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Is WWE quietly ending the brand split in the name of improving ticket sales for Smackdown?

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Ticket sales for World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) secondary show, Smackdown, have been poor enough for long enough that the world's largest pro wrestling promotion is finally deciding to do something about it.

Instead of just relying on Sheamus to draw fans to arenas as the world heavyweight champion, the company is bringing out the big guns. CM Punk is scheduled to defend the WWE championship on this week's edition and John Cena is advertised for a ton of upcoming shows.

Not only that, Triple H is expected to make appearances. The Wrestling Observer talks about the situation in its daily update today (May 29, 2012):

Arn Anderson is being advertised as a special guest referee for the June 5th Smackdown tapings. He'll be the ref for the Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio main event. HHH is also advertised as appearing on the show. He'll be making several appearances prior to SummerSlam, and John Cena is being billed for Smackdown most weeks. The idea, shockingly, is that if they put Raw guys on Smackdown, more people will buy tickets for Smackdown. Although it's not official, for the most part (95%), the brand extension is pretty much dead at this point.

There's plenty to like and dislike about this. For starters, the brand split has been good if only because it provides more opportunity for young stars to make their way up the ranks on a fairly large program like Smackdown. On the other, Damien Sandow isn't selling tickets, at least not yet.

The obvious issue here, however, is the increased workload for guys like Cena, who is already working way too much as it is. Punk was referencing retiring "sooner than you think" on Twitter last night and this is the kind of thing that would help push him over the edge.

Plus, the flip side to the coin is it gives guys like Sandow less of a platform to become a bigger star. With NXT and Superstars still without distribution deals outside WWE.com and YouTube, there are only so many opportunities for young up-and-comers to get on TV.

Of course, WWE could come out tomorrow and declare these reports bogus by saying the brand split absolutely isn't dead, much like they did when Smackdown superstars starting appearing on Raw in an effort to garner better viewership, both live and on TV, for Smackdown on Friday nights. The returns obviously haven't been satisfactory and now it looks like we could be headed for a climate much like it was in the Attitude Era.

Get ready for even more John Cena, folks.