This is Part II in a three part series on how WWE’s flagship program Monday Night Raw can be successfully changed for the better, a discussion brought about by an ongoing decrease in television ratings.
In 2004 the WWE decided to do something it had not done since the inception of two weekly episodic television programs. The company held a draft and split its roster into two separate brands for its shows Raw and Smackdown. At the time, the idea was to actually help boost the ratings of its Smackdown show, which it did, while it Raw held steady in the ratings until 2011 when it began its decline. Is the realigning of programs to be blamed for Raw ratings declines? Not necessarily, as it already had been declining, but that doesn’t mean re-splitting the brands is a bad idea.
Much of the success in the mid to late 1990s for WWE was due to its competition with rival promotion WCW. Once the company acquired its competition smaller promotions formed, but none to even compare to that of WCW. Since there are no current true competitors to the WWE brand, what better way to create a competition than to split the company in half and compete with itself? The idea would be again for separate Raw and Smackdown brands with the Intercontinental title representing one and the US title representing the other while the WWE Heavyweight title would be the ultimate title for the entire company.
In May of this year former WWE start Brian Myers, aka Curt Hawkins, sat down with the This Is Awesome Wrestling Show and discussed the brand split. The main take away was that the athletes and writers both felt fresh. Currently, the athletes of WWE are constantly traveling and performing many back to back to back nights. During the era of the brand split this was not always the case since two shows could cover more ground and ultimately it saved the bodies of those performing. On top of that, there was an internal competition of the performers and the writers wanting to put on a better show than the other brand (something that the entire Monday Night Wars was built on).
Also offering up the sentiments of a brand split was former WWE and IC champion, Daniel Bryan, during an interview in July of this year. Bryan mentioned a couple sentiments, one being the concept of drawing attention to a smaller title such as the Intercontinental (IC) championship. If it were to belong to one show this would seemingly elevate its importance. The other sentiment, involved the boosting of roster morale (one shared by Brian Myers). One of his arguments for this brings up another point; the WWE roster is deep of talent and writers attempt to give everyone a storyline.
When creative is forced to write for every superstar storylines get mixed up or become lazy and there are too many loose ends that end up not making sense. In a brand split, more rivalries would be created at a higher level as the opportunity to truly build an ongoing storyline would be there. Currently, storylines are built only from one month to the next until a monthly special occurs and then its on to the next. This creates an ongoing problem of the deep roster of stars being pushed and then unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally at times) buried.
At the time of this writing WWE is airing its SLAMMY AWARDS edition of Monday Night Raw which may give it slightly better ratings than average. However, last week just hours after this column went to the web suggesting Monday Night Raw have more title changes, Roman Reigns won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the show saw some of its highest ratings in months. Stay tuned, maybe this column becomes precognitive and a brand split looms.