WWE Announces 2016 Brand Split And SmackDown! Goes Live

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How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with the Armbar Express. BIG NEWS coming from the WWE, with the official announcement that the WWE brand split is coming back. RAW and SmackDown! will once again receive different and unique rosters, with SmackDown! also additionally becoming a permanent live show on Tuesday nights. This may be obvious, but there’s a lot to talk about with regards to this news and we’ll delve right into all of the speculation regarding how many titles we’ll have, who’s going where and the reasons for the brand split in the first place.

Dave Meltzer from Wrestling Observer, addressed this on the Wrestling Observer Live radio show I believe. He explained that one of the main reasons for WWE bringing back the brand split is to help generally increase television ratings, particularly on SmackDown! With SmackDown! previously being taped, the incentive to watch it dropped as wrestling fans could simply read what happened online and lose interest to actually see the show as it airs. This was obviously a big reason for why the decision was made to make it a live show. Jerry Lawler hinted at SmackDown! going live earlier on in the year and now, it’s actually happening.

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This picture was already clearly painted with the announcement made by Stephanie and Shane McMahon, but it is expected that Stephanie and Shane will run each show separately. The interesting thing is that both of them are reportedly expected to be babyface authority figures at first, which is a very unique direction for this brand split. Past brand splits usually saw one brand with the babyface authority figure and one with the heel authority figure. When the first brand split started, Ric Flair (the babyface) controlled RAW while Vince McMahon (the heel) controlled SmackDown! When the general managers were introduced, Stephanie ran SmackDown! as a babyface and Eric Bischoff ran RAW as a heel. Having two babyfaces controlling the show is different and it is a fresh change from the dictatorship we’ve seen since August 2013. I’m not sure whether it is wise to have BOTH brands being run by babyfaces. The purpose of having two different shows and a brand split is to make the audience seem like both shows are unique, in talent and in storylines. I could see why at this stage, they wouldn’t want Stephanie to be a heel going forward. With her upcoming memoirs, it is understandable why the WWE want Stephanie to be perceived better by the public. Turning Shane is possible, but Shane is still a popular babyface authority figure. That would be a hugely risky endevour. I would suspect that if there’s going to be any heel authority figure around, it will be Triple H.

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There are two big names earmarked for being the top guys on both shows, with John Cena and Roman Reigns ruling the roosts. No surprises here. Which superstar will go where is a big question. If the WWE are still banking on Roman Reigns, they may want to keep him on RAW and portray him as the top guy on the main show. However, it is possible that WWE would want John on RAW to get the RAW ratings right back up. John’s got a better ratings track record than Roman, so it would make sense. If Roman is also on SmackDown!, then there’s a lot less pressure on him to succeed on the “B show.”

An interesting note which came out is that it’s not a sure thing that Brock Lesnar will end up on RAW. I wouldn’t have assumed that Brock would be on RAW either as he appeared on SmackDown! a few times in the build up to WrestleMania. I think it is better for Brock to be on RAW than SmackDown! as he does do wonders to the ratings on that show. It’ll be interesting to see where all the part-timers go.

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There is reportedly a plan in place for two world championship in the WWE, one for each show. A lot of people will argue that there should be one main belt but I personally think that you’ve got enough diversity for their to be one for each brand. I argued way back before the titles were re-unified that the roster had become too integrated in order for two world titles to be around. Now though, you have enough talent to be able to keep these two shows separated. Now everyone can have their chance at each of the titles.

The one thing which will initially drive me nuts I think is the proposed idea that the Women’s Champion would be on both shows. I kind of agree with this as there’s not enough depth on the women’s side of things to be able to do two titles. However, I am very much against the idea of seeing Charlotte on both shows. To see her this much would really drive people away, knowing that all you’ll get in women’s angles from now on is just her. I don’t think she’s talented enough to able to undertake that kind of responsibility and pull it off. If Sasha Banks wins the title shortly afterwards, it’d be much more tolerable I think.

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So another big question is when the date of the draft will be? It’s highly expected at the moment that the draft lottery/selection will take place on the July 11th edition of RAW, which will be taking place in Detroit. Funnily enough, it’s a show that’s currently scheduled to feature Brock Lesnar.

I actually think that this makes a lot of sense, considering that this will follow the July 4th edition of RAW, with reportedly a lot of belief within the company that the July 4th edition will see a serious decline in viewers in a similar fashion to a lot of the past Christmas episodes. It’ll be good for them to want to show off a huge increase in the ratings for this big draft, and I think the ratings will be quite huge for this one.

It’s actually interesting, as it’s been reported that a lot of the talent were taken back by this. According to sources, they have no idea what’s going on or where they’ll even end up in the draft. This wouldn’t be the first time, as a lot of the wrestlers had no idea about the draft selections in the past. I remember the 2008 draft, when Jim Ross was drafted to SmackDown! He blogged about it the next day, saying that he had no idea beforehand. This draft may end up causing a lot of morale issues backstage, especially if certain acts are split up. I don’t think acts like the New Day will be broken up, but maybe some of the smaller teams could be done. I can even see a team like Enzo Amore and Big Cass being broken up. They’ve surprised us in the past.

Lastly, Vince McMahon is said to be “really pumped” about the brand split and I’m pretty much pumped up too. I remember blogging about bringing back the brand split last year and how much good it’ll do. Do go back and check it out at this link as there’s a lot of advantages to this.

