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.

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Wrestling Flashback – Joey Styles’ RAW Shoot Promo In 2006

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In October 2005, Jim Ross was fired (kayfabe) as play-by-play commentator of RAW in a rather embarrassing way. After Stone Cold Steve Austin had stunned every member of the McMahon family the previous week, Jim Ross was the scapegoat. Vince and Stephanie McMahon put the blame on him and picked on him until Linda McMahon came to his aid. On television, Linda and JR had a great relationship. In a big swerve though, Linda fired JR and kicked him in the nuts.

This was really just done so JR could recover from colon surgery. However, this provided an opportunity for a new RAW commentator to get a shot at covering the flagship show of WWE…

On November 7th 2005, JR’s replacement was finally introduced. It was revealed that former ECW commentator Joey Styles would be the newest play-by-play commentator for Monday Night RAW. Joey was doing commentary for ECW One Night Stand but this was his first true stint as an announcer for WWE programming.

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For Joey Styles, this was a completely new environment to ECW. Joey was mostly a solo commentator for ECW events and his world would change as he became the new voice of Monday Night RAW. However, Joey was doing a fine job adapting to this new sports entertainment environment. That was until Wrestlemania 22 came along… and Joey Styles was bumped from the show in favour of Jim Ross.

Joey was allowed to commentate on the Edge vs Mick Foley hardcore match, fulfilling his dream of one day calling a Wrestlemania match. Luckily for Joey, he was able to call probably the best match of the night. However, Joey’s dismissal from the rest of the show was very interesting as he would return to commentating on RAW the next night. He would also miss out on the opportunity to call RAW’s next PPV Backlash, with JR being selected once again.

Eventually, Joey Styles’ frustrations with the WWE dealings backstage eventually spilled out onto RAW. On the May 1st 2006 edition of RAW, the general managers of the show were the Spirit Squad. Kenny was booked to challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship. Joey was instructed by the Spirit Squad to show some spirit when Kenny wins the title, being forced to wear a cheerleader’s outfit if he didn’t do a good enough job.

Joey Styles returned to commentary as Jerry Lawler also urged Joey to show some spirit. Joey finally decided that he had enough, calling Jerry a hack and slapping him. Jerry pushed him over and Joey ran to the back. Jerry Lawler apologised and wanted Joey to come back out. Joey came back out and the speech he gave was nothing short of fantastic. Below is the full transcript of what was an incredible “worked shoot” promo cut live on WWE RAW by the voice of ECW…

  • “You want to apologize? Like nothing happened. Like you didn’t knock me on my ass in front of millions of people worldwide, and I’m gonna come down there and work with you. I’m not coming back, and now thanks to the magic of live television I’m gonna show the whole world, why for seven years in ECW I was the unscripted, uncensored, loose cannon of commentary. Six months ago, WWE called me, I didn’t call this company because I was looking for a job. I didn’t need a job. WWE called me because they had humiliated and fired…again, Jim Ross. So I get JR’s spot, and from week one, week after week I’ve got an ongoing lecture about the differences in professional wrestling and sports entertainment. I’m not allowed to say ‘pro wrestling’, I’m not allowed to say ‘wrestler’. I have to say ‘sports entertainment’ and refer to the wrestlers as ‘superstars’. I’m told to deliberately ignore the moves and the holds during the matches so I can tell stories. Well ignoring the moves and the holds is damn insulting to the athletes, the ‘wrestlers’, not the entertainers who leave their families three hundred days a year to ply their craft in that ring. Here’s the best part, because I’m not a sports entertainment storyteller I get pulled from Wrestlemania, and the reason I’m given is, is because I don’t sound like Jim Ross who’s the guy they fired in the first place. That makes sense, right? So I swallow the bitter pill, I’m a company guy. I get bumped from Wrestlemania. Then I get bumped from Backlash? I’m not good enough to call Backlash!? In ECW, I called live pay-per-views on my own, solo, no colour commentators dragging me down. Wasn’t done before me, hasn’t been done since. But I’m not good enough to call Backlash because I’m not a sports entertainment storyteller. Well you know what? I am sick of sports entertainment. I am sick of male cheerleaders. I am sick of boogers and bathroom humour and semen and I am sick of our chairman. Who likes to talk about his own semen, he mocks God… he mocks God!!!!! And makes out with the divas all to feed his own insatiable ego. I am sick of sports entertainment, and most of all I am sick of you fans who actually buy into that crap! This sports entertainment circus! I never
    needed this job, and I don’t want this job anymore.”

With this speech, he quit the WWE.

