WWE’s weekly programming, Smackdown Live and Raw, are both in a weird place right now. Since Wrestlemania, the two shows–which are supposed to have completely separate rosters–have seen wrestlers jumping between back and forth with little to no explanation. Now, a new “wild card” “rule” has been added, allowing some superstars from each show appear to appear on the other. How will those superstars be picked? Great question. We have no idea. Nobody does.
On the May 7 episode of Raw, Vince McMahon kicked off the night with his new “Wild Card” rule, which will allow three wrestlers to make appearances on the opposite brand “on occasion.” However, this new rule was broken when Lars Sullivan and Elias showed up later, so by the end of Raw, four wrestlers are able to guest star on the opposite show. That still doesn’t make a ton of sense, mostly because with the addition of Lars Sullivan and Elias, there were actually five Smackdown Live superstars on Raw–six if you include Shane McMahon. Still, this could be a great way to build up to Survivor Series, which is November. This totally isn’t a build-up to Survivor Series, though. My brain is just trying to make sense of all of this. It’s not working.
Following the Superstar Shakeup, an event which had plenty of people continuing to bounce between shows weeks after it was over, there were still two WWE superstars jumping between shows: Shane McMahon and Becky Lynch. Shane’s jump between Raw and Smackdown is pointless, as it’s just him involved in two different storylines, and the one with Miz on Raw is the only one that makes sense for him right now.
Then, there’s Becky “The Man” Lynch, who should be the only superstar allowed to appear on both shows as she’s both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Champion. Let “Becky 2 Belts” do whatever she wants. It makes sense for the story, her character, and it’s good for overall WWE programming. You could also say that Bray Wyatt also crosses over brands with his “Firefly Fun House” segments appearing on both Raw and Smackdown, but those are a treasure and should be seen by everyone, at least twice.
All this moving around and adding the “Wild Card” rule completely destroys the importance of the brand split and creates less space for the rest of the WWE roster to compete. If three or four Smackdown superstars come to Raw for one night, that’s three or four spaces taken away from the midcard because you know Raw won’t be keeping its main event talent off of television. Add to the fact that WWE keeps pulling talent from NXT and 205 Live (which seems it is on its way out), will there be any room on these shows for anyone who isn’t a main event star on either show?
There is already super-talented wrestlers on the roster not getting any television time as is, like Luke Harper and Tyler Breeze (Hashtag Where’s Breeze?) sitting on the sidelines. If you look at the WWE Superstar roster, you’ll undoubtedly find talent that is rarely on TV. The “Wild Card” will just make it more likely you won’t be seeing them.
What WWE is saying with the “Wild Card” rule and the constant shuffling of talent is that the brand split doesn’t matter. While it’s very unlikely to happen, it feels like a mere softening of the blow for when the brand split is completely dissolved later in the year. Sure, the 17 active championships in WWE is exceptionally excessive, and there are ways to cut back on that, but that creates a barrier between shows as well, making each show feel like its own promotion in a sense. Identity is key, and right now, these show’s identity’s are melding into one, and I hate that.
I don’t want to go back to a world where Smackdown and Raw have the same exact roster because then Smackdown becomes nothing more than a Raw replay and the show loses all meaning. If you don’t believe me, head over to the WWE Network and watch an episode of Smackdown before the brand split. So much of each episode is devoted to Raw recaps and matches that don’t matter as nothing that happened on Smackdown ever moved the storylines forward.
Hey WWE, full stop on the wrestlers jumping to other shows, please. It’s not Survivor Series. It doesn’t make sense. It waters down the brand split. And most importantly, it takes spots away from other superstars on an already bloated roster. Sure, Smackdown is moving to Fox at the end of this year, and WWE ratings are down–and the NBA playoffs do factor into that–but maybe stop doing the “same old, same old” with storylines and give fans more “out there” things like what you’re doing with Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, and Kofi Kingston. Now is the time to flip the script and take chances, and that doesn’t mean destroying what the brand split is.
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Author: Mat Elfring