WWE splitting into two: Separate Raw, Smackdown great news for fans

wweGreat news for wrestling fans: WWE is splitting its roster again, and beginning July 19, Smackdown will air live on Tuesday nights.

Details are still sketchy as to how all of this will play out, but it is assumed that the Raw and Smackdown brands will have their own world champion, as was the case during the first brand split era, 2002-2011. One show would then have the U.S. title as the second individual title, the other getting the Intercontinental title.

The fate of the tag-team and women’s titles is up in the air, with the thinking now that the tag titles would be defended on both shows, and the women’s title hunkering down with one or the other.

What this means for you, the wrestling fan: Monday you get a live Raw, Tuesday you get a live Smackdown, Wednesday you get a canned, but still otherwise fresh episode of NXT.

Live house cards run Friday and through the weekend. Once a month, you get a live TV mega-event on WWE Network. There is the possibility that WWE could try to add a second live TV event on the Network, basically giving each brand its own show, but I wouldn’t think that likely.

As it stands now, WWE is producing two live shows a week, the one mega-event per month, doing TV tapings for NXT, plus a quarterly mega-event for NXT.

That’s an awful lot from a live or live-to-tape production standpoint.

Not only does this mean pressure on WWE to add to the talent base, to fully staff three touring companies, but the impact on behind-the-scenes hiring is going to be immense.

The formula for years has been to do the live Raw on Monday, break that down, then move the operation relatively close by to a different location for Tuesday for the Smackdown taping.

But for touring flexibility, it may not and probably does not make sense for WWE to schedule its Raw and Smackdown shows in geographic proximity to one another, because they’re basically competition now.

You could ostensibly have Raw on Monday on the East Coast, and Smackdown on Tuesday in the Midwest or West Coast.

This means two different production crews, and of course two different, separate and equal creative teams.

This is where things get exciting for fans. Whereas now you have one world title chase, you will soon have two, and if you don’t like Roman Reigns as The Guy, and most of you don’t, you can watch, oh, let’s put the Smackdown world strap on Kevin Owens and have A.J. Styles, Cesaro and Eric Young chase him for a while.

The brand split worked so well for WWE for so long that it’s hard to remember what the reasons were for reuniting the brands into one roster, aside from obvious economies of scale from a production, creative and touring standpoint.

Touring has already been split off into two for a while now, though, proving WWE’s logistical capabilities there.

And the Network is generating interest in the NXT brand, which will no doubt be raided to provide the foundation of talent for the coming roster split.

Smackdown will benefit most from the split. The show has been barely more than an afterthought since the brands were reunified in 2011, basically the B show, what World Championship Wrestling on Saturday night was after the debut of WCW Monday Nitro.

Smackdown has been anything but must-see TV, because little if anything happens, in the ring or from a storyline perspective.

That changes come July 19.

You will soon have three WWE products to keep track of. And if you’re so inclined, this is on top of TNA, Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground and New Japan.

It’s a good time to be a pro wrestling fan, indeed.

Column by Chris Graham

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