Friday, January 25, 2013

Top Ten Cases: WWE 2012 Year-End Awards - Will the WWE Unify Titles and Officially End the Brand Extension?

My Pick:  No
My answer is “no,” but I hope I’m wrong.  I have been one of the most ardent defenders of the brand extension.  I honestly believe that guys like Eddie Guerrero and Edge and RVD and Booker T and JBL and Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan and CM Punk never would have gotten the opportunity to succeed that they received without the brand extension.  And plus, at its peak, the brand extension truly did present keep feuds fresh.  But ever since Triple H announced this “SuperShow” era, the brand extension has slowly but surely disintegrated.  And now it’s finally reached the point that keeping it going is doing more harm than good.  The World Heavyweight Championship – a title once proudly held and defended by guys like Edge, Batista, the Undertaker, and Triple H – has been so incredibly devalued that nobody even pretends to act like at its at the same level as the WWE Championship.

A few months ago I said that the brand extension exists in two ways:  Different titles and different General Managers.  Now, there are just different General Managers.  Officially, Raw’s titles are the WWE Championship and the United States Championship.  Smackdown’s titles are the World Heavyweight Championship and the Intercontinental Championship.  They share the Divas and Tag Team Championships.  Yet the current US Championship is a Smackdown guy.  And this year, two Raw guys (Kofi and Miz) held the Intercontinental Championship.  Additionally, last year then-Smackdown guy Daniel Bryan feuded with CM Punk for the WWE Championship.  And current Raw guy Dolph Ziggler has the Money in the Bank briefcase for the World Heavyweight Championship.  Big Show went from feuding for the WWE Championship over the summer, to winning the World Heavyweight Championship in October.  AJ, who was a Smackdown Diva, was named the General Manager of Raw.  A year or two ago you could name a wrestler and everyone would immediately know which brand they’re on.  Now, not so much.  Without looking, which brand is Sin Cara on?  How about Kaitlyn?  How about Primo and Epico?  The Usos?  Brodus Clay?  Zack Ryder?  Everyone appears on both shows and anybody can hold either title.  So why keep this thing going?

With all of that said, why don’t I think it will happen?  Quite simply, there have been more than a few logical ways to end it, and they chose not to do it.  How about when Johnny Ace became the General Manager of both shows?  Or when US Champion Antonio Cesaro began feuding with Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston?  Why not unify the titles then?  It just seems like something that would have happened by now if they had any plans to do it.

What You Said – No
I asked this same question back in my 2010 Year-End Awards, and 87.5% of the voters said “no.”  This year, despite the fact that the brand extension has never been less significant, that number raised slightly, to 89%.  While my rant above suggested that WWE should end the brand extension because it simply doesn’t exist anymore, in WWE’s eyes they probably believe they’re getting the best of both worlds.  In the marketing sense, the brand extension quite literally allows them to extend their brand.  “Raw” and “Smackdown” are more than just TV shows – they’re identities.  They’re able to present and market Smackdown as something more than a show on Friday night – it’s a roster full of Superstars and championships.  You can say “Smackdown” and think of names like Sheamus and Randy Orton.  You can say “Raw” and think of John Cena and CM Punk.  WWE ends the brand extension, and they lose that potentially powerful association.  And yet, with the SuperShow, they have none of the restrictions.  They want to bolster Smackdown’s ratings?  Let’s put CM Punk and the Rock on that show.  They want to get Alberto Del Rio vs. the Big Show more exposure?  Have them open Raw.  In their eyes, I’m sure WWE thinks they have nothing to gain and the potential to lose a lot.

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