WWE Brand Extension
Between 2002 and 2011, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), promoted its core business of professional wrestling through two brands, two independent branches of the company named after their two major television shows Raw and SmackDown. This Brand Extension ended on the August 29, 2011 episode of Raw, when WWE chief operating officer Triple H announced that Raw would also feature SmackDown stars on a full-time basis, thus effectively dissolving the brand extension. As a result, the yearly draft (which had taken place since 2004) was also discontinued. WWE explained that their decision to end the brand extension was due to wanting their content to flow across TV and online platforms.
Upon the completion of the Monday Night Wars in 2001, a rivalry between the then-WWF and its archrival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the WWF emerged victorious, acquiring all assets of WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW; the third largest promotion in the United States during 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 and Ring of Honor 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" named after the promotion's two primary television programs: Raw and SmackDown.
Ironically, the original plan was to relaunch WCW (which would be an independent entity in the storylines but would be under the WWF's auspices in reality) and for this new WCW to find a time slot on TNN (now Spike TV) for two hours on Saturday night (plans originally called for the 90 minute timeslot ahead of Raw that was to begin in May 2001). Also, WCW Monday Nitro was to air directly opposite Raw on the USA Network, whereas WCW Thunder would run opposite SmackDown on NBC as well as ECW to also air on Saturday nights on TNN (see below). These plans were eventually scrapped due to WCW's reputation of losing money (The Saturday night timeslot would eventually be given to WWF Excess and later, WWE Velocity and WWE Confidential).
After failing to secure a television timeslot, another method was for WCW to take over Raw or SmackDown and use the show to recreate its WCW counterparts, Nitro or Thunder. This experiment was first made on July 2, 2001 edition of Raw in Tacoma, Washington when the final 20 minutes was given to WCW, in which the Raw crew was largely replaced (with Scott Hudson and Arn Anderson doing commentary, as well as a major stage overhaul). The audience in the Tacoma Dome, however, did not hold the WCW segment in high regard, especially when WWF wrestlers Kurt Angle and Stone Cold Steve Austin interfered at the end of a match between Buff Bagwell and WCW World Heavyweight Champion Booker T. With WWF focused on splitting its roster and plans for both WCW brand and timeslot scrapped, the infamous Invasion storyline was used as a second resort.
Because of the early termination of the storyline after the 2001 Survivor Series, the WWF executed their alternate plan, which was to separate the two shows themselves: previously, wrestlers appeared on both Raw and SmackDown, but with this extension, wrestlers would be exclusive to only one show. Only the WWF Undisputed Champion and the WWF Women's Champion were exempt and could appear on both shows.
The extension officially started on March 25, 2002 with a draft on Raw. 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.
Raw and SmackDown
On March 17, 2002, World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Chairman Vince McMahon officially announced that the company would represent its business of professional wrestling through two distinct brands called "Raw" and "SmackDown"—named after the WWF's weekly television programs. This was a direct result of the acquisition of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), the WWF's primary rival corporations throughout the 1990s, that resulted in the addition of numerous talent to the extensive WWF roster.
In terms of storyline, Ric Flair had become fifty percent owner of the WWF following Survivor Series 2001 after Shane and Stephanie McMahon had sold their stocks to him in order to purchase WCW and ECW, respectively, a campaign to launch the Invasion script. Original full WWF owner Vince McMahon detested having to share his creation with Flair and sought to dissolve their partnership. Simultaneously, Flair was engaged in a feud with The Undertaker and wanted to conclude it with a bout at WrestleMania X8. However, the WWF Board of Directors would only allow the match if Flair returned full ownership back to McMahon. Flair agreed, but the Board stated that it would review the WWF's status and ownership following WrestleMania.
In continuation with storyline, the Board's ultimate decision was to split the entire WWF roster into two separate entities, with McMahon in control of the SmackDown brand and Ric Flair in control of the Raw brand. All WWF wrestlers were to be assigned to a brand based on random selections conducted through a mock–draft lottery. On the March 25, 2002 episode of Raw, the WWF Draft was held, in which each owner received a total of thirty picks.
