WWE's newly implemented Brand-to-Brand Invitational initiative is reportedly aimed at boosting dipping ratings, and it could pay dividends if done right.
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Rajah.com's Jeff Whalen), WWE CEO Vince McMahon came up with the concept after the May 1 SmackDown and May 4 Raw did record-low ratings on their respective networks.
Meltzer added that there was "outside" pressure to improve the numbers, which suggests the Brand-to-Brand Invitational was McMahon's way of appeasing network executives for Fox and NBCUniversal.
Under the concept, a Superstar has the right to appear on the opposite brand four times during a given year.
Brand-split purists may not like the idea, but there are extenuating circumstances. A draft or Superstar Shake-up has taken place after WrestleMania in recent years to freshen up the Raw and SmackDown rosters, but with the coronavirus pandemic preventing WWE from traveling and having fans in attendance, the decision was made to hold off.
It stands to reason that some roster moves will be made when WWE is able to go back on the road, but the Brand-to-Brand Invitational is a good way to create fresh matchups and generate some sense of unpredictability until that can happen.
WWE has eased into the Brand-to-Brand Invitational. King Corbin appeared on Raw and lost a match to WWE champion Drew McIntyre, while NXT women's champion and Raw Superstar Charlotte Flair has appeared on SmackDown in each of the past two weeks.
She recently cut a promo on SmackDown women's champion Bayley and Sasha Banks before facing Bayley in a champion vs. champion match Friday, which Bayley won by cheating in the form of grabbing the ropes during a pinfall.
It has had a negligible impact on ratings to this point, but that is to be expected. With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing fans from attending shows, professional wrestling simply doesn't have the same energy it usually does, which makes for a less enjoyable television product.
Changing that perception is difficult, but using the Brand-to-Brand Invitational to create some chaos, and an element of surprise is something that could positively affect the ratings moving forward. Having big Raw stars like McIntyre, Seth Rollins or Asuka appear on SmackDown could move the needle, as could Daniel Bryan, "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt or AJ Styles showing up on Raw.
WWE would also be wise to get NXT involved since it is technically the company's third brand. NXT has largely been positioned below the level of Raw and SmackDown over the years, but it boasts a remarkable amount of up-and-coming talent.
Many of the NXT Superstars have never faced the top stars on Raw and SmackDown, so using the Brand-to-Brand Invitational to create dream matches and give more exposure to NXT performers would be an ideal way to generate more interest in all three brands.
Bryan vs. Matt Riddle, Sasha Banks vs. Io Shirai and Styles vs. Johnny Gargano are just a few dream matches that would pique the interest of fans and potentially aid in the increase of viewership on Raw and SmackDown.
The Brand-to-Brand Invitational opens up the playbook for WWE and gives it more opportunities to be creative, which is something wrestling fans figure to appreciate.
Listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot wrestling topics. Catch the latest episode in the player below (warning: some language NSFW).