The impending brand split is WWE’s biggest elephant in the room at present, and it will likely continue to be until the draft is broadcast on the first live Tuesday edition of Smackdown on July 19. Roman Reigns’ suspension is certainly a major monkey wrench in the main event build-up, but the brand extension will have such a domino effect on everything that’s going on in WWE and NXT. While fans wait impatiently, little is known or presented on television, and this is making the build up even more intriguing.
While WWE’s website has posted several superstar testimonials on the brand split and its ramifications (most, if not all have given it the thumbs up), the majority of the creative has revolved around Shane and Stephanie McMahon squabbling over who would run each show. The New Day may have gotten the conversation started at the end of May, but Shane and Stephanie have dominated the storyline ever since, with cameos from past General Managers sprinkled in.
The brand extension is a real-life story. WWE will be splitting up its roster (which will be expanding greatly over the next three weeks) into two distinct brands, so some on-screen allegiances and off-screen friendships may be perforated. But the build up to the draft and all subsequent angles derived from it will, of course, be done in kayfabe. In fact, this more-than-month-long ascension to the split is somewhat of a foreshadowing of what’s to come in its wake.
According to Ringside News, one of the major benefits of WWE splitting up its talent pool, will be the ability to return to long-term booking and storytelling. This has largely been a lost art in recent years with one-match major payoffs largely gone to the wayside. One exception being the feud between Triple H and Roman Reigns. WWE teased something between the two for a while, with things finally coming to a head in a main-event match at WrestleMania for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Unfortunately, by the time WrestleMania season rolled around, it wasn’t the program the vast majority of fans desired, resulting in a dull culmination with a new champion the WWE Universe rejected.
For many of the “lost-in-the-shuffle-mid-carders,” the brand split will breathe new life into their careers and present new opportunities and greater exposure. While two pay-per-views per month (one for each brand) may seem like overkill, it should give more chances to guys weren’t getting them in the present construction of the WWE product. The four major pay-per-views (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series) will still see the brands combined to make up those cards and thus decrease the amount of opportunity, but the better a superstar performs on the other eight brand-exclusive shows, the greater the chance they will reserve a spot in the big four.
Stephanie McMahon said that having three hours of RAW flow right into two more hours of Smackdown deterred the WWE from truly drawing out a story over time. The brand extension will allow for more cliffhangers, slow stories down, and give the audience a chance to connect in ways they haven’t in years. Finding the balance between constructing a long storyline and feeding an on-demand audience will be critical during a time that ratings have dropped significantly.
The brand split came about by way of the USA Network complaining in regards to viewership numbers for Smackdown. The blue brand had no longer become important or appointment television. WWE’s answer was to shake things up by reincarnating the draft and by going live on Tuesday nights. In essence, this may force many viewers into returning to the Smackdown time slot, but in order to stay relevant, WWE will need to establish compelling storylines. Reverting back to long-term booking is a step in the right direction.
[Image via WWE]