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The John Report Blog: Reacting To Live WWE Smackdown, Brand Extension & What It All Means

There was a big WWE announcement on Wednesday when they announced that Smackdown will start airing live on Tuesdays starting on July 19 at 8pmET on USA Network. It’s going to be two hours live every week while Raw will remain a three hour show on Mondays from 8pm-11pmET every week.

The last time WWE launched a brand extension was in the spring of 2002 with Ric Flair running Raw and Vince McMahon running Smackdown. Then it became Eric Bischoff running Raw while Stephanie McMahon ran Smackdown and there were other changes as the years went on.

Am I surprised by this? No. I think it was very possible from the moment they ended the last brand extension. The roster is too damn big and in order to get talent time on television they need to split it up. I remember back in 2002 WWE always called it the “brand extension” but it’s really a roster split because you’re splitting the company into two separate groups.

There’s a lot to digest from all this. At this point a lot of things haven’t been announced by WWE and I think it’s smart that they are giving themselves two months to sort it all out. I figure I’ll just break it down into categories in terms of the things that could happen as a result of this.

Best Thing For Smackdown

My immediate thought was that this is great for Smackdown. I know there are lot of fans out there that may only watch Raw and then skim their favorite wrestling news/rumor site on Wednesday morning for the Smackdown spoilers to see if something interesting happened. Now that Smackdown will be live, there won’t be any spoilers anymore. Add in the fact that some talent will be exclusive to one brand and it makes it more of a must see show. Fans will be more willing to watch it live or DVR it because if they want to see certain people this is the only thing they can do.

When WWE moved taped Smackdown from Friday to Thursday last year the thought was that ratings would go up. They didn’t. Then earlier this year the thought was that ratings would go up on a better network because USA Network is bigger than Syfy. It didn’t really affect things.

The last thing that WWE could really do was make Smackdown a live show every week for the first time in its 17 year existence. I’m not sure exactly how much more it costs to run a live Smackdown every week, but it’s likely pretty significant. It also shows how committed USA Network is to WWE right now.

For the past few years it’s been obvious that WWE didn’t value the Smackdown brand as much as it should. With this move they are telling us that they care about it and they will improve it. It was the best thing they could do for Smackdown.

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Five Hours Of WWE Content In Two Nights May Be Overdoing It

The negative thing about doing live Smackdown on Tuesday nights is that it’s a lot of WWE material for fans to digest. When it was Monday and Thursday or Monday and Friday there was time to digest things. Now it’s going to be a lot tougher to handle all this material. For those of us that hardcore fans we can probably deal with it, but the casual viewers may have a tough time investing five hours in their schedule for WWE programming.

When they have PPV weeks it’s going to be pretty heavy with three hour PPVs, three hour Raw and two hour Smackdown. Then there’s NXT for an hour on Wednesdays too. Can the WWE Universe hand all that? I’m not so sure.

For me personally, I’ve written about Raw every week for seven years. I’ve written about Smackdown on and off for years, but made a commitment to do it this year. I’ll be the one that reviews both shows every week. I’m looking forward to it.

The Draft

The WWE report noted there will be a draft to split up the roster prior to the move. When can they do the draft?

In looking at the schedule, it would make sense to either do it on the July 18 edition of Raw before the live Smackdown or do it the week earlier on July 11. It wouldn’t make sense to do it on July 4 because that’s American Independence Day that will have less viewers, so better to do it on one of those other dates.

The best thing they can do is promote the hell out of the draft episode. Maybe get some WWE legend like Steve Austin to “host” the draft as a way to drum up interest in that special episode whenever it may be.

The People In Charge Of Raw And Smackdown

There will need to be different people running Raw and Smackdown. WWE is already teasing the idea that both Shane and sister Stephanie McMahon want to run Smackdown. I find that to be pretty silly because Smackdown was totally ignored during the “Shane wants control of Raw” storyline. I guess the thinking has changed because if they both want the show then it makes it seem more important.

The easy thing to do would be to give one show to Stephanie and one show to Shane. Another option would be for Vince to make them run Raw together while Smackdown has some new GM whether it’s some retired legend like Sting or get a guy like William Regal there. Daniel Bryan could be an option although I don’t know if he’d be up for wanting to travel every week again.

