There is absolutely no arguing that Smackdown: Live has the upper hand after the “Superstar Shake-Up”. While Monday Night Raw has won with stars like Ember Moon, Bobby Roode, and the Authors of Pain, Smackdown: Live’s main event position is already filled with wrestlers like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Daniel Bryan – three individuals, of a few, who are essentially legends in the wrestling industry. The Smackdown: Live brand is any hardcore wrestling fan’s DREAM. Here’s why this could be a bad thing.
The WWE is notorious for working against the grain, regardless of the many liberal decisions made when understanding how to angle various storylines. While there has been credited success to the creative team with guys like Jason Jordan, Elias, and Alexa Bliss. They have failed to pull the trigger on obvious megastars like Bray Wyatt, Rusev and Sasha Banks. The decisions the creative team has made are neck-and-neck when you tally right versus wrong, but there are other serious implications that occur when a decision like what happened a week ago is made.
To the WWE fans who are unaware of what to expect from both brands going forward, they should recognize that the surplus of pay-per-view events have been scaled back – this was very necessary. The less content gives the WWE creative teams time to put more effort into making memorable pay-per-view events as opposed to creating barely passable content. These are all the great expectations that can come out of this brand, but this may perhaps be a slow killing of the Monday Night Raw and the Tuesday Night Smackdown: Live brand split. To anyone unaware of the success of the brand split, they should be notified that many of the current wrestlers who have benefited from the two different shows.
Prior to the brand split, Monday Night Raw was the flagship show and Friday Night Smackdown: Live was essentially a recap of Monday Night Raw. This was very evident in the 2014 Dean Ambrose versus Bray Wyatt feud. At the beginning of the story between the self-proclaimed “Eater of Worlds” – Bray Wyatt – and the badly nicknamed “Lunatic Fringe” – Dean Ambrose – both entities were still perceived as the most threatening superstars on the WWE roster. Dean Ambrose’s pedigree of being a literal psycho on the independent scene – under the persona Jon Moxley – gave him a sort of immediate respect when you recognized that this man has literally sacrificed his life by participating in matches with barb wired ropes, overly encouraged levels of alcoholism and, on a particular occasion, taking an electric motor saw in the forehead.
Though third generational superstar Bray Wyatt has never gone as far with his violent antics, he had developed a great reputation as a significant cult leader in the WWE. In this time when Bray Wyatt’s mystical riddles were captivating as opposed to “get off of my television”, both entities looked to put on a clinic of fine storytelling. Bray Wyatt threw the first blow by mocking Dean Ambrose about his troubled past and his incarcerated father, while Dean Ambrose went on to destroy Bray Wyatt’s most sacred, symbolic possessions – the rocking chair.
While the 204 Wyatt and Ambrose feud had a sweet beginning, there was always a sense of threat for WWE creative to reconstruct this energy without it getting repetitive. With the constant showing of Dean Ambrose versus Bray Wyatt in both promo and physical wrestling matches, both guys eventually ran out of words to say and spots to do. The storyline eventually became like clockwork and fans could see the exact same scenarios playing out consecutively. The reason this happened was because Raw and Smackdown were not exclusive shows. There was never a point where a performer like Seth Rollins would occur on Raw and not be seen busting his ass hopping the guardrail on Smackdown nights after. Main eventers were overexposed and their performances always felt insignificant in the end.
They were always performing the same thing, and this encouraged fans to entirely neglect the Smackdown brand, because if you already saw what happened on Monday Night Raw, why would you need to see it again. It is nearly impossible to believe that the WWE creative team would completely disassemble a platform that, not only gives fresh weekly content but also, give wrestlers and creative writers the benefit of time to organize their spots and give their best performances to the audience. With this time, superstars like Rusev, Alexa Bliss, Breezango, the Usos, and Naomi were able to make career-transforming performances and reinventions. Prior to the remarketed Monday Night Raw and Tuesday Night Smackdown: Live Draft Pick (the first of many brand splits), Alexa Bliss had never captured the NXT Women’s Championship and she was one of the LAST draft picks to receive a call-up.
Prior to the brand split, Breezango was unnoticeable and the Usos were becoming invisible in the WWE. Today, the team of Breezango is one of the most entertaining duos with entirely original backstage segments and the Usos are the best tag team due to the reinvention of themselves which is one of the greatest resurgences in WWE tag team history! An elimination of the brand split means that wrestlers with this combustible level of potential – especially the influx of talent through the WWE Development – would get less time to showcase their talent. Guys like Velveteen Dream, Adam Cole, Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano would get less time to build a relationship with the audience and superstars who were the “Alexa Blisses” and the “Eliases” would get passed up for the repetitive weekly programs that reigned prior to the brand split.
The WWE is in a very significant spot as of right now as the emergence of NXT talent is looking to take over – no pun intended – the main roster. This means that the WWE roster is the most stacked in WWE history. While Smackdown: Live might have the upper hand on the brand trades, Monday Night Raw might be getting more “house guests” very soon. Every year prior to this one, fans have argued that Monday Night Raw entirely reaped the Smackdown: Live division of talent. Yet Smackdown: Live has always seemed to be ahead of Raw until a few months ago. Whatever happens to both brands is entirely up to the future of how each show is constructed and it is very obvious that everyone’s time needs to be protected in this day and age. With that being said, I will leave you with these final words: KEEP THE BRAND SPLIT.