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Posted in: My Two Centsss
My Two Centsss - Making All Pay-Per-View Events Co-Branded is a Really Dumb Decision, WWE
By Super Chrisss
Feb 18, 2018 - 12:42:51 PM

Tom Jenner rocks!

Alright folks, here's the dealio. If you've been following my columns since at least 2014 or so, you might remember me campaigning for a Brand Extension 2.0 even before the WWE made the announcement in spring 2016. I hated the way the initial brand split ended, with SmackDown being treated as the skippable, 'B' Show and Raw becoming "Raw SuperShow". Mind you, I may be biased, since I grew up watching wrestling with the initial brand split in full effect (2002), but that doesn't change all the positives that come from having two separate rosters. Such as...

-Brand Warfare. Some of the greatest matches in Survivor Series history came as a result of Raw going head-to-head with SmackDown. Look at 2016 as a recent, awesome example of that.

-Brand warfare, at non-Survivor Series events. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels, Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, Finn Balor vs. AJ Styles - each of those matches felt a bit more special because they couldn't be booked on any given night due to the opposing wrestlers being members of opposite rosters.

-Higher ratings for SmackDown. If I'm WWE, I consider Brand Extension V2.0 a success if for no other reason than the huge gain in viewers for SmackDown once the split went into full-effect. Obviously, going live on Tuesdays (instead of being taped and airing on Thursdays or Fridays) helped with the ratings boost, but keep in mind that WWE did occasionally air live SmackDowns prior to 2016 with little to no ratings boost.

-More main-eventers and more world title reigns. Admittedly, this one is a bit of a two-sided coin. Spreading the top stars between two different shows can be risky, because if your top guys go down with an injury, or you have another show to fall back on, you end up with guys like The Great Khali, Jack Swagger and Jinder Mahal becoming world champion. However, with only one roster, and only one world title, it seems unlikely that deserving talent like Kane, Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt would have ever gotten the opportunity to take the ball and run with it.

-The emergence of new stars and giving more people a chance. This is actually the meat of today's column. The WWE roster - much like it was in the early 2000s - is absolutely STACKED. Without even taking part-timers or the infamous 'Class of 2002' into consideration, there is so much depth on both brands. By having only one roster, there was/is much fewer TV slots available. Hell, this week's SmackDown didn't even feature HALF the roster, including WWE Champion AJ Styles and the Royal Rumble winner, Shinsuke Nakamura. Yet, WWE may possibly be moving in a direction where that might become a regular occurrence. What the hell?!

Myself included, there were countless people who were critical and displeased with the SmackDown product since The 2017 Superstar Shake-Up changed everything, but that had nothing to do with the talent. Yes, that even includes Jinder Mahal. Mahal had no business being in the WWE title picture for even one throw-away Pay-Per-View. He has an impressive physique but nothing else. He can't wrestle a decent match, can't cut a promo and still doesn't know how to execute his finisher safely. HOWEVER, the Mahal experiment could have worked had they given him a push in the midcard instead. Would it still have sucked? Probably, but at least it wouldn't have contributed as greatly to the decline in ratings, attendance and overall quality as his six month reign as WWE Champion did.

Seriously, look at the SmackDown roster on paper: AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Rusev, The New Day, The Usos, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Randy Orton, Tye Dillinger, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens - how the hell do you consistently put on a mediocre show (at best) with that amount of talent and popularity under the same roof? Thanks to WWE moving forward with dual PPVs as of WrestleMania 34, you'll be lucky to see half those people on PPV every month, even if each one does get extended to four hours (God, I hope not). Actually, half is probably being generous. Assuming none of the titles are unified by then - and there's no reason why they should be - most Pay-Per-Views will probably feature two world title matches, both midcard titles being defended, one or both tag team titles defended, at least two women's matches, as well as a Cruiserweight (title) match. That's already seven-nine matches! We haven't even begun to factor in non-title feuds yet...