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Overall, great news for the future of WWE in my opinion. Short term hard work for a long term gain, as Jim Ross once said. What do you think of the news? Tweet at me @TomRobinson5199 or the @ArmbarExpress, or leave a comment below.

 

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Does WWE Need Another Brand Split?

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In 2011, the WWE’s brand split was effectively put to an end when COO Triple H announced that the RAW and SmackDown! rosters would be featured on both shows full-time. At the time of the decision, RAW and SmackDown! had interacted with each other quite a bit for the last few years. With RAW being the main host for all of this interactivity, the gap between RAW and SmackDown! had expanded to such a degree that it was hardly a competition. Therefore, the SmackDown! stars might as well just moved to RAW full-time and vice versa. In 2013, the merge was cemented by the merging for the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships to from the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

To be honest, I originally was all for the two brands coming together again. If everyone is fighting for one championship and everyone is on the same level, surely it’d promote competition within the superstars to get their time in the spotlight. On RAW and SmackDown!, it was much easier for these wrestlers to get time on television with a smaller roster to compete with. Now, the roster is so huge that it could have been an incentive for everyone to step up their game. However, my feelings about the decision have seemingly reversed.

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I mentioned earlier that the roster is so huge that it could have been an incentive for everyone to step up their game. However, those wrestlers are now having to work a much more intense schedule. They’re not just working on one or two shows every week. Some of them are wrestling on ALL of their shows! Heck, we’ve seen a number of NXT stars like Kevin Owens and Sasha Banks having to appear on the main roster and NXT at the same time. The main wrestlers are now just physically and mentally drained by the heavily demanding schedule.

On the flip side, there’s the wrestlers that are barely getting a sniff of the action on the flagship shows. These active and healthy wrestlers are all backstage for the flagship shows but are hardly ever used. If their lucky, they might get an appearance on SmackDown! but Main Event and house shows are their usual schedule for the week. This is very alarming.

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It’s no surprise when taking this into account as to why stars like Randy Orton are asking for lighter schedules. They just can’t give it their all when their schedules are this intense. A lot of these stars are working with injuries, which is further risking the well-beings of these wrestlers. Even with the brand split, wrestlers were working 300+ days a week. However, the WWE roster nowadays aren’t just working with one show as mentioned earlier. With the WWE Network also in full swing, the demand of content from these wrestlers are now just becoming too much.

What another brand split can do now is re-motivate those stars that are currently lost in the shuffle. What the brand split can do is re-energise those stars that are battered and bruised from working these hard schedules. Alright, it might feature a lot of hard work at first in order to get the brand split running. However, the long term benefits could be worth that initial short-term hardships.

Jim Ross mentioned this on the Q&A part of this website when he said: ““I’ve said it many times but if the brand split was truly a split and no cross booking occurred then it would be tough over the short term but would be a benefit in the long haul. I don’t look for it to happen.”

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Daniel Bryan also mentioned his desire for a brand split and wanting to work exclusively on SmackDown! Not only would this spare him an extra three hours of work on RAW which is obviously much better for his well-being, the pressure would really be off him working on a show that wasn’t as micro-managed as RAW by the powers-that-be. With the ratings of RAW taking hits, all eyes will no doubt be on RAW internally.

With that being said, Jerry Lawler has actually mentioned that SmackDown! could possibly be going live in 2016. Therefore, interest in the product internally could end up being just as important as RAW. The flagship show RAW is obviously their main priority as it attracts the most viewers and is the main driving force for their WWE Network. However, now WWE are adding more pressure on themselves by having SmackDown! potentially go live as well. The SmackDown! scripts would be a lot more micro-managed with the pressures for it to succeed.

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I don’t think WWE should take that mentality for RAW and duplicate it for SmackDown! SmackDown! doesn’t fit the same mould as RAW any more and is not possibly going to get their ratings as good as RAW’s. If that’s the case then what is there to lose by having SmackDown! being a lot more experimental than RAW. The pressure is not as extreme so let the writers have a bit more fun with the roster it has. If a brand split was introduced and the writing staff was once again split up, the SmackDown! writers could be more ambitious which is not a bad thing. Writers would be ambitious to beat the competition which Paul Heyman always stated was his driving force as SmackDown!’s head writer. He wanted to make new stars and beat RAW in terms of it’s programming. He wanted to break the mould. If the brand split caused the writers to act this way, how is that necessarily a bad thing?

Bleacher Reporter’s Andy Soucek highlighted how damaged the narrative had become for WWE with so much to keep up with for the viewers.

He said: “What is maybe the most damaging aspect of the end of the brand split, is that WWE has now made it painfully hard to follow the entire narrative of WWE. When Raw and Smackdown were separate rosters, a viewer could keep up with their favourite wrestler in two hours a week.”

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This is a move that would benefit the wrestlers. This is a move that would benefit the writers. This is a move that would benefit the TV Networks that are getting better programming and possibly better ratings. There’s a lot of people that would benefit in the long run from the brand split being re-introduced. The question is would WWE ever consider doing it? I’d like to think that they would when the over-flowing roster and burned out writers start to seriously effect the product. What I’m really concerned with is whether they’ll do it before it’s too late. What if SmackDown! is taken off the air before this brand split could even happen? Then what? Will they introduce NXT as their second show? That’s all filled with developmental stars and wouldn’t solve the over-expansion issue. Before this all goes down, something’s got to give. The brand split must go down.