I've been against WWE combining the rosters anytime it's been brought up in recent years. I'm softening that stance tonight.
What jumped out as me as a benefit of the Raw Supershow format is that the choices of opponents for the top Raw stars expand with the Smackdown wrestlers becoming available. The downside is it takes away from building up future novel "Dream Matches." That was one of the original reasons to do the brand split. Only problem is WWE wasn't very good about keeping top stars apart and building up those matches. So they're not really losing much since they weren't disciplined enough to take advantage of that benefit of the brand split.
The other benefit is they can tie Raw and Smackdown together on Monday and Tuesday night. This feels like a trial run for what might be permanent come fall - Raw and Smackdown live both nights, with the top storyline carrying over as a cliffhanger.
When Vince McMahon first enacted the brand split, he told me in an interview for the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter he wanted to give fans a reason to watch both shows, so by splitting the most popular stars a fan who wanted to see all of his favorites had to watch both shows. I think, looking at the rosters now, it's safe to say there just isn't enough established depth in terms of top tier draws to use that as a strategy for ratings. The downside is greater now, which is that neither show feels deep enough.
What is important, though, is for WWE to be disciplined in not featuring John Cena wrestling twice a week on both Raw and Smackdown most weeks. That is a huge downside as it just overexposes their top star. This week they want to make a splash so it makes sense for Cena to wrestle on both shows, but that's a crutch they shouldn't rely on for ratings every week if this Monday-Tuesday format becomes the norm.
The Raw main event featured wrestlers from both Smackdown and Raw. This gave WWE the flexibility to not give away some incarnation of Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio instead or some make-shift match of Cena vs. a Raw mid-carder. The list of options WWE has to feature name-brand wrestlers in TV main events expands greatly with access to all wrestlers.
So this feels like the right time to merge the rosters. They can always separate them again once they feel they have the roster depth at the top of the cards to do that. For now, though, with Raw's ratings last week below 3.0 and Monday Night Football around the corner, it makes sense to load up Raw.
The shows will still avoid feeling completely redundant as the second-tier wrestlers won't be booked on both shows most weeks. Cody Rhodes, for instance, wasn't on Raw tonight. Nor were Ted DiBiase, Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Jinder Mahal, Great Khali, and other Smackdown wrestlers. The brands might keep their identity as having some wrestlers who mainly get booked one one show or the other most often, but the very top stars who are relied on to draw ratings can be utilized both nights. And having the ability to carry over a cliffhanger from the end of Raw to Smackdown the next night is a tool too valuable at this point to leave in the tool box, especially if they end up on back to back nights.
-Hearing Jim Ross refer to the increased "star power" on Raw when Christian walked out is either a testament to Christian's rise since Edge retired or a spotlight on how weak the main event depth chart is. I'm a big fan of Christian's work, so this isn't a dig on him, but having his walking out on Raw being pointed out as an example of the increased star power on the show is something you wouldn't have imagined a year ago.
-I'm glad to see Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne get a team name. It's something WWE hasn't done much lately with tag teams, but it's good to do. It sends a message to fans the team is more than temporary happenstance, but two wrestlers committing to each other enough to come up with a name. Air Boom works, but it doesn't roll off the tongue. It's better than Kofievan Express, though!
-Kevin Nash looked more comfortable out there reading from bullet points rather than the word-for-word script he was asked to memorize two weeks ago. I'm curious how Nash reacts on Smackdown to being pulled from the match against C.M. Punk. I could see Nash ending up being used as Laurinaitis's bodyguard rather than a wrestler. I'm not sure how they would have made Nash vs. Punk work considering how little Nash has worked lately and at 52 years old, Punk would have to be as good as his t-shirt indicates to make that passable.
-Tonight marked the night at least one referee got his name back. Laurinaitis referred to Charles Robinson as "Charles." WWE had banned announcers from mentioning the names of referees on TVs last year. I wonder if that means Charles (Little Naitch) is headed toward an angle where he's Laurinaits's heel ref?
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