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Guest TSMAdmin

The Brand Extension, 14 months on

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Guest TSMAdmin



Feedback from the A-Z of WWE Screw-ups was mostly good, although I must confess to writing it in about 30 minutes, along with Doctor G, so it wasn't my best work. I think I've more than made up for it tonight, though.


Chris Poirier says...


I tried making a list of

things WWE did right or things that are good in WWE, but it's damn hard. I really had to stretch for some, and I'm still missing some letters, but I thought maybe you'd like to check it out anyways.


A- Angle, Team. Bejamin and Haas have been performing like veterans in

their first year in the big leagues.

B- Brock Lesnar. Fact is, he looks like a huge star like they want him to.

C- Christian. Getting more air time and being the first "new" IC Champ

reeks of awesomeness!

D- Destroying. As in destroying wrestler's credibility, destroying the few

unique PPV's they had like KOTR and Survivor Series, etc. It IS something

WWE can do right for sure.

E- Entrances. Triple H may be a horrible wrestler, but he can spit water

better than anyone I've ever seen.


G- Girls of Raw. There's actually a somewhat competitive Women's division


H- Hype. Whether it lives up to the hype or not, WWE can usually hype up

something pretty good.

I- IC Title. Bringing has already made Raw almost worth watching.

J- John Cena. Consistently pumps out WACK rhymes, Yo. Awesome up and


K- Kurt Angle's comeback video. Really hyped me up for his return even



M-Music. You can't not mark out for the classic Ho- Mr America music, or

get under the underdog Spanky when his energetic music hits.

N- Non-stop good video packages.


P- Production. Compare a WWE show to a ROH show. Sure, ROH might be ten

times better, but WWE just LOOKS like a professional show.

Q- Quality of videos. Awesome videos.

R- Rock. Alright, missing half the time, but when he's on, he's usually

electrifying hence the Most Electrifying Man in sport's entertainment.

S- Sex. Maybe it's not an important part of wrestling, but Torrie, Trish,

and Dawn Marie are damn hot.

T- Tazz. Actually shows his knowledge of wrestling manouvers when

commentating, unlike most of the WWE commentators.


V- Videos. The WWE video producers are top-freakin-notch.

W- Wrestlemania. No matter what the quality of their other PPVs at the

time, WM is always a spectacle.



Z- ...Zany videos? K, so I had to use videos a few times, this list is like

making Nash look good in the ring, it's next to impossible.


Excellent work, Chris. It's telling that he found that so difficult, yet we breezed through the "screw-ups" list.


Some entries for the letter Q, that I couldn't fit in...


Quote the Raven, Nevermore - Danny Hehmann

Que? or "What?" - Jess Jones

Quest for Gold - John Cullen

Quick wrestlers - Timothy Byrne


My personal favourite, though is:


Queers - The Billy and Chuck saga which ended in

Stephane McMahon making out with Rikishi.


- Stephen "Shades of" Gray.


Rene Desjarlais came up with the same idea, as did Adam Crews




Okay, there were too many great entries to choose from this week, so here's a selection of my favourites:


"That's my wife's new playhouse!" -Matthew "Mattdotcom" Hardaway

"Do you think she's really only 14 Trish?"

- Stephen Gray

Hey its up again!

- "Scroby"

Trish - "All I want for Christmas is a restraining order."

- Michael Brooks

"Your Boy" came up with a caption so horrible that I don't want to upset people (although I loved it.) The punchline is "Wipe your bloody dick on her teddy bear."


As for something that WWE has managed to handle correctly from the start - The Rock came up most often, although I think his "Rocky Maivia" days should DQ him.


And thanks to the millions of people that passed on the Klez virus.




We’re now in month 14 of the roster split. On the first Raw after Wrestlemania X8, Vince and Ric Flair (co-owners, at this point) “picked teams” to split the entire WWF roster in half. 10 picks each were made live on Raw, and another 10 were picked post show, but I forget whether in kayfabe terms it was random or not. Everyone else did pretty much what they wanted.


One: The Draft


The first problem with the roster split (I’m calling it that as opposed to Brand Extension, since Vince seems to have given up calling it that too) was the draft.




It was, frankly, silly. Straight off there were problems – HHH couldn’t be drafted as he was then-champion. Jericho couldn’t, as he was in a title match later that night. Stone Cold was in the “off” part of his on-off relationship with WWE at this point, so he wasn’t draftable. They used a silly, vague excuse, that “”, instead of just saying “he’s having contract problems”, or being specific; “He has a clause in his contract guaranteeing he will always appear on Raw and Smackdown, which hasn’t yet been amended.” Simple. That took me all of 5 seconds to come up with, and isn’t too much of a stretch of believability.


