WWE announced today that they’re making a fundamental change to their television schedule that will have wide-ranging ramifications on their product. Smackdown, which has aired on tape-delay Thursday or Friday nights since its inception in 1999 will be broadcast live Tuesdays on the USA Network starting on July 19.
In a press release announcing the move, NBC Universal WWE Chairman Vince McMahon said;
“WWE’s flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV. This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world.”
Furthermore, the press release says that Smackdown will feature a “distinct cast” from Raw. This statement, combined with a WWE-released hype video that heavily implies that one show will be in-story “run” by Stephanie McMahon and the other by her brother Shane McMahon has lead many to believe that the company is going to once again split it’s roster via a draft. The original Brand Split era ran from 2002 to roughly 2012 and saw talent annually drafted to Raw and Smackdown respectively. Said talent would exclusively appear on whichever program they were drafted to, though oftentimes major stars and initially the WWE Champions would appear on both shows. It is unclear however if the current shows would be separated as severely, or simply feature some exclusive performers.
My initial thoughts see this as a positive development. WWE’s talent roster is incredibly deep as is, and they’re hiring more and more skilled workers to NXT on a seemingly weekly basis. Having two somewhat separated rosters should give them the chance to develop more characters with less time constraint. I’m also hoping that Raw and Smackdown will once again be presented in completely distinct ways as they were during the Brand Split era.
Stay tuned to Salute’s wrestling coverage over the coming months as this move and its ramifications plays out.