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Are 'Brand Splits' Always Bad? | AEW Collision, Roster Splits and CM Punk.

Rumours of an AEW 'roster split' persist with another report indicating it may be 'harder' split of talent rather than just a way to manage the tension between CM Punk and The Elite:

This has caused a lot of consternation between fans and commentators alike. WWE booking in the years post WCW and prior to AEW has a lot to answer for with fans having to learn to trust that a company can use rematches, new title belts and even roster splits to create quality content rather than as a shortcut to create more content to fill space on a card.

The manner in which WWE has used the roster split to create more brands that they can then sell to competing TV brands has earned them eye-watering sums of money. It has been an undeniable success in business terms. AEW is following suit somewhat as Tony Khan and his team look to create another 2-hour TV show to earn a bigger TV deal from Warner Brothers-Discovery.

However there are good and bad ways to do everything. The WWE 'brand split' has always come with two 'world' champions, immediately diluting the prestige of their top prize. The 'necessity' for 'brand warfare' at Survivor Series has become lazy, under-booked and littered with plot holes. It also exposes WWE's lack of ability to create stars as they quickly break rules to have their small pool of stars frequent both shows to paper over the creative cracks.

Blue shirt forces Chad Gable to attack long-time tag partner.

None of these features of the WWE 'brand split' need to be part of AEW's roster split or they don't need to be so poorly utilised. The Fightful Select report has 'most' champions as 'exceptions' giving the impression there will be no need for a second World Championship as MJF could appear on both shows.

In fact, it has only been in recent years that the WWE's brand split has become so leaky. In the early 2000s and 2016-17, wrestlers only appeared on one brand and if you wanted to see such a wrestler you had to watch that one specific show. This lead to two periods of SmackDown earning critical acclaim in the 'SmackDown 6' and the 'SmackDown Live' eras. A huge part of this was allowing wrestlers like Guerrero, Edge and Mysterio time and opportunity in the early 2000s and the same for Styles, Ambrose and Lynch in 2016-17.

Collision promises to do the same for an AEW roster that is bursting at the seams. It currently promises a return for Miro and Andrade, two men whose frustrations with their previous position on the card had boiled over. Powerhouse Hobbs is a man who has sunk into TNT Championship quicksand and has ultimately been passed by in favour of Wardlow despite immense potential. Most of all it provides more leeway for someone like Swerve, Starks or Garcia to rise to the top of the card.

The other benefit of the roster split that was utilised in the early 2000s was to artificially create a barrier to matches being able to occur in the same way that wrestlers being in different promotions creates. AEW has found enormous success in Forbidden Door as it is the once a year chance for AEW talent to wrestle with or against NJPW talent.

Wrestlemania 21 saw WWE utilise a similar vibe to Tanahashi walking through the Forbidden Door to face Jon Moxley when they had a feud evolve between Raw wrestler, Shawn Michaels and SmackDown wrestler, Kurt Angle. They did this previously with similar success *in the build* between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg.

A roster split for AEW may see dream matches evolve in a similar manner, it may even encourage the booking team to capitalise on those bigger matches at PPVs out with title programs. The same scarcity can help elevate AEW championships even higher.

Many wrestling fans refer to the 'travelling champion' of old. This is a reference to how NWA Champions travelled throughout the territories that made up the NWA, defending the World Title as they went. With two shows having distinct rosters, you can get a little bit of that with maintaining just one world champion.

Having to move between storylines and matches with wrestlers exclusive to either Dynamite or Collision adds another dynamic to an AEW Championship reign. Title shots are more important as it allows the victor 'freedom of movement', but it also makes a championship reign more demanding as a champion may be expected to wrestle more, even twice in a week as a story writing tool. Imagine how injured Orange Cassidy would be if he had to defend the International Championship twice in a week and against top challengers from two different 'A shows'.

A final possibility I'd like to highlight is the possibility of creating a show that feels different to Dynamite. As a wrestling fan with limited time to watch wrestling, I now only watch AEW and select special events from other companies such as Wrestle Kingdom or the recent Stardom All-Star Queendom show. If something else that was good and accessible came along I could be persuaded. However as a busy person with responsibilities and other interests it would need to tick some boxes. As an AEW Dynamite viewer, I wouldn't want another 2 hours of similar content. That waters down the Wednesday show and is two hours that I need to be persuaded to give. When someone is full after a good meal, offering them more of the same is pointless, but people often find room for dessert...

AEW Collision needs to be distinct to Dynamite. It must avoid the B show syndrome that killed WCW Thunder, WWE SmackDown in the early 2010s and AEW Rampage. But it needs an identity too. With the talent being rumoured to be taking centre stage to launch it; CM Punk, FTR, Andrade, Miro and the House of Black, those are distinctive acts that will hopefully create an identity different to Dynamite.

So perhaps Dynamite is the state of the art wrestling show that AEW has been built upon and Collision weaves in more of the territory inspired storylines with matches more focussed on the face-offs between the competitors? I do struggle to put what Collision will be into words as I'm not, personally, on the CM Punk/FTR side of the fence when it comes to preferences.

It would be really beneficial if the way the shows are put together are differently too. Different writers, creative minds and producers for the two shows would go a long way to creating shows that do not overlap and tread on the same material.

So in conclusion, the majority of opinions I have seen are very negative when it comes to a roster split across two shows. In this article I hope I have outlined what I see to be the positives of such a move: - Don't assume AEW will do it like WWE.

- There will be space for more wrestlers to shine on TV.

- Creation of artificial barriers between wrestlers and therefore scarcity in the possibilities of matches. Making them more special when they arrive.

- Intrigue around how and when champions appear on each show.

- Diversity of programmings. An opportunity to make Collision different to Dynamite.


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