Each year, the WWE spends an entire evening sifting through their entire roster and providing brief spurts of clarity on the brand extension. Since 2002, the WWE’s two definitive brands, RAW and SmackDown! , have provided the audience with distinctly different programs based on their respective talents.
And despite the constant delusion of the talent pool to the point that the brands are often ignored, most of it stays constant. Three-hour RAW 's, crossover programs, and timely rivalries take the rules of the brand extension for granted.
There is, however, a silver lining to this dark cloud—u sually, the WWE’s first week of shows after the draft are brand exclusive.
Eight years after the real fun began, I am attempting now to analyze the rights and wrongs of the brand extension as we know it. We’ll begin with the former juggernaut that remains undefeated in the Monday Night War (thank you very much, Dixie Carter)— WWE’s Monday Night RAW .
9:00 EST: The opening is a typical clip show and the “three years too late” rated RKO rivalry setup. Playing aloud also is likely the only tolerable Nickelback song ever. Michael Cole, to his credit, is billing the RAW newcomers attempting to make an impact.
9:03 EST: Batista. Say what you will about Big Dave, but Batista has done an excellent job in any situation for the company that has outfitted him. However, in keeping with our overall theme, most pundits are already well aware that Batista is on his way out of the company.
Thus, making the decision to promote him immediately on this program would be absurd. He is the best and worst example of brand extension contradictions, since he can freely bounce wherever he wants to whenever he wants to.
9:10 EST: Sheamus is another guy who is already a RAW superstar who most of us thought was headed to SmackDown! There is almost no proper way to use the Celtic Warrior, so rather than build off of his immense heel heat, WWE has decided to make him pseudo-face for the time being.
Again, a bad decision. I’m a huge Sheamus mark born out of the devil’s advocate bracket. Sheamus’s new “I didn’t lose” promo strategy is actually well done. He’s decent in the ring too, but we’re still looking for the big names that jumped to RAW seven days ago.
9:11 EST: Did Sheamus just say “Triple Haich?” He does it now, too? Or is it just a United Kingdom thing?
9:17 EST: The Miz— yet another already established RAW star. While he’s got great microphone skills, this promo is falling on deaf ears. Miz’s claim of being a great United States Champion is another story altogether in the lineage of misused WWE definitions.
With Daniel Bryan wrestling in Miz’s place, Michael Cole gets another opportunity to anger a legion of fans who would rather have Mike Adamle than Cole. Seeing Bryan wrestle on RAW is a great breath of fresh air, as is the charisma he brings into the ring.
However, I’m willing to wager that since this is part of a “Beat the Clock Challenge” (yet another dumb idea that buries one side of the talent in the ring), Bryan drops to 0-10 on televised WWE programming.
9:25 EST: And there he goes. Five minutes later, Bryan is buried once again. Sadly, this is just salt in an open wound, considering that we’re a quarter of the way home tonight and we’ve had zero new stars make an appearance thus far. Zero.
9:32 EST: Flipping over to TNA during the break turned out to be a mistake after seeing Orlando Jordan in a rejected Narcissist Lex Luger costume with a cardboard Rob Terry. I don’t want to know where that is going... Oh look, it's Wayne Brady!
The RAW Guest Host angle has had several ups and downs. Recent hosts haven’t actually been terrible (namely the silly MacGruber stuff and David Hasselhoff). Though Brady’s antics with the Divas were interesting, we are again lacking any “new” RAW stars.
Jillian, Maryse, and Eve? Those are three women that make me miss Mickie James even more.
9:34 EST: Well, a backstage vignette is better than nothing, even though Edge spent more of his best "Rated R Superstar" days on RAW then on SmackDown!
Besides, the announcement that Chris Jericho would face Cena is just plain underwhelming. Jericho spent more time on RAW then SmackDown! in 2009, giving me even less hope for the new “stars” of RAW . This is just downright pathetic.
9:39 EST: Ted DiBiase. I’m hoping that DiBiase eventually comes to the ring at Creedence Clearwater Revival. His backstage skit with R-Truth last week was incredibly well done, and this could be a great feud if the WWE builds on it.
Forty minutes into this two-hour program and we’re finally going somewhere. As a lifelong wrestling fan, I have developed an incredible patience for the product. Sure, fans around the world can talk about how they just “turn it off” or “don’t watch anymore” when programming goes downhill, but the fact is— they’re liars. All of them.
I’m still watching, in hopes that maybe the next big thing (mind the pun) will happen. And on that note, here comes John Morrison. Talk about patience! Morrison is completely lost in the fold on RAW , playing junior varsity while Cena, Orton, and Triple H sing the Varsity Blues. But at least he’s back on the flagship program.
9:52 EST: A decent match overall, spotlighted by the end run-in of R-Truth. Could we actually see this Virgil storyline continue to progress? I hope so.
Why must WWE insist on going to commercial in the middle of a match and then follow it with a return rest hold? Want to play a fun game with your friends? Show them your psychic prowess when RAW goes to commercial by betting that when it comes back on the air, "(insert heel here) has (insert face here) in a rest hold."
9:58 EST: John Cena. This man is WWE Monday Night RAW , and has been for almost five years now. Sobeit if all the Cena haters come out of the woodwork to barrage me with slanderous content about him, but love it or leave it, Cena is and will continue to be the franchise.
Chris Jericho, his opponent, is the best heel in the wrestling business today and is justifiably a franchise unto himself. His promos are amazing, and with Wade Barrett, it only gets better.
Barrett is everything that Lance Cade was supposed to be as a protégé to the first Undisputed Champion. Barrett getting time on RAW is great, but both he and Jericho should be running the show in a year’s time.
Once again, an hour into RAW , I’m searching for the draftees (mostly supplemental at this point) to establish a presence. RAW lacks serious direction, almost entirely catering to Edge/Orton and Batista/Cena. I’m hoping that this doesn’t stay the same an hour from now.
10:08 EST: Does this show need more Sheamus?
10:15 EST: Like most actual wrestling fans, I don’t care about the Divas. I suppose I could comment on how Maryse and the Bella Twins were already on RAW , but who really cares? Was Natalya too busy to wrestle this match?
10:23 EST: Zack Ryder is amazing. He’s the essential “superstar” for sports entertainment. I believe fans would pay to see him get beat, which is exactly what is happening now. While Mark Henry whales on Ryder, it should be noted that the Zack Attack might as well be a draftee since he came over from ECW and hasn’t been used at all on Monday Nights.
I suppose you could call this a minor victory. Woo, woo, woo! You know it!
10:27 EST: Careful ladies, Mark Henry already owes alimony payments to Mae Young and her baby prosthetic hand!
10:33 EST: A little late for the John Morrison promo reel, isn’t it?
10:34 EST: And now, for a comedic segment with Wayne Brady, Vladimir Kozlov, Goldust, and Santino Marella. I’m also willing to wager that the Hart Dynasty is involved, and that Jericho and Miz will attack them afterwards.
And yes, Goldust is a new draftee. Sigh.
10:46 EST: Sometimes I just hate being right. Purist fans love to tell the tale that SmackDown! Is better than RAW on a week-to-week basis. The Brand Extension may be further evidence of that as this week’s RAW was an absolute train wreck.
For a brand that legitimately took everything away from the supposed B-Show, RAW is sometimes hard to watch and lacks the elements needed to make it a “good” show.
I certainly wouldn’t have paid to see it live, considering that this time of year is more compelling for NHL and NBA playoffs.
TNA’s Monday Night failure and the WWE’s constant Monday floundering are indicators of a business that is losing a lot of the flavor. The sizzle is still as distinct as ever, but fans don’t go back because it simply doesn’t have the steak.