I would classify the WWE Brand Split as enormously successful.
I don’t think I’m alone in that.
At no time in wrestling history has one company had as much talent under contract as the WWE does today. I’d say that the company is blessed with an even deeper roster than when the initial brand split was launched in 2002.
Back then there was no NXT, no 205 Live and certainly not a women’s division on the scale of what we have today.
In fact, compared to today’s product that roster is downright antiquated.
Did you ever think you’d find yourself living in a universe where former indie darlings like AJ Styles and Kevin Owens held the top WWE titles? How about one where the WWE didn’t just create a cruiserweight division, but signed some of the best talent in the world to be a part of it and gave it it’s own weekly series? Or how about WWE pushing women not as T&A but as real athletes with real personalities and real high stakes matches on par with anything you’d see from their male counterparts?
This is the reality of WWE today.
I can honestly say that I never in my wildest dreams imagined that the WWE would be this deep and offer something to every type of wrestling fans. You’ve got hosses like Braun Stroman, you’ve got one of the best workers on the planet in AJ Styles, you have the most entertaining storyline in a very long time the Chris Jericho/Kevin Owens “Best Friends” deal, you’ve got Jack Gallagher and Rich Swann showing up an international television, as a wrestling fan you literally have it all over two distinct rosters (and a third in NXT) with more time to cultivate storylines, characters and really spend more time developing the talent.
Unfortunately even with the opportunities of the brand split, there are still some talent being lost in the shuffle for a variety of reasons. Even with the unique rosters, there is only so much TV time for everybody, creative can only focus on so many stories and some talent just gets lost in the shuffle.
Even worse, some wrestlers, through no fault of their own, are back into storyline corners that would be hard to get out from without freshening things up.
Luckily there’s an easy solution. Send them to the other brand. It gives the opportunity for new feuds, new character directions, and just a fresh start all around.
So in watching the product and given that the brands usually do a bit of swapping post-WrestleMania, here are some talent that I think can benefit from a new home.
Dana Brooke is currently stuck in a tough role for any wrestler to come out from: the body guard/sidekick. Trust me wrestling history is riddled with more Mr. Hughes stories than Diesel break outs.
Not that being Mr. Hughes is a sad thing. Dude got to wear formal wear to the ring and probably made himself a nice bit of cash. If he wasn’t working and just doing his bodyguard schtick he didn’t even have to change before he hit the bar after the show.
But Dana Brooke is not Mr. Hughes.
I think she deserves the chance to be put in a position to break out on her own. She’s got a legitimate gymnastics and fitness modelling background and anyone who’s seen “Breaking Ground” (which is you haven’t seen you really need to as it’s a great look at the WWE Performance Centre and NXT and it’s narrated by WILLIAM SHATNER) has seen how dedicated Brooke is to continuing to develop her skills in the ring.
Brooke also has something that you can’t teach and can’t really develop and that’s natural charisma. Her facial expressions, physique and mannerisms are naturally allow her to come across as very heelish. Heck even her often grating speaking voice is perfect heel material. It’s really easy for her to get a reaction from the crowd. All she has to do is speak and there it is.
Unfortunately for Dana’s prospects she’s currently stuck under the biggest heel in women’s wrestling in Charlotte Flair.
Flair is firmly entrenched as the heel champ in Raw’s women’s division and is currently embroiled in a feud with Bayley, who is probably the most natural face I’ve ever seen in pro wrestling. It looks like the two are going to remain battling over the belt until WrestleMania, likely with Dana continuing to be in Charlotte’s corner.
Now there’s a lot of ways you can go with Dana Brooke and Charlotte following WrestleMania but they’d all hurt Brooke in the long run.
You can have Dana turn on Charlotte to turn Flair face, but Brooke hasn’t been established enough for that kind of feud and the women’s division has reached such heights that you really have to have had an opportunity to hone your craft and your character before taking a shot at the title over a long program. Also, Charlotte is currently far ahead of Brooke in promo ability and in-ring work, which would only cause her to outshine Dana and really damage her in the long term.
I don’t think a face turn for Dana is such a great idea either because it’s so obvious she can excel and develop quicker in a heel role. She really has all the natural attributes to be a killer heel and really is only lacking the right feud and storyline to put it all together.
Having them just sort of organically drift apart doesn’t do Dana Brooke any favours either.
Sending her to Smackdown would do wonders for her. It allows Dana to really come into her own as a character and work with a fresh set of opponents like Becky Lynch or Nikki Bella or the incoming Mickie James who’ve got a lot of experience in the business and can only help provide Brooke with a lot of credibility and development both as a character and in the ring.
Doing a bit of fantasy booking down the line, if the WWE ever wanted to turn Alexa Bliss face, Dana Brooke would be the ultimate opponent to pull that off with as she couldn’t come across as anything but a bully with her Beth Phoenix-like physique stalking the diminutive 5 foot tall Bliss would be a visual that could only garner sympathy for Bliss and generate a ton of heat for Brooke.
Smackdown also seems more willing to juggle multiple women’s storylines than Raw. The concurrent Alexa Bliss-Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella-Natalya feuds along with wherever they’re headed with Carmella are testament to that.
Dana Brooke would thrive on Smackdown.
Anderson and Gallows
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows came into WWE as red hot free agents this past April.
Largely due to their Bullet Club ties and their New Japan credibility, it was thought that they would tear up the tag team division and maybe even form a WWE version of the Bullet Club with AJ Styles.
The WWE-ized “Club” was formed and all but lasted all of two months via storyline stops and starts before AJ Styles was drafted to Smackdown and Gallows and Anderson remained on Raw.
Since then they’ve been listless. They were locked in a seemingly never-ending feud with New Day over the tag team titles that was never going to result in them winning the belts because WWE had it out for a tag team that hadn’t even been in the company since 1991.
That’s right the WWE refused to pull the trigger on a Gallows and Anderson tag team title win because they needed New Day to break Demolition’s record of 478 days as tag team champions. This honour wasn’t bestowed on the New Day to elevate them so much as it was to attempt to erase Demolition from the history books as Ax and Smash are currently involved in a concussion lawsuit against WWE.
With petty politics like that preventing them from holding the tag titles, there was really little chance for the two to do anything to really gain any momentum in the company. In fact, when it was time for WWE to finally change the titles in December it was the makeshift team of Sheamus and Ceasro who claimed them. Not Gallows and Anderson.
Gallows and Anderson are a perfect example of what happens when the company fails to maintain momentum after a hot debut.
These two came to WWE as hot free agents and a lot of buzz and even on-air announce teams were acknowledging the duos accomplishments in Japan and they were immediately interacting with top talent like John Cena and Roman Reigns. Except that they were constantly coming up on the losing end of those interactions.
Gallows and Anderson need to get onto Smackdown as soon as possible. There are way more opportunities awaiting the duo there.
From a storyline sense, a reunion with AJ Styles and a new Club storyline would add some intrigue to the top level programs on the blue brand for a while. It would allow Gallows and Anderson to renew acquaintances with John Cena and Dean Ambrose and work to re-establish themselves as top level players in WWE.
Additionally, Smackdown’s tag division is being booked way better than Raw’s which has been stuck in neutral while they got the New Day record out of the way while Smackdown was cooking with fire with an unlikely Rhyno-Heath Slater pairing, an intriguing foray by the Wyatt Family (now with Randy Orton) in the tag team division and the coronation of American Alpha as the Smackdown tag team champions.
Can you imagine how amazing a Gallows and Anderson vs. American Alpha program would be from a work rate perspective? It would be immensely beneficial to both teams as well. Luke and Karl get a hot program while Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, who are undoubtedly going to be future cornerstones of the company, get to learn from two seasoned veterans.
Really I could have saved a lot of time writing by telling you we can get that feud just by moving Gallows and Anderson to Smackdown.
When WWE announced its cruiserweight classic and recruited top talent like Kota Ibushi, Zach Sabre Jr, Gran Metalik, Rich Swann, and Jack Gallgher to participate, it was assumed that some current WWE talent would also participate and some did as Rich Swann, Johnny Garagano and Tommasso Ciampa who had all done work for NXT at that point were included in the tournament. Even Performance Centre trainer, The Brian Kendrick was brought out of retirement to be part of the proceedings.
The tournament was awesome it was a rousing success that lead to the launch of the cruiserweight division on Raw and even spin off show in November on the WWE Network in the form on 205 Live.
A newly heeled Neville would even return from injury before the end of 2016 to join the division. After being listless on Raw for so long, it was great to see the former NXT champion back in a meaningful role and gunning for the Cruiserweight title. It did both the talent and the division a huge favour doing this storyline.
