WWE Ruthless Aggression (Episode 5): Raw vs. SmackDown

WWE Ruthless Aggression (Episode 5): Raw vs. SmackDown

WWE Ruthless Aggression (Episode 5): Raw vs. SmackDown Report by Josh Lopez 

The following is a transcript of WWE Network’s newest series, “WWE Ruthless Aggression.” Please share some of your favorite Ruthless Aggression moments in the comment section. We’ll be highlighting certain comments made by the superstars, producers, and executives from that era and fan perspective from the current members of the WWE Roster.

You can follow me on Twitter @TheHootsPodcast

For the full transcription click here

Description: WWE’s first-ever brand extension divides its roster and sparks civil war between Raw and SmackDown. As competition heats up between brands, Eddie Guerrero, JBL, Edge and others showcase Ruthless Aggression as they capitalize on their newfound opportunity to become stars.

Vince McMahon: Sometimes it’s important for business and sometimes in life to take a half step back. That’s what we decided to do when we started this brand extension as we call it now. You must be looking at me like I have two heads now. Sometimes I guess I do. But to hear someone say, wait a minute, let me get this straight, you intentionally took a half step back, yes, we did. And it’s important to do so you can take two, three, five, ten, a hundred forward. On occasion, you have to take a half step back. It takes a while to build stars. It takes a while to build back up. But a little bit of lady luck riding on our shoulders, we’ll get back to the promise land. Questions? Hopefully we’ll have some answers.

The Competitive Edge 

Michael Rapaport: With WCW now firmly in the past, WWE forged ahead. Even though WrestleMania continued to break attendance records, the fire that fueled the Monday Night Wars was extinguished. So how do you keep your competitive edge?

Bruce Prichard: Every week you’re trying to come up with something different and something new, trying to produce four hours of television on different networks. And you have to retell the story of, okay, on SmackDown I’ve got to retell what happened on Monday Night Raw. On Raw, I’ve got to retell what happened last week on SmackDown, to further those stories. And it was the same talent. Things were almost on auto pilot in a lot of respects.

Paul Heyman: What’s the first thing they teach you when you play chess? Look at the whole board, not the individual pieces. If you are booking sports entertainment for tomorrow, you are screwed. The concept is this is what’s getting me by today. What’s my main event in 18 months?

Brian Gewirtz: For a lot of the people, you know, kind of bubbling underneath the surface, yeah, there’s a lot of uncertainty in terms of great competition, yay. Oh, I might not be on TV next week.

JBL: When you have one roster, you can’t really push other people except your main guys, you burn through story lines and story arcs at light speed.

The WWE Brand Extension 

Paul Heyman: You now had a competitive edge for Raw and a competitive edge for SmackDown. And you had people on Raw that wanted to beat SmackDown and you had people on SmackDown that wanted to beat Raw. So by the very nature of the passion of the people involved, you no longer had complacency, you had hunger. You had people with a voracious appetite to compete against each other.

Becky Lynch: Back home I didn’t have cable, but we would get Sky Sports and they showed SmackDown. I do remember not being happy about the brand split because I could only watch SmackDown. There was still people that I wanted to see, but I wasn’t able to see them because they were on Raw.

Brian Gewirtz: You’re going to ask, where are the people I like? How come they’re not on the show that i’m used to seeing them on? We’ll have our Raw Roster. We’ll have our SmackDown Roster. In the long run, it will be better.

Eric Bischoff 

Drake Maverick: When he brought in Eric Bischoff to run Monday Night Raw, I was like, oh, this is different. Would you ever thought that would happen?

Bruce Prichard: He had been our opposition for so many years. He was a natural adversary. And god forbid you put him in charge of your flagship show. How can that happen? You want a heel? There’s a heel.

Eric Bischoff: I pretty much assumed my career in sports entertainment was over given the nature of the competitive relationship I had with WWE for such a long time. Phone rings. Hey, pal. Vince McMahon here. I went whoa. A couple of them were defintiely not happy to see me. And there were a couple that were indifferent. The most famous one was Booker T. It was so real. It was so organic. It was so cool. I wanted to go back. I wanted to get back into the business and I wanted the opportunity to come and work for WWE and to work with Vince McMahon.

