The WWE have been on a roll lately. We finally got the long awaited Shield feud on the very top of the card, AJ Styles continues to #BeatUpJohnCena in an epic showdown between two modern day legends and new stars like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have been set for big pushes once they temporarily stop fighting each other forever.
With a constant influx of top level talent from NXT, the WWE roster has turned into the best and deepest roster in a long time, so it made a lot of sense when the return of the brand split was announced a few months ago.
Giving RAW and Smackdown exclusive superstars and each show a different feel and direction seemed to make a lot of sense. This was even more apparent when Stephanie and Shane McMahon were set to take charge of each brand. There was so much potential here. A perfect set up for an established show catering to the casual fans on RAW competing with a smark-heavy and wrestling oriented Smackdown, could the WWE possibly drop the ball?
To see my own prediction/fantasy booking, click here
With the #1 pick, RAW selected:
Like I guessed in my draft prediction, the #1 pick is Seth Rollins. This makes a lot of sense given his history with Stephanie McMahon and his potential to become WWE Champion before the brands officially split.
Draft Grade: A+
An underdog compared to his former Shield brethren, the current WWE champion Dean Ambrose is the sensible first pick for Smackdown. There are better wrestlers in the WWE, but Ambrose exemplifies what Smackdown should want to be.
Draft Grade: A
A surprising pick at #3. A clear sign that there are high hopes for the women’s division. RAW GM Mick Foley is a big fan of womens wrestling while Steph ushered in the “Divas Revolution” (of course she did…). I’m not sure about splitting the women’s division and putting another championship on RAW however.
Draft Grade: B-
A great pick for both Smackdown and AJ Styles. Uplifting to see the former face of TNA being held in such high regard after his original feud with Jericho had me worried he’d be lost in the shuffle. AJ can be a top draw for Smackdown and suits the brands vision.
Draft Grade: A+
The first of six picks from the NXT roster. RAW totally takes some shine away from Smackdown with this pick, as they go with a NXT talent already. Finn was the expected first pick from NXT and has a lot of potential, but I’m slightly disappointed to not see him on Smackdown along with AJ Styles.
Draft Grade: A-
About a month ago he’d probably go #1, but that’s what losing the WWE Championship and a failed drug test can do to you. The pick was met with a wave of boos from the crowd as they continued the story that Stephanie McMahon doesn’t like him. I guess they still won’t turn him heel then. Sadly. Reigns belongs on RAW however and is still a big draw.
Draft Grade: B(ooooooooooooooo!)
“The face that runs the place” said Shane McMahon and he is right. Cena is still the top draw in the WWE which means it’s huge value for Smackdown at #7. Exclusively on the blue brand for the first time since 2005 (his 2 hour stint at the 2011 draft notwithstanding) this pick will give them a solid ratings boost. He can also continue his feud with AJ Styles.
Draft Grade: A
His part-time status makes him fall, but when he is on TV Brock Lesnar = ratings. A top draw who makes the most sense for RAW and is still a hugely valuable asset for the WWE even with a failed USADA test looming.
Draft Grade: A-
Urrrrrgghhhhhh…. The first real dud of the draft and a sign of things to come. Smackdown is supposed to give the underdogs a chance, focus on the underused wrestlers, the guys who have never gotten the recognition they deserve… so they choose a 14 year veteran who has constantly been given opportunities and mostly failed to deliver the last 6-7 years. He makes no sense for Smackdown and is picked ahead of guys like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks, Cesaro, The New Day, Enzo & Cass etc. …
Draft Grade: D-
The New Day
After the last pick “The New Day” gives us some much needed power of positivity, as they stick together as a group and can continue to entertain on Monday nights. Even more championships for RAW, as if the Cruiserweight and Women’s Championships wasn’t enough. Great pick for RAW, while fans of Smackdown can continue to be sour.
Draft Grade: B+
RAW continues to pick up great talent with the pick of “The Underdog from the Underground”. Sounds like something that would have made sense for Smackdown… That’s because it does. If Zayn goes #9 to Smackdown and Orton goes here at #11, I’d have no problems and consider the draft a success at this point. Kevin Owens to Smackdown on the next pick makes too much sense after this pick..
Draft Grade: B
Nope. Smackdown picks the wrong talented obese guy. Bray Wyatt has at least been underutilized as he has never really taken off as you’d expect. His gimmick is certainly not that of an underdog however. Although he has been booked to lose every single feud except getting a clean win on the current Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan at the infamous 2014 Royal Rumble. Maybe that’s why he gets picked here over Kevin Owens or Sasha Banks. Bray Wyatt is still a valuable pick, even though I’d personally take him a bit later.
Draft Grade: C+
Another great pick for RAW. I guess with Charlotte and the Women’s Championship stuck on RAW, picking Sasha at this point makes more sense for the flagship show. At least we get to see the best female wrestling on RAW now. Another huge win for Stephanie McMahon(they are making her look really strong as usual).
