Posted in: Mr. Tito
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - RAW/Smackdown Brand Extension will FAIL - What WWE Should Do Instead
By Mr. Tito
Jul 1, 2016 - 12:27:58 AM

Follow Mr. Tito on @titowrestling

Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING exclusively here at / I am just LAUGHING at the RAW viewership for this past Monday on USA Networks. Versus last week, RAW lost 374,000 viewers from the post-Money in the Bank 2016 episode of RAW. Sure, the Pay Per View bounce always happens but the WWE gave away TWO Pay Per View like matches away for FREE on Monday: Seth Rollins vs. John Cena and Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles.

But despite those TWO huge matches, RAW lost 374,000 viewers... And ZERO competition excuses to boot. So how do you think that Brand Extension will do when the WWE roster is split in half between RAW and Smackdown? KABOOM... WWE is set to over-expose itself and burn itself out by going LIVE on USA Networks for back-to-back nights of 5 total hours. If you have a Pay Per View on Sunday, you'll have to watch 8 total hours of LIVE wrestling for 3 straight days. OUCH, and that will reportedly happen more often than not with both RAW and Smackdown brands reportedly receiving their own Pay Per Views.

Let me make the call right now... The 2016 Brand Extension will FAIL long-term. I'm sure it will cause a brief short-term bump in business, but eventually too much WWE product and 2 watered down rosters will wear wrestlers thin.

Now, I know what many in the Comments section are thinking... "TITO, YOU SO NEGATIVE! YOU SO NEGATIVE!"

Do y'all realize that I actually covered the 2002 Brand Extension as a writer? You know, I've been here at since late October 1998. For a good bit of 2002, I was writing daily on the preparations for the brand extension and then when it happened. Then after that, I wrote 2-3 times a week and covered RAW/Smackdown extensively. The WWE roster had a mix of former ECW/WCW wrestlers, developmental call-ups (drink up, OVW Class of 2002), and the WWE Attitude Era wrestlers. Even then, the brands could be hit or miss... RAW had real struggles finding Main Event level opponents for Triple H and a BAD midcard. Smackdown had Paul Heyman outdrawing RAW in viewership with the way he built up the midcard and repackaged many superstars (Angle, Benoit, Mysterio, Chavo/Eddie, Edge) although his style clashed with what the McMahons wanted. A-Train anyone? It is a FACT that WWE lost millions of viewers during 2002-2004 for the RAW brand and that was BEFORE John Cena joined the roster in 2005.

While I gave Smackdown many positive reviews, it wasn't always perfect... It took Paul Heyman coaching up wrestlers and putting them in positions to cover their weaknesses. Then when Heyman's booking was getting vetoed by the McMahons, many of those wrestlers were exposed. WWE went from a THICK roster to start 2002 to having 2 thinner ones through the brand extension. Then, Brock Lesnar quits the WWE during 2004 and John Cena moved from Smackdown to RAW during 2005. Smackdown soon became the "Batista Show" that soon morphed into a Triple A minor league WWE show. By the early 2010s, the WWE began loosely merging the shows and then it was all over by 2013 .

See? I lived through the prior Brand Extension and wrote about it extensively. Go ahead and bark at me for being negative. You'll just ignore the FACTS that the brand extension weakens the rosters and waters down the overall WWE product with too much wrestling to watch.

This WWE roster cannot be split in half... Again, it was just 3 years ago when the last Brand Extension was over and those split rosters were just limping along. Has the WWE roster thickened up with good talent since? Yeah, somewhat... Shield guys are coming into their own, New Day is good, Rusev is not bad, Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn are very talented in-ring performers, etc. But Vince McMahon reportedly doesn't like the crop of wrestlers in NXT and has reportedly been critical of those wrestlers. As you can see by Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin, they were both called up to the Main Rosters and their use has been quite underwhelming so far. Not saying that I'm high on Tyler Breeze's talent, but he was a much bigger deal in NXT versus WWE. Vince can't stand the guy. You could raid the Indies, Japan, or Mexico... But that can get very expensive, quick. Ask the Bullet Club or Alberto Del Rio. Not cheap.

