Looking at the Pros and Cons of WWE Ending Raw, SmackDown Brand SplitApril 15, 2022
Looking at the Pros and Cons of WWE Ending Raw, SmackDown Brand Split
In 2002, the WWE brand split provided an excellent solution for the company following the Monday Night War and the addition of a much larger roster. At the time, the concept recreated the same sense of competition under the same umbrella.
The original version lasted until 2011, but WWE reintroduced its current iteration in 2016. With the advent of NXT and SmackDown, it provided another opportunity to highlight its bloated roster. However, the idea has arguably grown obsolete again now that there is real competition in All Elite Wrestling and other promotions.
Even more, the company has dramatically decreased its amount of active wrestlers. In 2021, WWE released 80 Superstars, raising the total to over 120 over the past two years.
This has led to recurring debates on whether the days of the brand split are numbered. The result of the Winner Takes All match for the WWE and Universal Championship at WrestleMania 38 and The Usos' current goal of unifying the tag titles will likely reopen these conversations.
There are plenty of signs that the extension has run its course, but there are also reasons to believe it won't happen just yet.
For now, though, there are some pros and cons to WWE ending the brand split that need to be considered.
Pro: A Better Use of WWE's Biggest Stars
Ever since last year's WWE draft, Raw has suffered from a lack of established main eventers. It was an issue that plagued the flagship show for most of the second half of 2021.
On the surface, it seems like the solution should be fairly simple: Just create new stars and elevate consistent midcarders. However, WWE has placed nearly as much of a priority on anyone else other than Roman Reigns.
So, is it any wonder that The Tribal Chief is currently holding both the WWE and Universal Championship? After all, the company started to book itself into a corner and released many mainstays who could have stepped up.
Getting rid of the brand split would make The Head of the Table the main draw on both Raw and SmackDown. It seems like the company has been dying to focus all of its primary storylines around the second-generation star anyway.
So, why not put all of its chips on him and see where the roulette wheel lands. If nothing else, this would offer Reigns a fresh set of opponents to work with.
Con: Less Opportunities for Other Wrestlers
It seems like a great idea in theory, but it will also diminish screen time for lower-tier wrestlers.
The addition of two different world titles gave us some memorable storylines such as Kofimania and Bobby Lashley's underrated reign as WWE champion. Fans may not have gotten the chance to see those two men ascend to the top of the card if there was only one top prize.
As such, it's a little worrying that the company seems to be planning to unify the WWE and universal titles. This could lead to fewer opportunities for unexpected contenders and raise the level of competition for its midcard belts.
The latter could be a much-needed change, but it's hard to be optimistic about that when the Intercontinental Championship hasn't been relevant in a while.
Moreover, dropping more former world titleholders down to this division doesn't leave many upper midcarder any room to grow or flourish as they could.
Pro: A Chance to Rehabilitate the Tag Team Division
The tag team divisions on both Raw and SmackDown are struggling because there just aren't enough teams on either brand.
As a result, viewers see a lot of rematches and the introduction of hodge-podge pairings like Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs. WWE desperately needs to overhaul its approach to tag team wrestling, and merging the divisions could be the first step.
The Usos are phenomenal champions but when was the last time they had a truly engaging feud that didn't involve their best rivals, The New Day? The lack of credible challengers and new storylines has hampered their current reign.
Their mission to unify the tag titles at least gives them new motivation and proves they're not merely henchmen for Reigns to throw at his newest opponent. Hopefully, unified titles would also make tag wrestling a fixture on pay-per-view cards again.
Tag team title matches are often relegated to Kick Off shows or television matches, but withdrawing the brand split could be the move that thrusts them into the spotlight.
Con: Less to Differentiate Raw and SmackDown
While it could conceivably be good for both Raw and SmackDown to share their biggest stars and tag teams, it does run the risk of making the shows repetitive.
At the moment, SmackDown has its own appeal and a distinct style. It's not as pronounced as it used to be. However, putting Reigns on both the flagship show and the blue brand could further erode the creative difference between Monday and Friday nights.
In fact, this is sort of why Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter suggested the brand split would remain intact in February.
When talking about unifying the world titles, the wrestling historian said: "I was told that it is not feasible in the modern environment to not have each brand, given the two networks, have a champion."
This seems to suggest both networks have their own demands for what their dose of WWE programming will look like. There have also been reports since SmackDown moved to Fox about demands for specific Superstars like Ronda Rousey.
This could be the biggest reason why a consolidated roster wouldn't work.
Con: Merging the Women's Division Could Be a Disaster
The WWE women's division can be frustrating, but it's in decent shape with Bianca Belair as one of its top stars.
There's also hope that Bayley and Asuka will return from injury soon. There are also so many women ready to move on from NXT 2.0 like Io Shirai or Dakota Kai. To that end, it's probably not a good idea to unify the Raw and SmackDown women's titles.
WWE doesn't create nearly enough secondary or non-title feuds for its female wrestlers as it is, so having all of its competitors vying for one main title seems regressive. It could lead to less meaningful feuds and screen time, which is the last thing the division needs right now.
One could argue this would force the company to do more with the WWE women's tag titles, but that seems like wishful thinking at this point.
Naomi and Sasha Banks enjoyed a historic win at WrestleMania 38, but it's going to take some time to improve the general outlook on women's tag team wrestling. It might not be wise to stake the future of the division on that.