by Kevin D’Hooge
The WWE brand split should not happen. Yes all the pieces are in place: there is an active power struggle among on-air management. Shane McMahon has been running Raw in dazzling fashion over the last month, courtesy of Vince McMahon giving him a shot. Although Shane lost his WrestleMania match with The Undertaker (and lost the prospect of running Raw), Vince was so impressed with his effort in defeat that he gave him a mulligan. That mulligan turned into a month’s worth of Shane operating Raw.
Ever since Triple H’s loss to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, The Authority has seen its power dwindle. Triple H hasn’t been seen in a month. Stephanie McMahon has made her presence known, but has not been in the driver’s seat of Raw or SmackDown. All of a sudden with Vince McMahon’s announcement at Payback, Shane and Stephanie find themselves as dual General Managers of Raw.
Numerous fans were disappointed that Vince’s announcement did not give birth to a new brand split. I, on the other hand, am not alarmed at all.
Arguments for the brand split dictate that having 2 distinct shows is beneficial to the health of the talent, allows for more opportunities for unheralded superstars and creates healthy competition between brands. Let’s debunk these arguments.
Health is definitely a major concern for WWE talent. However, a brand split will not guarantee that there won’t be injuries. Let’s not pretend there weren’t injuries when WWE had separate rosters for Raw and SmackDown between 2002-2011.
Further, let’s take a look at recent history. Some of the biggest injuries of late have just been accidents: Enzo Amore suffering a concussion at Payback after smacking his head off the ring while being ricocheted off the ropes, Luke Harper suffering a knee injury after taking a misstep, and Bray Wyatt hurting his calf on a misstep while he was tangled up in a grapple. These accidents couldn’t have been avoided.
Wrestling is wrestling. There will always be accidents and injuries. Best practices can combat injuries alone. A draft split is not necessary. WWE could lighten up its house show schedule, offer nights off to superstars that need rest, or even implement an offseason/time off.
As for giving more chances to unheralded talent, I think WWE is working on it. The Miz is all of a sudden one of the top heels on the roster. Zack Ryder has become a heroic underdog who is always in the hunt for gold. Guys without “the look” like Sami Zayn, AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are constantly on the chase for the WWE WHC. Say what you will about them, but the Social Outcasts get meaningful tv time every week.
The truth of the matter is if each brand is locked in with a unique roster there will be a finite amount of matchups possible. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…remember all those Randy Orton/Sheamus, Edge/Undertaker, Mark Henry/Batista matchups, etc. These feuds and matchups became old hat because they were all the brands could offer for certain stretches of time (due to injuries, time off, limited rosters, etc.). A brand split limits what WWE as a whole can do.
WWE would be better off taking advantage of its entire surplus all at once.
The other thing to consider is that WWE is a publicly traded company. Everything they do has implications, more so than ever. At the time of this writing, stock in WWE is selling for $17.05 a pop. And that price is falling. I.E. that’s not good.
The stock market is unstable and now is not the time to be taking risks. WWE needs to be able to pull from its wealth of talent at any given moment. They don’t need to throw out opportunities (*cough participation trophies *cough) for the sake of it. Although they are both talented, a pay-per-view main event with Stardust and Dolph Ziggler, per se, will not increase WWE Network purchases. Let’s also remember that the original brand split occurred when WWE inherited ECW and WCW. The number of household names back in 2002 vs. now isn’t even close.
Likewise, WWE doesn’t need to compete with other wrestling companies, let alone itself. You don’t need to create a kayfabe split in brands to strengthen the show. They’re already the #1 most lucrative wrestling company EVER and it’s not even close. WWE needs a team effort to improve itself as a whole. Competition would just lead to butting heads and inner-turmoil. Fans may feel closer to one brand over the other too. Also what if Raw magically inherited all the big name talent again?
I am actually compelled with seeing how Stephanie and Shane McMahon cooperate while running Raw. I’ve always been a fan of the odd couple dynamic.
WWE is actually moving in a positive direction. Let’s appreciate what we’re getting from them now rather than clamor for what’s not there.