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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Does WWE Need Smackdown And RAW As Brands Anymore?

Complaining about WWE's stagnant product is par for the course with watching WWE these days. What's wrong with the product? Here's one identified culprit: Inertia. Since 2002, WWE has split itself and its roster of talent between two internal "brands", Monday Night RAW and Friday Night Smackdown, each with its own redundant World Champions and its own redundant General Managers. WWE's two branded business model is a relic of a scenario from over ten years ago when they bought their main competition, WCW, and decided to create the illusion of competition within WWE, or WWE being its own competition.

There was no annual Draft Lottery in 2012 rotating the talent between the two brands. This and the advent of Supershows, i.e. wrestlers appearing on both shows with no attempt at internal storyline explanations, pretty much indicates WWE's interest in moving away from that model (or at least a disinterest in maintaining the integrity of that model). Yet so much of the internal workings of the company is still stuck in the RAW-Smackdown dual brand way of thinking.

Apparently, no one in power has simply looked at how the company is structured and asked, "Do we need to keep pretending we have separate but equal (ha!) brands within WWE? If so, why?"

There's a logical business reason to keep RAW and Smackdown as separate touring brands so it's easy to decide where to send talent for house shows. With two brands, it makes sense to have two World Champions so that there's a World Title main event on each tour's show. To unify the World Titles would bring it back to the 1980s, when there was a clearly delineated A show (whichever show Hulk Hogan was on as WWF Champion, usually) and B show, often headlined by upper midcard acts in smaller venues. Having the World Heavyweight Champion main eventing Smackdown shows at least maintains the illusion both brands are equal, even if everyone really knows RAW is the A show and Smackdown is the B show.

To unify the World Championships means the WWE Champion (and we all know a unification would preserve the WWE Championship and do away with the World Heavyweight Championship and the big gold belt once owned by Ric Flair) would end up working almost every show. Doesn't he anyway, you ask? Well, yes and no. But not really. WWE Champion CM Punk doesn't appear on every Smackdown even if World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus does appear on every RAW.

Point is, do they need the RAW and Smackdown brands at all anymore? Can't RAW just be a show and Smackdown just be a show and WWE be the brand? It kind of is sort of like that now anyway, but it isn't. RAW and Smackdown as brands is still a remnant of how business has been done in the prior decade. 

Moving the product forward into this decade should really start with WWE's power brokers Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, etc. taking a good, hard look at how WWE is structured and asking, "Why do we still operate like the Monday Night Wars just ended last year instead of over 10 years ago?"