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Is WWE’s brand split dead?

I don’t have an answer to the above question. But I ask it because in thinking about the main roster WWE shows this week, I realize the only way I’m sure whether someone is a Raw or SmackDown Superstar these days is if they carry a title that has “Raw” or “SmackDown” in the name of said title.

There has also been, to my ears, a distinct lack of talk about Vince McMahon’s Wild Card Rule on television these past couple weeks. I can’t swear that the many SmackDown stars - like Big E, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Finn Balor, Randy Orton & Roman Reigns - who appeared on Raw last night (July 15) didn’t “Wild Card” over to appear on the red brand. But years of watching WWE have taught me that if the announcers don’t talk about, it’s not important.

And everything from commentary to pay-per-view (PPV) matches which feature someone technically on Raw’s roster challenging for a SmackDown belt (e.g. Samoa Joe vs. WWE champ Kofi Kingston) tells me that not only is the Wild Card Rule not important, but that the entire brand split isn’t, either. still gives you the option to sort the roster by brand. I have to use that feature of their Superstar page a lot lately just to determine if I should be surprised by, for example, pre-show reports that Roman is backstage at Raw. But no matter what I turn up when I use it, I’m actually not surprised, because WWE’s made it clear they’ll use their rosters however they think they need to to tell the stories and book the matches they think will get the best ratings.

And, really, it’s always been that way. I’ve been watching through both iterations of the Raw/SmackDown brand split (2006 - 2011, and 2016 - now-ish), and the enforcement of the barrier between the two shows has always been... flexible. It’s as strictly enforced as WWE wants it to be. But outside of maybe the start of Raw “Supershows” in 2010, I can’t ever remember it being so completely-ignored-while-technically-in-place as it is now.

That they created a mechanism to work around it in the Wild Card Rule and seem to have discarded that, too? Well, what else do you need to know?

For the record, I think a well defined brand split would be great for WWE and its talented roster. But I’ve rarely seen them put forward a well defined brand split. And that was before reports indicated that Fox and USA both want the biggest stars on their network when SmackDown moves to Rupert Murdoch’s broadcast channel in a few months while Raw stays with NBCUniversal’s top cable outlet.

New Executive Directors Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff will probably, hopefully have something to say about how talent is allocated between the red and blue shows going forward. As long as they get a lot of different wrestlers on screen, and make sure there are stories for them when they appear, it doesn’t really matter to me how they do it.

The worst thing they could probably do is announce rules they don’t intend to enforce, or even address, like we’ve been doing since April’s Superstar Shake-up.

We’ll see how it plays out over the next couple months. But for right now, it sure looks like WWE’s brand split - and its bastard offspring the Wild Card Rule - are dead.

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