MR. TITO STRIKES BACK – How to Make the New RAW & Smackdown Brand Extension Successful

NOTE FROM TITO: I’m monitoring the situation with Brock Lesnar, but I’m letting the situation play out. In case you haven’t heard yet, Lesnar has been alerted by UFC regarding a possible violation from a sample specimen taken on June 28th (Los Angeles Times/Wrestling Observer). Lesnar has already responded with “we will get to the bottom of this” to the Associated Press. Until more information is known, no comment… But damn, if true, the hammer will fall if WWE’s Wellness Policy missed something on their end and also Lesnar’s UFC 200 victory. STAY TUNED.


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Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING exclusively here at / So, the Brand Extension train is coming and there’s nothing that I can do to stop it. For months now, I’ve tried to advise against it… (a) WWE Roster is too think and (b) Creative infrastructure cannot handle it. However, the WWE is beholden to the USA Networks and their absurd desire to host 5 hours of LIVE wrestling content on back-to-back days. Plus, I can only shout so loud with this column as many WWE lemmings are willing to jump off the cliff with this brand split idea.

But hey, I pride myself on writing a column that doesn’t just complain. I give ideas and advise wrestling promotions to the best of my abilities based on my many years as a wrestling fan and my actual experience working in a corporate setting.

Therefore, I will attempt to advise how to make the 2016 RAW/Smackdown Brand Extension successful… I’ll be honest and professional as possible, even though I’m completely repulsed by the idea that Stephanie McMahon remains on RAW… But I’ll keep the Stephanie bashing reserved and let you enjoy it in my last column. Again, if you want to remain a wrestling fan, you’ll have to endure the significant changes happening to RAW, Smackdown, and indirectly, NXT. Bigtime roll of the dice that if done correctly, could work… But the WWE cannot fumble the ball.


Don’t Create a New World Title
Here’s my plan for the Titles on the RAW/Smackdown brand extension of 2016:
– Intercontinental Title – RAW Exclusive Singles Title
– United States Title – Smackdown Exclusive Singles Title
– *NEW* WWE Television Title – Must be defended on BOTH RAW and Smackdown each and every week – Champion is allowed to travel to each brand and returns to their drafted brand once title is lost. TV Title is also required to be defended on Pay Per Views. I would also recommend 10-15 minute time limits that are mentioned and sold.
– WWE Title, Women’s Title, and Tag Titles remain and champions are allowed to travel to each brand. When they lose their respective titles, they return to their drafted brand. Make the WWE Title special… Move it to the brand in need and make it feel *special* whenever the WWE Champion appears on a brand. In fact, I would use the WWE Title for dark matches following televised events to help pack in larger audiences for the show. Ditto for Women’s Title and Tag Titles. Champions appear on the brand with the wrestler(s) they are feuding with and move when needed.

WWE Title, Women’s, and Tag Titles do NOT have to be on every RAW/Smackdown show. Use the “30 Day Defense” rule. I would let the Intercontinental and United States Titles become the primary titles of each brand along with the Television Title. Protect the WWE Title and make it a special attraction for the WWE Network for its defense. WWE Champion doesn’t have to appear on every RAW/Smackdown show if the IC Title/United States Title are booked right. Ditto with having the Television Title appearing on both brands.

Raid NXT – But evolve the promotion into a Cruiserweight Promotion
Samoa Joe, Nakamura, American Alpha, Revival, Finn Balor, Bailey, and Asuka should be called up to the Main WWE roster. THEY ARE READY FOR THE BIG TIME. With that being said, the NXT roster is completely depleted… However, WWE is hosting the Cruiserweight Classic… The wrestling world is thick with smaller wrestlers who are incredibly talented as this CWC will prove. Hire them and let them be on the NXT brand once the talent raid happens. Hell, even create the NXT Cruiserweight Title.

Hire Kurt Angle as RAW General Manager
Angle is the PERFECT man for the job. We haven’t seen him in the WWE since 10 years ago and there is some legitimate tension that still exists from his exit that WWE could utilize. He’s an amazing speaker who has the talent to switch between heel and face to combat talent. But he could also talk down Stephanie McMahon, too. After all, they could actually play up their 2000 storyline romance to create some workplace sexual tension that could draw well. Angle is PERFECT to headline RAW as its General Manager (or COO?).

