My last column was about why the 2016 version of the brand extension will NOT work for WWE. Today, as planned, I will focus on the top five reasons why it will absolutely work!
5. Shane McMahon Is Back - There are still conflicting reports on why Shane McMahon is back and what exactly his role is. Even if it is not an official executive position or a spot on the creative team, I tend to believe he is at least somewhat giving input. From his epic return to the company in February to his breath taking leap at WrestleMania 32, there is just a sense that this "new era" is for real. Partially because of Shane's presence alone, I have trust in this going well...
4. USA Network Will Demand It - For the most part, I don't like it when networks get involved with television shows. AMC has had issues come up in the past. We have seen it with ECW, WCW, TNA Impact Wrestling, and even WWE at different times. I like to think that network executives are smart enough to just let the show runners do their thing and enjoy the ratings that come in...
...except until the ratings are NOT coming in. Then it is fair game for them to chime in with their thoughts.
That is the case with WWE currently. No secret numbers have been down recently and despite the few 'reboot' attempts to jump start Smackdown, nothing has really stuck. Their latest trick is going LIVE on Tuesdays - along with a unique roster via the brand extension. If anything else, USA Network will DEMAND an equal WWE Draft that does not just favor Raw and push Smackdown to the side. Maybe WWE will try to do that down the road, but at least in the beginning, USA Network is sure to want a major draw or two leading the blue brand. Exactly why I believe rumors that John Cena will be the man front and center of all things Smackdown come July.
3. John Cena/Roman Reigns - Assuming the stories are accurate, Cena is going to be off RAW this summer and let Roman Reigns rule his empire over the red brand going forward. Cena will do as he has been the past few years and take a step back to work with newer/younger/fresher stars. This would include a prime main event slot on Smackdown every Tuesday night on the USA Network. He may not be for everybody after more than a decade on top of the company, but John Cena is the man.
Seriously. He is the man, just as Roman Reigns is next in line to be 'the guy.' If Reigns and Cena are on separate brands, that is a huge plus right off the bat. If Cena is the one for the mainstream push to make Smackdown relevant again on Tuesdays, that is also a huge plus. Not only for the short-term future of the company but long-term as well. Roman Reigns SHOULD be far away from John Cena (until their eventual dream match). I may be putting too much stock into this all, but the brand split will be a massive success on night one if these two guys go their separate way.
2. Live On Tuesdays! - A lot of folks are already comparing the brand split in 2016 to the initial brand split in 2002. As much as times have indeed changed during the past 14 years, there is one big difference: Smackdown will be LIVE on Tuesdays night now. A live show on USA Network weekly, just like Raw. It may not make them equals in some fan's minds, but that is as big a step one can take to get them on a level playing field.
No matter who ends up where and how it all shakes out, Raw is live, AND Smackdown is live. On the same major network. Outside of the blue and red color schemes, they are neck and neck.
Now if only RAW can ditch that pesky third hour...
1. The Talented Roster - In my column about why the WWE brand extension will NOT work, I said that a deep talent roster does not necessarily mean a loaded card full of draws. Nobody can argue the WWE roster isn't extremely talented right now. However, in terms of money making stars and drawing business, they are not there...yet.
That is why the brand split is a huge risk for WWE take right now especially with low ratings and nobody really pulling in an audience on a weekly basis. Cutting that in half creates just as many problems as it did prior, except where there is risk - there is reward.
Sheamus already said it in an interview. He and Daniel Bryan may not have got the opportunity to prove themselves if it wasn't for Smackdown. Heck, I could argue it was their third brand (ECW) that gave Sheamus, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, and many others their big breakout moment. Batista, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and more were able to get television time in 2002, thanks to the unique rosters and the brands being split up.
Kevin Owens, Cesaro, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose, John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho (when he is there), The Club, The Usos, The New Day, The Dudleyz, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Beck Lynch, The Miz, Rusev, Sheamus, Ryback (still there)Alberto Del Rio, and the list goes on forever...
How are ALL of them supposed to get television time sharing the same spotlight in the upper card and near the main event scene?
It just isn't possible right now.
The brand split creates more opportunities for a Zayn or Cesaro to reach the top of the card. Or Ambrose or Rollins. You can still have your Cenas and Orton, with Kane and Big Show sprinkled in from time to time. Plus, The Undertaker, The Rock, Triple H, and Brock Lesnar at major events. That is all fine and dandy, but the week in and week out 'spots' are coveted.
That's not even talking about Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Bayley, Shinsuke Nakamura, American Alpha, and other great NXT talents ready to take the next step. The loaded roster in 2016 not only deserves a brand split, it demands one.
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