WWE made a huge announcement on Wednesday with the company moving its second weekly show, Smackdown, from airing on tape delay on Thursday nights to a live broadcast on Tuesday nights.
That news would be huge for WWE and its fans by itself. But along with that announcement came the reveal that WWE would also be bringing back the brand split that was the rule of the day for much of the early 2000s, turning Raw and Smackdown into their own distinct shows with unique rosters and storylines.
Here’s the revelation from WWE.com with the brand split to begin July 19th and a new WWE Draft on its way soon:
A SmackDown shakeup is about to completely reshape all of WWE. Beginning July 19, the second longest-running weekly episodic program in television history, SmackDown, will move from Thursday to Tuesday nights and air LIVE each and every week — for the first time ever — at 8/7 C on USA Network, the exclusive cable home to WWE’s marquee properties.
This bold move will have major ramifications for all of WWE and exemplify the New Era, as both Raw and SmackDown will each feature their own unique rosters and rivalries following an imminent Superstar draft.
“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV,” WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon said. “This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”
The original brand extension ran from 2002-2011 and began shortly after WWE incorporated WCW wrestlers into its fold after acquiring their biggest rival. There are still a number of questions to be answered like what happens to major WWE championships, whether wrestlers on both Raw and Smackdown will be making appearances for monthly pay-per-views, and whether the draft will be a yearly occurrence.
Regardless of some of those unknowns, this is great news for fans of WWE on a number of levels. First, the roster had gotten so large that many fan favorites and talented wrestlers (like Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, and Damien Sandow) were either released or decided to leave the company themselves because there was simply no television time for them. With two distinct shows now in place, it will provide a lot more opportunities for WWE’s massive roster.
Second, a brand split will go a long way in freshening up storylines and giving fans more options. WWE has tried to do that by pushing their “new era,” but a brand split makes that a reality instead of just lip service. Getting tired of booing Roman Reigns? All you have to do is watch the other brand.
Finally, it makes Smackdown appointment viewing for WWE fans. For far too long Smackdown has mainly served of a rehash of what happened on Raw or rematches of what happened on Raw. If any storylines were moved forward on Smackdown, it was either done on a very small scale or immediately proved inconsequential by the time the next Raw came around. That consistently shows in the ratings when Raw outrates Smackdown by a 3-2 margin. And by being taped, fans could easily access spoilers online to get caught up on what they might miss.
With a new roster, an identity all its own once again, and by going live, WWE will give an all new importance to Smackdown and make it a must-watch show once again.