So, the draft. Simple concept – the heel (Vince) wins the coin toss for first pick, and the two owners alternate until all 10 picks are made. How difficult can it be?

But of course, there are rules. The nWo are one unit and are drafted as such. Ditto on the Tag Team Champions (at this point, Billy and Chuck). All other tag teams are fair game to be split up though.


The opening picks are reasonable enough; Rock, Undertaker, Angle, nWo, Benoit, Kane, Hogan – Hogan was also hot at this point, just accept it.


Billy and Chuck were drafted to Smackdown, to give Vince McMahon the tag titles. RVD was taken to Raw, along with the Intercontinental Title (more on the titles later)


Then things got a little… surreal.


Mark Henry was en route to another aborted push (good way to spend a whole lotta money, Vince) and so he was drafted to Smackdown. Now, if any wrestling fan were to make a list of the top 20 wrestlers in WWE, I seriously doubt that Mark Henry would appear ANYWHERE on it. Ditto for Lita, Maven, Rikishi or the Dudley Boyz (as singles wrestlers, no less.)


Having a bunch of McMahon’s wet dream wrestlers picked might have been good for him – he shows the world that “Hey! We like Mark Henry – you should too!” But for everyone who has seen a million failed pushes for Henry in the past, it’s like saying “Hey! We don’t care – why should you?”


The draft itself was a series of 10 second segments throughout Raw (apart from the Rock’s 3 hour acceptance speech). There was no glitz or glamour, as we have come to expect with WWE.


Remember when Mick Foley was fired in January 2000 and The Rock brought out the whole roster to the ring to protest? It was a fantastic visual effect, and far more impactful than him just saying “everyone supports me”. Have the entire draft in one segment, and have special Raw and Smackdown! areas that drafted wrestlers go to. Make it seem important, and make the picks mean something.


Two: Keeping the shows apart


Because that’s the whole point of splitting the shows. So how well did WWE do keeping the shows apart?


Early on, there were problems. Wrestler A and Wrestler B weren’t doing anything on Raw, so they were available to feud. Except they were both faces. In comes the Quick Heel Turn. Or even worse, the Unexplained Jump From SmackDown. In the early days of the split, there was the intention of creating genuine competition between the shows, (something that continued into October-ish, with Stephanie and Bischoff, before they pretty much stopped mentioning each other) and so each of these jumps was meant to mean something. “Shit! Lance Storm is on Raw! He hasn’t been on Raw for like 4 weeks.” It just didn’t work. In the same way that it didn’t work at the Rumble, where Ross or Lawler was bleating on about how it was great to see Raw and SmackDown wrestlers fighting each other. Seriously, it’s not that big a deal.


As well as that, in the early days of one World Champion, the champion could float but the number one contender couldn’t. This posed a problem, since all the champion could do on the other show is talk about them. With no chance of a rebuttal, run-in or anything, it was rubbish. The short-term solution to this was “That’s the Undertaker – what the hell’s he doing here?” style run-ins. This was only a month or so after the split. It made the split look weak and undermined Flair and Vince as owners – and not as part of the storyline.


However, in all fairness, the jumps have all but stopped (I think Big Show and those that were traded for him were last, but I’m sure I’ll be corrected.) Having two world titles is a much better idea, although the lack of “respect” shown for the new (Raw) title can only harm the original, “real” (Smackdown) one.


However, I still think that all the wrestlers are still seen as WWE wrestlers, rather than Raw or SmackDown. This was shown by the RVD vs Chris Benoit InterPromotional(!) match, which mattered exactly fuck all.


With the introduction of split PPVs, we’ll see whether either roster is strong enough to carry itself. I think that Smackdown will have more problems, since nearly all the established Main Event wrestlers (except Undertaker) are on Raw.

Based on the Bad Blood card, it looks as though they are loading up on “star power” early on, and soon enough they’ll drop into meaningless matches to fill PPV time.

However, it is unfair to pass judgment on something that hasn’t happened, so we shall see.


Three: New faces will be pushed




Say that WWE has 6 people who could, at any time, main event. With the roster split, you are in effect doubling that number – since you need 6 people to main event Raw shows, and another 6 to main event on SmackDown.


In theory.


