It's better to burn out than it is to fade away... A classic line by Neil Young one of my favorite songwriters unfortunately the new WWE Brandsplit started to fade long before the recent news that they were doing away with branded PPV events.
Welcome again to Planet Kayfabe. I hope you're all doing well. I hope the few of you who are romantically involved enjoyed your Valentine's Day. I hope you Catholics enjoyed Ash Wednesday. Also, if you had a birthday this past Thursday special shout out to you on that true holiest of days.
Your favorite unknown legend is back to discuss this world on a string that is the WWE specifically the brand split, which is pretty much on life support as of this writing. It seems like a good time to write about it (again). If you follow my Twitter, which you should because I said so, I shilled an old column I wrote back on May 25 of 2016, the day the new brand split was about. I illustrated my lack of enthusiasm about the new brand split while everyone else was all excited about it even though 98% of those excited were around to see the last split crash and burn. This latest news of the rosters blending during all PPV's now is just the latest issue with this split. It could be seen as the beginning of the end, but the new brand extension was dead on arrival and here I'll tell you why.
In the aforementioned piece I said for the split to work they should follow an example set by NXT. It is so different where it feels like its own promotion. This time around WWE didn't do that, again, with Raw and Smackdown. They got new themes, new sets and new graphics but the changes weren't different enough to differentiate the two brands. One show has red coat of paint. The other blue. One show has a commentary table at ringside. The other has it by the ramp way. The only major difference is one is 3 hours and the other is 2. Even the sets aren't that different.
In the beginning WWE was all gung-ho about this split being like a renewed wrestling war, but that died the day Vince McMahon announced the commissioners of each brand. I'm sure you remember and I've brought it up a couple times, but Shane was just announced as "Smackdown's commissioner" and Stephanie was announced as the commissioner of the "three hour flagship juggernaut of WWE" Raw. Damn. Way to marginalize Smackdown right off the bat, huh? If you thought the renewed split would mean a sort of new wrestling war that would result in each brand trying to one-up each other, your hopes should have been killed dead the moment Vince spit out that line.
It didn't take long to where we saw Michael Cole, the voice of Raw of the 2010's, filling on Smackdown just because. What the hell? Could they not have put anyone else there just to protect the illusion that Raw and Smackdown are indeed two separate franchises under the WWE umbrella? When JBL left WWE they had a good opportunity to really differentiate Smackdown with another old suggestion of mine in particularly with a female voice and not just any voice like how WWE goes full pandering 101 by having any random black guy on commentary just to have one. (At least now they have Coach who actually looks and sounds like he knows what he's doing underneath a headset.) They could have put a very capable Rene Young at ringside and instantly differentiated the sound of Smackdown from the sound of Raw. Instead what do they do? They put Corey Graves on BOTH shows. What kind of bullshit is that? They used to have the commentary guys take shots at each other across shows to give the feel of a rivalry. Kinda hard to do that now when one guy is on both shows, huh? Also kinda hard to differentiate the two brands. This is one of the more current over-looked beginnings of the end for the new brand split. Again, like I said, at first WWE is all-in head first and before long you have Corey Graves on both shows instead of taking a chance with a Rene Young on commentary. Which isn't even taking that big of a chance since she does just fine on the pre/post PPV shows.
Another thing that baffles me is the "free agent" John Cena gimmick. By WWE's definition of "free agent" it is apparently a wrestler who gets to do whatever the f*** he wants on his terms for whoever the f*** he wants. Maybe WWE just assumes that most of their fans don't know diddly dick about real sports. In sports a free agent is a player who is not signed to a particular team.
So far so good. John Cena's gimmick is that he isn't signed to Raw or Smackdown which would make him a "free agent" I get it.
However in sports when a player is a free agent they don't play and they certainly don't get to just pick and choose where they play week-by-week. Also, if John Cena is a free agent, who is paying him? Of course we know they all work for WWE and the brands are just a gimmick. No one is signed to "Raw" or "Smackdown" they're all signed to WWE, but in story line since John Cena isn't signed to either brand is he just wrestling for his health? By WWE's definition of free agent it's like an NFL player could just hop teams every week and then at the Super Bowl just pick a team and play for them just because he's "unsigned". Yeah... Not quite how this whole "free agent" thing works, John.... and yes. I know it's wrestling. I know it doesn't have to make full sense, but can something like this at least make sense? They've been dragging out this free agent bullshit forever now. Just sign him to Raw and get it over with. Also... that's another thing I guess John Cena isn't that hot of a free agent if he's been one for almost a YEAR and neither of the two brands have scooped him up with a deal yet.
Even though I made it clear from the start that I wasn't a big fan of bringing back the split, it's not all bad. If it does indeed end which it looks like it's going to. I'm not saying it's going to happen soon because in true WWE fashion I can see the split ending in a slow death rife with lame "Supershows" and "guest appearances" like last time. Where they did the split right was with a guy like AJ Styles who I doubt would be getting these lengthy of world title runs and this much TV time on Raw even though he's clearly over enough for the spot. You could say The Miz benefited but he really benefited more from the unscripted nature of "Talking Smack" which got people talking about him again. I mean, he pretty much on the same spot on the card he was before. He's still a cowardly mid-card heel holding the Inter-Continental Championship, which is probably the best spot for him anyway but I doubt his spot would be any lower without the split and the split hasn't raised his card status much either, if at all. There's more TV time for New Day skits and Rusev Day sing-alongs, but everyone said in a perfect world the brand split would shine light on guys who kinda get lost in the shuffle. Well, all the names I just mentioned got over before the split. What the split did do was cut the Tag-Team and Women's divisions in half which I think hurt it. The women's division was great and combined it still is. The tag division was on a sharp rise but the split changed that full stop. Now you pretty much see the same tag and women's feuds until the next shake up. The WWE roster is huge and having one roster does make for a lot of talent getting lose in the shuffle but there still aren't enough main roster tag teams and women to be able to divide them in half and still keep both brands strong in those divisions. Some have suggested combining the women's and tag divisions into one, which would be better for them, sure but it would also kill this whole brand rivalry thing they tried pushing early on.
There's my thoughts on the current state of the brand split. I'll be back next time with some Chamber thoughts. Unless the Split comes to an official end this will probably be the last I talk about it because I can only say "I told ya so" so many times and we all know how this is going to end and anyone that was excited in the summer of 2016, if you lived through the old split, you should have known better.
That's all. Thanks for reading everyone! Follow me on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe until next time I'm Paul Matthews for NoDQ.com See you next time.