Like many wrestling fans, my interest in WWE started to wane as The Rock moved into Hollywood and Steve Austin turned heel. Sure there were still moments when I would tune in, Summerslam 2002 is one of my favourite shows WWE have ever put on, but by the time they split up the Undisputed WWE Championship back into two belts in September 2002 I was completely out, and wouldn’t watch again until Daniel Bryan started making waves in 2013.
So as a brand split newbie I don’t really know what to expect, but here is what I want…
1. Make Smackdown strong
For a long time, Smackdown has been effectively a non-canon WWE show. While there has been good wrestling on the show there has been almost zero storyline advancement, making it a comfortably missable show. That culture will be tough to change, but WWE have to do it if they want it to draw a bigger audience than it currently does. How they go about that will be huge. No doubt the WWE “Big Board” will be an ever-moving entity but if they get they can convince John Cena to work Tuesday’s again, or push The Club or Roman Reigns onto the show and create some compelling storylines with real impact then Smackdown will suddenly become appointment viewing once again.
2. Utilize NXT stars
Like most “hardcore” wrestling fans I love NXT. The simple storytelling and lack of pushing products or the Network make it an easily digestible show. It doesn’t hurt that the likes of Finn Balor, American Alpha, and Bayley are truly brilliant performers as well. The easiest way to get me to watch 3 hours of Raw on Monday and 2 hours of Smackdown on Tuesday is to use the Balor’s or Samoa Joe’s well. Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin, who came up after WrestleMania, have disappeared into the background of WWE very quickly. While that fate has not befallen Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens or Enzo & Big Cass it is a worry. WWE need to use the NXT talent in this re-expanded WWE to keep things meaningful and fresh.
3. Don’t allocate the World Heavyweight Championship
WWE made this mistake last time, as they just handed the big gold belt to Triple H rather than run a tournament or battle royale for it. They have already changed the name of the main title to “WWE Championship” again so they are obviously setting up for a separate title for each show, whether they bring back the World Heavyweight Championship or create a new belt they need to build up to someone winning it, potentially in a match at Summerslam, rather than just hand it to a veteran.
4. Don’t create on-air adversity through the commentators
When I do go back and watch the brand-split shows on the Network one of the most difficult things to get past is Tazz’s commentary. I know, he was generally awful and he won’t be back on Smackdown after the Brand Split happens again, but the style was so bad. “Oh yea, Smackdown superstars baby!”, it was just so horrifically annoying. I get that you want the brand specific commentators to want their guys to win, but it is so grating to hear. The last thing I want from the Brand Split is for JBL to be a verbos cheerleader for Raw during WrestleMania.
5. Don’t flood the midcard with extra championships
There is talk that the Cruiserweight Classic might crown a new Cruiserweight champion. While it’s likely that the US and Intercontinental champions will be on separate shows, bringing in another midcard belt like the Cruiserweight or European Championship might not be the right move. While it would give lower card guys “something to fight for,” the more belts there are the less important they become. With the United States and Intercontinental Championships already difficult to care about equally, why should we care about another one?