The “hard split” that was promised with the WWE’s brand-extension lasted a whopping week. In a situation that some will say called for it, Randy Orton — a SmackDown Live talent — appeared on Monday Night Raw to RKO Brock Lesnar at the close of the show.
Putting the fact that the WWE booked this match knowing the two wrestlers were going to be on different brands to the wayside, this move already dampens the supposed brand exclusivity that was promised week-over-week leading into the WWE Draft.
It’s not only a credibility issue, but one that takes away from the purpose of having the brand-extension, which was to make each show a “must-see” if you liked a specific talent. Now, however, if you’re a Orton fan, you get the pleasure of consuming him on both shows… SmackDown Live’s appeal is now slightly less alluring.
While in the grand scheme of things it might not be a big deal, Orton’s appearance already changes the tone moving forward — we now know that talent will/can/should/could show up on either Raw or SmackDown Live without recourse and a lot of what we were promised was bologna.
Oh, and the fact that the WWE couldn’t last more than seven calendar days before breaking its own hard split rule isn’t all that promising, either. Seriously, way to stick to your guns, World Wrestling Entertainment.
There were pre-Orton showing up on Raw caveats that could have been added to avoid this. Obvious ones, honestly. The WWE could have booked Lesnar in a program with a guy on the Raw roster, or when the draft happened mentioned a note about some feuds (angles) being allowed to play out on multiple brands, but it did none of that. The WWE told us about a “hard split” and “brand exclusivity” and now we know what we always did — the company books on the fly, in the moment, and the long-term ramifications of damaging its own credibility is as high a priority to it as getting Heath Slater a fake-contract.
In WWE’s fictional reality, what Orton did is troublesome. In fact, to help save its own booking mishaps, the company should (scripted) suspend Orton and/or even take him off of SummerSlam completely.
Here is the dilly (again, scripted): What Orton did was essentially no different than a random fan jumping the barricades to attack Lesnar. He isn’t employed by Raw. His contract doesn’t allow him to be there. Really, Orton broke several laws by attacking Lesnar on Monday night. If the WWE wants us to take them somewhat seriously, have the Viper go to the pokey for a few weeks.
Does that feel like too much? Probably, but the ignoring of logic remains one of the WWE’s largest flaws, and this fan has grown tired of being insulted by the lack of having any in the product.
But that’s not what will happen. Instead, the WWE will use Orton’s appearance to showcase how “dangerous” he is, and how “defiant” he can be — something that could have been accomplished without so hastily breaking the hard split rules.
This isn’t the worst thing the WWE has ever done. Not even close. But it is disappointing. Sad even. That the company couldn’t even last more than a week without having one person from one brand pop up on another — which now makes the special “exclusive” feel to each show slightly less special.
The WWE can save this, but it would have to be done in harsh ways. A large portion of the fan base might not care, but they should, as they were once again promised something and given something else.
What’s the definition of insanity?