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Joey was eventually brought back as part of the ECW revival beginning at ECW One Night Stand 2006 and he actually still works in WWE backstage today. However, this promo was nothing short of fantastic. Back then, the WWE was still very protective of the kayfabe of storylines. Therefore, shoot promos in WWE were very rare.

Wade Keller wrote about this for PWTorch at the time in 2006, saying:

“What stands out the most is that he was allowed to rip on the WWE product. For years, announcers have been discouraged from referring to in–ring athletes as “wrestlers” and instead refer to them as “superstars” dating back to the 1980s. That policy was inspired in part in a desire to distance themselves from pro wrestling’s tawdry image, but it was also an attempt at a self–fulfilling prophesy. Referring to the athletes as superstars elevated their image through their label as being more than “just fake wrestlers.” For Styles to be allowed to point it out, though, means WWE fans will be more tuned in to WWE’s usage of language in the future.”

The fans were never TRULY able to get much detail about the backstage dealings in WWE, unless you had access to the internet. Joey gave the fans an insight into how commentators were told to behave by the WWE. Of course, JR or Michael Cole were never going to tell the audience what Vince McMahon is shouting down their ear. However, Joey was in a position where he was able to let the fans into that world WITHOUT using terminology that was too insider for the majority of fans to get. This was not like Vince Russo, who used shoot terminology a lot during his time as a writer. This was enough so that the fans could get a rare taste of what happens backstage but it wasn’t too much that the fans wouldn’t understand. As an introduction to the backstage dealings at WWE, this was great.

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I believe that this was probably one of the greatest shoot promos in wrestling history. It was not as ground-breaking as CM Punk’s infamous pipebomb and it wasn’t as scathing as Paul Heyman’s shoot on Vince McMahon was back in 2001. However, it was exactly the type of thing the revived ECW would need going forward. Joey had to make it clear that what he would eventually be apart of was nothing like RAW or SmackDown!

This was special because back then, the line between reality and fiction was never really shattered before in such a manner. Paul Heyman talked about the WWF’s presentation of sports entertainment before in his shoot promo but Joey properly exposed the lack of wrestling in the product. When Heyman cut his promo, there was still a lot of attention given to wrestling. When Styles cut his promo, RAW’s storylines at the time included a bunch of cheerleaders, Kane feuding with himself and Vince McMahon depicting himself as god. After all of these storylines, the fans realised just how much on the money Styles was. This worked… sublimely.

Ring of Honor will NEVER be able to compete with WWE – Here’s Why

Being a journalist myself, I always keep a watchful eye on the news of wrestling. From all the rumors to the updates, I have to get myself clued up on the backstage goings-on in the world of wrestling… even if it does get me in a right mood sometimes doing so. However, as I was scrolling through NoDQ.com, I saw an article with the headline… “WWE Trying to Counter-Program ROH with Takeover?”.

What the story was is NoDQ mentioned the fact that “Good Ol’ JR” Jim Ross had updated his blog recently, particularly his Q&A section. A user called “Parlay_King” asked JR a question on this section, talking about the WWE’s decision to have the next NXT Takeover event in Brooklyn. This happened to be on the same day as a ROH event which prompted Parlay_King to ask this question:

“Do you think that by setting the NXT Takeover in Brooklyn on the same day & time as ROH’s Field of Honor that the WWE is using predatory tactics against Ring of Honor?”

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I’ll get to what JR’s response was in just a little bit but I just want to address this question head on. I’m sorry to have had to call this guy out by name but his question is representing a view-point of a lot of optimistic indie fans who believe that Ring Of Honor will one day rise up to challenge WWE for superiority. To believe in your stomach that a wrestling company can rise up to battle the mighty WWE is something we’d all love to happen. I’m not bashing WWE here, but competition can drive companies to put on better products and trump their rivals. Hell, WWF and WCW pulled out just about every trick in the book to try and win the Monday Night Wars. It made for compelling competition. So it’s fair game to want a company to succeed like this.

Speaking as a TNA fan myself, through thick and thin, I’ve always wanted to see TNA rise and become the top dogs of professional wrestling. Even if it’s dumb wishful thinking, that’s what we fans do. Not because we want to see WWE fail, but because we want to see these companies push each other to do more and up their game.

However, let me ask you one simple question. Do you really think WWE cared ONE bit about TNA losing their television deals? Do you really think WWE cared about the success of Lucha Underground and what’s happening in their next tapings? Do you really think WWE cares who Jeff Jarrett and Global Force Wrestling are going to partner up with in the next few months? The short answer is no. Vince McMahon does not have a teeny tiny whisper of interest in the television programs for TNA, Lucha Underground and GFW because they’re not competitive with them.

