The biggest story in pro wrestling right now is WWE's upcoming brand split. Some are skeptical about this move because of how the last brand split turned out, but WWE is a much different company from what it was when the Raw and SmackDown rosters were combined in 2010.
In the six years since the original brand extension ended, the WWE roster has gained significantly more depth, and the level of talent has skyrocketed.
The quality of matches has improved, the women's and tag team divisions are in much better shape, and the developmental system has become a well-oiled machine thanks to Triple H's efforts with the WWE Performance Center and NXT.
WWE is much better equipped to handle having two separate brands than it used to be, and that means many of the complaints we had when Raw and SmackDown were two separate entities won't plague us this time around.
The Women's Division
Another huge issue with the original brand extension was how poorly the women's and tag team divisions were handled.
The women's division was stretched thin between two shows, and with many of the talents employed at the time being subpar wrestlers, there was no reason for management to put any effort into its feuds.
Now we have a group of talented female Superstars, and there are more waiting for their opportunity to shine in NXT. Just look at this stacked lineup:
- Sasha Banks
- Becky Lynch
- Dana Brooke
- Summer Rae
- Alicia Fox
- Nikki Bella
While a few of those names have room to improve, most of them represent the best women in wrestling today, and with stars such as Bayley, Carmella, Alexa Bliss and Asuka in NXT, the future still looks bright.
Splitting the women's division into two rosters will give more women an opportunity to have their own feuds, even if there is only one champion floating between shows.
The Tag Team Division
As far as the tag team division is concerned, the biggest problem during the original brand split was the lack of teams to compete for two different sets of titles.
At one point, WWE was just throwing random Superstars together for a few months to give the champions something to do because there were so few established teams.
If you look at how many great groups WWE has now, it seems like creating two different rosters is the only way to properly feature all of these teams. We'll include stables on this list since they often end up fighting for the tag titles.
- The New Day
- Enzo and Cass
- The Vaudevillains
- The Dudley Boyz
- The Usos
- The Ascension
- Primo and Epico
- The Wyatt Family
- The Social Outcasts
- The Club
- Golden Truth
- The Lucha Dragons
That's a dozen possible contenders and a set of champions. Trying to find something for all of them to do with one big roster is difficult, but splitting the division between two separate shows will allow for more storylines to be allocated to the tag team division.
We still don't know if management will create a second set of titles or have the champions move between shows, but it doesn't really matter as long as there are enough teams to have multiple storylines running concurrently.
The Singles Division
Then there are the midcard and main event scenes. We have seen more amazing wrestlers added to the roster over the past few years than ever before.
In fact, there are almost too many great Superstars to feature all of them at the same time when they only have one roster's worth of storylines to fill.
If half of them are on Raw and half of them are on SmackDown, more people will find themselves in the spotlight, leading to more storylines and matches for everyone.
As time goes on and more talented Superstars are called up from NXT, it has become increasingly difficult to use them all properly.
At this point, splitting up the roster is the only way to ensure there are enough feuds to go around, especially if Raw and SmackDown each get their own sets of pay-per-views.
During the first brand split, one of the biggest problems was the quality of storytelling. It felt like random feuds were created without much thought, and that led to unsatisfying storylines.
However, having the two shows share one roster creates problems of its own. Let's use the recent Money in the Bank match as an example.
WWE has roughly four weeks between pay-per-views, which means the writers have to come up with something for up to four episodes of Raw and four episodes of SmackDown.
Trying to fill eight shows with content for one storyline can lead to repetitiveness, which we saw with the Money in the Bank competitors.
After two weeks, we started to see the same tag team and six-man tag matches over and over again. It got boring, and if there's one thing WWE should never be, it's boring.
If the creative team only had to come up with four episodes' worth of content between major events, the story would have been much easier to tell, and we wouldn't have gotten tired of seeing the six men in the match interact with each other.
When it comes to telling stories inside the ring, there's little ground WWE hasn't covered during its many years in business. We are bound to see similar storylines pop up from time to time, but how they are told is what matters.
With a litany of talented wrestlers, an incredible lineup of women and tag teams, enough TV time to go around and hungry Superstars waiting in the wings for their shot at stardom, bringing back the brand split was the best thing WWE could have done for itself.
Storytelling is the backbone of professional wrestling. If there are too many people to use them all the way they deserve, the entire brand suffers as a result.
Putting half the roster on Raw and half on SmackDown will give more people a chance to shine, and in the end, that's the most important thing.
The brand extension can always lead to issues down the line, but the company has improved in enough ways to make it so we shouldn't see most of the same problems from the first brand extension affect the company this time around.
Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter: @BR_Doctor.
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