On this week's Friday Night SmackDown, we learned that "The Funkasaurus" Brodus Clay will no longer appear on Raw. Instead, he is a permanent member of the SmackDown roster. What's that all about?
A Return to Branding?
John Laurinaitis, via Teddy Long, told Clay that this decision was made in order to protect The Funkasaurus from The Big Show. But is this really just part of a bigger plan to finally return to the days when two distinct WWE brands actually meant something?
Sure, at this point, Clay is the only person that I'm aware of who has this type of restriction. But every change has to start somewhere, right? I'm not sure that the WWE could just come out and announce that they will suddenly have stricter standards about which roster a wrestler belongs to and, consequently, which television programs he or she can appear on.
Another hint at something like this is the way Randy Orton has been dubbed the "Franchise Player" of the SmackDown brand. If the WWE doesn't care for the brand split anymore, then why refer to Orton this way? Couldn't they just say that he is the WWE's "Franchise Player," or just refer to him as one of WWE's elite?
Could Vince McMahon Be the Catalyst?
If the WWE is planning on putting an emphasis back on the two brands, could Vince bring that up as part of Big Johnny's job evaluation on Monday?
WWE isn't being subtle about the idea that Vince could be coming back to fire the GM, which gives me every reason to believe that he won't. Personally, I think it's much more likely that Vince will actually back Big Johnny up, giving the executive regime even more power than they have now.
But let's assume for a second that Vince really does come down hard on Big Johnny. If the WWE wants to bring back legitimacy to the brands, Vince could criticize Johnny for letting things get to where they are now.
Johnny, in his attempt to remain in power, continually uses superstars on the show opposite of the brand they are assigned to. I don't remember how the brand idea was initially introduced, but I'm sure WWE would have no problem rewriting history, if necessary, to make the branding Vince's idea.
Vince could claim that he's very unhappy with how chaotic things are in regards to brand loyalty and that Laurinaitis has taken something that should be a well-oiled machine and essentially let it deteriorate into anarchy.
Then, over the course of the next few weeks, Raw ceases to be a "supershow." If someone from the Raw roster shows up on SmackDown, Big Johnny can refuse to give them a match, security can refuse to let them in or someone from the executive staff could inform them that their career is in jeopardy if they don't leave.
A month later, we are back to treating the brands the way they were meant to be treated, the branding can play a much more significant role in regards to the storylines and more lower- and mid-card talent will get a chance to prove themselves.
Just an Emphasis on SmackDown?
But maybe the WWE has no interest in returning to two legitimately separate brands. Maybe they just feel that Raw is beginning to overshadow SmackDown. Maybe they fear less people will pay attention to SmackDown when they increase Raw to three hours. Maybe they're just not happy with SmackDown's numbers as of late.
By placing emphasis on two guys who are incredibly over right now (Randy Orton as the "Franchise Player" and Brodus Clay as "exclusive to SmackDown"), they may be ensuring that some people tune into SmackDown who may otherwise ignore it.
For fans like my nephews, ages eight and five, knowing that the Funkasaurus is exclusive to SmackDown will be enough that they will feel as though they can't miss Friday night's action. And you know there are some fans of the Viper that tune in to see Orton on "his own" program.
They've already done a great job of showing us that SmackDown is the place to go if you want to see new talent. Damien Sandow, Antonio Cesaro, Ryback and Darren Young and Titus O'Neal are all on the SmackDown roster and get the vast majority of their airtime on Friday nights.
You don't ever hear anything about Raw's "Franchise Player." No one has been relegated to appear exclusively on Raw. And Monday nights tend to be a place for returning talent (Lesnar, Jericho, Triple H, Vince McMahon) rather than new talent.
In these respects, it looks like WWE is trying much harder with SmackDown than they are with Raw. Maybe building their Friday night programming is all that we're dealing with here.
Could WWE be on the brink of returning to brands that actually make a difference? Will Vince put an emphasis on branding as he critiques John Laurinaitis? Or is the WWE just trying to convince us that SmackDown isn't a secondary show, but that we should treat it as Raw's equivalent?
What do you think motivated WWE to keep Brodus Clay exclusive to SmackDown?