A shiver went down my spine this week when I saw the rumored WWE brand split pay-per-view (PPV) schedule. We've known about the brand split for a while now, but the inevitability of this upcoming content overload didn't really dawn on me until I saw regular 2 or 3 week intervals between WWE PPVs starting in September.
Seriously, there is only going to be a 2 week build between Survivor Series and TLC. And then
Traffic Stop Roadblock takes place just 2 weeks after that one. This is not cool, WWE.
The first thought that entered my mind when I looked at that schedule was that I didn't welcome the task of writing an extra match times post each month, and I'm not sure if this is something I can even fit into my schedule without reducing the amount of content that I regularly include in that series.
The second thought that crossed my mind was, "Oh shit, I'm going to have to watch Smackdown now, huh?"
I haven't watched Smackdown regularly in years. Since the demise of CM Punk's straight-edge society gimmick in 2010, the only times I have gone out of my way to watch Smackdown were when I knew that Undertaker, Punk, Brock, or Rock were going to be featured on the show. Even right now my first instinct is to assume that Smackdown is still airing on the Syfy network. Smackdown just hasn't been on my radar in forever because important moments rarely ever take place on that show.
However there is a brand extension on the horizon, and that means the inclusion of Smackdown-only PPVs. It's possible that some of my favorite stars like Cesaro, Kevin Owens, or Paige will only be featured on Smackdown-branded shows going forward. The chances that all the stars I am completely bored of like Cena, Reigns, Stephanie, and Del Rio all end up on the same show, while all the people I actually want to see end up on the other show, just doesn't seem very likely at all.
Ok fine, you win, WWE. Your primary goal with the brand extension is to increase viewership for Smackdown, and you are probably going to achieve that goal with me as long as long as Smackdown is presented as roughly equal to Raw in importance.
Can I fit the additional 2 hours for Smackdown each week into my schedule, as well as an additional 3 hour PPV each month? I guess I'll find a way.
3 hour Raw episodes without CM Punk have essentially trained me to dismiss most of the show as background noise while I'm doing other things; I know that I only need to pay attention for match finishes or Paul Heyman promos. So I can probably treat Smackdown the same way. Just like with how I watch Raw, I don't have to sit there and actually pay attention to the show for its entire duration.
After mulling all of that over it also dawned on me that I am very relieved that I have resisted NXT, Lucha Underground, and all other wrestling shows outside of Raw, ever since WCW and ECW died back in 2001. This brand extension makes it even less likely that I will consider following any of these alternate wrestling platforms in the near future.
Pro wrestling can be very addictive. I was hooked in a big way from 1995 through 2001, as I was a hardcore ECW fan as well as regularly flipping back and forth between Nitro and Raw every single Monday night. There was a ton of wrestling to keep track of during those years with just these 3 promotions, and it became very time consuming. But I was a teenager and so I had plenty of time to devote to pro wrestling. It also helped that all three shows were a ton of fun, and the backdrop of the Monday Night War created an undeniably intriguing dynamic in the world of pro wrestling that hasn't existed since.
Of course I was exceedingly disappointed to see both ECW and WCW die in 2001, but it at least freed up a good chunk of my time. I knew what kind of investment it took to follow multiple wrestling promotions, and that was something I decided I would avoid in the future, unless Paul Heyman was running another promotion.
For these last 15 years I have been very successful at avoiding any wrestling promotion outside of WWE. It's not that I think those other promotions are not putting out worthwhile content; I simply don't want to put myself in a position where I might spread my time too thin again. I'm not a teenager anymore and I have more important things that I really should devote my time to other than watching even more wrestling.
The main reason I am not thrilled about this brand extension is because I think 3 hours of Raw each week as well as one monthly PPV is more than enough wrestling for me. I don't need two more hours of Smackdown each week as well as an additional 3-hour monthly PPV. Those PPV weekends in particular are just going to present a ridiculously unnecessary onslaught of WWE content from Sunday straight through Tuesday.
But here I am now with the acceptance that I am probably going to follow Smackdown starting in mid-July, and I feel a little hesitant about putting in additional time to watch more wrestling. There is definitely a big part of me that hopes this experiment blows right up in WWE's face and within months the superstars are regularly crossing between shows, with Smackdown quickly returning to its status as a filler show that I don't need to even think of watching. On the other hand, I know that current mid-card stars that I love like Cesaro will probably have no chance to rise up the card if the status quo is maintained.
These time concerns also make me think about all of the wrestling fans here on Cageside Seats who have the kind of passion for pro wrestling that I had 20 years ago. These are the people who follow a multi-pronged combination of Raw, NXT, WWE PPVs, Lucha Underground, New Japan, TNA, Ring of Honor, and many other promotions that I probably don't even know exist. I wonder, how will these hardcore wrestling fans find the time to fit even more pro wrestling into their leisure time?
Maybe a lot of these fans already watch Smackdown and therefore this isn't really presenting a time crunch for them. But I would have to imagine there are many wrestling fans out there who are going to have to make sacrifices somewhere in their leisure time to accommodate even more pro wrestling.
So how are you going to find the extra time to fit this brand extension into your schedule, Cagesiders? Are any of you already accepting that you may end up choosing between Raw or Smackdown (or other wrestling promotions) because you know that you won't have time for both?
Is the WWE brand extension going to create an untenable time crunch for any of you?