Lots of people are so excited about the upcoming brand split for WWE. They think this will finally be the magic bullet to fix the awful presentation that is WWE nowadays. It won’t be. More likely, nothing will change. Oh, sure, more people will be on TV. NXT, the only good WWE product, will likely be gutted as a lot of top veteran talent moves on to the new rosters. If you had any doubts, the NXT women’s division was hanging by a thread on Bayley’s shoulders until recently after Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte, Emma, and Eva Marie were all purged at once. Yes, Eva Marie was awful in the ring, but she had massive heel heat and it worked. The same will happen to the men when Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, American Alpha, and Austin Aries are likely pulled out. I’m willing to bet Bayley and Nia Jax are going as well.
Here’s why it won’t matter: Vince McMahon is still the one making the final call. It doesn’t matter who is writing, producing, directing, advising, general managing. If Vince is still calling the final shots, it’s going to be the same sad failure. Vince doesn’t know how to get talent over anymore. The most over guys in the last few years were unintentional. Daniel Bryan, the New Day, AJ Styles, Cesaro, Zack Ryder. Where they are now or were until recently was not intended. They managed to turn chicken shit into chicken salad on their own. Styles was never meant to main event. Neither was Bryan. The New Day was intended to be some racist stereotype. Cesaro was never supposed to be cheered or appreciated. Ryder is Ryder. He got his WrestleMania moment finally, but is now jobber to the mid-card again.
Let’s look at the NXT call-ups. Sami Zayn has almost no character development. He and Kevin Owens are ‘ending’ their feud at the PPV and the crowd didn’t care. Sami Zayn just had the greatest wrestling match since HBK/Undertaker at WrestleMania 25 with Shinsuke Nakamura. If you can’t get him over, you’re an idiot. Kevin Owens, like all heels, wins and loses at a 50/50 rate, which ensures him of complete apathy. It was huge when he beat Cena. Then he lost clean twice and has been up and down ever since. You know he can be pinned anytime or beat anyone anytime, so there’s no real care to be had.
The Lucha Dragons and Ascension? Right. The Dragons were never given a real opportunity before Kalisto was inexplicably made a singles champion. The Ascension was given a gimmick that was their NXT gimmick taken to a stupid level. They should be essentially what Dash and Dawson are now. A couple of tough guys who beat people up and the longest reigning NXT tag champions ever. This isn’t rocket science.
Apollo Crews? DOA as there’s no back story or consistency. Why is he always smiling? He wasn’t ready to be called up, but you know Vince saw that physique and had to have him. The same fate befell Neville. He was given a superhero gimmick and wore a cape when he didn’t need that. He was NXT champion for a year and is more athletic than anyone on the roster. That’s a pretty good starting point. And he has a first name, for fuck’s sake.
Tyler Breeze? Dead on Arrival. I thought he had a marketable mid-card gimmick. You could sell fuzzy selfie sticks and he could use it to cheat and hit opponents. Something. He’s a great wrestler. Tyler Breeze as World Champion? It’s easy to say no, but look at Shawn Michaels’ character in 1992. You build from something, evolve, tweak, and now he’s one of the greatest wrestlers in history. The thing he’s in now is embarrassing. It’s not funny and not entertaining.
Bo Dallas? He never had a chance. He was given a stupid gimmick that he was very slowly getting over in spite of. Then he was tossed into the Social Outcasts and is now not only a jobber, but a jobber without a character. The Vaudevillians? They had an amusing presentation in NXT. Since coming to WWE, their entrance often occurs during commercial break. There’s no effort on WWE’s part to provide an opportunity for them to make you care. Just a couple of characters now.
Baron Corbin? Corbin started strong, but then managed to lose to Dolph Ziggler. Now he might be on TV one week and not the next. It seems apparent that there’s no long-term plan for him.
The entire women’s division is still struggling. Mainly because Nattie and Paige are still featured prominently. Nattie isn’t a good wrestler. I realize everyone thinks she is because she’s a veteran, but her matches are sloppy and generally awful. She can’t act and she can’t sell. Paige is too Diva-lite to actually wrestle anymore. She only seemed good in NXT because Becky, Sasha, and Charlotte were still ascending. Speaking of the women, since Becky, Sasha, and Charlotte had the best match at WrestleMania 32, we’ve been treated to a series of championship matches between Charlotte and… Nattie. While Sasha was off TV for months. Dana Brooke? She wasn’t remotely ready to be called up. She was screwed from the start.
Why would Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, or Nakamura be any different? I could easily see Balor with an over-the-top devil worshipper gimmick. Samoa Joe in Islander costumes, and Nakamura in some other Japanese stereotype with a samurai sword.
So, while everyone is excited about the draft, I’m not. I know what will happen. It’s going to be 5 hours a week of the same torture that is RAW nowadays. Long, drawn out matches that have been done 10 times before since they’ve been given away on TV so many times in the past. Painfully unfunny segments. Heel authority figures. Potentially splitting up current gimmicks that are actually over. People being pushed as babyfaces will get booed. Heels will be cheered. NXT will go into rebuilding mode and likely STILL sell more or as many tickets for road shows than WWE Live shows. Injuries will continue to be frequent as wrestlers work way too hard at live events and TV and don’t slow down to sell.
I would propose a challenge for Vince. Have Vince keep RAW as his baby. Put all of his guys on that show. Cena, Miz, Titus, Sheamus, Rusev, Ryback, Reigns, Orton, Primo/Epico, R-Truth, Paige, Summer Rae, Nattie, Tamina, Nikki Bella, Naomi, Mark Henry, Big Show, Strowman, Rowan, Harper, New Day, Kane, Usos, Swagger, Slater, Goldust, Fandango, Eva Marie, Dana Brooke, Ziggler, Darren Young, Axel, Dudleys, Bray, Alicia Fox, Brock, and Del Rio. Those are all Vince’s stars. Michael Cole and JBL on commentary.
For Smackdown, Vince should be 100% hands-off. Stephanie, too. Let Triple H run the show like he does NXT with his own crew. Even have different production people, so no Kevin Dunn style. Let him have: AJ Styles, Jericho, Balor, Samoa Joe, Nakamura, Owens, Zayn, Cesaro, American Alpha, Vaudevillians, Bo Dallas, Corbin, Aries, Crews, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Sasha, Charlotte, Nia Jax, Asuka, Enzo and Cass, Ambrose, Rollins, Emma, Lucha Dragons, Ascension, Gallows/Anderson, Neville, Breeze, and Ryder. Let Ranallo and Corey Graves commentate. Maybe Paul Heyman can be the on-screen GM.
I guarantee that SmackDown would become the higher rated show within 12 months.