Has the WWE increased its Creative Staff with people who know pro wrestling in anticipation for this Brand Extension and/or Smackdown going LIVE on Tuesdays? That's quite a big change, folks... The only way that the RAW and Smackdown extension works is if each brand is UNIQUE from each other. At least with the RAW/Smackdown split during 2002-2004, both shows were different. RAW resembled the Attitude Era while Smackdown had a much younger feel with a more energetic in-ring product. Then, when the WWE removed Paul Heyman from the Creative Staff during early 2004, Smackdown suddenly began to resemble RAW with storylines, pacing, and character build ups. Imagine that.

But just to prove that I'm NOT a hater... I'm going to present IDEAS on what I'd like to see instead of a Brand Extension. See, I'm just don't bash the WWE... I criticize using facts and intelligent points and then I make actual suggestions. Free of charge to.

Instead of RAW/Smackdown Brand Extension, WWE Should:

(a) Promote Shinsuke Nakamura to the Main WWE roster NOW. He is full of charisma, personality, and is very talented in the ring. I believe that he'll be the first mega superstar that draws in the Main Event in the WWE from Japan. Believe it or not, Nakamura speaks decent English (all things considered).

(b) MERGE the United States and Intercontinental Titles to become the Television Title. The WWE Television Title MUST be defended on RAW and Smackdown each and every week. This presents fans with a Title Match on both shows!

(c) Make a Division EXCLUSIVE to the Smackdown roster and I'm actually thinking CRUISERWEIGHTS, not so much Women or Tag Teams. I believe that the Cruiserweight Classic will be a bigger deal than expected by WWE and it's an incentive for WWE fans to tune into Smackdown.

(d) Women's Tag Titles. I know, I keep preaching Title Inflation... But the WWE Women's Roster has increased in size. You need to give Women who are NOT in the running for the WWE Women's Title something to do.

(e) Give Seth Rollins another finisher. Sorry, him performing the Pedigree is LAME. How can Roman Reigns have a move called the "drive by" when Seth Rollins is not allowed to have a move called the "curb stomp"? The Pedigree is Triple H's move, period.

(f) Let wrestlers have WINNING STREAKS. Imagine that... Maybe Kevin Owens racks up a winning streak instead of this 50/50 booking he suffers from. And if you don't believe that winning streaks work, go watch your WWE Network during 1998 when Bill Goldberg made a name for himself by having a streak.

(g) Let wrestlers have WINNING STREAKS but being unable to win at Title Matches. Have wrestlers win every match but title opportunities by coming up just short. Each time for a while... This builds up the heat that the wrestler "can't win the big one" and then when that same wrestler finally wins a Title Match, BOOM! And because the wrestler has won every other match besides the title opportunities, they are properly built up.

(h) Promote Paul Heyman to the Creative Team, consider Vince Russo. At the very least, let both sit at the table and present ideas. Vince McMahon can strike down ideas that he doesn't like but for him not to tap 2 successful wrestling minds is ridiculous. Especially Heyman.

(i) STOP EXPOSING THE BUSINESS. Does a Magician reveal his/her secrets to the public? Do CEOs of companies reveal how they successfully grow profits? For that matter, do other publicly traded companies leak what happens behind-the-scenes to the media? NO, NO, NO... It is well known that WWE is scripted... But WWE, itself, doesn't have to remind people repeatedly that its wrestlers are portraying characters and how entire shows are produced by writers, producers, agents, etc. YOU SEE IT ALL... WWE needs to stop sharing its secrets with the public and let fans naturally begin to suspend disbelief. While I enjoy the WWE Network specials like Breaking Ground, it takes the appearance of sport out of WWE's products.

(j) New Authority Figure AND remove the McMahons from television for good... Especially Stephanie McMahon. I'm tired of this condescending Communication Major and Daddy's Girl being able to talk down WWE Champions each and every week without any revenge issued. Reason why Vince McMahon was effective is that he talked smack but received "his" from Steve Austin many, many times. Nobody can touch Stephanie... I'm not condoning domestic violence here, but Stephanie talks down WWE talent and actually causes harm because they can never redeem themselves. WWE is booked to make the McMahon family look great and NOT the wrestlers. Isn't WWE called World WRESTLING Entertainment?!?

