Vince McMahon opened Monday Night Raw this week with a new rule for both Raw and SmackDown's roster. Under the Wild Card Rule, four wrestlers from Raw and four wrestlers from SmackDown would be able to freely appear on the opposite brand every week without any repercussions.
The rule was met with disdain by many fans online, given that it dealt a massive blow to the latest brand split that had been well-maintained for the past three years (though they started to cheat leading up to WrestleMania with NXT call-ups not being named to either show and Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch popping up on both shows). The rule was also somewhat clumsily explained, as McMahon didn't specify if the rule was in-place every week, if it was different wrestlers each week or if members from one brand could jump to the other brand and possibly challenge for a championship. He also initially stated it was three wrestlers from each brand, only to have five SmackDown wrestlers appear on Raw (Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, Elias and Lars Sullivan). He tried to wave the complaints away by saying Elias didn't count (no reason given) and that it would be four wrestlers each week in order to appease Sullivan.
After the show Dave Meltzer appeared on Wrestling Observer Radio and gave some more information on what's going on with the rosters backstage. According to him, McMahon wanted to keep the maintain a strict roster split. But between Raw's third hour dropping below two million and SmackDown hitting its lowest rating since the brand split last week, McMahon was pressured by officials from both NBCUniversal and FOX to improve things quickly.
"Fox wanted more storylines that are going to be on both Raw and SmackDown," Meltzer said. "You know, NBCUniversal was real upset about the ratings especially in the third hour and was asking questions about: 'Our ratings are this, this, and this - why'd we give away Roman Reigns?' ... So the pressure's on that the top stars work both shows. So it'll be different guys. I guess it'll be four guys on both shows in theory."
This week's Raw closed with Kingston and Bryan (two SmackDown stars) in a WrestleMania 35 rematch for the WWE Championship.
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