WWE made a major announcement last weekend, saying that in July, Smackdown will go live on Tuesday nights, and that a brand split will accompany that move.
"WWE's flagship programs will both leverage the incredible depth of our talent roster, distinct storylines and the unpredictable nature of live TV," WWE Chairman Vince McMahon said in a news release. "This move will undoubtedly build more excitement and deepen engagement with our fans around the world."
WWE had what was called a "brand extension" from March 2002 until August 2011, where the two shows had separate rosters and, for the most part, separate storylines. There was some crossover, but usually the storylines were kept in-brand. The shows had their own, distinct, champions and even had their own pay-per-views for the first few years, though that practice ended in 2007.
The split, and live Smackdown, will go into effect on July 19. The timing of this announcement is obvious in storyline purposes.
With Stephanie and Shane battling over control, a split has always made sense. That was the storyline impetus for the brand split back in 2002, when Vince McMahon and Ric Flair were battling over the company. The question becomes what shape will the brand split take?
Last time, at least at the beginning, WWE tried to make the rosters pretty evenly balanced. By 2005, it was clear that was RAW was being favored talent-wise, but before that, the star power was at least reasonably even. Will they go that route again, or will they make Smackdown the home of the "new era" of WWE, featuring recent callups, and potentially even NXT stars?
The biggest news in regard to this is the move to Tuesday nights with a live broadcast. Smackdown has always been a taped show, because of travel considerations. They were never going to have Smackdown live on a Thursday, so the solution, if they wanted to make it live, is the move to Tuesday.
While this is great from the aspect that Smackdown is now live, I do wonder if it potentially will cause viewer fatigue to have Smackdown and RAW on back to back nights. Add in PPV weeks, and it's possible that the WWE will be asking fans to watch eight hours of WWE programming over three nights to keep up with the product properly.
There are many ways to go with it, but WWE has fans buzzing right now, which can only benefit the company as they go into what tends to be a couple of down summer months.