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Tom Dean




Ah, the brand extension formerly known as a split. A retarded idea? Probably. Doubling your payroll at a time when business is plummeting is just exceedingly dumb. It's not gonna work unless you recapture the old WCW fans, and it sure looks like they're gone. I would rather see the World's Best Wrestling Show put on with the World's Most Exclusive Roster. That would both be better television, and smarter business.

That's pretty much what I wrote a few weeks ago. And it's still pretty much what I believe. But, it's done now. And the increased payroll can indirectly improve revenues... IF it leads to the creation of more stars and hotter angles... and IF that in turn leads to more money being made.

If that happens, how will it happen? Let's look at how they're likely to book things.

Upper Card: (Austin?), Undertaker, nWo, Kane, RVD
Midcard: Booker, Big Show, Regal, Hardyz/Lita, Lesnar, Bradshaw, Buh Buh Ray
Hardcore: Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Steven Richards, Goldust, Crash
Women's: Trish, Molly, Terri, Jackie
Curtain Jerkers: Perfect, D'Lo, Stasiak, Justin Credible, Boss Man

Upper Card: Rock, Angle, Hogan, Jericho
Midcard: Benoit, Edge, Rikishi, Test, Billy & Chuck, D-Von, Lance Storm, Mark Henry (??), Maven, Faarooq
Women's: Ivory, Stacy, Torrie
Curtain Jerkers: Kidman, Tajiri, Hurricane, Scotty 2 Hotty, Albert, Al Snow, DDP, Christian, Hardcore Holly, Valbowski, Saturn, Tazz

When you break it down this way, it almost starts to seem like RAW is the grab bag show. Wanna re-live ECW? Then watch RAW; it's got RVD, Raven, Dreamer, Richards, Justin Credible, and Heyman (via Lesnar). [Tazz is the only crucial omission; one presumes he'll be announcing Smackdown.] Wanna see "meat-slapping mastodons", as Al Snow would say? Then watch RAW; it's got Taker, the nWo, Kane, Show, and Bradshaw. Wanna see the women go at it? Then watch RAW; three of the four women are quality wrestlers. Wanna see a bunch of matches in a row with a similar, middle-of-the-road style? Ummm.... RAW hasn't got a hell of a lot for you there. You'll have to watch Smackdown for that.

Certainly, RAW ain't the "workrate show". The cruiserweights are on Smackdown, and honestly, no one on RAW as of this moment is a consistently amazing worker. It ain't the "WCW show", either. I mean, it's probably got a couple more "big stars primarily associated with WCW" than Smackdown does, but it's not a very large difference.

It seems to me that Smackdown is now the show that is presenting what we think of as the "WWF style", and the (slight) majority of its top stars. If that's right, then I think it's fair to say that Smackdown is now the flagship show. Which is weird. But makes sense. More people watch it, after all.

Okay, so, whatever. Smackdown is the "meat & potatoes WWF show", RAW is the "everything else" show. Do we care? Will all this, in fact, lead to new stars and better angles?

Well, if you're Kane, for instance, you're probably thrilled right about now. You're a lot closer to the top of the card now, and you were set up on Monday to feud with the nWo, which is a natural feud based on size. If you're Booker T, you're significantly happier. You're still in the midcard, but now you're an injury away from headlining. If you're Christian or D'Lo Brown... are you really that happy? Maybe a little bit. I mean, your chance of being on TV at all is better. But let's face it... at the end of the day, you're still a curtain jerker. Unless they do a good job of making the lower-card angles interesting -- which hasn't happened for a long, long time -- it's not going to really matter.

If RAW ends up being all about Austin-Taker, and Smackdown ends up being all about Rock-Angle... then this all will have accomplished very little. And that has been the type of stagnancy that has been lingering for a very long time now. It's been proven time and time again... just because the WWF is in a position to make new stars doesn't mean they will actually do it. The "WCW/ECW invasion" ended up being Rock vs. Austin. That's the issue. The "brand extension" only affects that if they want it to.

Hey, didn't they imply several times that they were going to draft the announcers? And, what happens when HHH and Jazz lose the belts? Maybe they can't... maybe HHH finally figured out a way to keep the belt FOREVER. HAHAHAHAHA IT'S SMARK HUMOR

Tom Dean
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