The 2002 WWF brand extension draft took place at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania on March 25, 2002. The first half of the draft was televised live on TNN for two hours, as part of the WWF's flagship program, Raw. The second half was conducted over the Internet on WWF's official website, WWF.com. There were thirty draft picks, with sixty superstars drafted overall by co-owners of the WWF, onto their respective brands, Raw and SmackDown. The remaining superstars were divided randomly in a draft lottery, with each brand receiving a grand total of thirty superstars.
On the March 25, 2002 episode of Raw, Vince McMahon won a coin toss to determine who would receive the first draft selection.
|4||Raw||2||nWo (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall & X-Pac)
Kevin Nash, Scott Hall & Sean Waltman
McMahon allowed the nWo to be drafted as a group.
|8||Raw||4||Rob Van Dam
|9||SmackDown||5||Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo
Monty Sopp & Charles Palumbo
Solofa Fatu Jr.
|14||Raw||7||Bubba Ray Dudley
Darren Kenneth Matthews
- Picks #1-20 were made live on Raw on TNN
- Picks #21-57 were conducted over WWE.com.
The brand extension was officially enforced on April 1, 2002. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the final member of the WWF roster to be drafted. A month later, the WWF was sued by the World Wildlife Fund over the WWF acronym. This resulted in the company being renamed from "World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc." to simply "World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.", which caused all of the WWF's assets to be properly renamed and branded. The Flair and McMahon feud came to an end on the June 10, 2002 edition of Raw, when McMahon became the sole owner of WWE by defeating Flair in a No Holds Barred match. Following the situations with the brand extension and name change, by having two brands in place, the WWF was able to increase the number of live events held each year from 200 to 350, including tours in several new international markets.
After McMahon became the sole owner, the owner role was replaced by "General Managers". For Raw, he announced the new General Manager would be Eric Bischoff, and for Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon. On the same night when he announced Stephanie as new General Manager, he also stated that a free agent period has started and any Superstar could sign with the other brand. This continued until the fall of 2002. On the September 23 edition of Raw, Bischoff announced that the roster was frozen and the only way for a wrestler to move was to ask for a trade.
Almost nine years after the name change, the company was once again renamed from "World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc." to "WWE, Inc." on April 7, 2011 which also caused its assets rebranded yet again amidst orphan initialism occurred to reflect WWE's global entertainment expansion away from the ring with the ultimate goal of acquiring entertainment companies and putting a focus on television, live events, and film production. Following the name change, the company will focus on the development of new television products including scripted, non-scripted and animated programs such as the launch of WWE Network in early 2014.
After World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. bought all of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW)'s assets in 2003, the company began releasing DVDs promoting the original ECW. Soon afterwards, the company promoted two ECW reunion shows for ECW Alumni entitled, ECW One Night Stand in 2005 and in 2006.
The 2006 WWE brand extension draft took place from the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington on May 29, 2006, where ECW representative, Paul Heyman, drafted two superstars, one from SmackDown and one from Raw onto the newly created ECW brand.
|Pick #||Brand (to)||Employee
|1||ECW||Rob Van Dam
|2||ECW||Kurt Angle||Male wrestler||SmackDown|
In late 2007, SmackDown and ECW superstars began to appear on each other's shows as part of a (kayfabe) deal between then-ECW General Manager Armando Estrada and then-SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero.
In addition to the talent exchange between SmackDown and ECW, an exchange between Raw and ECW was announced in September 2008.
On February 2, 2010, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced that ECW would air its final episode on February 16, 2010. The ECW brand was disbanded after the final show, with every ECW wrestler becoming a free agent and eligible to join either the Raw or SmackDown brands.
Interbrand competition was initially kept to a minimum, with superstars from all brands competing together only at pay-per-view events. However, in 2003, all pay per view events became brand exclusive, leaving the "big four" pay-per-views (WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and the Royal Rumble) as the only interbrand shows.