With the exception of Brock Lesnar, nobody who was in a World title match at a PPV from March 2002 – May 2003 was doing so for the first time, which is hardly a good sign. They’ve had a year to bring people up to the next level, and it just isn’t happening. Lesnar is only where he is because the Rock sold like a baby for him, Hogan put him over clean in his retirement match (one of them), and Taker finally put him over.


Raw is getting more main eventers from the past – Nash. Goldberg. HBK. Exactly what the roster split was intended to prevent.




It is impossible to say who would have gotten TV time without the split, but it seems that quite a lot of people are in a better position than they would have been. For example, Matt Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Edge; Hurricane (they sure capitalised on his heat); Eddie Guerrero and John Cena are all in a much better position than before.


But. If there’s a 10 minute gap on Raw that needs filling, then there’s no chance that Rey will be sent out to pop the crowds, because he is on SmackDown. This has never really been a problem, however. There’s always been a reasonable mix of “star power” and lower card workers on both shows, although the White Boy Challenge and featuring jobbers on SmackDown this week seems to show a change of pace in that respect.


Overall, there are still the same faces in the main events, and the same people getting pushed and pushed, with little regard to what the fans want, such as the Big Show’s continual push, compared with RVD’s continual demotion.


Four: Continuing with the split, improving where needed


Straight away, the split was deemed a failure. A combination of the pointless jumps, lack of singles titles on Smackdown and no tag titles on Raw (something I will discuss in detail soon) caused a general online feeling of “kill it now”.


The WWF were in a Catch 22 situation – carry on and look like they hadn’t fully prepared for the split, or stop it dead like every other bad idea (like they had already done with the InVasion, and would go on to do with the nWo)


To their credit, they stuck with the split and attempted to improve on the problems that had not been originally thought of.


The result was all the “jumping” of wrestlers, to create more balanced rosters.


A problem that Vince had not foreseen was Stone Cold Steve Austin. Just a short while after the initial draft (where he was having another “contract dispute,”) Stone Cold took his ball and went home. Actually, that’s a silly analogy, because taking his ball means that nobody else can carry on playing. All he did was go home.


This threw all of the plans for Raw out of the window (they’d just started a “Ric Flair is Austin’s personal assistant” angle.) As a result, they had to hotshot the end of the Flair / McMahon rivalry. Vince beat Flair, and took control of both shows. He decided that he would continue with the split and appoint General Managers (GMs) to run each show. Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon (coming just months after she would “never be on TV again”, and less than a year after she tried to kill WWE with WCW (although Vince McMahon had tried to kill WWE that year, as well, so maybe it evens out. Confused?!))


Were they an improvement over Flair and McMahon?


Bischoff vs Flair


Eric Bischoff is a BRILLIANT heel. He is worryingly convincing with his creepyness, and he acts the asshole perfectly. Having him on Raw has been a joy to watch, and he has managed to avoid being the #1 heel by putting himself over others – in fact, he has been booked to look a little bit useless, while still being able to be a heel owner that hates everyone, and can do something about it. The only downside is the irritating “Chief of Staff” Morley, who is unconvincing in his role, and doesn’t have set powers – in his feud with the Dudleyz, he was capable of making any match he wanted, but he couldn’t strip titles. Thankfully, Morley was fired, and came back briefly as Val, and without any power.


Ric Flair was fairly generic as an authority figure. To be totally honest, I don’t remember a lot that he did other than drafting the Undertaker to piss him off. Flair is an excellent promo guy, one of the best that I’ve ever seen, BUT I believe that he is much superior at putting over his feelings than having to act out a scene. This meant he didn’t really suit the “acting heavy” role of GM.


Stephanie McMahon vs Vince McMahon


Stephanie is a wishy-washy character. By this I mean that she’s not a strong figurehead, which is what authority figures really need to be. To be a good boss in the real world, people have to respect you or fear you, something that needs to be carried over into the wrestling world. Austin vs McMahon threw this totally out of the window, which was one of the reasons that it worked so well.


Stephanie cannot carry this off. She’s just… there. She’s a convenient way of making matches; she’s a lazy booker’s dream – For example, instead of the triple threat tag team match (Team Angle / Los Guerreros / Benoit and Rhyno) at Wrestlemania coming about naturally, and having one team challenge the others, Stephanie conveniently bumped into Team Angle backstage and made the match.


Other than the occasional match-making, she does very little, and comes off weak because of this.