Hulk Hogan: When Eric first came to WWE and I saw him on TV, I mean I was just grinning from ear to ear because he’s my boy, man. I love Eric to death. He had such a back story coming in. It helped the WWE storylines.

Behind The Scenes Dynamic and Trades 

Brian Gewirtz: I think we made a mistake in splitting up the rosters at first because I think they were imbalanced. Vince seeing the dynamic and like maybe we imbalanced this a little too much and we need to change it. Raw wasn’t as entertaining as it could be, so it needed a little bit of a shake up.

Bruce Prichard: Paul Heyman was in charge of SmackDown while Brian Gewirtz was in charge of Raw. And we would have real life negotiations in the writers room.

Brian Gewirtz: These UnAmericans are the hottest heels in the universe. I would be foolish to trade them to you, but I’m willing to do it for the betterment of the show. Really selling it to me. We did not have anyone who could host a talk show segment and be that kind of character. I’m like all right, you know what, throw in Chris Jericho and then we’ll talk.

Paul Heyman: And my eye was on Guerrero. The behind scenes laughter at my proposal could be heard across the street. I knew this was the deal of the millennium for SmackDown and no one else saw it.

Brian Gewirtz: Obviously, it’s not a question of a handshake deal. And hey, Vince, we made a trade. You did what? You’ve got to sell it to him. And Vince, you know saw a lot of value in The UnAmericans and saw a lot of value in Jericho being on Raw as well. And I think both shows benefited from it.

Vince McMahon: In order to create interest in both brands, it’s important that you have all sorts of crossover and stealing of talent and that sort of stuff. Actually no different than to a certain extent was back when WCW was popular. As time goes on, this brand separation is going to be really good for us. We have had some stutter starts, you know, with it to a certain extent. But now with Steph and Bischoff juxtaposed, it looks like it’s going to work.

The “B Show”

Bruce Prichard: General perception, SmackDown was the B-Show and Raw was A. I don’t agree with it, but that’s what it was.

Eric Bischoff: Not because anybody did anything wrong. It’s just human nature. The second man on the moon wasn’t nearly as celebrated as the first man on the moon. They both got to the moon.

Brian Gewirtz: It’s one that’s live. SmackDown, even though we didn’t say taped, you know, everyone knows it was taped. I mean he’ll deny it until he’s blue in the face, but Vince’s focus was on Raw.

Paul Heyman: SmackDown was Raw’s bitch. My goal was to make Raw, SmackDown’s bitch. Make Raw The B-Show. Make SmackDown the show to watch. And we were going to do everything we could to make that happen.

Edge: And having that opportunity week in and week out with different combination of us to just go out there and have no real handcuffs. Here’s 25 minutes, carte blanche.

Mick Foley: I was kind of a Raw guy. I loved the idea that it was live. And every week there was a jolt of adrenaline that to me isn’t there on a taped show.

Michael Rapaport: Both Raw and SmackDown had established their identities. Kicking the brand rivalry into a new gear.

CIVIL WAR 

Paul Heyman: I informed Cole and Taz that they are going to go to war with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. If that meant taking pot shots at Ross and Lawler, take those pot shots.

Brian Gewirtz: He lives for this shit basically.

Paul Heyman: It’s competition, here we go. Compete as I compete. Do as I do. We’re going to fight. One of us is going to lose. I don’t want to be the loser in this fight. The competition extends to main events, to who has the best matches, who sells the most live event tickets, who sells the most merchandise.

The Big Show: It was an inner-company rivalry. Like if you were blue, your blood was blue. If you were red, your blood was red. The Raw group used to laugh at us, oh, SmackDown is The B Show. But we were the ones that were kicking the crap out of Raw in ratings.

Bubba Ray Dudley: SmackDown was knocking them dead. Strong storylines, great in-ring action. And it was definitively the better show.

Kevin Kelly: Why’s Raw sometimes very good and sometimes not so good, while SmackDown has been consistently been so good since the brand extension? Why do you think that’s been the case?