I think they should just make it Stephanie on one show and Shane on the other. Make it a competitive thing too.

More WWE Network Specials

What this also means is there are likely going to be more WWE Network specials. The current schedule calls for 12 pay-per-view events and they might 3-4 network specials in addition to those like they did Roadblock back in March. With the brand extension in play, they could work it like they did in the past where they had brand exclusive PPV events while the full roster only got together at the “big four” shows like Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series.

I think they should do brand exclusive specials while also adding four more shows to the calendar. Make it 16 in a year. It may not be this year because it’s starting in July, but if you were to split up the current PPVs, add in two Network specials for each brand and make them unique it could work really well.

This is another of those things that could go many ways. There’s no indication right now as to what WWE may do.

Giving Smackdown An Extra Hour To Compete

The difference between the original brand extension and where things are at now is that Raw is a three hour show while Smackdown is only two hours. I really hope that Smackdown isn’t expanded to three hours because that’s too much.

What WWE should do is get rid of the Main Event show that tapes before Smackdown on Tuesdays. Just change the name. Don’t have it anymore. Use that one hour before Smackdown airs live to tape a Smackdown only show that they can air exclusively on the Network on Thursdays or Fridays.

The talent is already there, the cameras are already rolling, so why not utilize that hour to add a show to the Network? They need to keep growing the Network by adding exclusive content. This could be a way to do that. It doesn’t even have to be storyline heavy either. Just put on some great matches, give time to people that may not get it on the main show and hope for the best.

As for a name, call it Smackdown Extra or something to that effect. It’s not really fair for one show to have three hours and the other brand to only have two hours.

roman reigns with wwe title

The Titles

There are a lot of questions about the title situations right now because WWE did different things with the original brand extension in 2002. Early on, they had it so the WWE Champion was on both shows. By September 2002, they introduced the World Title to Raw (given to Triple H by heel GM Bischoff) and the WWE Title was on Smackdown. For the next 11 years, there were many people that either WWE or World Champion that likely wouldn’t have won one of those titles if there was only one title. In 2013, they unified those titles.

If WWE were to keep the WWE Title as the only one then that could mean Roman Reigns (or whoever the champion is) appears on both shows. The advantage to that is that the title is more prestigious, but it’s going to be tough for him to have more than one feud at a time because they’re most likely going to concentrate on whoever he is facing at the next PPV event. That’s why you have the secondary titles. Build them up to mean something like the IC Title means a lot right now.

At this point, no formal announcement has been made about what they will do with the titles. Once again it’s important to stress that this news just came out this morning and they have two months until the brand extension is here, so there’s plenty of time for this stuff to get announced.

I think they should keep one WWE Champion, one Women’s Champion and one set of Tag Team Titles. Put the US Title on Raw, put the IC Title on Smackdown and don’t introduce more titles. There are enough titles as it is. They don’t need more.

I’m not sure what they are going to do with the titles, but I think they need to keep it simple and don’t add any more titles.

Money In The Bank Depends On Title Situation

With the Money in the Bank PPV coming up on June 19, some people might think WWE will add a second Money in the Bank match. I doubt it. It really depends on the WWE Title situation anyway. They only had two briefcases because they had two titles. If WWE chooses to keep one WWE Title then it’s likely going to be one briefcase this year.

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Women’s Roster

It will be interesting to see what they do with the women’s roster because in the past they had women on both shows and had two titles to give them something to fight for. They really only have about 8-10 women on the main roster at the moment with usually just one feud going on at the same time. If they split the roster up and put all the women on Raw (for example) then it gives them a chance to do more than one women’s feud at a time because there will be less people, so more time available.

The other possibility is splitting the women up, have the champion appear on both shows and build up rivalries that way.

Tag Teams

This could lead to some tag teams being split up although I really hope it doesn’t mean the end of The New Day. Perhaps WWE will do something where they keep teams together because splitting teams up is a bad thing for the current tag division, which could be starting to have some momentum.

I think WWE is really high on Big Cass right now, so it’s possible they split up him and Enzo. That’s not something I would recommend because Cass still has to grow in the ring. Keeping them together makes more sense. It’s just one of those things that is very possible.

