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Quann’s Corner: Is the WWE’s Brand Split Working?

Sam BrooksJuly 4th, 2017BlogComments Off on Quann’s Corner: Is the WWE’s Brand Split Working?

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It’s been nearly a year since WWE implemented the second Brand Split in the company’s history, but has it been working this time around? And what do I, Andy Quann, think needs to be changed? First, let’s start by discussing what I believe is working right now…

What’s working?

SmackDown’s Improvement

Pre-Brand Extension, SmackDown was a show that not many fans paid attention to; with matches that essentially repeated themselves on Raw, or recapping Raw with video packages. Fast forward to the Royal Rumble, almost 6 months into the Split, and the show has improved exponentially, with the era of WWE Champion AJ Styles, “the face that ran the place”.

In comparison to RAW, it was a breath of fresh air, with a commentary team that was (for the most part) decent… until Mauro Ranallo left, amongst accusations of bullying, only to re-emerge in NXT some months later.

It certainly helps that SmackDown is only two hours long, unlike its Raw counterpart, which is often a chore to sit down, watch (and enjoy) in its three-hour entirety on Monday nights.

Talking Smack

Before the spilt, Talking Smack was still very entertaining and added depth to SmackDown’s storylines. Now it has bolstered Superstars’ careers, as is the case with The Miz and his now famous Talking Smack promos. If you are going to add a third hour to a show, this is how it should be done.

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New World Champions

Would you have imagined that Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor, and Jinder Mahal would become world champions a year ago? Yes, the latter is controversial; he was not built up, and seemed to be only there to encourage foreign viewing- but the split has created more top stars, and trained promising main eventers to reach their potential.

This would have been otherwise impossible to achieve with the prior roster arrangement. Stars such as Wyatt were in stuck in mid-card purgatory, with no chance of escape, but now have better opportunities of winning the world title.

More Opportunities for Women

Even before the split, female superstars were beginning to enjoy more complex storylines, and the rise of high-quality matches across the board. Now, the spilt has created even more new opportunities for stars such as Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Naomi.

Having two women’s titles has given the female athletes an elevated standing; I would argue thus creating the next big thing in the women’s division in Alexa Bliss. By winning the Women’s Championship in both brands, which was a feat previously unclaimed in either division, WWE has produced a next-level Superstar.

I also believe that the split has aided in the creation of fresh rivalries, and will continue to give women a better platform to perform on when called up from NXT, so that they can reach their full potential. Yes, there have been a few hiccups along the way, such as having Sasha Banks fight Charlotte seemingly 500 times, but for the most part it has done wonders for the women during what was already considered a revolution.

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What’s not working?

Too many Pay-Per-Views

Even though the price for all of these events collectively is $9.99 (Maggle), there are just too many to keep up with. A Network event at an almost bi-monthly rate feels like overkill, and makes WWE almost a chore to watch, when many shows feel that they have little-to-no significance in the bigger picture.

The old model for having one branded show per month, alternating between brands each time with the “Big Four” being multi-branded events, was far superior. Those shows felt more special, and didn’t have stupid names like Great Balls of Fire…

Difficulty in Naming Pay-Per-Views

Great Balls of Fire… seriously? If they cut back on the amount of events, they wouldn’t have to listen to 70’s music to find inspiration for event names. WWE could just use names that they already own – how about a Great American Bash event, or a Halloween Havoc event? Maybe even No Way Out once again? Anything other than Great Balls of Fire.

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Same feuds, different shows

When The Miz and Dean Ambrose were moved to Raw from SmackDown Live, it was the opportunity to start new feuds and storylines. Instead, we got the same thing from SmackDown Live, but on Raw. At this stage, I would be happy if I never saw The Miz and Dean Ambrose feud ever again in their careers.

Post-WrestleMania Booking

To have an effective brand spilt, it needs to be booked right; things were going so well to begin with. The issue that I have is that two of your world champions are hurting both brands in their own ways. Jinder Mahal, a superstar who jobbed out on Main Event six months ago, is the WWE Champion. Brock Lesnar, a man who does not appear on the RAW brand regularly, is the Universal Champion, which we already saw in 2015, and is a worn out storyline… both of these champions are not good choices.

If the rumours are true, Roman Reigns verses Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 has already been booked, which is a match we’ve already seen 3 years ago. At least 50% of the WWE Universe will never accept Roman. It’s not a fresh storyline, nor a product of “shaking things up”, it’s the same stories and matches, rinsed and repeated. Try something new, not the same old shit masked by the brand spilt, and catchy phrases like the “new era”.

However, you can’t just randomly push people with no logic, storyline momentum, or reasoning behind it. Jinder needed to be booked strongly for a few months, maybe winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal (since he was the last to be eliminated). Maybe the Backlash (to pardon the pun) wouldn’t be so strong if he was made to look like a big deal before winning the title.

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So, in a lot of ways, the concept of a brand split in the modern era should work. It’s worked in the sense that it’s promoted new talent, which has helped generate some fresh and entertaining television. But, the booking in recent months has been sub-par, almost reverting to the tropes that plagued the previous brand spilt.

If this is addressed, I don’t see why this spilt can’t be deemed a success once we hit the one-year milestone. But, the booking needs to change before that can happen; it was going so well to start with, and it can easily go back to being good again… but I’ll see what they do with Jinder and Brock before completely making up my mind about it.

Until next time, this has been Quann’s Corner.

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