The WWE Draft split up the 2016 roster with the intention to create new opportunities and develop fresh feuds. From a business standpoint, the WWE’s bottom line came as a result of USA Network executives demanding better ratings from Smackdown, which was airing on Thursday on tape delay at the time.
So with network representatives breathing down his neck, Vince McMahon decided the only way to boost Smackdown viewership was to move it to Tuesday nights and air it live. As a result, the WWE re-initiated the brand extension and believed they had the talent to do so because NXT had become such a success. Seven NXT superstars (and easily more still in the developmental brand) and a handful of free agents enabled them to feel confident that depth would not be an issue on either brand.
Monday Night RAW boasts headliners like Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor, while Smackdown Live features main-event caliber talent such as John Cena, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, and AJ Styles. But questions of depth came to the forefront in regards to the blue brand’s tag team and women’s divisions.
It became rather clear midway through the WWE Draft that RAW was getting priority when it came to the tag teams and the female superstars. The New Day, Enzo & Cass, and Gallows & Anderson, arguably the three hottest tag teams in the company, were all selected to the red brand. The tag team titles went with them. The flagship show also drafted Charlotte and Sasha Banks, and with them came the WWE Women’s Championship, only leaving Smackdown with the WWE World Championship and the Intercontinental Title.
Tuesday nights looked more like the land of opportunity for less-established women and tag teams. Daniel Bryan criticized RAW for hastily adding the WWE Universal Championship to its collection and told the fans that titles for their secondary divisions would come when the time was right. Instead of putting gold around the waists of superstars who might not be ready, the goal is to get them over first.
However, we now have a clearer indication of when Smackdown will introduce its next championship. According to Cageside Seats, the blue brand will introduce their version of the WWE Women’s Championship at their first brand-exclusive pay-per-view, Backlash, on September 11.
Becky Lynch is arguably the hottest female performer on Tuesday nights, and along with Natalya, certainly the most experienced when it comes to significant, meaningful matches. But rather than only feature Becky as the division’s focal point, the WWE has decided to book her in a six-woman tag team match at SummerSlam. Becky will team with Naomi (complete with her brand new entrance) and Carmella to take on Natalya, Alexa Bliss and Eva Marie in an apparent attempt to get everyone on the same level heading into a potential title opportunity.
It has yet to be announced publicly what the title will be called, as RAW, of course, is the exclusive home to the WWE Women’s Championship. Whether they re-name each belt to include the brand name, or simply devise a name similar to the Universal Championship remains to be seen. The way that Daniel Bryan has made fun of the Universal Championship name would seem to indicate that Smackdown Live will try to keep it simple, but effective.
There have been reports suggesting that Eva Marie is the favorite to be the first WWE Women’s Champion on Smackdown, but she’ll have to wrestle first before she can become champion. Her heel gimmick is slowly getting over, avoiding any physical contact via feigned injuries, wardrobe malfunctions or being stuck in traffic. There has yet to be an established singles feud in the division and maybe that’s the point. But keep in mind the fact that lurking in the shadows, awaiting her call-up to the main roster, is NXT star Bayley. And Smackdown Live could certainly use a few extra hugs.
[Image via WWE]