Draft Grade: A-
aaaaaaaand there goes the dream of seeing “The 4 horsewomen” in a title match any time soon. I like Becky Lynch, and I guess Smackdown have to pick a female wrestler to not shun a decent portion of female wrestling fans away from the brand. Bayley from NXT would have garnered a bigger pop and given them more of a boost if the goal is to create a second women’s title. I did not expect to see Becky Lynch get picked before Kevin Owens either.
Draft Grade: C+
Chris Jericho over Kevin Owens? Over Rusev? Over Cesaro? Over Neville? Over Enzo & Cass? Over Gallows & Anderson? I guess it’s not the first time Y2J has been put over younger talent this year. wtf WWE…
Draft Grade: D(rink it in maaaaaaaaan) *shudders*
Let’s speed it up a bit. The aforementioned remaining superstars are pretty good, but at this point most of the big names have gone.
Baron Corbin and The Miz are exactly the underdogs that Smackdown envisioned for their brand. Oh wait! No they are not! They are the total opposite… RAW with 3 more great picks, even if KO could have been picked 10 spots ago. At this point it is starting to feel like Smackdown is going in the wrong direction, while RAW are stacking up on people who can’t all be featured at the same time. I’m as upset as Shane and Bryan were booked to look during this part of the draft and where is Cesaro? Baron freakin Corbin…
Draft Grade: D
Finally Smackdown get some world class wrestlers again! American Alpha got a huge pop and will be something exciting to watch on Smackdown. If only they could chase some tag team gold. The Club is split up now, with AJ on Smackdown, but with RAW picking Bálor earlier it is the best option. AJ deserves to shine on his own. Dolph does too, but his shtick has been getting old. Alas he has a great chance to fix that on a brand who have to take what they can get. Nia Jax would be a great opponent for Becky Lynch to overcome on Smackdown, but we might as well put the women on RAW now. Where in the blue hell is Cesaro? The Big Show!? Seriously… I feel swerved.
Draft Grade: C(esaro where are you!!??)
Oh dear, Smackdown… Cesaro is right there and you pick… Natalya. At least the Swiss Superman is off the board now, but he is stuck on Stephanie‘s show buried under a wealth of talent. Status quo… Could we get a trade somehow? Cesaro was visibly upset in his interview on the WWE Network. We can only hope it’s a work. Neville will be the face of the Cruiserweight division on RAW, while Del Rio and Sheamus are pretty much the same to me at this stage of their careers. Smackdown was always catered more towards Latin America, so the brands and draft range makes sense for both.
Draft Grade: C
Time for the undercard and jobbers who had to settle on being drafted in the supplemental draft. 10 picks for each grade now..
Number one contender for the IC title Darren Young could have been a solid pick for Smackdown instead of going for IC Champ The Miz waaay earlier, but you know… it wouldn’t make sense to back the underdog in that title match when that is exactly what you said you’d do… On a similarly confusing note, Kalisto, one of the top cruiserweights in the WWE, is sent to the brand without the Cruiserweight title. Brilliant. Even Kalisto is confused to the point he can’t speak coherently. Naomi gets to travel with and be on the same brand as her husband Jimmy Uso, while Paige does not get that same luxury by being sent on opposite brands of her boyfriend Del Rio. On the topic of Kane, Titus and Swagger… enough said.
Draft Grade: C-
Smackdown get some interesting talent near the bottom of the draft. Sad to see Apollo Crews already being such an afterthought, but with the stereotypical, tough guy name along with a smiling happy persona it might not be a surprise. Nice fit with Smackdown nonetheless. Same goes for a team with another unoriginal name, Breezango (Gorgeous Liaisons, make it happen WWE!). Especially Tyler Breeze can become a singles star on SD. Since Bayley has to stay at NXT, then Alexa Bliss is the next best thing I guess. RAW mostly made filler picks, not much to comment on there.
Draft Grade: B-
Nothing really of note here… Rumors were running wild when it was announced that 6 superstars from NXT would take a step up. Nakamura! Bayley! Samoa Joe! Think of the possibilities! Well, we got Mojo Rawley… I’m not hyped. Not even Tye Dillinger would give that a perfect 10. Where was he by the way? Heath Slater didn’t even get picked. I guess they are giving him a Zoidberg gimmick. Why not?
Draft grade: N/A (Who cares?)
All in all it was a very confusing draft sprinkled with some sad confirmations that some of our favorite wrestlers are not held in a high regard by the WWE. In typical wrestling fan fashion I’m disappointed with the WWE, even with some clear positive signs, especially at the top.
I’m mostly disappointed by the lack of direction with Smackdown, as I had high hopes the show would be catered more towards fans of professional wrestling rather than sports entertainment.
RAW seems like the place to be, but unfortunately you have to share it with Michael Cole on commentary. At least they sent JBL to Smackdown and promoted Corey Graves instead. Good move WWE! I’m twerkin’ Maggle!
The draft has come and gone and the inaugural “Smackdown Live!” made the show feel dead on arrival. It will still be interesting to see how the show will be presented next week. Do we get a new stage? Will the look and feel of the show try to be different from the flagship Monday Night RAW? Or will it feel like a watered down version of RAW just like the roster? We have to wait and see, but for now, my heart weeps for Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan.