WWE’s Brand vs. Brand Saga Falls Flat

Why do wrestlers from RAW, Smackdown and NXT suddenly dislike each other?

Barely one month ago, WWE separated its rosters with a draft. Ahead of the move to FOX for SmackDown Live, the company wanted to refresh its rosters and make sure that the splits were more permanent, now with RAW and SmackDown on different networks with separate rights fees being paid by FOX and NBC Universal.

And yet here we are, hardly one month later, and roster members are spread across each other’s shows as the company heads towards its annual Survivor Series pay-per-view this Sunday. 

Cutting WWE some slack, if they insist that the shows battle for “brand supremacy” at Survivor Series every year, then it’s pretty much a necessity to book talents across all three shows (now including NXT).

What’s odd about this year’s Survivor Series is that WWE is trying to get its audience to believe these wrestlers are heavily invested in their brands, despite only being on their respective shows for a few weeks.

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Why do these wrestlers have a sudden loyalty to their show? Especially the ones that just recently moved. Why do wrestlers, who compete against each other all year for World Titles on their brands, suddenly come together as teammates to fight the other brands in the company? Again, there isn’t a lot of logic behind it all.

Last night’s RAW is a prime example.

To close the show — and a few times throughout the broadcast — wrestlers in red shirts, blue shirts, and black shirts brawled throughout TD Garden in Boston. The crowd — and this is typically a hot market for WWE — was almost silent. There’s no heat in this angle. 

This happens year after year. It’s hard to get fans invested in a “show vs. show” angle when there are heels and babyfaces spliced throughout the teams. Are there RAW fans and SmackDown fans? WWE hopes there are WWE fans. 

Why would you want a fan rooting for one program over another? Marvel might have produced a Civil War film, but Iron Man and Captain America each were following their code, and the conflict wasn’t presented in a way that intended to split the audience. And even if it did, there was a larger story arc at play, and the characters came together to close that arc in the final films.

WWE isn’t that intelligent in its storytelling. Survivor Series will happen this weekend, and then everything that has built to it will be dropped, and the wrestlers will go back to angles contained within their programs.

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The brand vs. brand concept doesn’t work. It never has, and it’s not going to start working now.