Vince is a much stronger person, and despite the awful facial expressions, is a much better actor. He can carry a storyline well, and the fans hold him in higher regard. This makes for much better segments. However, he has a tendency to book himself as the centre of everything – think Hulk Hogan – and can be overbearing. Ideally, the GM should be someone in the middle.


Steve Austin vs Not having Co-GMs


Austin was brought back into a managerial role by “Electric” Linda McMahon, to work alongside Eric Bischoff. There are some cool situations that can be had by having them trying to “co-exist” (as J.R constantly says,) but at the end of the day all they can do is “Bischoff does something unpopular, and Austin overrules it” and “Austin does something popular, and Bischoff overrules it.” And that can’t last for too long.


Overall, they made a good decision in replacing Flair, but the contrived storyline gaps involved with bringing Stephanie back are ridiculous. Still – nobody remembers the past, except when it is convenient, so it’s not like it matters.


Five: The title belt situation




At the time of the draft, there were the following belts / champions in WWE:


WWE Title held by HHH (not drafted)

Intercontinental title held by Rob Van Dam (Raw)

European title held by William Regal (Raw)

Hardcore title held by Maven (Smackdown)

Women’s title held by Jazz (Raw)

Cruiserweight title held by… who knows (Smackdown, I presume)

Tag team titles held by Chuck and Billy (Smackdown)


The WWE Title, and champion were able to “float” between the two shows, appearing when they wanted. The WWE Title could be competed for by anyone on either brand.


Rob Van Dam was drafted to Raw, and on the draft show, Angle challenged him to a match for the title to bring it to SmackDown. Angle lost, so the IC title went to Raw.


Maven lost his hardcore title to Raw wrestler Raven on the SmackDown after the draft (while the draft had taken place at this point, the roster split would not start “officially” until the following Monday.) This meant another singles title went over to Raw.


William Regal was drafted to Raw, putting a third singles title there.


Jazz also went to Raw, in the off-screen picks that occurred after Raw.


This left the tag team and Cruiserweight titles as the only ones that could be fought for exclusively on SmackDown, leading to a huge inequality. While the WWE title could be competed for on SmackDown!, this left a lot of wrestlers with nothing to do – i.e. pretty much everyone who isn’t Kurt Angle, the Rock, or less than 225 pounds.


This inequality was never mentioned again, and there were no attempts to move the singles belts from show to show. Eventually, the then-tag champions, the “Un-Americans” jumped from SmackDown to Raw taking the tag titles across. This left SmackDown with only the restricted entry Cruiserweight title.


SummerSlam came, and Brock Lesnar (a Raw talent) won the WWE World Title from the Rock. The next night on Raw, it was announced that he’d signed an exclusive contract with SmackDown and would no longer be appearing on Raw, making the WWE title a SmackDown exclusive.


On the same show, Tommy Dreamer (hardcore champion) fought Rob Van Dam in a hardcore match to unify the Intercontinental and Hardcore titles. Prior to this, the Intercontinental title had been merged with the European one via a Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy ladder match, leaving the IC title as the only singles belt on Raw.


A couple of weeks later, General Manager Bischoff resurrected the old WCW World Title, renamed it to The World Title, and awarded it to HHH. This was a very controversial decision, and there has been much debate about the legitimacy of the belt.


Most of the negativity towards the title is because it has no lineage; no history. It was just arbitrarily awarded to HHH – he didn’t earn it, so why should it be respected?


It could, on the other hand, be argued that it is important for both brands to have a World Champion – someone who is the top of their respective brand. Raw and SmackDown are two separate wrestling federations, which was one of the main reasons for the roster split, and indeed is where the name “brand extension” comes from (Raw was once just a TV show; now it is a full wrestling federation.)


The World Title (dubbed the “Fake World Title” by some) was never going to have the same legitimacy as the Real (SmackDown!) world title. It needed a strong champion to make it seem legitimate, and leaving all “HHHating” at the door, Triple H has not been able to do that.


Possibly Vince sensed this, or perhaps it was a panic measure, but the Intercontinental Title was merged with the World Title, in another move that many criticised. Their reasoning was that the IC title had a huge lineage, dating back to Pat Patterson (who was just awarded it) in 1979.


The Intercontinental Title, however, had been cheapened greatly over the years. In its last two years of existence, it was held by such wrestling legends as William Regal, Test, Albert and Jeff Hardy. Sure, it was also held by Benoit, Jericho and RVD, but the reigns by wrestlers that shouldn’t be near the #2 title in WWE, served to hold the title back. I think that killing the title was a mercy killing – a way of allowing them to “start over” with a new title; one without a rubbish history. Of course, they managed to screw it up by having the new title’s history tainted by HHH’s extended, and largely horrible reign, but what can you do?


