As the dust settles from last Sunday’s Summerslam pay-per-view and the subsequent episodes of Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live, fans of the WWE now have a much clearer idea of the direction in which each show is going. This also has been enough time to at least begin to showcase the many elements each show will use to make their brand unique. Outside of the draft and different rosters for each show, both Raw and Smackdown have introduced new stage designs, new production ideas, and new titles, to name a few.
As I had mentioned before in a previous article, it will take at least a few months to fully determine how successful this brand split is. However, with many pieces beginning to fall into place, here is a look at how the WWE brand split has been so far.
The first area to look at when attempting to gauge the success of the brand split so far is to look at the television ratings. For Smackdown, ratings have seen an increase since the brand split, as the draft received a 2.2 rating, with ratings of 1.92, 1.86, 1.69, and 1.72 in the following weeks leading up to Summerslam. This is an increase from 1.52, 1.62, and 1.56 in the weeks leading up to the draft. Raw, however, has not seen much change in ratings, with recent weeks receiving ratings of 2.22, 2.36, 2.3, 2.05, and 2.12, in that order.
Looking at the brand split from simply a numbers perspective, Smackdown has been more successful. Their new look and recent introduction of new championships has been able to not only draw new viewers in, but also make sure that they tune in to the show each week. Raw still has more viewers, as it still is considered by many as the flagship program, but Smackdown has been making excellent progress towards matching those numbers each Tuesday.
In terms of production, each show created a new logo, which helped add to the feeling of this being a “new era” for the WWE. Both shows have slightly different stage setups, which does add a unique feeling to each brand, but they are not different enough to easily distinguish between the two. Raw has a new location for the announce table, which is now located to the right of the entrance ramp facing the ring. This is similar to where the announce table was located in WCW, which is a small change that is certainly noticeable, and many old-school wrestling fans may appreciate.
For Smackdown, there have not been any significant changes, but some notable ones are the Talking Smack show after each episode of Smackdown, where Daniel Bryan discusses the current storylines and interviews different wrestlers. This is very interesting to watch, and is a great platform from where new storylines can begin, with an example being the Miz’s confrontation of Daniel Bryan in the last episode.
Also, each show has begun to introduce more titles, with Raw having the Universal Title, and Smackdown creating a new tag team title, as well as a Women’s title. Having these new belts helps each show in that it gives every group of wrestlers something to strive for.
All in all, there are a bunch of small changes that were made in the first month to give each show a slightly different look, but there is still room for more possible changes.
Finally, the storylines has been solid for each brand so far, however none of them have stood out significantly. The first PPV since the brand split, Summerslam, was the first event in which these fans would see the climax of these storylines, and some of them were a little underwhelming. For Raw, the Rusev and Roman Reigns match seemed like a massive waste of time, where an intriguing storyline was tossed aside in favor of a no-contest that seemed more like filler than was storyline progression. Also with Raw, having Finn Bálor win the Universal Title was an interesting move, as it shows a lot of confidence has been put in his abilities. Unfortunately, he was forced to give up the title after suffering an injury, and it will be interesting to see how Raw handles this situation going forward.
For Smackdown, the AJ Styles and John Cena match arguably stole the show, as it has many exciting moments. Having AJ Styles win clean, as well as having Cena leave his “Never Give Up” arm band in the middle of the ring was something that few expected, and is another storyline to watch moving forward. The WWE Championship match between Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose seemed more like a main event for Smackdown instead of Summerslam – probably due to the short build – only about two weeks – which didn’t seem like nearly enough time.
The main event, Brock Lesnar versus Randy Orton, was incredibly underwhelming, as it made Orton look more like Heath Slater, as Orton was easily busted open by the Beast Incarnate. There have been no storylines that have stood out as being terrible, yet there is still a lot more that the creative team can do.
No matter what changes the brands make to the production of their product, they will never be able to succeed if there is lackluster booking. This is an area that should be improved on going forward.
Over a month into the brand split, things are looking mostly positive for the WWE. With a little more creativity in their booking, these shows would be able to achieve a vast amount of success in the future. Bringing back PPV’s that are unique to each brand, such as Backlash and No Mercy will certainly help as well. In short, the WWE brand split is definitely going in the right direction.
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