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Infusing heated wrestling rivalries with primetime TV drama, WWE Raw enjoyed a meteoric rise to popularity. Raw took wrestling programming to the next level -- by adding intricate, enticing storylines that involved bitter feuds, two-faced backstabbing, double-crossed deals and surprise romances to create a sports/entertainment show unlike any other.
This live-action series is among the most unpredictable and exhilarating action-packed programs on television. Led by GM Eric Bischoff, RAW showcases the stunning physical athleticism and widespread appeal of the WWE's preeminent superstars.
In early 2002, the WWE introduced a new plot twist with the brand split - RAW and Smackdown! would become two entirely independent shows. Wrestlers took part in a draft, appearing exclusively on whatever show they were drafted to. Much drama would soon be made of wrestlers 'defecting' to the other show after the draft ended. When Brock Lesnar, WWE Champion, defected to Smackdown!, RAW created a new heavyweight title of its own. New tag team title belts were created for Smackdown! after a similar situation.
After the brand split, Smackdown! began carving out a reputation as the 'wrestling show', as opposed to the 'drama show' of Raw. Much of this was due to Paul Heyman's influence as head writer of Smackdown!. Former owner of ECW, Heyman shifted the focus of Smackdown! towards booking intensely physical, fast-paced matches guaranteed to please the crowd. In-ring skills were worth much more on Smackdown! than on RAW; charisma and audience manipulation were certainly valued, but most Smackdown! superstars had to be able to back it up in the ring. These wrestlers formed the core of Heyman's booking, carrying other superstars, as well as each other, to some of the best free television matches in the history of professional wrestling.