Written By: Traves Bezenar
Variety was the first outlet to break the news about WWE’s plan to reinstate the controversial brand split. WWE later confirmed the announcement on their own website with some additional information. So far we know that WWE’s ‘B show’, Smackdown will be moving to a live broadcast model on Tuesdays at USA Network. Rumors have been circulating of Smackdown going live for years but nothing has ever come from it until now. We also know WWE plans to reinstate the WWE Draft and have separate brand specific rosters for each of their live shows (Raw and Smackdown). Everything else is pretty much up in the air right now so there is a lot of speculating among fans and insiders alike.
The original brand split, known as the WWE Brand Extension, ran from 2002 through 2011 and had ramifications on the company that are still felt today. During the time it was in place the brand split had it’s ups and downs. When it was good, it was really good, and when it was bad, it was really bad. A lot of fans praise the brand split for helping jump start the careers of stars like Eddie Guerrero, Edge, John Cena, and Chris Benoit. It gave them a platform to show what they could do in the ring and on the mic without being made bit players by the bigger names of the era. In that way it was good, great even, but it had a lot of other problems.
The main problem I don’t want to see return is brand specific PPV events. Under the previous model each show would take turns running a PPV near the end of the month and then share the stage on major shows like SummerSlam and Wrestlemania. This meant fans of one show would have to wait up to two months to see storylines play out fully. As you can imagine the prolonged wait made quite a few fans unhappy. In addition to that WWE wasn't great at making the stories that interesting over an extended period, so in a lot of cases by the time the blow off match came people had lost interest in watching it altogether.
The next major problem I don’t want to see return is all the championships. At the height of the original split WWE had two world titles, two women’s titles, two tag titles, and two minor titles. That’s eight titles altogether which is more than any brand reasonably needs. WWE has spent the better part of the last five years uniting titles. They started with the tag and women’s titles and then unified the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship just last year. With that in mind it seems unlikely that they would bring in a batch of new championships but the fear is always in the back of my mind. WWE has a hard enough time making the belts they have matter adding more will just exacerbate the issue.
It’s not all bad though, the original brand split did have some good points. Firstly it made Smackdown must watch TV for the first and only time since the show introduction. To the viewers like myself, Smackdown was the show to watch at the time because its exclusive stars were young up and comers with styles that weren't heavily highlighted on RAW. But on a more personal note, for me at least, it introduced me to my favorite wrestler of all time, Eddie Guerrero. So for that reason alone the brand split will always be welcome in my book.
It remains to be seen if any of my fears will be realized when the brand split takes effect on July 19th so I’ll try to remain optimistic until more is known. I will say this though, if WWE does this right, gives the fans what they want, and don’t mess up the same things they did in the past, we may be on the cusp of the new golden age in professional wrestling.