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By Mike Johnson on 2016-05-30 11:08:00

With all the talk of Raw and Smackdown effectively splitting once again, I've discussed a lot of different ideas and factors in the Elite section of that will determine whether this will be a legitimate long-term plan or whether, if we see ratings for the shows slide, suddenly we see talents from each side begin to populate the other show.

There's also been a lot of talk about another brand split and a draft lottery , but to me, it's been there, done that and in 2002, while all of that was fresh and different, in 2016, it's a road that's already been traveled.  That's not to say all the speculation and all the possibilities aren't fun to discuss, but if WWE REALLY, TRULY wanted to shake up the status quo, let's really go for the throat here.

So, here's my audacious plan to make things happen.

First of all, the lynchpin for all of this is obviously already in play with Vince McMahon having ceded power to Stephanie and Shane McMahon, giving them each 50% control over Raw with the idea that his offspring have to work together.  Considering that there is no way the McMahon family (much like the Ewing family in "Dallas" or really any family ever) are going to get along forever (since that would be pretty damn boring), there's going to come a schism that will lead to the split.

So, what if, when it happens, the split doesn't include the brands splitting, at least in a traditional sense?  What if, in a scene where history repeats itself, Shane gets so frustrated with Stephanie and even Triple H undermining him that he goes to Vince McMahon and effectively "buys" WWE NXT....leading to a scenario where McMahon, in charge of Hunter's baby, effectively graduates not just some of the talents (who, within the confines of the WWE storylines, he has already brought up) to the main roster, but graduates the entire NXT brand?

Or, if we don't want to go through all THAT drama, imagine if the real Stephanie comes out, losing her mind over Shane, leading to Triple H stepping in and he and Stephanie leave for Smackdown...except that Smackdown is now going to be HHH's baby...NXT.

Ladies and gentlemen, imagine a brand split where the brands are WWE Raw and NXT Smackdown. 

It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.  Ryan Ward is already scripting Smackdown.  They have hired Mauro Ranallo to call Smackdown and Corey Graves is already teasing he's going to join that team when the split happens.  Smackdown has been seen as the "secondary" brand forever, since it has been a taped series, while WWE NXT, also taped, has a hell of a lot more momentum and goodwill with the audience that watches it.  It also feels and flows like a more old-school pro wrestling show, sort of a 21st century Jim Crockett Promotions.

Triple H has often said in conference calls prior to NXT Takeover events that his goal was to make NXT not a feeder or a smaller niche promotion like ECW was in the 1990s, but to become the equivalent of what WCW used to be to the WWF.  What better way to make it actually happen then to put the show on, live, the day after Raw?

Making the change would also solve the quandry of what to do with WWE's championships.  There was talk last week of splitting the WWE World Heavyweight championship again, which, to me, is tantamount to suicide.  There was also talk of putting tag teams on one brand and the women's division on another, which short-term, isn't a bad idea, but long-term would be just murder when it comes to keeping those divisions fresh.    So, instead of splitting hairs, graduate the NXT titles.

On Raw, you have the traditional WWE action-adventure sports-entertainment led by Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, etc. featuring the WWE championship, the WWE Women's championship, the Intercontinental championship and the Tag Team championship.

Then, on NXT Smackdown, instead of splitting titles and diluting all of the established belts, we have the WWE NXT championship, the NXT Women's championship and the NXT Tag Team championships.  Take the lineage of those championships and the goodwill and credibility they already have and use them to WWE's advantage.  Then, slide the United States championship over to Tuesday nights and each brand effectively now has four championships each.

Of course, the key to making all this work is to not dilute NXT in terms of the style of wrestling or the presentation.  If you bring it up and then plot it and produce it as if it's Raw, then effectively NXT becomes the new ECW, where it was originally set out to be one thing and then homogenized into being identical to everything else.  The show has to look like a bigger version of the current WWE NXT series and the good news for WWE is that NXT, when broadcast from a major Arena like the Barclays Center, looks major league, even with a toned down version of WWE's production.  

WWE SHOULD give complete creative and production control of the series to Triple H.  The entire idea of NXT has been to groom him as Vince's successor.  Well, everything over the last few years should lead to this.  Triple H, with his own director and his own team, running NXT Smackdown live, providing something different from Raw's sports-entertainment.

Obviously, WWE will also have move some talents over.  As much as I love NXT, the reality is that on it's own, it probably would not fill bigger venues on a weekly basis at first.  So, WWE does the unthinkable - they move John Cena to NXT.  In a lot of ways, this is the move Cena needs more than anyone else in the company.  With the exception of Roman Reigns and The Undertaker, he's worked with everyone ad nauseum on the main roster.  Moving him to NXT provides all sorts of fresh potential matches, from Samoa Joe on down and keeps things unique.  We saw how the John Cena open challenge worked so well for the U.S. title, so imagine how John Cena laying down the gauntlet for the NXT roster could play out.   Plus, Cena's crossover appeal allows WWE to shine a brighter light on NXT and promote that brand as something unique to the masses.

Obviously, the idea here would be to move a few other key performers who could mesh with the NXT brand as well, but the good news is that even if say Cesaro doesn't move to NXT Smackdown now, if and when he does move, it's not only a fresh set of opponents, but a fresh style for him and other others.  The two brands being so different could provide something that hasn't truly existed since ECW went away in 2001 - a chance for established talents to go to rejuvenate themselves.

Of course, with NXT graduating to the USA Network, that leaves a gap in the WWE Network's programming.  The good news there is that WWE will start filming the Cruiserweight Classic in June.  I pitch that the company make that series the full-time replacement for NXT and that by the end of the tournament, we learn that the live finals in September will crown the first Cruiserweight champion.  The company can then roll out a tournament for the first-ever Cruiserweight Tag Team championships as part of the 2016 Dusty Rhodes Tag Classic and now they've got two championships and a weekly Cruiser show to run smaller venues with, to fill the niche that NXT on the WWE Network filled and to lock in lots of unique talents going forward, all of which can move to WWE RAW and NXT Smackdown to support the roster if and when they are deemed ready.

Now, with NXT Smackdown touring major arenas and The Cruiserweights touring the smaller venues that NXT has been filling, the real question left is what to do with those working out of the WWE Performance Center who need the smaller Florida shows in order to gain experience and confidence as they wait for their chance to perform on TV and move up the ladder.  Since WWNLive and WWE have been effectively flirting with each other for what seems to have been forever, it's time for the two sides to finally go steady.  WWE can bring on Gabe Sapolsky and Sal Hamaoui and their team to promote and run events in the Sunshine State under the EVOLVE banner with the EVOLVE regulars and WWE PC recruits sharing the roster.  WWE can let them continue their iPPVs or run a weekly live series on the WWE Network as a way for talents to familiarize themselves with working in front of cameras and live crowds in an intimate setting.

So, not only does WWE just split their Raw/Smackdown roster in half but they effectively use all the July changes to enrich their entire product and create four rungs on the ladder, all with a different style and output providing different WWE experiences for their audience....and can also provide the backdrop for an eventual confrontation, whether it's Summerslam 2016 or Wrestlemania 2018, between Shane McMahon and Triple H, playing off antagonisms, real, scripted and imagined alike.

Like I said, an audacious plan, but one that certainly would nuke the status quo.

Ball is in your court, WWE.

Mike Johnson can be reached at and can be followed @MikePWInsider.

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