Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic

Since WWE divided their talent roster in an effort to recreate the magic of a wrestling war, the creative department has struggled to maintain the illusion of two independent brands, while RAW and SmackDown have struggled to find their identities. In the build up to Survivor Series 2005, WWE went all out with the forced animosity between the two rosters.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Feudin’ Brands

There are several issues worth mentioning regarding this “heated rivalry” between WWE personnel based solely upon the randomness of their unit of assignment, so to speak.

Issue: Brand Loyalty. There once was a draft in which Vince McMahon and Ric Flair actually chose wrestlers they wanted on their show. Other than a few odd trades, free agent signings and unusual stipulations, few wrestlers since then have had much control over the WWE brand to which they are assigned. Remember, the two recent annual draft lotteries were not drafts like in the NFL, where teams select the player they want. They were random drawings. General Manager Teddy Long didn’t choose Batista or any of the other draftees, rather, he lucked into getting the World Champion over to his brand. There is NO logical reason for Batista to feel brand loyalty to SmackDown. Especially since his rise to the big time in this business happened on RAW, first as a member of Evolution, then in a feud with HHH that was exclusive to Bischoff’s brand.

Issue: Continuity. Where to begin? The InsidePulse writer’s forum has seen some activity regarding this issue lately. Movie guru Brendan Campbell raised the BS flag accordingly: “Masters and Carlito standing in the ring with Michaels and nobody showing any signs of angst just kind of seems unreasonable…”, and I agree. He went on to make several similar observations.

Carlito debuted in the WWE on SmackDown, winning the US title from John Cena on his very first appearance. SmackDown then gave him his very own talk show segment, and allowed him free reign in that environment. What is his beef with SmackDown? It’s not as if they fired him, and now he wants revenge. As I said above, he was randomly selected for a new “assignment” on RAW. Why is he now willing to risk bodily harm from the likes of Bobby Lashley to defend the honor of RAW?

We all know continuity is not necessarily a strong point for WWE’s creative department. But why, for example, would a jerk like JBL (in kayfabe) care what happened to his brand? You’d think he would enjoy seeing Batista beat down by invading RAW grapplers, because it only improves his own chances of getting his hands on the gold yet again. Instead, he’s defending Batista and his other SmackDown teammates. Why? What’s on the line, his pride? Nonsense. JBL’s character would look for an opportunity to exploit this gang war, not to fight in it.

I’d mention the irony of Edge and Kane working well together lately, but then that brings us into the murky waters of the whole Kane/Lita/Edge/Hardy angle that seems to have blurred and reblurred the lines of kayfabe and “reality”. So, I won’t get into that issue at this point in time. Just keep in mind that the uneasy alliance between them was never once mentioned by anyone near a microphone.

Team SmackDown was comprised of Batista, JBL, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, and Bobby Lashley. In recent months the following feuds/rivalries have been well documented on television: Batista vs. JBL, Batista vs. Orton, JBL vs. Mysterio, and Orton vs. Mysterio. Lashley hasn’t had much beef with any of his partners, but all four other men had reason to doubt each other’s intentions and to look over their shoulders during the big main event elimination match.

Team RAW was comprised of Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Kane, Carlito, and Chris Masters. Just as with Team SmackDown, here are some feuds from recent memory: HBK vs. Carlito, HBK vs. Masters, Big Show vs. Masters, and Big Show vs. Carlito. Once again, this team doesn’t exactly gel on paper. This is why the sudden fraternity among these men seems out of place, or at least, not very well explained.

Just as poorly explained was the match on RAW only one night after Survivor Series. Recent teammates (less than 24 hours ago!) Michaels and Carlito fought in the opening match, and Carlito seemed quite happy to injure HBK. This was no sportsmanlike contest among peers who respect each other. These two went RIGHT back to their roles as valiant face versus underhanded heel. Sure, they had Carlito act angry that he wasn’t the team captain at Survivor Series, but that rationale seemed a bit weak.

Issue: Exciting Television. Here’s something good to report. This brand feud has breathed a little life into the “anything can happen” feeling that permeated pro wrestling’s salad days. If it’s not overdone, the invasion gimmick can be very interesting for us fans. I love the tension in the announcers’ voices, the sense that danger looms around every corner, the gang warfare, the interplay between Bischoff and Long, and the “all for one, one for all” attitude among brand members.

The build up to Survivor Series thankfully shook up the status quo on both RAW and SmackDown over the past few months. Wrestling fans appreciate unpredictability. When fans don’t want to flip channels or hit the kitchen during the show for fear of missing the next battle in the war, creative is doing something right.

Issue: Survivor Series. If you’re WWE, you’ve almost booked yourself into a corner heading into Survivor Series. Shouldn’t they have tried to script the ppv to make both brands look strong? In the three head-to-head contests, SmackDown scored two victories. And in the one match that RAW did win, the kayfabe greatest women’s wrestler in the world today defeated a prissy, glamour-girl diva of a valet in one of her very few matches ever. Hell, even the Kung Fu wizard couldn’t beat the 110-pound playa’…

Team SmackDown won the main event elimination match, and in convincing fashion at that. If this was an attempt by creative to help shed the “B Show” stigma that they forced on SmackDown through the years, I can’t argue with their logic. It would have been a fatal mistake to allow one brand to dominate the evening, unless they’re planning to continue this inter-promotional feud. If so, the losing side would need to start getting some revenge on television immediately. Otherwise WWE would be telling their fans not to bother watching half of their products, since the “losing” brand would clearly appear inferior.

We’ll see how SmackDown’s Rey Mysterio fares against Big Show tonight on the UPN special. If Rey wins, I’ll believe Vince is really attempting to inject a little parity into the brand war. There are certainly enough heavy hitters on SmackDown for them to hold their own in any contest against RAW.

Overall I’d say this heavy focus on the brand feud has been a positive storyline so far. It will certainly be interesting to see where they go from here. Some experts believe the brand extension is almost over. If it’s going to survive another year, I don’t believe WWE’s creative department can allow the two rosters to peacefully coexist when it’s convenient for storyline purposes, then just re-heat the tension once again when it suits current short-term booking plans. The same can be said for team members. Two wrestlers on RAW that hate each other every day shouldn’t keep banding together when a guy from SmackDown shows up. I’ll take it this time around as a special circumstance, but the trouble with special things is that when served up in excess, they degenerate into the same old boring, predictable fare rather quickly.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – If a group of Protestants took action against some outrage, would they be “protesting Protestants”?