The Brand Split

It’s been a few months since the WWE decided to split their roster between Raw and Smackdown, so it’s as good a time as any to take a look at how each show is doing. Smackdown just finished their second PPV, and Raw is building towards theirs. How successful has each show been?

Let’s start with Raw. Raw has been… well, it’s actually been pretty much exactly the same. Matches have been getting more ring time, which has been appreciated, but it’s still the same old show. It’s still got Authority figures dictating matches, and a cowardly heel champ. It’s still too long. The Cruiserweights finally debuted and they’re fine. Just fine though. Right now they’re just killing time between Mick Foley promos.

Foley as General Manager has been unremarkable. Which is a shame, because Foley is a Top Three favorite of mine. But as GM, he has lacked the charisma he used to have as Commissioner, and has mostly been just bumbling around Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie is still Stephanie, HHH is still the coolest guy in the room when he bothers to show up, and while Kevin Owens is champion, he’s a lame duck champ at best.

Raw has been unfortunate with injuries. Sasha Banks was injured for a bit, but the biggest blow was Finn Balor. Balor became the first even Universal Champion, so you know there were big plans in store for him. Raw hasn’t had a babyface champ in so long that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like for the champ to be cheered. With his unfortunate injury though, Raw had to go to what I assume was Plan D. Kevin Owens absolutely deserves to be world champion, and he has done the absolute best with what he’s been given, but he’s still playing the same chicken shit heel that Seth Rollins ran into the ground.

The one Raw PPV was a perfect example of the brand. The wrestling was solid, some of it great. But it was let down by the writing and booking. And that’s what the WWE has been in a nutshell. Raw is not noticeably different since the brand split.

So what about Smackdown? In a way, the entire brand split and moving Smackdown to Tuesday was to help the blue brand. And while I don’t know about ratings, Smackdown has been the superior television show. The biggest advantage is that the two hour run time is so much nicer to watch then three hours or Raw. But there are a lot of little things that really separate Smackdown from Raw.

Things like alternate camera angles, or how sometimes it keeps playing in the corner during a commercial break. Mauro Ranallo on commentary gives the show a new, professionally polished voice to match it’s glossy visual coating. And AJ Freakin’ Styles is WWE Champion!

Needless to say, I was super excited for Styles to win the title. And that’s really the advantage of the brand split. The title picture has been dominated by Authority shenanigans for years. Regardless of how tired people may be of it, it wasn’t changing anytime soon. And there’s no place in that story for a guy like Styles. If he was in the main event on Raw, he’d be just another HHH toady. On Smackdown, guys like him and Dean Ambrose are being themselves, and it’s great.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Miz. The brand split is really the chance for guys to be featured and to sink or swim. We’ve seen guys like Titus O’Neil sink when given the chance, but the Miz has taken his ball and ran with it. Mixing metaphors? Whatever, the Miz has been great, both in the ring and especially on the microphone. I’m not sure I ever thought I would say that, but here we are, in 2016, where the World Champions are indy darlings, and maybe the best guy on the roster is the goddamn Miz.

Smackdown has benefited greatly from Talking Smack, a 30-minute or so talk show after Smackdown. It should be required viewing. Guys like Ambrose, the Miz, and Cena have turned it into their own personal promo factory. The Miz cut the best promo I’ve seen since CM Punk’s pipebomb promo during Talking Smack. And even when it’s not groundbreaking television, it’s still a fun show to watch.

So while Raw continues its stagnation, Smackdown has really improved since the brand split. There’s still hope for Raw though. If they can just move own from the tired authority figure story, Raw can see many of the same improvements that Smackdown has seen.

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