Ever since the major innovation of the brand extension in 2002, it has been controversial, with many arguing that it should be ended and WWE return to a single roster between all shows.
This became an even hotter topic recently when Smackdown debuted on SyFy (a network under the same NBC umbrella as RAW’s network, USA).
For the debut, RAW superstars appeared on Smackdown. Now there is nothing unusual about this, but it has been suggested that now the brands are under the same parent company, there could/should be more appearances between brands. This has led to renewed calls for an ultimate end to the brand extension and a return to a single roster. So seen as it is currently under discussion, what would be the ramifications of this?
Well, all you have to do is look at that SyFy debut and other specials which have allowed superstars from both shows to appear. Well, one thing that was notable about the SyFy show – a show which didn’t feature people like Sheamus, The Miz, Triple H or Chris Jericho – was that the lowest ranked wrestler on the card (in terms of their card-position) was MVP, an upper-mid carder. This points to an issue straight away. One of the reasons the brand extension was introduced was because after taking on a large amount of former WCW and ECW talent, the WWE roster was saturated. Splitting the roster solved this problem immediately. If the brand extension was to be reversed, this solution would also be reversed and WWE would be more saturated than ever.
Think about it, over the two shows, there is Randy Orton, John Cena, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Sheamus, The Miz, Triple H, Wade Barrett, Kane, The Undertaker, Big Show, Edge, Rey Mysterio, (and arguably) Jack Swagger: all fourteen of them main eventers, and all fourteen of them having to appear pretty much every week on TV. This would be possible, but if you have these people on both RAW and Smackdown, there will be very little room for anyone else to appear. The stars of the future, people like Alberto Del Rio, Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, Ted DiBiase, John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler, the Harts and certain members of the Nexus, will be squashed in to at best the mid-card and most frequently, the lower card. And then what about the divas and the lower-card wrestlers? There would be no room for most of them at all surely?
It doesn’t work. Either you about fire half the roster or you keep the brands apart.
This is not to mention the other upsides to having the brands apart that would be lost: things like having distinct brands and more choice, things like the excitement of the draft and the changes to the distinctive characters of the brands that that brings, as well as the element of competition between the shows that encourages both shows to maintain quality.
Related to this is the issue of the potential unification of every level of WWE Championships. This is one area where I do endorse change. Though unification might suggest simultaneous unification of the brands, it doesn’t have to. There is no reason why the titles can’t be unified while the brands are kept apart – as the unification of the tag team championships and the divas title has already shown, the unification of titles can be concurrent with separate brands.
I would suggest the following changes:
– Unify the WWE and World Championships to make one WWE Championship
– Unify the Intercontinental and United States Championships in to just the Intercontinental Championship
– Keep the WWE Tag Team Championships
– Keep the Unified Divas Championship (but replace it with the Women’s Championship)
– and maybe introduce a lower-card Television Championship
Each champion would appear on both shows while they are champions (and pursuing re-matches etc).
Not only would the prestige of each championship only increase, but it would mean that storylines aren’t so obsessed with chasing gold, and when feuds don’t/can’t revolve around gold, they will revolve around hopefully strong storylines. It is undoubtedly the best move and would help to revitalise the championship scene in WWE which has been at times so stale when there hasn’t been room/TV-time to defend certain championships.