A guy like Bubba Ray Dudley could be pushed as a singles heel on one of the shows because he was great in TNA as Bully Ray. I wouldn’t break up the Dudleys right now, but that’s something that could happen.

I hope there are only one set of Tag Team Titles. That’s a big thing for me because when there were two different champions it really hurt the prestige of winning the gold.

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Better Schedule For The Talent

By having separate brands, the talent gets a better schedule too. Most weekends these days will see the main roster have a live event on Friday night, two on Saturday, two on Sunday, Raw on Monday and Smackdown on Tuesday. The wrestlers that tour on that Friday usually end up traveling for five days with the Wednesday morning being a travel day, so they really only home for about a day and a half.

With the brand split in place the schedule will likely look like this:

Raw Crew: Friday live event, Saturday live event, Sunday live event & Raw. Fly home Tuesday AM. Spend three nights at home if you have no other commitments and fly out on Fridays. Four days on and three days off.

Smackdown Crew: Saturday live event, Sunday live event, Monday off (or live event once in a while) and Tuesday Smackdown. Fly home Wednesday AM. Spend three nights at home if you have no other commitments and fly out on Saturdays.

If the pay structure stays the same then Smackdown would be more ideal because that crew is likely going to have three shows per week. WWE usually didn’t run Monday live events because they want the fans at home watching Raw, but some weeks they did. They could have the Smackdown crew start live events on Friday nights too. I doubt it, though.

Considering all the injuries that have dominated the WWE headlines for the past year, a better schedule should be a welcome sight for the talent. Less shows mean less bumps, which means less chance for injuries.

Loaded WWE Roster Will Be Better Utilized This Way

I’ve written many times that the WWE roster is the largest its ever been right now. They have over 100+ contracted talents between the main roster and NXT. It’s probably close to 120 if I had to guess.

Go watch a Royal Rumble match from 1995 to 1997. The roster had maybe 30-40 people in those days, so they would have to bring in people for one night only to be a part of the 30-man Rumble match in order to get through it. Now the roster is so big that there are so many people that never get any TV time because there’s just no spots for them.

This will be better in terms of giving us fresh matches because they won’t repeat the same stuff over and over. It also builds up anticipation for matches because if Wrestler A and Wrestler B are on opposite shows then you’ll have to wait for that match and it’ll mean more when it finally happens.

Announce Teams

The current format for the WWE announce teams has Michael Cole, heel John Bradshaw Layfield and Byron Saxton on Raw. The Smackdown announce team is Mauro Ranallo, heel Jerry Lawler and Byron Saxton. They’ll likely need to change that by taking Saxton off one of the shows – most likely Smackdown.

There are a lot of options that WWE could go with in terms of who can be the third man on the Smackdown team. Corey Graves would do well there, but he’s kind of a heel announcer and Lawler is clearly better in that role, so I’m not sure if WWE would want to put Graves there as the heel with Lawler back as a face. They could go back to Booker T in the spot.

Renee Young is an option for Smackdown too. She can be the face announcer with Ranallo (who she worked with on Canadian TV before they were in WWE together) and Lawler remains a heel. She’d do well in that spot.

A guy that comes to mind is Christian. He’s hilarious from his career in the ring to his work on the Edge & Christian show, so if he was willing to do it they should consider him. He’d probably be more entertaining as a heel, but would fit as a face announcer too.

The Talent

This is the big one. Who goes where? I’m sure that a lot of us are going to think of doing mock drafts or some kind of situation where we split the rosters up. Then there’s the NXT factor with so much NXT talent ready to get to the main roster and now that WWE has announced this it should make that transition easier.

I’m not going to get into this too much now, but I think one of the best things about the brand extension was the exclusivity of the rosters. There will be less repeats of the same matches and more anticipation for “dream matches” that could take place. Think of Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle in 2005. They didn’t interact for three years of the brand extension. Then they met in the Royal Rumble leading to one of the best matches ever at WrestleMania. There’s so much talent in WWE right now that they can do stories like that again and those matches will mean something.

The WWE roster should be excited about this, especially those people that are barely on television. Maybe now they will get that chance to make more of an impact.

There are so many other things to think about and discuss over these next two months before the Smackdown move and brand extension. I just wanted to get something posted here while it’s fresh in my mind because I’m pretty excited about it.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

John Canton – mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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