WWE brand extension

The Rock was the first overall wrestler to have been assigned a brand in the first WWE brand extension

The brand extension (also referred to as the brand split) is the separation of WWE's talent roster (and, at various times, creative staff) into distinct divisions, or "brands". The strict adherence to the on-screen integrity of the brand split has varied over time.

In March 2002, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) began promoting its core business of professional wrestling through two distinct brands, named after their two major television shows Raw and SmackDown!. From 2006 to 2010, a third brand existed for their television show ECW, which was a revived version of the former promotion. The first brand extension ended on August 29, 2011, after which the Raw and SmackDown brands were dissolved.[1]

On May 25, 2016, WWE announced a relaunch of the brand extension, billed as the "New Era". The second brand extension went into effect on July 19, 2016, when SmackDown began broadcasting live on Tuesdays. In addition to Raw and SmackDown, during the second split WWE has operated three other brands: NXT (originally a developmental brand, now promoted as WWE's third global brand); NXT UK, a United Kingdom-based brand; and 205 Live, a cruiserweight-exclusive brand. Wrestlers are allocated to a brand via the annual draft, rebranded as the Superstar Shake-up from 2017–April 2019 with an untraditional drafting format. With SmackDown's move to FOX on Friday nights in October 2019, the draft returned to simply being called the draft and to a traditional format.

History

2002 split

In 2001, the Monday Night Wars, the rivalry between the then-WWF and its arch-rival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW), ended with the WWF emerging victorious. The WWF would acquire all assets of WCW, and later Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW); the third largest promotion in the United States at this point in time), through separate buyouts that included the employees (on and off-air talent) from both companies. The sales had left WWF as the sole wrestling promotion in the world with international TV distribution (until the national expansion of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2002).

With the acquisition of new talent, the WWF's already large roster was doubled in size. In order to allow equal opportunity to all roster members, the company endorsed a brand extension to have the WWF represented and promoted with two brands, Raw and SmackDown!, named after the promotion's two primary television programs, Raw and SmackDown!, respectively.

In early 2002, the idea was put in motion to separate the WWF's two shows into distinct brands while both being under the WWF banner. Previously, wrestlers appeared on both Raw and SmackDown, but with this extension, wrestlers would be exclusive to only one show. Only the Undisputed WWF Champion and the WWF Women's Champion were exempt and could appear on both shows. This would change as both championships were later assigned to a brand.

The extension started on March 25, 2002 with a draft on Raw and went into effect one week later on April 1. The following month, the WWF was renamed to WWE. On June 13, 2006, after a reunion PPV and video releases, WWE announced an addition to its prime time programming with ECW on Sci-Fi. The new ECW served as a third brand, and a revival of the original ECW promotion. Both instances of the brand extensions required that representatives of each brand draft "superstars" (terminology used by the company to refer to its contracted personnel) onto each brand in a draft lottery.

2006 ECW introduction

After WWE bought all the assets of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in 2003, the company began releasing DVDs promoting the original ECW.[2] Soon afterwards, the company promoted two ECW reunion shows for ECW alumni entitled, ECW One Night Stand in 2005 and in 2006.[2]

On May 25, 2006, WWE announced a launch of a new brand, ECW, a revival of the 1990s promotion.[3] The new brand debuted on Sci Fi Channel on June 13, 2006,[3] with its final episode on February 16, 2010, on the rebranded Syfy. It was replaced the following week with WWE NXT.[4]

2016 reintroduction

On May 25, 2016, it was announced that beginning July 19, SmackDown would broadcast live on Tuesday nights, as opposed to being taped on Tuesdays and airing on Thursdays as it was previously, receiving a unique roster and set of writers compared to Raw, thus restoring the brand extension.[5] The draft took place on the live premiere episode of SmackDown to determine the rosters between both brands.[6] On the July 11 episode of Raw, Vince McMahon named Shane McMahon the (on-screen) commissioner for SmackDown and Stephanie McMahon the commissioner for Raw; both chose a General Manager for their respective shows.[7] On the July 18 episode of Raw, Stephanie McMahon chose Mick Foley as the Raw General Manager, and Shane McMahon chose Daniel Bryan as the SmackDown General Manager. Due to Raw being a three-hour show and SmackDown being a two-hour show, Raw received three picks each round and SmackDown received two. Six draft picks had to be made amongst the non-title holders from WWE's developmental brand NXT.[8] Seth Rollins was picked first by Raw, with WWE Champion Dean Ambrose being SmackDown's first pick.[9]