We meet on the way to WWE Extreme Rules 2022, a Premium Live Event that went from being singled out as one more of the bunch to generating real expectation in the public. The last episode of SmackDown is an example of this, with notable moments such as the debut of Johnny Gargano in the blue show, a new cross between Bayley and Bianca Belair on the way to their Ladder match, and the special appearance of Theory… all of them guests from RAW.
Not that this is a situation unique to SmackDown. Let’s not forget that in RAW we had similar moments like the cross between Kevin Owens and Drew McIntyre, the victory of Brawling Brutes over Street Profits, or Raquel Rodriguez seeking revenge against Damage CTRL. I don’t judge any of these situations as good or bad within the context of their respective show, but they have happened so often that they make me think… Where is the brand division?
the two visions
In the recent history of WWE there has been an eternal debate about the operation of RAW and SmackDown. There are fans who see positive the idea of two completely different brands and closed in its active cast. This allows to have much more differentiated poster positions in each show, and even the possibility of “doubling” the star positions. Two different casts means two groups of champions, two iconic “faces,” and the ability to tell many more different stories. In the past we have seen that the division helped many names to gain notoriety in the public of each show.
On the other hand, there are very valid points to believe that at the end of the day RAW and SmackDown are the same, and it is unnecessary to resort to brand separation. In the current case of WWE, all roads lead to a Premium Live Event where not all stories can be covered on television nor will all titles be defended. It is also easier to fall into repetition, something that was noticeable in the era of PPVs distinguished by brand where it was common to see two or three big events with the same faces in the main event.
The storyline justifies it
The interesting thing about the situation WWE is currently in is that is justifiable in the context that we are presented on television. With Roman Reigns being the unified champion since WrestleMania, the ultimate goal of the male Superstars of RAW and SmackDown is the same owner of both belts. The same goes for The Usos as tag team champions. Even though Jimmy and Jey are from SmackDown, every team is going to go after them regardless of brand.
The strange thing about this situation is that, although it can serve as a basis to justify appearances, there are many aspects that do not fit within this theory. If WWE seeks to unify its brands, why the female titles or the mid-card are not unified too? And even among the aforementioned champions, why do they continue to hold their titles with distinction? They are somewhat elaborate holes, but they do not stop glimpse a kind of work “halfway” that does not end up pointing to either side.
An experimentation stage?
Perhaps we can justify the absence of the brand division with the strange period of experimentation that the shows have undergone since Triple H’s arrival at the creative power. It is very noticeable that there is a thirst to try different things on TV shows, and probably one of them has to do with creating a very thin “bridge” that allows RAW and SmackDown to alternate some of their faces from time to time.
It is possible that the next DRAFT (if it happens) give us a better picture of the future of the casts of RAW and SmackDown. However, and speaking from a more personal point of view, I feel that the new management has to put an end to multiple stories before thinking about the separation of brands. A split may be much more justified when The Bloodline part ways with 50% of their belts.
But at this point, and with how intriguing WWE has become lately, I think it’s not a bad thing to have both casts rotating between shows. Here between us, I prefer a thousand times to two dynamic shows and with different fights happening every week, to a totally differentiated show repeating the same one-on-one for the fourth time in a row.
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Hey, WWE… And the brand division?