At Payback last night, in the worst segment of a very good PPV (shout-out to that Kalisto-Ryback match), Vince McMahon announced that both Shane and Stephanie McMahon would share power of Monday Night RAW. Before the PPV began, many were speculating that McMahon's decision would ultimately lead to bringing back the Brand Split, with one McMahon sibling getting RAW and the other getting Smackdown! But that didn't happen. Maybe that's a sign that instead of splitting the brands, what we're actually heading for is a split of the Monday Night RAW show itself.
What I'm suggesting here is that the three hour time slot for Monday Night RAW actually becomes two shows instead of one. Each show would last 90 minutes with one run by Shane and the other run by Stephanie. There wouldn't necessarily need to be a roster split between these two shows (although that might help) but their should be clear differences between the two, maybe through the use of featured segments and divisions. For example, one show could have the US Open Challenge and the other show could have a special focus on the women's or cruiserweight division. They would both have a separate identity yet would still be linked to RAW in order not to confuse viewers too much. Maybe they could go back to using the Raw Zone or War Zone names. For a laugh, they could even call it Nitro (that won't happen).
This wouldn't be the first time RAW has carried multiple identities. The aforementioned War Zone was used to brand the second hour of Raw is War during the Monday Night Wars. Although whether this branding made the show any different to the first hour of RAW is somewhat debatable. But the difference was made clear to the audience through on-screen graphics, consistent mentions on commentary and a badass introduction which at least gave you the impression that the second hour was different.
WWE are very aware that three hour RAWs don't come without their issues. Triple H admitted on The Stone Cold Podcast that he'd like RAW to only be two hours long. The ratings also reflect this issue with regularly dips in the third hour. The reality though is WWE are not going to shorten the programme length. It's part of their television rights deal with USA Network which is very lucrative for the company. Therefore, they might take a different approach to mitigate the issues of the three hour format and make the programme as a whole more watchable. Splitting the show would give audiences more of a reason to tune in to every hour of the show rather than getting fatigued by the same programming for 180 minutes. It was also increase the sense of urgency in each programme as opposed to some of segments at the moment that seem to run longer than they should ever need to.
However, there would be some downsides to this. First off, there is no guarantee the shows would be different enough to see any meaningful change from the current product that's being put out. On the flip side, if it is different, the audience could start picking allegiances to one side over the other which could actually split WWE's audience in two and potentially decrease the overall rating. Although that could be a mute point considering competition has a rich history of increasing ratings in professional wrestling. The biggest worry might be that instead of one 20 minute Authority promo a night, you actually get two, one for each show. That idea definitely exactly sound appealing to me.
So you might be ask yourself - where does all of this leave Smackdown? I must admit it's always been a little baffling how little effort WWE put into their secondary show especially now that it's on a level playing field with RAW, in terms of television distribution, being on the same network. I kind of feel WWE are just happy with the ratings they are getting for Smackdown and are adopting an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach. In other words, unless there's a massive dive in ratings on Thursday nights, they are probably going to leave it be. Also, if the last brand split showed us anything, it's that WWE wants to keep Smackdown! as the secondary show. When Smackdown was starting to get better ratings than RAW, changes were made to rectify that situation. Who knows what will happen to the blue brand? Maybe Triple H can run it while his wife and brother-in-law look after RAW. Although if Paul Heyman is to be believed, Trips is not keen on the idea of working Tuesdays.