The latest WWE rumors don't exactly suggest that WWE's brand split is ending. While things are mostly speculative at this point in the game, there may be some signs, such as poor ratings, John Cena's "free agent" storyline, and the presence of Monday Night RAW Superstars on SmackDown Live house shows, that could point to WWE returning to a leaner, meaner one-brand format soon.
Citing information from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Forbes wrote that ratings for both RAW and SmackDown Live have been suffering in recent weeks, with seemingly no end in sight for record-low, or near-record-low ratings. For instance, RAW drew just 2.542 million viewers for the June 12 episode, tying it for the lowest-rated episode in the show's 24-year history. SmackDown, on the other hand, had only 2.072 million viewers on June 13, marking a drop-off of a million viewers since the April 11 episode, and the show's lowest ratings for the whole of 2017.
Forbes opined that that might be one reason why WWE's brand split might have to end soon, with the company also "testing the waters" by making John Cena a free agent, and having Monday Night RAW's Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins appear on untelevised house shows that otherwise feature the SmackDown Live roster. Poor ratings, according to Forbes' Blake Oestriecher, may have the potential to nullify the positives brought about by last year's brand split, such as the increased opportunities for mid-carders to move up to the main event, or hardly-utilized lower-carders to move up to the mid-card.
As Forbes pointed out, Lesnar is indeed advertised for a July 29 SmackDown Live event in Detroit, where recent Money in the Bank briefcase winner Baron Corbin will be facing "The Beast" for the Universal Championship. Rollins, on the other hand, recently challenged Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship at a Canadian house show due to purported travel issues holding up recent NXT call-up Shinsuke Nakamura. As such, Forbes believes that the two-brand system may also be having the effect of diluting WWE's star power in the eyes of casual fans, even those in major markets.
WWE rumors also suggest that John Cena's "free agency," which would have him potentially appearing on both RAW and SmackDown, is another response to poor television ratings and live viewership for both flagship programs. As a 16-time World Champion and top merchandise draw for over a decade, Cena has been cited as the reason why SmackDown had beaten RAW regarding attendance earlier this year.
Then again, it might not be sure whether the Cena free agency storyline points to the longtime main event talent appearing on both brands, or whether he'll simply be moving from SmackDown to RAW. That's the question WWE seems to be asking its fans in its official report on John Cena's free agency, though as expected, the company has no comment yet on whether the WWE brand split may be ending, especially as it nears its one-year anniversary.
Although the Inquisitr wrote that Cena is expected to stay on SmackDown Live when he appears on July 4 to discuss his free agency, it was stressed that based on recent WWE rumors, the 40-year-old "Cenation" leader has multiple options going forward. These include a match against Monday Night RAW's Roman Reigns, either at SummerSlam in August or WrestleMania 34 next year, or a possible WWE Championship match against Jinder Mahal to possibly boost SmackDown ratings and give Mahal some extra credibility as the blue brand's unlikely main event champ.
Still, there are many fans and journalists, such as Forbes' Ostriecher, who believe that the John Cena free agent storyline will allow him to appear on both brands. That led him to ask a rhetorical question about whether WWE's brand split should end, if it won't matter at all for wrestlers such as Cena.
"It makes you think: If WWE's top star can just show up wherever he wants whenever he wants, does the brand split really matter at all?"Despite what the WWE rumor mill says, no one can say for sure yet whether John Cena's free agency will set a storyline precedent for other wrestlers to split time between brands. And speaking of the two-brand system, WWE does have a large, deep roster where many under-pushed or underutilized wrestlers have benefited or can benefit from WWE's brand split. But should it be ending soon, as Forbes speculated it might, or do you believe WWE needs to do something other than return to the one-brand, arguably casual fan-friendly status quo, to fix the ratings problem? Let us know in the comments section below.
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