On this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw, WWE owner and chairman Vince McMahon made an in-ring appearance with SmackDown Live superstars Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, and Roman Reigns, and got wrestling fans all over the world talking when he announced the “Wild Card Rule.” As explained earlier today by The Inquisitr, this rule allows a “limited” number of superstars from one brand to appear on the other brand’s show for one night only, with unauthorized moves of this nature subject to penalties.
Although the Wild Card Rule is not supposed to be misconstrued as the end of WWE’s current brand extension as we know it, the latest backstage rumors suggest that the company is facing pressure to end the division between brands, hence the introduction of the controversial new rule. Citing comments made by Dave Meltzer on the latest edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, WrestleTalk reported on Tuesday that the USA Network, which broadcasts Raw and SmackDown Live, and Fox, which will start hosting the latter show later this year, are “calling for the end” of the brand split due to both shows’ declining ratings.
As further cited by WrestleTalk, Meltzer said that the Wild Card Rule represented Vince McMahon’s “attempt to appease” the USA Network and Fox without officially ending the brand split. The publication added that SmackDown Live‘s viewership figures are especially critical for Fox, as the network has set a target of 3 million weekly viewers for the blue brand’s flagship program once it switches networks in October.
Does this help clear things up?— Pro Wrestling Sheet (@WrestlingSheet) May 7, 2019
According to a report from Forbes, last week’s episodes of Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live hit new lows for the year in terms of viewership, as the former program attracted 2.158 million viewers, while the latter had 1.833 million tuning in one day later. As opined by the outlet’s Alfred Konuwa, it’s particularly “troubling” that WWE’s viewership figures are continuing to slide because the company has acknowledged these issues in storyline, with the McMahon family taking over both brands and putting an end to the previous setup, which had Raw and SmackDown led by respective commissioners and general managers.
At this point, it’s still far too early to pass judgment on the Wild Card Rule as a sign that the brand extension will soon be ending. But as the above reports suggest, WWE seems to be under a lot of pressure to reverse the trend of declining ratings, to the point where a main roster brand’s top stars may no longer be 100 percent exclusive to that brand as a result of the new rule.