Hot Take: WWE Should Keep the Brand Split Amid Rumors of Breaking It Up

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2022


It would appear WWE is flirting with the disaster of an idea that is ending the brand split. 

That split restricts Superstars to either Raw or SmackDown, helping each brand's weekly show feel distinct. 

Yet according to Bryan Alvarez on Wrestling Observer Live (h/t Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats), the brand split is "essentially done" in WWE. 

Which is a major shame. 

A split should allow major television time to be afforded to building stories and Superstars around secondary titles and the tag divisions. 

There hasn't even been much of a hint that the split will end. Yes, Roman Reigns holds both men's top titles and The Usos now have both tag tiles. But if this were the actual plan, why wasn't Reigns' match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania a unification match after the Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber and everything else went toward building up to that point? 

Is Reigns the primary reason for a split? Can WWE not come up with a way to get one of the titles off him in a way that makes sense? Are business partners behind the scenes that don't get Reigns and Ronda Rousey on weekly programing throwing weight around?

Because fans have seen a non-split WWE plenty of times. Even if Reigns drops one of the titles, one instantly becomes a secondary title. The midcard titles get little time to shine. And Superstars who filled out television time on one of the brands during the split will likely mostly disappear while the top acts dominate both shows per week again. 

It's especially frustrating because, had WWE handled the split well from the jump, there would never need to be a single thought about ending it. 

WWE hasn't even tried to make the brand split feel meaningful in a way that would make sense. There's an entire pay-per-view—Survivor Series—built around the idea of brand loyalty. And yet, WWE is prone to throwing a draft just a few weeks before it, so there are Superstars who just hopped brands suddenly competing in this themed event preaching their loyalty to a brand they just joined. 

This is where WWE's inability to formulate long-term stories or consistency crushes it. A split, done well, could loop in major aspects of other sports. It'd be fun to see Reigns talking about how his contract with SmackDown is almost up and thinking about going over to Raw. Extension drama, tags, trades—it could be a blast. 

WWE could make both brands feel very different and even stage competitions between the two. More often than not, the out-of-ring details are more interesting than the actual wrestling itself, so why not stage contests between brands while looping in talk about ratings, social media numbers etc.?

Instead, WWE shrugs off any chance at that and then every once in a while throws out something nonsensical like the "wild card rule" where Superstars could hop between brands. 

It's easy to see where this goes from here based on past behaviors. WWE will deny the split is over, yet certain Superstars will move fluidly between brands on a weekly basis. There will eventually be a draft, watered down by stars jumping between shows anyway, and a brand loyalty event equally hosed down. 

One might argue the droves of roster cuts WWE made over the last year or two, plus injuries to guys like Big E and the Sasha Banks and Naomi walkout, have thinned the depth, perhaps requiring the end of a split. But that's a tough sell—WWE still has the most talented pro wrestling roster in history and has people wasting away in the midcard like Finn Balor. 

From this zoomed-out view, it's easy to see why WWE might think the split a failure—but it's equally easy to see where things went wrong and how much better they could be. Ending the split hasn't magically fixed everything in the past, and it most certainly won't this time.