The original brand extension was one of the most ambitious and unique things WWE ever attempted, but sadly, it never really lived up to its potential. Raw and Smackdown never felt distinct enough, the reason for the split wasn’t clearly defined, and in the end the whole enterprise went out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Thankfully, WWE has announced they’re going to be taking another crack at the great brand extension experiment, which means they have a chance to fix the many mistakes and oversights that sunk the idea the first time around. There’s still plenty of time between now and Smackdown going live on July 19 in which to make changes, so here’s a few ideas that just might ensure the new brand extension extends forever…
Take The Randomness Out Of The Draft
Let’s not pretend Triple H can’t go wherever he wants.
During the original brand extension era, the WWE Draft was always the most exciting, and disappointing, night of the year. Exciting because it inevitably shook things up in a big way, but disappointing because it in no way resembled any real-life sports draft. It was purely random, and basic shocks and swerves were as deep as the drama went. So, how should the WWE Draft be changed? Hold onto your butts, I’m breaking out subpoints…
– The Draft should follow the lead of the NBA, NFL and other legit leagues and focus strictly on new NXT talent.
– Each brand should actually be able to choose their talent, rather than it being randomly assigned.
– Draft order could be decided by a series of matches, or something of that nature.
I know WWE doesn’t like to explicitly state the importance of its performers – everybody’s a WWE Superstar and of equal worth to the company! Except, of course, they’re not, and everybody knows it. By giving the WWE Draft a real-sports edge, you grant yourself so many more opportunities to create drama. Somebody who’s drafted late can rise up to defy the odds, while a first-round pick may fall on hard times or resort of nefarious methods to live up to people’s expectations. If WWE has the courage to do the Draft right, a richer product will be their reward.
Only Allow Wrestlers To Switch Shows Via Trades
So, if only new faces are involved in the Draft, how do established talent switch shows? With trades, of course! And just like the Draft, trades should be given the real-sports treatment. If somebody heads to the other show, the brand they came from should get somebody (or several somebodies) back. Throw the occasional free agency into the mix for fun. Trades would provide a source of intrigue throughout the year, and would force WWE to keep the two rosters roughly equal, rather than “randomly” stacking one or the other to serve whatever goals they have at the moment.
Don’t Allow Crossovers On Regular TV
TV crossovers are out, no ifs, ands or brappadoos.
This is an obvious one – if you’re going to have split brands, keep ’em split. Don’t have John Cena and Randy Orton doing double duty, and definitely don’t have The Usos or Fandango wander out on the opposing show just because you were short on talent that night. Wrestlers should never, ever cross over on regular TV.
No Single-Branded PPVs
Single-brand PPVs should stay retired along with Torrie Wilson’s Great American Bash hat.
That said, single-branded PPVs also shouldn’t make a comeback. The old brand extension was the worst of both worlds – guys crossed over randomly on regular TV all the time, making the division feel indistinct and unimportant, but then WWE would run pay-per-views, supposedly the more important shows, with half the roster. It should be the exact opposite. Establish the brand split as important on free TV, and then make the PPVs special by making them the one place when the two rosters meet.
Make The WWE Champion Brand-Free
The original brand extension started on the right foot with only one top banana who was free to appear on both brands, but then Triple H just had to get his own belt. That guy. Having two champs had its benefits, but the goal of the new band split should be to create new drama and storyline opportunities, and sticking with a single WWE Championship better achieves that.
You could have the two brands fight over who controls the WWE Championship, or who they want to hold the belt, and the champ could potentially carry on two completely separate feuds at the same time. Aside from all that, it raises the status of the belt – the champion gets a tangible benefit that nobody else on the rosters gets, and in 2016, anything that makes championships feel more important is a good thing.
Exclusive Divisions For Each Show
In the past, WWE gave each brand its own, essentially identical, set of titles. As a result, each brand’s in-ring product felt mostly the same, and the divisions got diluted. That approach leads to Deuce ‘n’ Domino and Kelly Kelly as champions, and we certainly don’t want that again. Instead, WWE should have more unique divisions, and those divisions should be exclusive to one brand, helping give each their own unique flavor.
Off the top of my head, I would propose Smackdown focus on the Women’s Division and a revived Cruiserweight Division, while Raw should focus on heavyweights fighting for a unified Intercontinental-U.S. Title and tag team wrestling. I know the notion of an all women and cruiserweights show would probably give Vince McMahon a heart attack, but hey, 80% of the promising talent in WWE’s developmental system fall under those two categories, so a change is going to have to come eventually.
Have The Brands Fight For More Than Bragging Rights
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not impugning the integrity of the sacred Bragging Rights trophy. I’d be a fool to do that on this website. That said, if we’re going to take a more real-spots approach to the Draft and the brand split, then the two “teams” should probably be fighting for something more than a used bowling trophy.
First off, get rid of the term “Bragging Rights.” That right there implies the two brands aren’t competing for anything tangible or important. Do have a big competition between the brands each year, but call it the WWE Bowl or Brand Battle or something, and put stuff of real value on the line. Have the winning brand get first draft pick, a free trade with the opposing brand, or hell, control of the Monday night time slot. Both brands are now on the same network, so why not switch them around to create some buzz? Oh, and make the successor to the Bragging Rights trophy a monumental ode to gaudiness. It should look like the New Japan Cup being held up by the Andre the Giant Memorial trophy.
No Recaps Of The Competition
The bane of anyone trying to stay awake through Smackdown.
Another simple one – under no circumstances should WWE spend 10 minutes of every show telling me what happened on the other brand’s show in minute detail. If I want to find out what’s going on with the other brand, I should have to watch the show. Enough said.
Give Each Brand Its Own Behind-The-Scenes Creative Team
Most of my suggestions here pertain to the on-screen presentation of the two brands. Ways to make the split more dramatic and satisfying for fans to invest in. That said, the split should also extend backstage. The original brand extension was at its most successful when WWE turned Smackdown over to Paul Heyman and let him put his own stamp on it. During that period, Raw and Smackdown felt legitimately unique, and WWE accidentally produced some of the most entertaining programming in its history. WWE has proven they can still do very different-feeling brands under the same corporate umbrella with NXT and the main roster product, so let’s do it with the brand extension (except, you know, actually make both brands good).
Time to brand extend Smackdown off a short pier.
It can be hard to put an old faithful dog down, but trust the guy who reviewed Smackdown for two years — it’s time for the blue brand to go. Smackdown has been the little brother, the Raw recap show, for too long. WWE can knock itself out trying to revamp Smackdown’s image, or it can make a much bigger splash by creating its first new major wrestling program in a decade and a half. They can bring bring back an old brand (revive WCW and finally do that feud right) or come up with a completely new brand. Just like Smackdown was The Rock’s show, they could give Roman Reigns TUESDAY NIGHT BELEE THAT or John Cena WWE JORTS ‘N’ JACKS. Okay, those could use some work, but you get the picture.
There are a few of my ideas for the return of the WWE brand extension. Don’t agree with my vision? How would you handle the brand split? Let’s see if we can draft up some ideas, below.