When WWE went back to the brand split in July 2016, it created its own unique set of issues, like the need to book brand specific pay-per-view (PPV) events. That meant there often just two weeks between shows. No matter how big a fan of pro wrestling you may be, watching five to six hours of television each week and then adding another four (including pre-show) every couple of weeks is a recipe for burnout.
That’s why, at least in one way, today’s announcement that dual brand PPV’s will be the standard after WrestleMania 34 was so welcome. There will be just one event per month through the rest of the year.
With the good comes the bad, however.
The advantages of the brand split and adding brand exclusive PPVs — namely keeping run times down and giving exposure to wrestlers lower on the card — are suddenly gone. Reports indicate every show could be four hours long, and that’s before adding in an hour long pre-show. It also almost certainly means lower card wrestlers won’t get nearly the same exposure.
The biggest issue, however, is the diluting of the championship titles.
Currently, there are nine spread among the two brands:
- Universal championship (Brock Lesnar)
- WWE championship (AJ Styles)
- Intercontinental championship (The Miz)
- United States championship (Bobby Roode)
- Raw women’s championship (Alexa Bliss)
- SmackDown women’s championship (Charlotte)
- Raw tag team championship (Cesaro & Sheamus)
- SmackDown tag team championship (The Usos)
- Cruiserweight championship (Vacant)
So I hit up our numbers guy, Cain A. Knight, to ask about average match cards during the brand split era:
Since the start of 2013 there have been 492 main card matches over 69 events, for an average of 7.13 matches per main card.
The brand split started around late July 2016. The draft occurred right before Battleground, but that card was already set. So starting with SummerSlam 2016 through now, the dual brand vs single brand PPVs look like:
Dual-brand: 7 events, 53 matches = 7.57 matches per main card
Single-brand: 18 events, 124 matches = 6.89 matches per main card
Royal Rumble matches drag it down for the dual brand numbers. Survivor Series too, really. WrestleMania and SummerSlam each have 9 or 10 matches on the main card, Rumble and Survivor Series range from 5 through 7 matches per main card.
Only WrestleMania and SummerSlam have even had 9 matches on the main card.
Every PPV can’t be a WrestleMania or a SummerSlam. How, then, will WWE put together its PPV cards going forward? Is every match going to be a title match?
If everything is special, nothing is.
The answer may be to merge some of the titles or get rid of them altogether, but then we’re getting right back to the discussion of dissolving the brand split altogether, which certainly doesn’t appear to be the best idea considering how well SmackDown Live has done in the ratings. Of course, the upcoming television deal, whatever it may be, could change everything all over again anyway.
We’ll just have to wait and see how WWE handles PPV’s going forward, but while solving some of its issues, they just created new ones.