World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), formerly the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) before May 5, 2002, utilized a brand extension (officially known as the WWE Brand Extension) to assign on-screen employees to one of its primary television programs. Originally, WWE used both Raw and SmackDown! to promote on-screen talent, storylines, and matches. However, with the Brand Extension, each program would featured distinct wrestlers, storylines, and matches. In this instance of a brand extension, each brand is treated as a conference that is a part of a governing body, in that each brand features distinct production relating to its own roster that help promote the governing company, WWE.
First used in 2002 with Raw and SmackDown, the WWF conducted a mock-sports draft lottery in which the storyline owners of each brand, Ric Flair (Raw) and WWF Chairman Vince McMahon (SmackDown), drafted wrestlers onto their brand during an episode of Raw and over the WWF's official website until every wrestler was assigned a brand. In 2006, WWE extended its franchise by adding the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) brand, which was headed by Paul Heyman, and ECW on Sci Fi program. Heyman drafted one superstar from Raw and SmackDown, while the rest of the roster consisted of alumni of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion and other signed free agents. The ECW brand operated until 2010, when WWE Chairman McMahon announced its termination.
Raw and SmackDown!
After acquiring the remains of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), its main competitor throughout the 1990s, in March 2001, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) sought a way to split itself into two separate promotions, because of the numbers of talent that it had acquired as part of its purchase. On March 18, 2002, Linda McMahon announced the "brand extension" in which the company would be split into two distinct brands.
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 Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), respectively. Vince McMahon detested having to share his creation with Flair and looked for a way to dissolve their partnership. After entering a feud with The Undertaker, Flair sought a match with him at WrestleMania X8. However, the WWF Board of Directors would only allow the match if Flair were to return one hundred percent control to McMahon. Flair agreed, however, the Board also reserved the right to review the ownership status of the WWF following WrestleMania. Their decision was to split the entire WWF roster into two separate entities, with Vince McMahon in control of the SmackDown! brand and Ric Flair in control of the Raw brand. A draft was held the following week on RAW. Each owner would get a total of thirty picks. The brand extension officially began on April 1, 2002. 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.
The 2002 World Wrestling Federation (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 WWE (known then as 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, Ric Flair and Vince McMahon, onto their respective brands, Raw and SmackDown!. For the televised half of the draft, ten brand selections were manually made by Flair and McMahon. 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||n.W.o (Kevin Nash, Scott Hall & X-Pac)||Mr. McMahon allowed the n.W.o to be drafted as a group.|
|5||SmackDown!||3||Chris Benoit||Drafted while recovering from neck surgery. Benoit made his WWE return on the Raw brand instead.|
|7||SmackDown!||4||"Hollywood" Hulk Hogan|
|8||Raw||4||Rob Van Dam||When drafted, Van Dam was the WWF Intercontinental Champion, making the title exclusive to Raw.|
|9||SmackDown!||5||Billy and Chuck||When drafted, Billy and Chuck were the WWF Tag Team Champions, making the title exclusive to SmackDown! In addition, Billy and Chuck's manager, Rico went along with them in the draft.|
|12||Raw||6||The Big Show|
|14||Raw||7||Bubba Ray Dudley|
|16||Raw||8||Brock Lesnar||When drafted, Lesnar's manager, Paul Heyman, went along with him in the draft.|
|18||Raw||9||William Regal||When drafted, Regal was the WWF European Champion, making the title exclusive to Raw.|
|19||SmackDown!||10||Maven||When drafted, Maven was the WWF Hardcore Champion, making the title exclusive to SmackDown! However, Raven would defeat Maven for the championship prior to the brand separation, bring the title to Raw with him.|
|20||Raw||10||Lita||First Diva Drafted. Only Diva selected on television.|
|23||SmackDown!||12||Tajiri||When drafted, Tajiri was the WWF Cruiserweight Champion, making the title exclusive to SmackDown!.|
|37||SmackDown!||19||Diamond Dallas Page|
|41||SmackDown!||21||Scotty 2 Hotty|
- Picks #1-20 were made live on Raw on TNN
- Picks #21 -57 were conducted over WWF.com.
Steve Austin signed with Raw on the April 1st 2002 edition of RAW following advice from Vince McMahon and Ric Flair Austin ended up giving both men a stone cold stunner as well.
On the June 10, 2002 edition of Raw, Vince Mcmahon became the sole owner of World Wrestling Entertainment (after the WWF was court ordered to change their name) when he defeated Flair in a No Holds Barred match.
After World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) 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 World Wrestling Entertainment (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. ECW's televised program was replaced in its slot with WWE NXT, a new weekly program what McMahon described as "the next evolution of WWE; the next evolution of television history."
Interbrand competition was 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 has also led to more interaction between the brands.
Starting in April 2007 with Backlash, all pay-per-views now feature all the brands as they originally were in 2002.
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 WWE Undisputed 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. With several specialty championships being exclusive to one brand, numerous wrestlers were left with no title to fight for.
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. The United States Championship and WWE Tag Team Championships 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. Following a talent exchange agreement between Raw and ECW made in September 2008, the World Tag Team Championship was also eligible to be shared between Raw and ECW, as seen when John Morrison and The Miz beat CM Punk and Kofi Kingston to become new World Tag Team Champions. John Morrison and The Miz appeared more frequently on the SmackDown 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. Neither tag title however has been retired, instead by unification the titles are defended together as one across all WWE brands, with their histories remaining separate. The move to not retire either championship leaves open the possibility that the titles could eventually again be split up.
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