Throughout the entire growth and development of the Cruiserweight division, nobody though to ask: what about Kalisto?
And really what about Kalisto. Dude has been killing it in the higher profile stuff he’s been given. He had a great feuds with the now-departed Alberto Del Rio and similarly gone Ryback over the US title before dropping the strap to Rusvev. All were very compelling David vs. Goliath type feuds.
He was then fed to Baron Corbin in a fairly compelling David vs. Goliath feud.
Really Kalisto has been stuck in David vs. Goliath mode since splitting from Sin Cara Not that it’s a bad place to be as it’s given him meaningful feuds and he’s a great worker and can pull them off, but a new and better opportunity awaits Kalisto.
Neville is going to win the Cruiserweight belt. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. He’s come back with a red hot heel character and deserves the title. But there’s really nobody in the division who’s been built up as being at his level and can really be a credible challenger to him once the title change happens given that’s been stomping a mud hole in the entire division and walking it dry (all credit to the great Jim Ross).
Enter Kalisto. He’s got the credibility. He’s got the singles success and he’s got all the tools to have a compelling program with Neville.
Moving Kalisto to Raw and therefore the cruiserweight division seems like a no-brainer to me.
Now this is one that’s probably going to be a head scratcher to most of you.
Baron Corbin is about to face off with John Cena and has been in relatively high profile feuds with Dolph Ziggler and Kalisto. He seems to be well on his way to being involved in the Smackdown main event scene.
But there is a definite ceiling for Corbin.
Even if he beats Cena, it will probably be due to AJ Styles interference. I really don’t think that they’re going to pull the trigger on a Corbin title run in any meaningful way largely due to the incredible AJ Styles run, the need to have John Cena break Ric Flair’s record and a potential Cena vs. The Undertaker WrestleMania match that doesn’t necessarily need to involve the title, it be even more meaningful if Cena has to go through the Taker to catch or break Flair’s record depending on the way things work out.
Though I do believe Corbin will become a main eventer eventually regardless of what brand he is on, the main reason I want him to jump to Raw has more to do with a potential feud that I think would really cement him as a top guy and premiere heel in the business.
I firmly and squarely believe there is one man that Baron Corbin was put on this earth to feud with: Roman Reigns.
It makes perfect sense in a lot of ways.
Roman Reigns is still getting dumped on by a large percentage of the WWE fanbase. Most times his opponents become de facto faces against him. Kevin Owen, Chris Jericho, even Rusev have enjoyed way more cheers than jeers when going against Reigns.
Nobody will cheer Baron Corbin against Reigns. He might be one of the only wrestlers in the company that is true for. At least the only one who can conceivably go toe-to-toe with Vince McMahon’s chosen one.
Corbin just has a natural smugness that makes him a great heel, but not a cool heel in the sense that he’s go great at it that you secretly want to cheer him, but a real fucking hateful son of a bitch that you want to see get his. When Scott Hall points what at an asshole you are (again watch the excellent “Breaking Ground”), you’re probably never turning face in the wrestling business.
It’s just the fact that Corbin can generate much needed face pops for Roman. The two are both big men and the visual of them going against each other will only help Reigns who is too often saddled with smaller opponents even though he is supposed to be the biggest babyface in the company.
Reigns has also developed so much as a worker. To the point where Corbin can’t help from benefit from the awesome hoss fights that these two could potentially have.
Baron Corbin vs. Roman Reigns is the feud you’ve always wanted but never knew you did.
Even after Reigns, Corbin can get some intriguing match-ups out of Seth Rollins and Finn Balor that would help cement those two as massive faces against one of the most pure heels in the entire company.
I can even see a Baron Corbin vs. Big Cass feud when the time is right.
It’s really a move that can’t help but draw money.
The New Day are inevitably going to split.
As much as it is going to suck when it happens and as much as we are all going to hate it, it’s coming. How it happens it up to the WWE.
Much like the Dana Brooke/Charlotte Flair scenario, I’d rather see New Day split up through the draft and simply drift apart over engaging in a full-blown feud with each other. It’s probably just my own personal love of New Day that is motivating that desire than anything else, but I also think it would be hard to really chose what member of the New Day to push over the other three.
In this scenario, you can leave Xavier Woods on Raw and potentially give him some time in the Cruiserweight scenario while Kofi Kingston can carve out a nice mid-card role for himself once again as he rides out his late 30s.
