Hot Take: WWE Should Ignore Critics and Keep Raw, SmackDown Brand Split Intact

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2022


A popular, emerging criticism of current WWE programming is that the brand split needs to end in order for Raw, SmackDown and the Superstars themselves to thrive. 

But there's a problem with that line of thinking: The brand split is a bit of a cop-out excuse. 

There's no question the brand split—the divvying up of the roster between the two main shows and keeping them exclusive to those shows—has its problems and WWE could do a much better job of it. But going back to a more traditional-feeling unified roster with one set of champions, with Roman Reigns presiding over all, wouldn't necessarily fix the problems besieging the WWE product right now. 

It's easy to point out the brand split's flaws. But it's also easy to forget what an afterthought SmackDown was as the "B" show under a unified roster (until it moved to Fox). Unifying the roster now could make the current "B" show, Raw, even worse. 

Look at, say, the recent United States champion run from Finn Balor. The man couldn't even get a spot on a two-night WrestleMania 38 card to defend his title—he'd just get even more lost in the fray of a unified roster, right? 

Under a unified roster, does magic like RK-Bro happen? Or do Randy Orton and Riddle never come together because there are only one set of tag belts, meaning WWE could keep cycling the same old tag teams through the grinder to feed The Usos?

No, the bigger problem that gets to duck away in the shadows while everyone points at the brand split is straight-up booking and storytelling. 

How about the main-event scene as an example? One of the appeals of a brand split was that it would open up main-event scenes and keep things fresh. 

It's not like that happened anyway. 

On the way to yet another Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar showdown, WWE used all of the major run-to-Mania events to prop up that feud and only that feud. Lesnar won the title on the non-Reigns program. The Royal Rumble went to building up that feud. So did the Elimination Chamber before WrestleMania, which had zero surprises and all the usual stuff (a barricade spot, etc.) in a dramatically underwhelming match. 

On paper, WWE could have used Raw and its top title to really showcase some of the company's other top guys, or used the spotlight to start building new long-term main-eventers. But it has to want to—and unifying the roster might just give WWE another excuse to not pursue these things. 

Funnily enough, ending the brand split would just accelerate some of WWE's problems. Yes, a smaller roster for a specific show means rematches can happen more often. But combining the rosters just so that matchups seem fresher and newer would only last so long before the company went back to only the biggest names, anyway. 

With the forced split, WWE doesn't have a choice but to try new things and give things a chance. 

Speaking of accelerating problems, looking at Reigns specifically, overexposing him on two shows might only make fans turn on him all the faster. It's a similar thing for, say, Charlotte Flair, but Reigns is especially interesting because it's obvious they want him to remain top champion until next year's Mania. Suddenly double-booking him might provide new feuds, but it also might dramatically backfire.

There's also the very real human factor to consider. Suddenly asking the Superstars who must appear on each and every show twice a week to add that work and travel to the schedule is a step in the wrong direction. 

Admittedly, WWE could do a better job of making the brand split more effective. Not hot-potato-ing Superstars between shows randomly would be nice. Actually making the limited number of drafts mean something would be nice, too. 

But WWE has already shown some foresight in this area. The decision to keep WrestleMania as a two-night event isn't just sheer logistics in terms of fan and performer fatigue. It lets each brand's top titles have legitimate spotlights near or at the very end of Manias in the main event. 

At the end of the day, WWE still has entirely too much programming for fans to watch, which creates viewer fatigue. That's not going to magically change because the brand split goes away. The shows, at least, won't be the same Superstars for five or more straight hours per week—instead, they will offer something unique. 

If nothing else, at least with the split, fans get interesting angles like a draft and the hope that new risers can work their way into the main events and title scenes. Ending the split might sound great, but fans have been through that before, and doing so might only further highlight the actual bigger problems plaguing WWE programming.