Back on May 25, 2016, WWE decided to do a brand extension (or brand split, as it’s often called), where performers are locked in to their respective brand. Superstars who wrestle on Raw stay on Raw, and the same holds true for Smackdown.
With WWE having announced that it would move Smackdown Live to FOX next October, many speculated that the company would combine the two brands in order to allow the biggest stars to perform on both FOX and USA. However, according to a report from The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, that isn’t going to happen. Instead, the brand split will continue, though it’s not known which superstars will end up on which brand.
The report indicates that it’s FOX who is against the brand split coming to a close because the network doesn’t want to cross-promote the same performers as NBC Universal’s USA Network. Once the move happens, Smackdown Live will go from Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET to Friday at the same time. Friday is traditionally a bad night for TV ratings, so it will be interesting to see if Smackdown Live is able to put up the numbers FOX will require.
It’s likely that WWE will perform some kind of draft before the brand split occurs to move some stars to Smackdown. With the higher ratings needed to maintain a prime time spot on network TV, we might see names like Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and even Roman Reigns (when he returns) move over to the “Blue Brand.”
Wrestling Inc. is also reporting that there will be two crews working on each of the brands because of the new Friday night TV schedule. That means we could start to see a distinctly different type of production between the two shows, which would make sense, since early reports have indicated that FOX is looking for a more traditional sport presentation. We’d expect Raw to remain much like it is now, since it’s staying on the same network, albeit at a much higher price tag.
With the higher-paying TV deals, it’ll be interesting to see what other changes WWE makes to production. Perhaps the company will even bring back the pyrotechnic effects that it recently dropped to cut production costs.
The first WWE brand extension lasted from March 2002 through August 2011. From there, Smackdown was treated more like a secondary show filled with lesser stars and recaps of the major events from Monday Night Raw. Since the new split in 2016, Smackdown has become just as important as Raw with several top performers like AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Charlotte Flair, Shane McMahon, and others competing on it every Tuesday.