Unless WWE is planning on booking every world title match from here on out like they are with Elimination Chamber and Fast Lane (each having way too many participants), there will be a lot of top-tier talent with either nothing to do, stuck in random matches, or being left off the card altogether. Keep in mind, all the names I just listed come from SmackDown. I haven't even listed the Raw talent yet! How are they going to make room for Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Sasha Banks, The Bar, The Club, Elias, and a million cruiserweights. Oh, and what about Free Agent John Cena? Possible returns like Rey Mysterio, Bobby Lashley, Chris Jericho, Triple H, etc? Oh, and NXT! NXT call-ups are guaranteed to happen every year, that's not going to change. So my question is, how the hell are they going to fit all these people into one PPV every month, regardless if it's three hours or four hours?

To be clear, I fully support the decision to return to a one-PPV-per-month format, but making every PPV co-branded makes no sense, at least not with this amount of roster depth available. As Mr. Tito pointed out in his column, this is probably a cost-cutting move by WWE, but I fear it's going to lead to greater consequences, those being a roster cleansing. Despite some notable releases the last few years (I miss you, Emma!), it has been quite some time since WWE truly went on a firing spree regarding their undercard. Once WWE realizes that they can't even realistically fit all their top guys and girls on every PPV card, they'll start to trim the fat. The roster has a lot of depth and it is BLOATED. I unfortunately see dark days ahead for a lot of WWE's cruiserweights and lower-card wrestlers.

I just want to reiterate that the problem with quality stems not from the talent, but the writing. If fans aren't tuning into Raw and SmackDown on a weekly basis, that's the writing team's fault. The writing for SmackDown was so strong that they managed to beat Raw in the ratings at least once - that's insane! What's even crazier is I would argue that the pre-ShakeUp SmackDown roster was weaker than the current one. Look at TLC 2016 - Baron Corbin vs. Kalisto was by default the third-biggest match on the card because of John Cena not being around and Wyatt/Orton being involved in the tag team scene. Yet, despite the roster shortcomings, TLC 2016 was still an awesome show and just a few weeks later, SmackDown got a higher rating than Raw did. I honestly believe that if the people writing SmackDown prior to the Shake-Up never left or got replaced, SmackDown would have spent the majority of 2017 competing with Raw's ratings on a weekly basis. Instead, thanks to Road Dogg and others taking over SmackDown creative, as well as Jinder Mahal's reign of terror, SmackDown now averages a 2.5. That's sad.

What frustrates me the most, especially if my spring cleaning prediction comes true, is that the talent are the ones who are going to have to pay for the bookers and writing team's idiocy. Just because WWE screwed things up with the Shake-Up and have no idea how to book compelling non-NXT shows in the modern era doesn't mean the brand split should end and the talent must fight valiantly to be booked on every PPV moving forward. Speaking of the brand split possibly ending, I have no idea if that's the ultimate goal, but I want to end today's column with a quote I saw on Facebook by my friend and former LOP contributor, KMA Jackson:

"Just like last time, the first step to the split ending was combining PPVs. It's happening EXACTLY the same way it did last time.

Step #1- Split Brands.
Step #2 - Give each brand a set of titles.
Step #3 - Give each brand a set of PPV events.
Step #4 - Let Smackdown become a successful show while Raw trods along
Step #5 - In an effort to increase the quality of Raw, strip Smackdown of everything that made it seem superior and send it to Raw.
Step #6 - Combine brands for PPV, because for some reason we can't sell tickets to SD exclusive shows anymore and we already forgot what we did to it in step 5.
Step #7 - Unify the Tag titles because Vince McMahon hates tag team wrestling.
Step #8 - Unify the Women's titles because two women's matches every month on PPV isn't getting Vince's mojo running.
Step #9 - Muddy the already dirty waters by having Superstars switch shows each week to the point that some don't even have a real brand anymore and it doesn't matter because you all stopped paying attention to who was where anyway.
Step #10 - Bring back Raw Supershow because we have to fight for higher ratings while we negotiate a new TV contract.
Step #11 - Unify the top 2 titles once and for all (until the next split)."

Food for thought, folks. Food for thought...


YOUR Two Centsss: How do you feel about the decision to make all Pay-Per-View events co-branded moving forward?

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