WWE Smackdown Going Live, Moving to Tuesdays: Oh, and The Brand Split Is Back
WWE has made its biggest announcement of the year: Smackdown will be moving to Tuesday nights and will air LIVE each and every week starting July 19. And that’s not all, as WWE also announced the return of the brand split!
The official announcement from WWE states that both Raw and SmackDown “will each feature their own unique rosters and rivalries following an imminent Superstar draft.” There’s no word on whether or not WWE will be bringing back the World Heavyweight Championship, nor do we know just yet which titles will be exclusive to which brand. Of course, there’s always the possibility that all the titles will float between the two brands, rather than there being brand-specific titles. However, it seems more likely that we’ll get the Intercontinental title exclusive to one brand, and the United States Championship exclusive to another.
“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV,” said WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon in the official announcement. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”
Ultimately, this should be an interesting move for WWE, in that it offers them a unique opportunity to see how certain superstars either sink or swim in a reshaped landscape. For instance, I could easily see John Cena beating Rusev for the United States Championship and then taking that to Smackdown to be the flagship title for that brand, while Roman Reigns remains the lead star on Raw, floating between brands as World Heavyweight Champion. It would allow WWE to launch the revamped Smackdown with a big star at the forefront, while also letting the company see if Reigns can handle fronting Raw as its ostensible top star. In addition, I feel like the split roster should lead to some awesome talents being called up from NXT. If nothing else, there’s even less reason not to simply call up Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor and Bayley, to name a few.
With that said, a brand split has clear drawbacks as well. For one, Raw is apparently remaining at three hours, which now means WWE has to fill three hours using only half its roster. Considering they have a hard enough time making Raw consistently compelling across three hours with their full roster, this could lead to some rough episodes in the months ahead (why do I feel like they’re just going to add more Stephanie McMahon to every segment? Ugh).
Another issue to consider is overall burnout from the fanbase. Going from three hours of Raw on Monday to another consecutive night of live programming is a big time commitment for the more casual audience WWE is trying to court these days. When you factor in PPVs once on a month on Sunday nights, there will be some weeks where there’s EIGHT hours of WWE programming on consecutive nights before the week is even half over (nine hours if you count NXT on Wednesdays). That’s a lot to ask of an audience that isn’t exactly exhilarated by the product right now to begin with, if ratings are any indication (although, to be fair, Raw was up this past Monday, due in large part to the return of Seth Rollins). I really feel as though some audiences need that two-day buffer between Raw and Smackdown to get back in the mood for more WWE programming.
But hey, maybe I’ll be hilariously wrong once the draft lottery swings around and Smackdown makes its Tuesday debut. I certainly hope this provides the kick in the butt that’s badly needed for the product right now, at least from the writing side of things. Since each brand will have its own writing team, maybe some of the more overlooked midcard talents will finally get the focus they deserve, while also having the opportunity to step up and show why they deserve that shot. I guess we’ll find out when Smackdown goes live on July 19. Here’s hoping it’s no longer treated as the B-show.
But what do you think about Smackdown’s big move and the return of the brand split? Sound off in the comments!
And for more WWE news, read up on why Vince McMahon is making life difficult for Cody Rhodes!