Vince McMahon: If that has been the case — and I think I’d agree with that. I don’t know whether or not it’s a second date thing or you settle down or the talent that’s involved or the writing teams or just what. But I would suggest that’s a pretty accurate description. Sometimes Raw is off the chart good. Sometimes it is off the chart bad and it’s like ugh. I wish they wouldn’t have done that.

Business Is Booming 

Michael Rapaport: The combine success of both brands yielded unprecedented opportunities, including brand exclusive pay-per-views and live event touring.

Vince McMahon: We have separate live event touring here domestically. Since each brand is only doing one day of television, it allows us to tour on the international basis, where we find tremendous growth and tremendous opportunity. Our brand has always been considered a global brand in terms of its overall exposure. But at the same time we haven’t really capitalized on that exposure to the extent that we are doing now. This brand separation is working. It’s working big time and it will continue to work. Our brand has to recreate itself all over again year after.  We have done that through the years. And this fresh pool of talent helps us do that.

Bruce Prichard: What we were doing was working. And the talent was reaping the rewards of that success.

Eddie Guerrero 

JBL: You had guys like Eddie Guerrero who were coming along, who had been great stars, but had not been in a main event level. Eddie had the talent, had the talent years before. He was the same guy. But with the brand split, he got the opportunity.

Bruce Prichard: We needed a star. And looking at Eddie Guerrero, he was the most loved in the dressing room. Very well respected. And the talent wanted Eddie to to be the lead. He jumped right up and grabbed the brass ring and pulled it down and then defied anybody to take it.

Batista: I feel like Eddie could probably control a crowd more than anybody that I have ever worked with. There was something about him that one could be so lovable. And the next second could be just so despicable. He could flip that switch like nobody I’ve ever seen.

Kurt Angle: He was energetic and vibrant. He was tuned in to the crowd and the crowd was tuned in to him. He’s one of those top three greatest of all time.

Bruce Prichard: Part of it was looking to appeal to a new demographic. But Eddie wasn’t only that demo, man. He was the whole damn kit and caboodle. Hispanic, white, black, green, blue, did not matter. They loved Eddie Guerrero.

The Rise Of JBL 

Bruce Prichard: We took the human being, this extremely intelligent, financial wiz, loud mouth texan and put that on the screen.

JBL: I had been this beer drinking fun loving guy with Ron Simmons for so long that people just didn’t buy it.

Brian Gewirtz: There’s this underlying current with the audience basically going, I don’t know, Bradshaw as a main eventer? The APA guy? And Bradshaw heard all the criticisms and heard all the doubters and all the people going this ain’t gonna work. And he made it work. Oh, wait a minute. This is actually some good shit and I hate him and I’m going to boo him.

JBL: I don’t know if you ever heard of JBL or if he had ever been created if not for the brand split. They needed somebody to step up against Eddie Guerrero. And I had an opportunity because of that brand split, that I don’t think I would’ve happened otherwise.

Capitalizing On Opportunity

Michael Rapaport: Raw would continue to push the entertainment envelope. But also broke down barriers with two women competing in the main event for the first time ever.

Lita: It was like excitement mixed with confidence. 50 percent was like, oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening. The other 50 percent was, damn right this is happening.

Edge: Splitting the shows absolutely did give talent opportunity. I’d like to think at the end of the day, if you really have that talent, you’ll break through. But I think it made it easier for that to happen.

Bruce Prichard: It was a group effort to try and make things as best they could be. Yes, we had separate teams, but everybody worked together.

The Big Show: Sure, we’re competing. But there’s also a lot of trust in each other and there’s a lot of trust in what we are doing together as a team. It was some of the hardest working days i’ve ever had. Some of the hardest working tours. Some of the greatest fun ever in this business was during that time.

Batista: That Ruthless Aggression Era was SmackDown and Raw. It was just fun. There was so many talented guys. It was so much good entertainment. It was good storylines and programs. It was perfect.

Paul Heyman: I don’t know what WWE would have been like if we didn’t do a brand split. I know that we did it and we have benefited from it for years.

We get a teaser clip of Season 2 which will take place in the fall. It will touch on The Elimination Chamber, The Diva Search, Tough Enough, Money In The Bank, The Undertaker and OVW.

Checkout Episode 195 of The Hoots Podcast 

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