Keep Stephanie McMahon away from Male Wrestlers… But push her HARD against Females
Stephanie has given male wrestlers tons of damage over the years, particularly WWE Champions that the McMahons weren’t all the way sold on (Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Dean Ambrose, etc.). She has been able to talk them down and ZERO revenge happens. Yes, that is domestic violence… But female wrestlers can hit back. We saw that with Brie Bella but the WWE could do better with the babyface opponent. Bayley vs. Stephanie McMahon is PERFECT and it could easily rip pages out of Austin vs. Vince and get away with it. Better yet, the WWE could play up that Stephanie is CRAZY jealous over Bayley because (a) Stephanie’s daughters consider her a hero and (b) Triple H is proud of Bayley’s accomplishments. The heat is there and better yet, Stephanie can actually wrestle. Stephanie versus the Women’s Division creates a compelling storyline that is much needed for the 3 hour RAW.

Change the Production/Look of Smackdown
I have to credit Mr. Jason Powell from his appearance on the Jim Ross Podcast for this idea… If Smackdown just looked different from a production standpoint, such as different camera angles, lighting, stages, format, etc. Powell was suggesting even letting another producer run Smackdown but I doubt Kevin Dunn would give up his precious spot in that WWE Production Truck. However, Dunn himself can change things up for Smackdown’s production and push that Shane McMahon is in charge and making recommended changes.

Treat RAW/Smackdown like Sports Franchises
I suggested this in another column… NO 2017 Draft to reshuffle the deck. We’re DONE with that. What I recommend is that RAW and Smackdown are treated like professional sports franchises to perform the following:
(a) No more Drafts of existing wrestlers or reshuffling – RAW/Smackdown must trade with each other for changes.
(b) However – Have an annual “rookie” Draft of developmental wrestlers. WWE could play up wrestlers working their way up in developmental and hype the importance of each brand drafting first. Furthermore, RAW/Smackdown could trade draft picks for existing wrestlers…
(c) Bidding system for any free agents who are joining the main WWE rosters.
(d) Both have a Salary Cap/Fixed # Quota of Wrestlers that both Commissioners have to abide by and need to consider making “cuts” if they go over the Cap/Quota.
(e) Both have open Injury Lists and can place wrestlers on the Injured Reserve/Disabled List. When placing a wrestler on the DL, this allows RAW/Smackdown an open roster spot for considerations.

Non-Title Matches are BANNED
Either the Title is on the line or the champions don’t wrestle… Just place the damn titles on the line and use the simple mechanics of DISQUALIFICATIONS, COUNTOUTS, and TIME LIMITS to protect the champions. Remember – titles cannot change hands when those 3 events occur, except when specified. How do you think Ric Flair made fans believe that ANY wrestler could take his WCW World Title? He used that Disqualifications rule to his advantage to remain champion. If you don’t use one of the 3 methods, let the heels cheat to win. It builds heat.

Use Paul Heyman on a Creative Team
Stating the obvious. Heyman was the Creative Lead for Smackdown during 2002-2004. It is a FACT that Smackdown outdrew RAW regularly. Midcarders need this guy and guys like Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, Jack Swagger, the Miz, etc. could use Heyman’s creativity to get their characters over.

RAW’s 3rd Hour becomes TV-14 or even TV-MA
How to you make RAW interesting for 3 hours? Make the 3rd hour, which airs from 10pm to 11pm, to fly off the handle! Let the language get rougher, let the violence increase, etc. WWE can more than advertise that the first 2 hours of RAW are “safe” but that it’s up to the parents’ discretion to let their kids watch hour #3 or not.

Hype matches ahead of time
Can’t say this enough… Announce at least 3 matches ahead of time for each show. Too much booking on the fly, or the appearance of, has eroded the credibility of WWE to appear like a valid sporting event.

