Almost a year ago to the day, WWE introduced the world to the ‘wild card rule,’ a stipulation that allowed four superstars from Raw or SmackDown! to invade the opposite show on a given week. The idea behind this rule was to revitalize the Raw and SmackDown! brand split and assure that the viewer would not know who was going to show up at a given moment.
Now amidst a pandemic with many superstars choosing to stay home with their families and the same faces becoming increasingly stale each week, WWE has chosen to bring back the ‘wild card rule’ in the form of the ‘brand invitational.’ The return of this controversial blurring of the roster lines leads many to question if WWE has to figure out how to make the ‘wild card rule’ work this time.
During this pandemic era, it has been nice to see newer faces getting TV time. Superstars like Austin Theory, Angel Garza, and Akira Tozawa have all had the opportunity to shine. The only problem is with a limited roster there are only so many match ups possible for each superstar. How many times can we watch Tozawa job to Andrade? With staleness in the rosters starting to be felt, a ‘brand invitational’ is extremely welcomed.
Who and why are the biggest questions that WWE must answer when it decides how it wants to handle the ‘brand invitational?’ With many big names like Roman Reigns, Sami Zayne, and Kevin Owens all choosing to stay home WWE is desperate for big names on both of their flagship shows. This cannot be like the ‘wild card rule’ where the same names are used on both shows for no reason at all. WWE must decide who is coming over and why it will benefit that show and the selected talent, otherwise, why waste time on a ruling at all and instead just pause the brand split?
With the ‘wild card rule,’ WWE seemed to get lost in the confusion of what the rule even was. Every week there would be a different number of superstars that would appear on a show at a given time. When the rule stated that four superstars would be allowed to jump brands, there would be times that wild card appearances could number as high as 12 on one show depending on if tag teams counted as one or two. Sadly, no one knew how WWE was handling the ‘wild card rule.’ Usually, the same superstars would be on both shows, and most of those appearances were for random 8-man tag matches of no consequence.
The current brand split has only been in place since October of 2019. It was not that long ago that we saw all of these superstars competing together. There is little need to merely put these superstars back together and pretend it is a big deal. WWE must make every moment a superstar uses the ‘brand invitational’ ruling to create a moment. Superstars should not be brought over just to wrestle a random tag match.
WWE needs to use this ‘brand invitational’ as an opportunity to create superstars out of all the new faces gracing their programs. These newer superstars are who should be used to create an impact by appearing on a new brand and showing a different audience who they are and what they are about.
By just taking the few big names that WWE currently has to work with and depending on them to carry both Raw and SmackDown! does nothing in making either show must-see. Wrestling is too big to be carried by just one name anymore. There needs to be a team of superstars all working together to make a show must-see, not only the main event. The attitude era thrived on the fact that everyone on the roster had a story and a reason to keep the viewer tuned in all night long. That is what the ‘brand invitational’ should be used to recreate.
Mixing up the rosters can be good for both Raw and SmackDown!, but NXT could benefit the most from the ‘brand invitational.’ NXT provides fresh faces every week on top of potential dream matches and feuds that could help boost up and coming superstars as well as ratings. Nothing could be bigger than Seth Rollins showing up on NXT to pick a fight with the recently debuted Karrion Kross. There is an opportunity for WWE to make waves with this new ruling.
Sadly, this new era is already set to kick off on the wrong foot with the announcement that King Corbin will be the first superstar to jump shows as he is scheduled to take on Drew McIntyre on Monday Night Raw. Corbin was someone who benefited the most from the ‘wild card rule’ the last time since he was involved in the top stories at the time on both shows, but he was someone that the WWE Universe did not want to see two times a week getting so much attention in storylines.
Hopefully, WWE can learn from the mistakes of the past and make the ‘brand invitational’ something unpredictable to bring fans back to their shows. There is a huge opportunity to raise the stock of all three of WWE’s brands as well as create new superstars, so when the crowds can return, there will be much more variety to build these brands around.
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Will the mistakes of the 'wild card rule' simply be duplicated or will WWE take the opportunity to create new stars on all three of their brands?