Seven months after WWE ended its divisive Wild Card Rule and went back to a firm brand split via its most recent draft, it looks like the company will once again be blurring the lines between Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown by bringing back inter-brand matches, starting on next week's episode of the red brand's show.
On this week's Monday Night Raw, one of the main highlights was when WWE Champion Drew McIntyre announced that he was accepting SmackDown star "King" Baron Corbin's invitation to face him in the ring. This match, as noted by Wrestling Inc., will be taking place on the following episode of Raw, with Corbin crossing over from the blue brand to face the reigning champion in non-title action.
Although no other crossover matches have been scheduled thus far, Post Wrestling reported on Monday that the new ruling allowing for inter-brand competition appears to be a response to Raw and SmackDown's sagging ratings. Viewership for both shows has gone down "significantly" since WWE switched to empty-arena shows at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida in response to the coronavirus pandemic.As explained by Post Wrestling's John Pollock, one of his sources related that the move was suggested by Raw and SmackDown's respective networks, USA Today and Fox. The former show's May 4 episode garnered the lowest viewership figures in its "modern history" while the latter show's last three episodes ranked as the three worst-rated since its move to Friday nights on Fox.
Talking about what fans can expect from this apparent blurring of brand lines, Pollock wrote that the hope is that the changes will represent a "simpler" version of the Wild Card Rule, which was in place from May to October 2019. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the short-lived rule originally allowed a maximum of four superstars to jump from their current main roster brand to the other, with the possibility of disciplinary action for anyone who crossed brand lines after the four-person limit was reached. However, these guidelines were seemingly ignored soon after, resulting in a setup that many viewers found chaotic and confusing.
While it's still far too early to predict whether the return of inter-brand competition will boost WWE's ratings, Cageside Seats opined that it was a strange move for the company to book McIntyre against Corbin for the first crossover match under the new setup. The publication pointed out that Corbin had received a lot of flak in the past from fans who blame him for WWE's ratings struggles.