WWE‘s recent announcement of RAW going three hours permanently put a final, silent death knell in an era that had already been dying a slow death.
The WWE essentially took its fading brand extension era off life support as it prepares for three hours of content every Monday, three hours of which simply cannot be filled with one brand given the WWE’s ongoing depth issues.
The RAW Supershow era, which guaranteed an integration of RAW and SmackDown stars on the same flagship show, already acted as a fatal wound to a business model that had been the norm over the past decade.
With the WWE experiencing the bittersweet taste of victory after surviving the Monday Night Wars, a failed Invasion angle led to yet another significant postwar strategy.
2002’s first annual WWE Draft saw RAW and SmackDown split into two distinct brands. Star power was evenly distributed with the likes of the Rock and Hulk Hogan on SmackDown while Triple H and Steve Austin held down the fort on RAW.
As the years went on, however, the priority of a strong RAW rating became more apparent as talent became more unevenly distributed towards the red brand.
Even when SmackDown was the superior show in terms of pure wrestling and sound booking, it would eventually be branded as the B show. It never managed to shake that reputation.
Over the years, more top stars have left the WWE under John Laurinaitis‘ watch, as the talent relations VP continued to show alarming weaknesses as a developer and maintainer of talent while the overall brand suffered.
The growing lack of depth meant star power had to be more carefully rationed out, namely on RAW. As a result, SmackDown’s ratings continue to struggle given the overexposure of SmackDown wrestlers on RAW, while Friday nights were devoid of big names on a consistent basis.
With the recent dawn of the RAW Supershow, there was no post-WrestleMania draft for the first time since 2003.
If the plan is to feature three hours of what we already see for two hours on Monday nights, not only will another draft be unnecessary moving forward (although it would be an excuse to have a three-hour RAW), the idea of two distinct franchises will be extinct.