would increase closer to the annual WWE Draft.
Because of the brand split, there is going to be interest in how NXT superstars are going to be called up. Imagine Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan trying to compete against Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley to gain earn the right to draft someone like Shinsuke Nakamura or Samoa Joe. Both brands are going to try and battle for who gets to pick first and who will have the most draft choices.
The problem with the last draft, Raw was automatically given three choices for every two SmackDown had. It would be best to have a match that decides who chooses first. Now maybe the WWE will have trades that help move current superstars between shows. That would be a good way to freshen up both parts of the roster.
But the next draft should put the primary focus on the NXT development brand. Fans are more likely to watch the NXT on WWE Network to keep an eye on who could be called up next.
1. An Opportunity to Have a Champion of Champions
An earlier point was made that the WWE can benefit from having two heavyweight champions; one on each brand. That shouldn’t change because of the benefits of more main event opportunities for the entire WWE main roster. However, having two heavyweight champions does provide the opportunity to have them face each other at a future WrestleMania.
With the rivalry between Raw and SmackDown likely to grow over the next year, there might be some interesting debates. Who’s the best between the WWE Universal Champion and the WWE Champion? Imagine a feud between Kevin Owens and AJ Styles to see who the better champion was. The match alone would likely be a guaranteed five-star bout.
The brand split may have two separate men at the top of the mountain. But what if the WWE decided to have them fight for an even greater title. Consider it a return of the Undisputed Championship. But this wouldn’t merge the championships. In fact, the only way to challenge for this Undisputed Championship is to hold either brand’s heavyweight championship.
For example, Styles defeats Owens in the champion vs. champion match. The WWE Championship would be vacant for another to win that title. The Undisputed Champion would be able to appear on both shows and all events. This is possible in the brand split.