WWE Raw and Smackdown: Why the End of the Brand Split Is Killing WWE

Andy SoucekFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2012

photo from wwe.com
photo from wwe.com

WWE has made some questionable calls the past year.

Among them, Lesnar jobbing to Cena, AJ becoming a General Manager, and most notably, the addition of another hour of Raw. 

While those are all reasons for fans to lose interest, the end of the brand split is perhaps the biggest problem that WWE has inflicted on itself in years. Because the company lacked patience, and because they failed to build up enough stars over the past decade, they decided to merge the brands.

It was never formally announced, but it has become clear that any sort of rivalry between Raw and Smackdown is dead. The brand merger was a short-term fix, and it did give a few weeks worth of fresh match ups. But that’s long gone.

By now, nearly everyone has fought everyone else. With that many hours of television every week, it’s unavoidable.

What is maybe the most damaging aspect of the end of the brand split, is that WWE has now made it painfully hard to follow the entire narrative of WWE. When Raw and Smackdown were separate rosters, a viewer could keep up with their favorite wrestler in two hours a week.

Sure, Superstars was also on, but what happened on Superstars stayed on Superstars.

You could follow John Cena and his ongoing adventures by watching Raw. If you wanted to see what Batista was up to, you’d watch Smackdown. Fans could choose what acts to follow, or they could watch it all if they had the time.

Once WWE ended that, you were forced to watch four hours a week to see what the next chapter of a character's story was. Guys like Team Hell No, Sheamus and every other WWE superstar not named John Cena and CM Punk started to take twice as many hours of viewing every week to keep up with.

An extra hour of Raw, and the debut of Main Event now put you at six.

Think about that, six hours of TV every week. That’s more hours than a daily soap opera. There’s just not many fans who can dedicate that much time to a single show. Imagine if The Walking Dead expanded to two hours every Sunday night, and then added another hour on Thursday.

It would throw the natural progression of story lines out of whack and damage their characters. Now, If you miss one episode of a show, it just becomes easier to miss the next.

A habit is broken.

The ratings show that three-hour Raws aren't working. But would things be better if the brands were still separate?

What if we could only see Kane and Daniel Bryan on Raw? Or Ryback and The Big Show on Smackdown? What if we hadn’t watched Dolph Ziggler, Zach Ryder and The Miz job twice every single week?

At the very least, their acts would be fresher. There would be more demand to see them. Right now, they are dangerously overexposing their roster. At this point, Sheamus has wrestled over 75 times on TV and pay per view this year.

That's an incredible amount of times to see the same act. It's a perfect case of a talent being shoved down the fans' throats. With all of this added content, WWE is in rough shape right now.

Twelve weeks in a row, the ratings have dropped for the third hour. Historically, that's unprecedented. Fans shouldn't be tuning out for the climax of the show. WWE has even put out multiple champion vs. champion matches (Sheamus vs. Punk, Kingston vs. Cesaro) and fans didn’t care.

The ratings didn't budge. If the brands were still separate, just the visual of seeing Sheamus and CM Punk together could have been a big deal.

Instead, fans tuned out on these big matches.

The ratings went down in the final hour leading towards a match where the WWE Champion faced off against the World Heavyweight Champion.

When you think about that, it's pretty incredible. Fans stopped watching, they had their fill for the night. They went to bed, or played Call of Duty, or listened to Neil Sedaka records, whatever it is that the kids do these days.

The point is, they went away and never came back.

Before the brand split, there were a couple years of Smackdown and Raw sharing the same roster. The problem now is that WWE doesn’t have the big names they had during that time. The product was also much hotter then.

A mediocre product airing six hours a week is a lot harder to sit through than four entertaining ones. The brand split also meant that WWE needed more wrestlers so they could have two full rosters. New talent was debuting at a quicker pace.

When the split ended, they no longer seem interested in any fresh faces. The only new wrestler we're going to have on TV in months is a guy named Fandango.

Fandango? Apparently it's supposed to be some sort of dancing gimmick.

Great, that always works out. Just ask DJ Gabriel, Brodus Clay, Victoria, Eve, The Great Khali and The Cat how well that helped their careers.

If Vince won't admit defeat and go back to two hours (it's not that hard Vince, Linda gracefully admitted defeat just last week), then he should at least separate the brands again.

The wrestlers need a break from TV, and the fans need a break from them. Story lines are being sped up twice as fast as they should be, fans get their fill of the wrestlers a lot faster, and someday it could all lead to the company going out of business much faster than it should have.