5 Reasons Why the Brand Split Must Return
After the death of WCW and ECW in 2001, the WWE had a problem.
It had a lot of professional wrestlers under contract and not enough TV time. Granted, it's not a bad problem to have. But for a couple years, nearly every professional wrestler in the country could only make a full-time living from Vince McMahon.
So, WWE decided to split the company in two. Raw became the exclusive home to half the roster, while the other half lived on SmackDown.
If you wanted to see The Rock, you'd watch SmackDown. If you wanted to see The Undertaker, you'd watch Raw. That's the way things were, and fans grew to adapt. On rare occasions, wrestlers would show up on the other brand. These moments felt like a big deal.
Over the years though, the distinction between the shows softened. Guys would jump back and forth with no explanations. The company got lazy.
Eventually, the idea died. The rosters merged, and the ratings continued to slide.
Ending the brand split was a short-term solution to some much bigger problems that the WWE has. But whatever benefits that were incurred by the merge are long gone now.
Here are five reasons why the WWE must separate their roster again.
No. 5: Too Many Titles
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What is the difference between the United States and intercontinental titles? Which one is more prestigious?
Why is there a world title and a WWE Title on the same show?
When Raw and SmackDown wrestlers were kept separate, it made sense to have a major and secondary title on each show. Guys like Cody Rhodes and Kofi Kingston weren't pushed as top guys, so it gave them something to feud over.
But WWE has now made the US and intercontinental titles the third and forth most prestigious singles titles. The wrestler who is unlucky enough to hold one often loses non-title matches, which then further destroys the aura the belts used to possess.
This problem could be easily fixed. Just merge the US and intercontinental titles, then merge the World and WWE titles. But for some reason, the company has shown no desire to do this.
There are only about 40 current full-time male WWE wrestlers on the roster. When six of them are holding a title at any given time on the same show, it devalues the very idea of holding one.
No. 4: Dream Matches Are Gone
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What true dream matches are left in the entire WWE?
John Cena vs. The Undertaker, CM Punk vs. Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels vs. Dolph Ziggler and...
Well, that's about it. One of those men is an extreme part-timer, and two others are retired.
When Raw and SmackDown were separated, matches like Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels, and Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg became even bigger. These guys were never on the same show, so just seeing them in the same ring felt like a big moment.
Those moments are almost gone now.
Once WCW went out of business, it was inevitable that we'd lose a lot of dream matches. Austin vs. Goldberg, The NWO vs. DX and The Rock vs. Diamond Dallas Page would never happen.
What WWE could have done though was keep their wrestlers on opposite brands, except for special occasions. Once or twice a year we'd have some big showdowns. But the company lacked patience.
Part of the fun of being a wrestling fan is imagining and discussing dream matches. Sure, you could still pine for a Daniel Bryan vs. A.J. Styles match, but WWE has nearly run through every possible big match they've had, with little to show for it.
No. 3: Overexposure
Since Apr. 22, we've seen Daniel Bryan take on at least one member of The Shield in singles or tag matches nine times.
Is there really that big of a market to see The Celtic Warrior?
But it's not just him. There are too many wrestlers on the roster who are completely overexposed. Seeing them twice or more every week makes it feel a lot less special when they show up.
A few more examples:
Compare that to a full-time midcarder like Billy Gunn. In 1998, Gunn wrestled 62 times the entire year. Even that feels like a lot, but there's probably a dozen guys on the current roster who will easily eclipse that by year's end.
To show just how bad overexposure is, look no further than Brodus Clay. Upon his initial debut as the Funkasaurus, he was actually over. WWE then had him do his dance and squash match routine every week on Raw and SmackDown. It got old. Fast.
At the very least, with two brands, WWE could have allowed acts like him to remain popular longer.
The questions that WWE needs to ask itself are: How many times do we see the RKO before it becomes stale? How many Brogue Kicks does the average fan want to sit through before they want something new? Does any one person really need to listen to Michael Cole for six hours a week?
We may find out sooner rather than later.
No. 2: To Create New Stars
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When the brands were separated, JBL, Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar, King Booker and John Cena reached new heights on SmackDown.
On Raw, Chris Benoit won the World Title, while Batista, Edge and Randy Orton became stars with their time in the spotlight. After the departure of The Rock and the injuries piling up on Steve Austin, the company needed some talent to step up.
It was exciting to see a large group of young and underused wrestlers finally get a shot in the spotlight. Now, we see guys like Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett and The Miz struggle to break out and be treated seriously.
The WWE keeps relying on the same wrestlers to main event virtually every single show. You would have to go back to Hell in a Cell of Oct. 2010 to find a pay-per-view main event not involving John Cena, CM Punk, Brock Lesnar or HHH.
That's a very small list of guys taking the top spots over and over again. WWE just doesn't trust the vast majority of its talent to close off a show. The company has done a good job of bringing in new talent lately with The Shield, Curtis Axel and the Wyatt Family, but it desperately needs new main eventers.
Having the same few top guys take all the big storylines year after year isn't a great way to create upward mobility. It creates boredom.
No. 1: The Narrative Is Too Long
photo via isleepbetter.com
A few years ago, someone could be a SmackDown or a Raw fan. Sure, most WWE fans probably watched them both, but you could still enjoy a self-contained narrative in just two hours a week.
Now, if you want to experience a full WWE story, you have to invest five hours a week instead of two. Due to lack of story progression on Main Event, you could probably skip that show and be safe, but Raw and SmackDown are now must watch to keep up with what's going on. (This isn't even counting the WWE app which would take up even more valuable free time to keep up on.)
Those five hours every single week is a tall order to ask from most of the population. It's a huge time investment, and the company has no offseason. You have to keep it up year-round. Instead of watching one show or another, some fans have given up altogether.
It's not hard to imagine that this trend will continue. Five hours of WCW every week didn't do that company any favors in the long run.
WWE ratings have consistently slid over the years. It needs to do something to keep the product fresh. While it may take another hit in the short term by splitting up the roster, in the long run it may be the only thing it can do to keep up with this incredible over-saturation of the product.