If you have time to wade through all of the (TM)s, then this press release is definitely worth a read.
1. This confirms the creation of additional PPVs.
2. Raw's top stars are listed as Ric, UT, Kane and the nWo. Smackdown lists Vince, Rock and Hogan. Looks like these are set in stone and trades will happen lower in the card (no mention of Benoit anywhere...in fact, Stacey Keibler is mentioned as being on Smackdown, but not Benoit, the #3 pick...for what it's worth.)
3. Vince specifically mentions elevating new stars.
Also, I read on 411 that the WWF is promoting a new set for Raw on Monday night, and the return of SCSA.
World Wrestling Federation Entertainment To Make RAW and SMACKDOWN Distinct Television Brands
STAMFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 28, 2002-- Both Shows to Have Unique Talent and Storylines
Starting in April 2002; Opens Opportunities to Grow Live Event, Pay-Per-View, Licensing and Branded Merchandise Businesses in the United States and Internationally
It's Ric Flair(TM), the Undertaker(TM), Kane(TM) and the nWo(R) on WWF RAW(R) on TNN and Mr. McMahon(TM), The Rock(R) and Hollywood Hulk Hogan(R) on WWF SmackDown!(TM) on UPN, as World Wrestling Federation Entertainment (WWFE) embarks on a new television paradigm which will give the fans more of what they want, and increase television viewers, ratings, and create business opportunities.
The company, as of April 1, 2002, will make its flagship program, WWF RAW(R), and WWF SmackDown!(TM) stand-alone programs with unique talent and storylines. If you want to see Booker T.(TM), Rob Van Dam(TM), Lita(TM) and the Hardy Boyz(TM), tune in to RAW on TNN on Monday nights at 9 p.m.; if you want to watch Kurt Angle(TM), Chris Jericho(TM), Edge(TM), and Stacy Kiebler(TM), tune in to SmackDown! on UPN on Thursdays at 8 p.m. RAW storylines will run Monday to Monday; SmackDown plots will run Thursday to Thursday.
The creation of two distinct television shows provides the opportunity to create and promote new Superstars and more exciting storylines. "We are going to give our fans more of what they have come to know and love. More twists and turns, more action, and more Superstars in the way that only the World Wrestling Federation(R) knows how to do," said Vince McMahon, Chairman of WWFE. "In the process, we will also win some new fans.
"This is an important step for our company, and one that we have planned for quite some time," McMahon added. "With the acquisition of WCW, and the talent development work we have been doing, we now have the depth of talent necessary to provide the star power to drive two compelling, distinct, prime-time television programs, and that's what our fans will get starting in April."
WWFE made the talent announcements live on RAW(R) this past Monday as part of a storyline talent "draft" resulting from the ongoing television feud between "co-owners" Mr. McMahon(TM) and Ric Flair(TM). The first 10 "rounds" of the draft were held on RAW(R) on Monday night. Another 20 rounds were announced on wwf.com after RAW(R) left the air. (A full list of talent assignments can be found at www.wwfowners.com/draft/index.html)
Wondering where to find Stone Cold Steve Austin(TM)? Stay tuned. He is the hottest "free agent" in the business for which both shows are vying. As for Triple H(TM) and Jazz(TM), they are current men's and women's champions, respectively, who will float across both programs until someone else captures the title belts. "Trades" between programs and other plot devices will provide the flexibility to move certain talent from show to show to drive storyline opportunities and create controversy, a World Wrestling Federation(R) trademark.
Interest in the draft on Monday night was high. The RAW(R) episode was the highest rated program since The Rock(R)'s return to RAW(R) in July 2001. RAW(R) finished as the #1 prime time show (basic cable and broadcast) in its 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. slot among male teens and men ages 12 to 34. Women were also intrigued, with women viewers 18 to 24 increasing by 129 percent from the previous week. It was the second strong week of ratings for RAW(R) following WrestleMania(R)X-8.
With separate RAW(R) and SmackDown!(TM) touring companies, WWFE will significantly increase opportunities for fans to experience the World Wrestling Federation live. WWFE is increasing the number of live events it offers annually in the United States and Canada, from approximately 200 to 350. An expanded international touring schedule is underway, which will increase the number of international dates, and will bring the World Wrestling Federation(R) to Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Scotland, Germany and Australia in 2002, in addition to traditional touring stop England.
WWFE is currently the top provider of pay-per-view programming in the world, and expects to offer additional pay-per-views in the United States and internationally.
New licensing and branded merchandise opportunities are expected through the promotion of two separate, distinct television brands, and the expansion of sales opportunities at live events.
YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME!?! - The immortal, chilling words of...The Shockmaster!