(k) Promote American Alpha to Main WWE Roster. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are the most pure tag team that I've seen since Shelton Benjamin/Charlie Haas's Team Angle/World's Greatest Tag Team. Of course, this completely contradicts my final point...

(l) PG Rating sucks... Have some edge and vulgarity on your shows. I'm not talking about HOT LESBIAN ACTION that we saw during the early to mid-2000s on RAW, but something that reflects society. People curse and talk about sexual themes... Big deal. WWE needs more of an edge and the Standards & Practices driven PG era limits the growth in the adult audience. Also hurts the younger audience as proven by the Attitude Era.


(m) Let NXT be your true "BRAND EXTENSION".

Only Mr. Tito would give a list of recommendations that features stripping NXT of Shinsuke Nakamura and American Alpha and then preaching to protect NXT. How about this? Bring back the Vaudevillains, Tyler Breeze, Baron Corbin, and Apollo Crews to be fair?

I REMAIN a WWE Network subscriber because of NXT, period. Last year, I did the FREE trial of the WWE Network just to watch the NBA Finals and Money in the Bank 2015 LIVE at the same time. I remained a WWE Network subscriber not just for the Pay Per Views and Specials, but for NXT especially witnessing the Takeover events LIVE. The roster entertains ME whether it's actual GOOD Women's Wrestling, growing Tag Team wrestling, and a bunch of wrestlers that are booked differently in NXT than they would be in WWE. Again, see Corbin, Breeze, and Crews struggling on the main WWE roster right now. But they were legit stars in NXT. I have rated the NXT Takeover Pay Per Views STRONGLY and I speak highly of them to all of my friends who are bored with the WWE main roster product.

NXT tours well as a brand... Takeover events have been packed. Better yet, the roster is thick with wrestlers that Vince McMahon doesn't want. FINE, don't promote them... Let them remain on NXT and let Triple H continue to prove himself. See if there is a television network willing to air the NXT show or just let it continue to be a drawing factor for WWE Network.

The RAW/Smackdown Brand Extension will raid NXT of its top talent, no doubt, and NXT will also become watered down. Worse yet, RAW/Smackdown will take Triple H's attention away from NXT and the lack of attention could cause NXT to diminish.

Funny... WWE already has the brand extension they desire with WWE Main Roster as one product ("sports entertainment") and NXT (more about in-ring wrestling). It's already there... Why let USA Networks dictate terms? Why let your TELEVISION channel control your product?

Oh that's right... WWE makes between $150 million to $200 million and as mentioned by another column of mine, WWE makes about 35% of their total revenues from television contracts alone. Yeah, their old television contract matters... You know, OLD MEDIA from a Cable/Satellite connection.

And the funny thing is that WWE actually has leverage over USA Networks and I hope that WWE has been renegotiating their contracts with the Smackdown LIVE show. USA Networks struggles with original content while their re-run market is getting eaten alive by Netflix and other binging streaming services. USA Networks needs the WWE right now for viewership numbers. Why else would they force RAW to become 3 hours and give Smackdown Tuesday Nights for 2 more hours? Hell, there are rumors that Smackdown will go to 3 hours!

"Less is More" - This Brand Extension will just diminish quality, burn WWE fans out, and KILL the NXT product that loyal WWE fans have enjoyed. WWE has its brand extension already in place with NXT. Only the McMahons would be arrogant to ignore that and try to recreate the Brand Extension.

Let me announce this... I shall monitor the RAW/Smackdown split and see if either brand is worth watch. That's right, I don't have to watch and cover RAW/Smackdown. I'm actually considering just covering WWE Pay Per Views if I'm getting 2 Pay Per Views per month. Why bother with the RAW/Smackdown shows, even condensed on Hulu? They will just become 2-3 hour INFOMERCIALS for the Pay Per Views. No thanks!! No time for love, Dr. Jones!

Go ahead and trash me, Comments section... "TITO, YOU SO NEGATIVE!!!" But honestly read my points (a) through (m). I gave valid suggestions on what WWE could do instead to improve many parts of their business. And AGAIN, I lived through the previous Brand Extension and wrote about it extensively. Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.


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