The WWE’s brand extension never officially ended, but as we all know, it’s been over and done with for quite some time now.
Although, technically speaking, Raw and SmackDown remain two separate brands, there is so much crossover between the two shows that, in reality, the brand separation means absolutely nothing.
Raw and SmackDown are one and the same. The only difference is that Raw is one hour longer.
The WWE, of course, has kind of forced itself into this situation. With Raw lasting three hours each week and the WWE roster not quite as deep as it has been in the past, the company is forced to have SmackDown stars appear on Raw to fill up the 180 minutes of TV time that the show has.
Here’s the thing, though: Raw and SmackDown are better off as separate brands.
To make it work, Raw would have to go back to its normal two-hour time slot. But that’s a whole different discussion, so let’s just continue based on the premise that whether Raw was two or three hours in length, the brand split would be finished. Finito. Done.
My main logic behind wanting to see this happen is that the WWE is, perhaps unknowingly, hurting its future by rendering the brand split completely pointless.
The biggest problem that the WWE now has is that almost nothing it does seems fresh anymore because the constant crossover between the brands has forced the WWE to have its bigger stars cross paths far too many times before they actually feud with each other.
Take, for example, Sheamus vs. CM Punk. These guys are two of the WWE’s top three stars right now, so naturally, a feud and/or match between the two should be a major moment for the WWE.
Unfortunately for the WWE, though, the unofficial end of the brand extension led to this match happening on both Main Event and Raw without being part of any sort of extended rivalry between the two. To put this in layman’s terms, the WWE killed off any fresh feeling a Punk/Sheamus feud might have down the road by having these two guys randomly face each other on TV.
This is a situation that has plagued the WWE ever since the brand split unofficially ended, with marquee matches between stars from opposing brands taking place and ruining the chances of those bouts feeling special down the road.
If, at the time that Punk/Sheamus match took place, Punk was the WWE Champion on Raw and Sheamus was the World Heavyweight Champion on SmackDown, a WWE that featured a legitimate brand split would never have allowed this match to take place—well, at least not until these guys worked their way onto the same brand.
Then again, with the way the WWE’s currently constructed, it’s hard to really keep track of who’s on what brand anyway. Did I miss when Daniel Bryan got traded to Raw or when Big Show was moved to SmackDown? Oh, that’s right. I didn’t because neither ever happened.
There’s a complete lack of logic here, with superstars changing brands without the WWE ever really giving us an explanation as to why that’s possible. Superstars can swap at any time under any circumstance, and the company just expects us to be OK with it.
Should the WWE keep Raw and SmackDown entirely separate from each other?
I can see why the WWE does this. The roster isn’t chock full of major names, which likely has the company worried that it can’t keep the brands separate without getting too redundant.
But I think the WWE has more star power than it realizes, and one major issue with unofficially ending the brand extension is that the company’s up-and-coming stars are often finding themselves taking a back seat to guys who have been in the main event numerous times before.
If the brand split still existed, odds are that we’d be much more likely to see deserving guys like Bryan or Ziggler in the World Heavyweight Championship scene because, quite frankly, there would be fewer guys capable of challenging for that one title on its respective brand. Instead, though, the WWE puts the belt on a guy like Big Show because they think he’s a bigger and more recognizable name.
Were the brand split to genuinely mean something, however, we’d see more deserving guys get elevated—just like we saw in 2011 with stars like Christian and Mark Henry rising to the top of the WWE because the brand split meant a little more then than it does right now.
If the WWE wants to truly create new stars, ending the brand split is not the way to go. All that really accomplishes is it gives the WWE the opportunity to put an already established veteran in the main-event scene of either show whenever it wants to.
But if the SmackDown stars challenge for SmackDown’s titles and the Raw stars challenge for Raw’s titles, the WWE will not ruin potentially great feuds before they actually happen or halt the pushes of guys who should be at or near the top of the WWE.
And that’s exactly how things should be.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!