Big E on the other hand can break out as a heavyweight. He enjoyed lengthy runs with both the intercontinental title and the NXT championship. In fact, there is a longstanding rumour that the superface push ultimately given to Roman Reigns was at one point considered for the the young former power lifting champion.
I have no doubt that Big E could hit those heights if given the opportunity. He has a new unique look due to his power lifting background and has an extremely versatile in-ring move set that shows off his incredible strength and agility which would allow him to work with a wide range of opponents.
I could see a nice midcard feud with The Miz and even some main event work with AJ Styles on the blue brand.
Smackdown seems like a better place for Big E to launch a big face push with the top face spots on Raw firmly locked up by Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and, upon his return, Finn Balor while on Smackdown John Cena is working part-time and Dean Ambrose seems more that willing to shift between midcard and main event feuds as evidenced by his current position as Intercontinental champion.
I really think Big E could rise to the occasion if given a major push and I sincerely believe that the blue brand is the better show to launch him into the stratosphere.
What do you do once you’ve come up short in the greatest women’s wrestling feud of all time up to this point?
That’s the question facing Sasha Banks right now.
The Boss lost to Charlotte Flair in honestly extremely heartbreaking fashion in an Iron Man match at Roadblock in December and really after an almost year long feud over the women’s title there is nowhere for Sasha to go on the Raw roster but down.
And down she’s gone into a feud with Nia Jax, which really isn’t a good idea for either woman as Nia needs wins to stay strong and Sasha should in no way, shape or form be jobbing to Jax at this point. She’s already got an uphill battle for her character to recover losing the feud to Charlotte and there is way too much money left in Sasha Banks for her to be used as an stepping stone for Nia Jax.
Although Sasha Banks is honestly much better as a heel than a face, I don’t see that scenario playing out for her on Raw either. The Charlotte-Bayley feud is pretty much etched is stone until at least WrestleMania with the obligatory return bouts to follow. In fact, it could drag out until even SummerSlam given the way the Raw brand likes to stretch things out.
That is far too long a time for Sasha to be treading water in what is honestly a pretty thin women’s division on Raw. That is no position for The Boss to be in.
Moving Sasha Banks to Smackdown offers intriguing scenarios that will help keep her strong in a women’s division that is really being crafted really well on Tuesday nights. A Banks vs. Alexa Bliss title feud seems to have money written all over it. She can also go up against Natalya in what would feel like a really fresh feud given that the two have not really crossed paths for quite some time (during the lamentable Team BAD phase of Sasha’s career).
However a heel Boss offers up way more intriguing possibilities. Imagine a Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch feud. Or even Sasha Banks vs. Nikki Bella which really would have money written all over it given the large fanbases that both women enjoy.
I’m a huge mark for Sasha Banks. I absolutely don’t want to see her put in a scenario where she can’t succeed. Moving her over to Smackdown keeps her relevant, strong and gives her fresh match-ups for years to come.
Smackdown is far more willing to juggle multiple women storylines where Raw seems to have just laser focus on Charlotte Flair in whatever feud she’s got going on.
Honestly if it were up to me the entire women’s division would probably just move to Smackdown, but in the meantime, I’d settle for The Boss being allowed to live up to her full potential.
There you have it. I thought I’d go a little left field and leave off some of the more obvious and popular choices for a brand switch.
Particularly Sami Zayn.
In his case, I’m trusting that there’s a larger storyline beyond Braun Stroman to play out between him and Mick Foley. Also, there has to be some redemption coming for Zayn in that storyline and it really needs to come on Monday nights as that’s the show where he’s been punked out one time too often by Braun, Kevin Owens and even Stephanie McMahon.
I believe WWE sees the potential there.
There were also some minor players I thought about flipping around some other players like Naomi, Heath Slater or even Mojo Rawley to Raw but thought that would be a bit too nitpicky at this point.
The biggest shake-up I thought about but didn’t pull the trigger on was Nikki Bella to Raw to feud with Charlotte, but as I said, I can envision a scenario where Smackdown gets the women’s division considering they book it much better and Raw seems to want to focus only on one women’s feud at a time for the most part – usually the one involving Charlotte Flair.
This is definitely a column that I will follow up on from time to time as the brand split continues. Maybe even working in some NXT talent.
As always your feedback is appreciated.