Starting in late 2006, in an attempt to add more star power to the shows, interbrand matches became more common. Most notably, MNM and The Hardys reformed, despite the fact that the teammates were on separate brands. Bobby Lashley is also notable for his interbrand action, who was involved in a storyline with the WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon. The return of Saturday Night's Main Event to NBC also led to more interaction between the brands.
The separation of the WWE roster between two brands also intended to split the pay-per-view offerings, which began with Bad Blood in June 2003. The original idea had the "major" pay-per-view events at the time (Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and WrestleMania) would contain the only instances where wrestlers from different brands would interact with each other, and even among the four shows only the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania would have wrestlers from different brands competing against each other. Wrestlers, as a result, appeared only in two-thirds of the shows in a given year, and thus appeared in fewer shows compared to before the brand extension. With single-brand PPVs in place, WWE was able to add more pay-per-view events to their offerings, such as Taboo Tuesday/Cyber Sunday, New Year's Revolution, December to Dismember, and The Great American Bash. Eventually, WWE abandoned the practice of single-brand pay-per-view events following WrestleMania 23. December to Dismember and New Year's Revolution were cancelled following the announcement.
Initially, the Undisputed WWE Championship and WWE Women's Championship were available to both brands. The other championships were exclusive to the brand the champion was a part of. When the brand extension began, Raw received the Intercontinental Championship and European Championship when their respective holders were drafted while SmackDown became the exclusive home for the Tag Team Championship and the Cruiserweight Championship. With several specialty championships being exclusive to one brand, numerous wrestlers were left with no title to fight for except for the Hardcore Championship, which although a property of SmackDown after the draft was contested under different rules than the other championships.
This issue was corrected in September 2002 when the Undisputed Championship became the WWE Championship again and was moved to SmackDown while Eric Bischoff created the World Heavyweight Championship for Raw. Shortly thereafter, SmackDown created their own Tag Team Championship, revived the United States Championship, and became the exclusive home of the Cruiserweight Championship. Meanwhile, Raw became the exclusive brand for WWE's original World Tag Team Championship, the Intercontinental Championship, and the Women's Championship. The end result was each brand having four championships. When ECW was revived in 2006, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship was reactivated. On September 28, 2007 the Cruiserweight Championship was vacated and deactivated. The United States Championship and WWE Tag Team Championships, which at the time were held by Matt Hardy and John Morrison and The Miz respectively, were able to be shared between SmackDown and ECW following a talent exchange agreement between the two brands, which meant that SmackDown superstars could appear on ECW and vice versa. In July 2008, the WWE Divas Championship was created on SmackDown, allowing the SmackDown Divas to compete for a title. A talent exchange between ECW and Raw began in September 2008 after Morrison and Miz beat CM Punk and Kofi Kingston to become new World Tag Team Champions. John Morrison and The Miz appeared more frequently on the RAW brand during the course of their reign as World Tag Team Champions, moving to a feud with reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of SmackDown, brothers Carlito and Primo Colon. The teams fought several non-title and title bouts for their respective brands' tag team championships before the two fought in a winner take all title unification lumberjack match at WrestleMania XXV. Carlito and Primo would go on to win the contest, forming the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship. The Tag Team Championships remained separate but were defended collectively as the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship until then-Raw GM Bret Hart announced the titles would be renamed as the WWE Tag Team Championship, with a new, single set of belts. On February 16, 2010 the ECW Championship was deactivated with the ECW brand. On September 19, 2010 at Night of Champions, the Women's Championship was unified with the Divas Championship. For a short time it was referred to as the WWE Unified Divas Championship before being shortened to simply the Divas Championship as of August 29, 2011.
On December 15, 2013, The WWE and World Heavyweight Championships were unified at WWE TLC when WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight Champion John Cena in a TLC unification match. The World Heavyweight title was retired, and the WWE title was renamed the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
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