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Finding the Positives in the WWE Brand Extension by Matt Corton

I’ve been fairly negative about the brand extension ever since I found out about it.

But don’t worry, I’m not going to go on about that again here, because I think I’ve also been fairly plain about the fact I think more of the same isn’t the right way to go, more viewers or no. There’s more they could do, in my fairly negative, fairly plain opinion.

Right?

Well…being the ever changeable Englishman that I am – and maybe it’s because England has a whiff of change ringing through it, for good and bad, following the Leave vote – I think I might be changing my mind.

Whilst I’d still say I’m not a fan of the brand extension, I wouldn’t say I’m against it. I get why they want to do it, I always have. A live SmackDown with a unique roster pulls in more viewers, which pulls in more revenue, which pulls in more prestige, which pulls in the possibility of having wrestlers like AJ Styles appear in WWE – which I’m not sure would have happened without the possibility of a brand extension somewhere down the line.

Styles being in WWE adds star power. Real star power – not star in the making like Owens or Zayn and not just star power in terms of great matches, he brings star power because he’s a star. He stands out. Nakamura will be the same when he’s on the main roster. Samoa Joe would, were he there too (I’m still not sure he will be).

This article is the result of me spending all week trying to get my head around so many people in England wanted to throw all of the nation’s monetary cards in the air and see where they fall and applying the same logic to the brand extension. Everyone clearly got the mood of the country wrong, so maybe I’ve got the mood of the WWE wrong as well. And even if I haven’t, both things are happening whether I’m positive about them or not, so I might as well start chasing after those trains or I’m going to be left sitting on an empty platform with my arms folded, pouting.

So the first thing that made me get up and start running was what I’ve already said – more star power. The more star power there is in WWE the more I get to see those matches of a lifetime. We haven’t scratched the surface of who AJ now has the opportunity to face yet and it’s already been incredible.

Then as soon as I’d thought of one positive about it, I went right on ahead and found another, which I’m going to get to in a more roundabout way.

kevin owens dean ambrose

One of the things I’ve never got on board with at all is the WWE’s (in my opinion) flawed concept of 50-50 booking. I think it kills momentum, kills people appearing to be a threat and makes the whole thing a spectacle of exhibition matches rather than a group of people doing their damndest to build up to something special – and that’s not to mention what an easy ride it gives the writers because you never have to build anyone back up, you just give them their win back the next night or the next fight.

Even with 50-50 booking though, which I’m not remotely saying is going to go away, someone has to lose more than they win and someone has to win more than they lose. The winners are easy to spot, they’re called Reigns and Cena. Sami Zayn, whilst having some good and great matches since he’s been on the main roster, hasn’t won a great deal of them and some of the ones he’s won he’s won on a fluke. It’s the same booking malaise that has affected Dean Ambrose. But someone’s got to lose, right?

Well…yes. But I also look at how they’ve had people lose. Bray Wyatt went through a time where he barely won a feud – or at least that’s what it seemed like. He’s actually won feuds against Dean Ambrose (comprehensively) and the Wyatts won their six man tag Night of Champions and they beat Team ECW at TLC. So they’ve actually won quite a few – but they lost so badly against the Brothers of Destruction and when Wyatt lost to Reigns at Hell in a Cell that losing is what sticks in my mind.

Someone’s got to lose, but it’s how they lose. Dean got whooped, basically, by Brock Lesnar. He did more than a job, he looked like a jobber. Wrestlers getting flukey wins like Zayn is ok if it fits the storyline, but if you come off as flukey too often you don’t seem like a credible threat.

So there’s ways to win, as well as ways to lose but I started off this whole tirade by saying I’d found a positive and not a negative – and I have, and it’s a surprising one. It’s having two world titles.

Let me be clear – I don’t love the idea of having two champions. I think this is the main reason boxing has become so diluted – we don’t know who ‘The Champ’ is, or rather we rarely do, because more than one guy holds ‘The Title’. If they’re doing a brand split, however, then I don’t want anything other than two titles, because the logistics of having the title holder feuding with one person on one brand at a time automatically seems forced and plays into the lack of realism and REALLY doesn’t work when you have two sets of PPVs.

You got two brands? You need two champs.

seth rollins wwe title waist

As a quick aside, that doesn’t mean at all that you can’t know who ‘The Champ’ like we see in boxing – all you need to do is turn one of the matches at Clash of Champions into a match about pride – champ vs. champ and we’ll know who The Guy is. It’s where the Bragging Rights concept fall completely flat, of course, but that was in the execution not in the idea. The idea is a solid one and if they’d done it properly, it could have extended the life of the original brand extension because I actually quite liked that concept. They didn’t learn from what happened with the failed Invasion angle and repeated the same mistakes of having people in the big matches who didn’t seem to fit. Without Goldberg, Flair, NWO and Sting the whole angle was always going to fall flat.

Then they went and had people like Santino, Carlito and other lower mid-carders in Elimination Chamber matches because they didn’t have enough stars to put in the matches. Look at how different that is to the Money In the Bank match this month – everyone looked like they belonged there. You lose Reigns off the show for a month? Who do you bring into the title mix straight away (although obviously furthering their own feud, not the title feud, really)? Cena and Styles. Orton, Lesnar and Wyatt could come into the picture straight away too. You run an elimination chamber match now and it would be stacked with star power and talent (which is always what that match should have been) and I do think they could do that on both shows for 2 titles, there’s enough stars now to not decimate the undercard by doing so.

So rather than not build new stars, I think they’ve done a good job in the past few years. A really good job. The roster is stacked with people who, despite losing a lot of the time, look like the real deal because much like in the latter stages of the Attitude Era, when Undertaker, Rock, Stone Cold, Kurt Angle, Jericho and Triple H were on the same roster, you have enough big names at the top for people to rub with on a continual basis that they start to look like big names themselves. The trouble a few years ago was when people rubbed shoulders with John Cena and inevitably lost, the only rub they got was go to back to the midcard because the top wasn’t that stacked. It is now and everyone benefits.

So really…everything I said above about losing? It doesn’t matter. You win some, you lose some. I think I finally get it. It’s how you lose and who you’re losing to.

It’ll be great to see Cesaro, Zayn and Owens join the current crop of title challengers for the titles, even if they lose – and each of those three are going to lose more title matches than they win. It’s nothing they couldn’t do without having a brand split, they could put whoever they wanted in a title match simply by booking people properly and understanding what the WWE Universe wants to see, but in the absence of that, it does force them to elevate and maintain some guys that otherwise might have become, if not mired, then certainly no more than present in the mid card.

So I might be running for the back of the brand extension positivity train, my suitcase of ideas and lack of faith flapping open behind me, but there’s a chance I might just make it and scramble aboard.

What do you guys think? Do they have enough stars for 2 shows?