WWE recently announced Smackdown will air live on Tuesday nights, with a unique roster for each brand. Below, I try my hand at making this work for the long haul.
Where my proposal of WWE’s upcoming brand split takes a turn away from the old is that the two shows are effectively two different companies. Not “brands” of WWE, but companies. WWE continues to run Monday Night RAW, but NXT takes over control of Smackdown.
NXT has become its own brand with its own unique following. I believe the reason why many couldn’t get behind the brand split of the past is because it inherently felt forced. People don’t want to root for a show title. They want to root for a promotion.
Back in the Monday Night Wars days, many where either WWF or WCW-loyal, even if they watched both shows. By making Smackdown an NXT entity, you regain that visceral feeling that comes from rooting for a three-letter promotion by capitalizing on the fans who are already of the mind that the existing NXT brand is superior to WWE-proper.
Draft: The first draft will be held to split up the rosters (rosters below). NXT will get to “protect” two Superstars outside of their current champions (Samoa Joe, Asuka, American Alpha). A draft will be held every 18 months (the first in July 2016, the next in January 2018, and so on). Drafts will only include newly-unaffiliated talent. This includes call ups from the Performance Center and Superstars who had had their “contracts” expire.
Contracts: Superstars will sign contracts for a certain term to give the viewer a sense of stability, just like professional sports. Contracts will vary in term, giving creative flexibility to move onto other storylines, but largely, they contracts will be long-term. Having a Superstar “drafted” to a different brand every year just muddles down the separation of the two new companies. The new brand split will be just like the Monday Night War days. Fans can follow how long they’ll have to wait (Superstar pages can include contract details, driving traffic to WWE.com) until a potential fantasy match up they’ve been waiting for may become a reality.
Trades: Trades are allowed between General Managers, though ideally, would be used sparingly for ultimate impact.
Dual-branded title (champion can appear on either show):
- WWE World Heavyweight Champion
The WHC is drafted to one brand, but can appear on the other show as long as they hold the title. Once they drop the title, they become brand-specific.
All PPVs will feature matches from both WWE and NXT, with the announcer team and ring announcer rotated to call each promotion. The only matches that can be cross-promotional are the Royal Rumble match, the Money in the Bank ladder match, and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at the A-shows (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series). This allows the WHC to think about short-term competitions from inside his own promotion, and looming long-term threats from the cross-promotion for the major shows. It should limit the monotony of a WHC feud, as well (i.e. no more cycle of three straight identical PPV main events with different stipulations).
The push-pull between McMahons and Triple H:
The over-arching theme of the brand split be Triple H being conflicted between a return to The Authority and his personal success story of NXT. Ultimately, he chooses NXT over his wife, as he cites not wanting to get involved in the middle of her sibling squabble with Shane, and becomes the owner of NXT. This bands the McMahon siblings, now co-owners of WWE, together to show the world that their darling Triple H, who gave them their perfect NXT product, isn’t what made WWE great.
Monday Night RAW, 8:00 PM Eastern, USA Network, LIVE
RAW’s primary focus is to stay the number one wrestling company in the world. Longtime journeymen like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have worked their whole life to be here, and they’re not letting go now. Top dog Roman Reigns is determined to show everyone he can carry the promotion, even with John Cena defecting to NXT. The biggest tweak is to the announce team. Jerry Lawler returns to RAW, playing up his old school heel schtick, and JBL moves to the General Manager’s position.
Announce team: Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, Byron Saxton
Backstage interviewer: JoJo
Ring Announcer: Lillian Garcia
Owner(s): Shane and Stephanie McMahon
General Manager: John “Bradshaw” Layfield
Exclusive RAW titles:
- WWE Intercontinental Championship
- WWE Tag Team Champions
- WWE Women’s Champion
Roman Reigns (World Heavyweight champion), Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Brock Lesnar (p/t), Titus O’Neil, Big Show
Seth Rollins, The Miz (WWE IC champion), Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Alberto Del Rio, Austin Aries
Tag Teams Division:
New Day (WWE Tag Team champions), The Usos, Golden Truth
The Club, Vaudevillians, The Dudley Boys, The Social Outcasts
Bayley, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Carmella
Charlotte (WWE Women’s champion), Dana Brooke, Emma-x, Paige, Maryse
NXT Smackdown, 8:00 PM Eastern, USA Network LIVE
The subtitling of June 8th’s NXT TakeOver specical as “The End…” has led many to speculate that the brand might not be long for the world. Here’s why: Smackdown is re-branded “NXT Smackdown.” The blue-and-white color scheme is replaced with black-and-white (logo above).
Lighting and graphics packages to take on the NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn look.
The NXT title is dropped, absorbed by the WWE World Heavyweight title after general managers JBL and William Regal determine one-unifed title is best for both promotions. Samoa Joe is the final champion, and due to having his title taken from him, is granted a second Money in the Bank briefcase that he can cash in at any time within one year.
The U.S. title becomes Smackdown-exclusive. All other NXT titles stay with their current holders and are made the primary Smackdown titles.
Announce team: Mauro Ranallo, Corey Graves, Tom Phillips
Backstage interviewer: Renee Young
Ring Announcer: Greg Hamilton
Owner: Triple H
General Manager: William Regal
Exclusive Smackdown titles:
- United States Championship (re-branded NXT United States Championship)
- NXT Tag Team Champions
- NXT Women’s Champion
John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Apollo Crews, Hideo Itami-x, Neville-x, Darren Young, No Way Jose
Triple H, Rusev (US champion), Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Bray Wyatt, Samoa Joe, Sheamus, Tyler Breeze, Fandango
Tag Team Division:
American Alpha (NXT tag team champions), Enzo Amore and Big Cass, The Hype Bros, The Lucha Dragons
The Wyatt Family, The Revival, The Shining Stars, Blake and Murphy
Sasha Banks, Asuka (NXT Women’s champion), Alicia Fox
Eva Marie, Nia Jax, Lana, Summer Rae, Alexa Bliss