Trademark Finishers & Submission Holds
Not a Brand Extension suggestion per say, but my usual recommendation… Why can’t every wrestler just do John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment to win a match? Ditto for the RKO or Pedigree? WWE needs to create a Trademark Office that allows wrestlers to “trademark” ONE unique finishing move and unique ONE submission hold. If, for example, Brock Lesnar did an RKO on Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2016, Lesnar would be disqualified. Automatic rule. It protects the finisher and eliminates the logic of “why isn’t the entire roster doing RKO finishers?”.

END Hell in a Cell, TLC, and Extreme Rules Pay Per Views
Just do it… Those gimmick Pay Per Views are STUPID. “Hey, it’s October, time to wrestle in a big freakin’ cage”. Better yet, TLC is completely redundant with Money in the Bank’s Pay Per View. Lots of WCW Pay Per View names to use, but also RAW/Smackdown brand specific names used from the past as well.

Put Sponsors on the Ring, Tights, etc., and make it brand specific.
Said it for years… WWE is missing out on a ton of advertising dollars by not placing ads on the ring, turnbuckles, posts, ring barriers, ring apron, and wrestler tights. I know that advertisers can cheap it up, but who cares what’s on the ring when someone gets bodyslammed on it?

Put wrestling veterans and former creative guys on the WWE Creative Team
Jim Ross, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Vince Russo, Dutch Mantel, Bruce Pritchard, Jim Cornette, Kevin Nash, and a whole list of wrestling veterans are out there and have in-ring knowledge to give. I’m NOT saying giving these guys full reign, but many of those guys know the business extremely well. Austin and Foley, in particular, are untapped as creative forces… Just listen to Austin’s Podcast and you’ll hear how intelligent he is about the business. Foley is a creative writer who has published a handful of books. WWE needs more WRESTING guys to get in the ear of Vince McMahon to help him produce a better WRESTLING product.

And finally…

Triple H & Vince McMahon – Limited Use on TV
Vince and Triple H are just too powerful in the WWE… Vince is CEO/Board Chairman, Triple H can wrestle just 1-2 times a year and yet he’s dominant. “Less is more” with both of those guys as they always suck the air out of the room upon arrival. The more important thing to perform while HHH is used less on television is continue his training as an executive. What he’s missing is the financial side of things. Much of HHH’s past before wrestling was bodybuilding and working in gyms. Could he fully comprehend changes in WWE’s Balance Sheet, Income Statement, or other key ratios? Does he know how to make projections for shareholders? Does he know how to manage wrestler salaries?


LAST WORD: So there you go… Legitimate ideas to consider for the RAW/Smackdown brand extension. I still worry about the Roster and the Creative Infrastructure, but that’s just my opinion. I HOPE THAT I’M WRONG and that it’s a success. I’m still a pro wrestling fan and want to continue being a pro wrestling fan. I really dislike what might happen to the NXT brand which I’ve really enjoyed for the last year. I personally thought that WWE achieved legitimate success with the NXT brand and could have made that into the true #2 brand instead of splitting RAW and Smackdown again.

Again – I hope that I’m wrong about my RAW/Smackdown brand extension worries… But if I am, opportunity knocks for other promotions to rise up and strike. I’m afraid that ship has already sailed and the brand extension’s failure to make new stars could put nails in pro wrestling’s column.

I always laugh at the argument of the “Brand Extension creates new stars”. NO, Paul Heyman creates new stars. Aside from Batista and sort of with Randy Orton, what did RAW create again from 2002-2011? Lots of Rodney Mack, Snitsky, and Eugene wrestlers created… Umaga wasn’t bad, though, and is an example of a random tag wrestler getting an opportunity. When I keep mentioning the “Ohio Valley Wrestling Class of 2002”, it’s very specific to producing the 2 biggest stars of today’s WWE, John Cena and Brock Lesnar, two “Paul Heyman Guys” from Smackdown 2002-2004. And Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr., and others saw serious growth during 2002-2004. And Heyman salvaged CM Punk when he was at Ohio Valley Wrestling.

Heyman is RIGHT THERE, WWE… He’s on your freakin’ roster. USE HIM!


Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.

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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK – How to Make the New RAW & Smackdown Brand Extension Successful

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