Bringing back the InterContinental title last month serves to prove a point I made a couple of weeks ago about nostalgia: The title got a “we remember you” pop, but let’s be honest – it was a crap title. Still, I’ll give it a fair chance second time round.


SmackDown gained its own set of tag titles, which were fought for in a tag tournament, the final of which (Edge / Rey Mysterio vs Angle / Benoit) was arguably the match of the year. A series of strong tag team matches have resulted in this division since the creation.




The existence of the SmackDown! tag titles makes me think that people aren’t opposed to new titles in WWE, depending on how they are handled. The SmackDown! tag titles had a series of great matches, and a strong division. The Raw World title has had a “flavour of the month” step up and get beaten down by Triple H constantly since he won it (not counting his best friend Shawn, who he traded wins with.)


Six – Splitting Pay Per Views


On a personal note here, one of the things that Smarks tend to do is to judge things that haven’t happened yet. For example, “Then [HHH will] drop the title to his OTHER best buddy (nash)” was said long before they started feuding.


It’s silly, so I’m trying to avoid it here. But WWE is (quietly) splitting the PPVs between Raw and SmackDown, starting with the former King of the Ring, now to be renamed “Bad Blood”. This is a PPV exclusively featuring Raw wrestlers, and from then on the PPVs will alternate between brands.


Assuming that all PPVs are 8 matches long, this means that each show will have to build up 8 feuds per PPVs, rather than 4. In theory, this is fine; they have two months to build for each PPV, rather than just one. However, there is a problem – the “Big 4” PPVs (Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series) will be dual brand.


To illustrate:


JANUARY - Royal Rumble – Dual Brand

FEBRUARY - No Way Out - SmackDown

MARCH – Wrestlemania – Dual Brand

APRIL – Backlash - Raw

MAY - Judgement Day - SmackDown

JUNE - Bad Blood - Raw

JULY – Vengeance - SmackDown

AUGUST – Summerslam – Dual Brand

SEPTEMBER – Unforgiven - Raw

OCTOBER – No Mercy - SmackDown

NOVEMBER – Survivor Series – Dual Brand

DECEMBER – Armageddon – Raw


Based on this, there is the following amount of build up per show:


Royal Rumble – Half a PPV each – Raw, one month – SmackDown, two months


No Way Out – Full PPV – SmackDown, one month


Wrestlemania – Half a PPV each – Raw, two months – SmackDown, one month


Backlash – Full PPV – Raw, one month


Judgment Day – Full PPV – SmackDown, two months


Bad Blood – Full PPV – Raw, two months


Vengeance – Full PPV – SmackDown, two months


Summerslam – Half a PPV each – Raw, two months – SmackDown, one month


Unforgiven – Full PPV – Raw, one month


No Mercy – Full PPV – SmackDown, two months


Survivor Series – Half a PPV each – Raw, two months – SmackDown, one month


Armageddon – Full PPV – Raw, one month





4 single brand PPVs, three with one month build up, one with two months.

4 dual brand PPVs, one with one month build up, three with two months.



4 single brand PPVs, one with one month build up, three with two months.

4 dual brand PPVs, three with one month build up, one with two months.


This shows the inequalities between the two brands. Raw is expected to produce a full PPV in a month, when currently it is struggling to come up with good matches for HALF a PPV.


From January through to March, SmackDown is on PPV EVERY month. Isn’t this exactly what the PPV Split is intended to avoid? The major problem is that Vince still wants the huge buyrates on the “big” PPVs (although Survivor Series, and to a lesser extent SummerSlam are becoming nothing special.)


With the rosters split as they are, there’s going to be more repetition of PPV matches. With SmackDown having to put on three PPVs in a row, it’s very likely that we’ll see something like the same match, or variations thereof three times in a row.


But... we’ll have to wait and see.






This week's caption competition is above - you know the drill by now. E-mail your caption to me at the address below, as well as any thoughts about this column.


If there's any issue in WWE that you would like me to cover, just drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.


Don't forget to check out all the great material at thesmartmarks.com, including Patrick Spoon and JHawk's Raw and SmackDown reports, as well as whatever crap Tony Jaymz is running out.


I'll be back next week, definitely with some thoughts about the death of King of the Ring, as well as my Bad Blood predictions. Ironically, my prediction of the show's quality is the first word of the title...



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