I’ve just posted a link to a YouTube video of Bryan Alvarez, who at this time was discussing the supposed new “Monday Night Wars” between WWE and TNA. What Bryan said about WWE and TNA here in 2010 outlines better than I possibly could about the mindset of WWE in regards to their competition. They likely wouldn’t have cared that last week’s edition of Impact Wrestling featured a 30 minute tag team ironman match between The Wolves and The Dirty Heels, a Knockouts title match and Ethan Carter III winning the TNA World Title. Because TNA’s content is not gonna make WWE counter-book and change up their shows because Ethan Carter III won their title. They’re not gonna have Sheamus cash in Money In The Bank or something to counter TNA’s offering that week. So explain to me this….

Why in god’s name would the WWE care that their next NXT Takeover show, the first one to be held outside of Florida, is on the same day as a ROH show? Why would WWE use “predatory” tactics in fear that the people of Brooklyn would turn up to ROH rather than WWE? The truth is… they wouldn’t. They wouldn’t change their main event to counter a main event like Jay Lethal vs Jay Briscoe or something. No disrespect to those two guys. In fact I actually loved their recent match at Best In The World. I’m a huge Jay Lethal fan. But with the momentum that NXT is building and with all the production and build they’ll be putting on this show. The promotion they’ll probably do on RAW and SmackDown! will likely send the NXT view-rates over the roof. If Finn Balor lost the NXT title that night to Zack Ryder or something, it’s not going to make a lot of fans say “Eh. I should have went to see ROH.” Because the gap between WWE and ROH is just TOO big for them or ANYBODY ELSE to “compete with”.

The fact that these two shows are on the same day is not gonna make Triple H and the NXT writers think, “Oh my god. They’ve got Jay Briscoe vs Lethal. We need Kevin Owens on the card,” or something like that. Hell, Kevin Owens, an NXT star, was recently named the 2015 WWE Superstar of the Year by the magazine Rolling Stone…. and he’s been on the main roster for less than two months! He was the NXT Champion when he got that honor. That tells you how much of a following NXT has. Why would WWE need to worry about ROH?

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Because truth be told, ROH have signed up some top wrestling stars in recent years. Austin Aries recently re-signed with ROH, joining the likes of Alberto Del Rio, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin, Evan Bourne and many others making the jump to the company. However, look all of the former ROH stars that have jumped ship to the WWE and NXT? KENTA, Kevin Steen, Claudio Castagnoli and El Generico all left ROH for WWE and have become superstars in their own right. Generico and KENTA still have quite a way to go in terms of star power as Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami respectively, before they become stars in the WWE. Hell, Samoa Joe didn’t last long in ROH before signing a full-time contract with WWE. WWE has the money and the backing to pluck these stars and take them to that level. ROH… does not.

And ROH will struggle to stand out as one of the elite wrestling companies and a “rival” to WWE unless they get the major promotion and backing that they need. That’s not to say that ROH are a financially-messed up company. They’re certainty not in a situation like TNA is. But they wouldn’t be able to compete with WWE even if they tried. And WWE is not going to use “predatory” booking to try and trump ROH… because they simply don’t need to. There’s little point for the WWE to be predators when there’s no satisfying prey to feed them.

2013 NoDQ.com Awards – My Vote For… Announcer Of The Year

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‘Sup guys. Tom Robinson here. Columnist for NoDQ.com among many other websites around the web. As you may have noticed I’ve been doing “my vote” blogs on the NoDQ.com awards which the first few posts can actually be seen at the following links:

Superstar Of The Year

Tag Team Of The Year

Finisher Of The Year

Now we come to announcer of the year!

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The nominations are….

Well actually, there is only one worthwhile nomination and that’s John Bradshaw Layfield.

Stellar at the commentary both as normal, JBL is always a delight to have on commentary. Mentions of wrestling companies and other sports, he really does give wrestling a bit of realism to it by making it more of a sports league than a pro wrestling company and that is rather respectable. He’s such a great heel that it really does make commentary worthwhile, especially when the other two announcers he has to work with are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler…

But if you do want to know the other candidates here they are:

  • The Michael Cole
  • Jerry “Boring As Fuck” Lawler
  • Mike Tenay
  • “Is It Me, Or Is It Freaking Hot In Here?” Tazz
  • Todd Keneley (Really. Why didn’t TNA actually give him a worthwhile shot? At the commentary booth for like 5 months or so. He had more charisma in him than Tazz and Tenay combined.)

Really wish William Regal was an option. 😦

Here’s the link to vote for who you think was the greatest announcer of the year!

http://nodq.com/polls/388136052.shtml