Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer claims that WWE is planning on having another draft this year, most likely in June. This is no big surprise as Vince McMahon, chairman of WWE, believes the brand split has been a major success. In the fourth quarter earnings call, McMahon says that Smackdown’s viewership has only increased since the brand split, which was something the company had been trying to achieve for a long time now.
In regards to the brand split, McMahon said that superstars should be switched around, as he feels it is difficult to create a star with just one show. He used WWE Superstar Roman Reigns as an example, saying that it was possible for him to move to Smackdown or that anyone could feasibly “jump ship.”
WWE reinstated the brand split back in July last year after quietly dissolving it in 2011. The move was done to increase Smackdown ratings, as the USA Network had been unhappy with the dwindling numbers that the show was providing. With the brand split, the roster was effectively divided.
Raw got ahold of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Charlotte, Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Sheamus, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Big Show, Mark Henry, and others. Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, John Cena, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, The Miz, Baron Corbin, and Dolph Ziggler made their way to Smackdown. Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley were Commissioner and General Manager of Raw respectively, while Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were Commissioner and General Manager of Smackdown respectively.
In the first live episode of Smackdown, they pulled in 3 million viewers, which was an increase of over 1 million viewers from the previous episode. In December, Smackdown promoted the return of John Cena, who had been absent since October. They also advertised three championship matches. The Wyatt Family would defend their tag team titles against American Alpha, The Usos, and Heath Slater & Rhyno, while Alexa Bliss would defend her Women’s Championship against Becky Lynch. There was also a triple threat match between AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin. The “Wild Card Finals” (as the episode was referred to), drew 2.885 million viewers. This was the first time Smackdown beat Raw in the ratings, with the latter drawing 2.855 million viewers.
Smackdown also had their 900th episode special, which drew 2.725 million viewers. This was because they heavily advertised former WWE Superstar Edge, who was a Smackdown stalwart until he was forced into retirement in 2011. The episode also saw the return of the Undertaker, who made his first televised appearance since Wrestlemania 32 that year.
WWE also brought back brand exclusive pay-per-views. With the exception of the Big Four (Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam, and Survivor Series) and potentially Money in the Bank, pay-per-views have exclusively featured only one brand. Smackdown hosted the first exclusive pay-per-view since 2007 with Backlash, and their other pay-per-views include No Mercy, and Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. Raw hosted Clash of Champions, Hell in a Cell, and Roadblock: End of the Line. Survivor Series saw both brands compete in traditional Survivor Series elimination matches between members of both rosters.
For the latter part of the year, AJ Styles was in a program with Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship. Styles won the belt at Backlash, and would fight against both Ambrose and John Cena at No Mercy, where he retained the title after pinning John Cena. The Miz and Dolph Ziggler would also feud over the Intercontinental Championship, and had an especially exciting match at No Mercy, which was a Career vs. Title match. If Ziggler lost, he would retire. He managed to defeat the Miz and became Intercontinental Champion.
If there is another draft to happen in June, it will be exciting to see what exciting storylines can be produced.
[Featured Image by WWE]