• Rob Goodwin

461 Days On...Is The Brand Split Still Working? | The Rob Report #7

Updated: Apr 11


July 16th 2016. A monumental day in WWE’s calendar as it was announced that the WWE would be subject to a brand extension for the first time since August 2011. The news was met with joy from most, as an influx of talent in NXT had led to a deeper well of talent for the WWE to utilise, and a brand split would allow more of this talent a time to shine.


Come the Royal Rumble the following January, many would argue that the Brand Extension had indeed benefitted the company massively; SmackDown was seen on a level playing field with RAW for the first time in a decade, AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Kevin Owens had all been champions of their respective brands, talent such as Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss were being pushed in a way they simply wouldn’t have been were it not for the split and Bray Wyatt was in an engaging storyline for the first time since the Daniel Bryan storyline of 2014! Things were rosy in Vince McMahon’s garden make no mistake.


Even at this point though, there were still a few worrying signs: RAW’s worryingly disappointing reviews, lack of roster depth, especially spread across paper-thin Tag Team and Women’s rosters and the dead end booking of proven stars such as Sami Zayn and Rusev. For the most part, storylines, especially on SmackDown, and the Owens and Jericho team made up for this.


Fast forward now to April 11th. WrestleMania 33, one of the better WrestleMania’s in modern memory in this writer’s humble opinion, is in the books, and the much ballyhooed Superstar Shakeup has been completed. The entirety of SmackDown’s mid-card is shipped to RAW, including The Miz, Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt (who would thusly never receive his rematch for the WWE Championship.) Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Rusev, The New Day and Charlotte were taken to SmackDown SmackDown in return, along with serial jobber, Jinder Mahal. Rumours are rife that RAW is the main priority amidst floundering ratings and uninspired storylines. The result SmackDown will suffer!


Sure enough...


We reach the present day. Kane and AJ Styles have just taken part in the TLC 2017 PPV (despite both being SmackDown superstars,) John Cena is a free agent so as to boost RAW's ratings, and the Shield, a group that have only been apart for 3 years have been hastily thrown together in a thinly veiled attempt to finally get Roman Reigns over. We have endured some awful PPVs since WrestleMania, namely Money In The Bank and Battleground, as well as Mania worthy main events; Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns vs. John Cena and Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles have been given away on B-Level PPVs in an attempt to boost ratings. SmackDown’s overall show has only been saved in recent weeks by the Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens storyline, coupled with the outstanding work that The Usos and The New Day have produced to try and make the SmackDown Tag Team Titles relevant again. At the moment, the blue brand seems directionless, which is baffling when you consider how it came out of the gates back in July. All of this alongside the fact that...


Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship reign, at the time of writing, stands at 155 charisma free days; longer than any reign of Ric Flair, Roman Reigns, Eddie Guerrero and The Rock. Let that sink in for a moment...


As consumers we are over-saturated with PPVs, two paper-thin Tag Divisions and Women’s rosters as well as uninspired booking decisions and non sensical title reigns and title changes.


When the original brand split idea was put forward, I was as excited as any other Wrestling fan, and I am by no means saying that the Brand Extension should be scrapped, it just needs to be rejigged to solve the problems a brand split inevitably throws up. Rather than having two of each of the tag and women’s divisions, why not unify them and have 1 on RAW and 1 on SmackDown? Build feuds and storylines properly rather than meaningless tag match after meaningless tag match? Strip Jinder of the title and place it on someone who can take the company forward, someone like AJ Styles or even Sami Zayn to tie in with his current storyline? Finally, cut down on the number of PPVs. Bi-monthly is killing the modern WWE fan, and is making them numb to what is happening in them, especially when you consider that a lot of what we have watched since WrestleMania, hasn’t been that great...


In conclusion, yes the brand split has indeed had its ups and downs, but what doesn’t? It’s worked wonders for the careers of people like Braun Strowman and The Miz, The Usos and Jinder Mahal. But to keep plodding along pretending there is no problem at all, that’s when real problems begin to set in...

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