WWE has done a pretty good job sticking with its brand split, but it still has creative ways to move Superstars around if one brand happens to need help.
And Raw needs some help.
Go figure Daniel Bryan is the one WWE dials up in an emergency.
Let's backtrack a bit. After losing to Roman Reigns twice with the universal title at stake, including in the main event at WrestleMania, WWE trotted out the matchup again for the April 30 edition of SmackDown. Somewhat behind the scenes, though, the company started to build Cesaro as the next big threat to Roman.
The stakes went beyond the title itself, because if Bryan lost again, he'd be "banished" from the blue brand.
That's one way of saying the proverbial writing was on the wall—Bryan was going to lose and leave.
Make no mistake, Reigns and Bryan are so good together that WWE could book that as a title match every week for a year and the two would find a way to make it interesting. Fans would still tune in for it, too.
But this particular match clearly felt like a vehicle to get Bryan off the blue brand and over to Raw. And to the two Superstars' credit, they put on another classic, with Bryan technically losing because he passed out during a submission.
Bryan going to Raw just makes way too much sense. The main-event scene is an absolute disaster on the red brand right now, in no small way thanks to WWE booking. Drew McIntyre lost his title right before Mania, which seemed to set him up for a big Mania moment and win in front of actual fans in the arena.
Instead, McIntyre lost again. Which would have been fine given how good the match was and that it seemed to signal Bobby Lashley would get the same lengthy, quality title run that McIntyre himself got over the last year.
Instead, WWE, has WWE'd again. McIntyre has been involved with this weird combo of T-BAR and MACE, members of a flop of a stable, plus Braun Strowman. Lashley is in there somewhere, too, all for a strange build to the Backlash pay-per-view.
Want to know why WWE is going this route with its odd main-event scene right now, and risking major harm to McIntyre and Lashley? Because there isn't anyone else. AJ Styles is off doing tag stuff, Bray Wyatt's last title run was a disaster, and Keith Lee's push is on hold.
And bringing over a different Superstar to help Raw wouldn't work, either. Maybe the best example, Seth Rollins, needs to stick on the blue brand for his inevitable Shield-infused feud with Roman. Moving somebody else just doesn't have as natural of an excuse as Bryan losing again.
Plus—and most importantly of all—Bryan is just that good.
Want a guy to keep McIntyre relevant long before he reclaims his title? That's Bryan. Want a guy to make champion Lashley look like a believable monster, and hated? It's all about Bryan, arguably the best in the business on the planet right now no matter what character and role WWE asks him to portray.
Maybe this is giving WWE too much credit. Perhaps upon arrival, Bryan gets locked in a feud with former Retribution members for some reason (which he'd still somehow manage to make look good). But the obvious hints of "banishment" and Superstar movement sure seem to hint at bigger, much more important plans.
That plan, no matter how it officially unfolds, needs to shift Bryan to Raw. He can be the headline star and recapture that lead-guy magic seemingly whenever he wants. He's not going to do that on SmackDown, not with the Reigns heel turn in its infancy and popping off better than even the wildest of expectations.
In fact, it's almost funny WWE is suffering from the success of having the most talented roster in history by being able to creatively wiggle a guy like Bryan to a struggling brand. Funny, but also impossible to complain about, as fans know what Bryan will do when presented with the task.
It should go without saying, but this should be a one-off situation. WWE can't suddenly get trade-happy and hurt the integrity of brands. But Bryan is the jolt Raw desperately needs, and WWE creative has expertly opened the door that lets it happen organically.