It's time for my Sunday column in a blog!
When the brand split was introduced in 2002 it was met with heavy backlash from fans. The thought of seeing Undertaker once a week on Raw was not good enough for fans. Seeing the Rock once a week on Smackdown was not enough for the fans of the WWE. The brand split became a dirty word among the internet community.
Let’s not forget that the brand split threw the pay per view schedule in the dumps. Raw and Smackdown would alternate each month for the pay per view. There were the big pay per views that they would both share. However, the Raw/Smackdown-only pay per views were very weak.
To sum it up, the brand split was not very popular with fans even though the likes of the Rock, Austin, NWO, Kurt Angle, Edge, and RVD were all under contract in the WWE. Ten years later the brand split has worked for the WWE and paid off in many ways.
Financially, the WWE is making more money now that it ever was. Having two rosters on tour at the same time in different parts of the country has the bucks rolling in. Fans don’t really care about that. They care about the product they see on TV and that has improved thanks to the brand split. Thanks to the format guys like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Batista and Randy Orton got their shots and didn’t miss a beat on cashing in.
Those guys I just named were the biggest and most talented to come out of the brand split. It’s safe to assume that they would have made it big no matter what in the company. However, they would have never reached the top as quick and dominate as they did if there were no brand split. Lesnar would not have become the youngest champion. Orton would later surpass Lesnar for that title when he won his first world title beating Chris Benoit.
Many of our great moments have come out of this brand extension. Maybe not the best moments in WWE history, but very good moments that fans will be talking about for years. Like Eddie Guerrero winning the title from Lesnar at No Way Out in 2004. A guy like Eddie Guerrero would have never won the World Title if there was no brand split. No way, with guys like HHH and Undertaker at the top.Guerrero had all the talent in the world, but there is no way he would have been headlining a Wrestlemania if there were only one main title in the entire WWE.
One the greatest feuds that I can remember during the brand split was between Undertaker and Kurt Angle on Smackdown right before his departure from the WWE. They produced a string of unbelievable matches that showed how great these two stars really are.
If there is one negative of the brand split that lingers today it’s the way Smackdown has become the “B” show. At times, the WWE even refers to it in that way. I understand Raw is the flagship of the WWE, and rightfully so. However, there was a time when Smackdown was a better show. I realize that was a long time ago with a different crop of stars featured every week. I want to see the WWE give Smackdown more star power. At one time or another, guys like John Cena and Brock Lesnar were mainstays on the show. It needs to get back to that point and I could see that happening as the Smackdown nears the move to SyFy.
Vince McMahon’s greatest creation is still Wrestlemania. His second greatest is having the guts to put a two hour wrestling show on cable in the early 1990s. The brand split is probably his third, from a financial stand point and a product stand point. It has produced fresh stars that have blossomed under the system. The WWE will continue to make improvements to the brand split. One of the more recent changes is having a loser brand split were Raw guys can appear on Smackdown and vice versa from week to week.
The WWE will continue to thrive under the loose brand split as new stars will emerge.