On May 25th, 2016, the WWE announced that SmackDown will become a live show on Tuesday nights and will feature its own distinctive roster starting on July 19th, 2016. Although it wasn’t formally stated, wrestling fans all over knew that this was the return of the Brand Split that WWE initiated in 2002. Many wrestlers have come and gone in that time period and the roster today has a lot of fresher faces than in years prior. Only three of the top stars from Ohio Valley Wrestling remain in the company today in Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, and John Cena; all of whom the focus has decreased on in order to make room for new stars. The WWE had become more open to wrestlers from the independent scene with guys like AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and several others getting prominent booking on TV. The WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship have been replaced by the unified title known as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. And Vince McMahon, the dominant boss for many years, has now been replaced by the new crop of authority figures in Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H.
In an era where the WWE is lacking genuine stars, the return of the Brand Split is a perfect way to help protect, preserve, and develop more wrestlers than they have since the Brand Split’s end in 2011. If these brands are to be truly separate, then the WWE will be able to hold off on wrestlers crossing paths with each other for much longer periods of time. In addition to that, wrestlers will now be able to have more long-term feuds that will help to make both the champions and challengers look even better in the process. However, before the Brand Split can be truly in effect, a draft must take place.
This new draft will be the first one to occur since the show in 2011 and will require intelligent booking and planning to make it work. If more upper echelon talents are on one brand than the other, if the midcard isn’t balanced, and if this doesn’t come off as a genuine competition than this revived concept will be pointless. So this upcoming draft will need to have a good enough balance to keep both shows looking good and for them to be able to stand on their own.
And with that being said, this article will look at the roster and pick 10 wrestlers who should be drafted to RAW and 10 wrestlers who should be drafted to SmackDown on July 19th.
SIDENOTE: For the draft in this article, the World title will not be split and will allow whoever’s holding it to appear on both shows. Similar booking would apply to the Women’s Championship and the Tag Team Championships as well. However, the title holders must be on a specific brand in the event that they lose the title. Also, the two midcard championships would be brand specific with the United States Championship being the RAW title and the Intercontinental Championship being the SmackDown.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
20 Cesaro - Monday Night RAW
After his return the night after WrestleMania, Cesaro has been picking up steam in the midcard as he pursues the Intercontinental Championship. Though he has yet to win a singles title since his debut in 2012, Cesaro would probably be able to do more by becoming a two-time United States Champion and being on RAW than becoming an Intercontinental Champion and going to SmackDown. With either Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens likely to win the Intercontinental Championship, that title has more than enough people pursuing it. However, Rusev just became the United States Champion and could use some more faces to fight. Also, if he is ever given a chance at the World Title, the chemistry he showed with Roman Reigns during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament would be great for both men in a main event of RAW or a PPV. Overall, Cesaro’s technical ability and power wrestling would be a much better fit for RAW than SmackDown, which would have more high-flyers on their roster.
19 Dolph Ziggler - Tuesday Night SmackDown
As an established midcarder and former World Champion, Dolph Ziggler would have the best shot at making himself relevant again by becoming a member of the SmackDown roster. As a face contender for the Intercontinental Championship, Ziggler could renew his rivalry with The Miz to help build him up for whoever he would lose the belt to. Aside from that, there would be much more potential away from the main event scene and away from the United States Championship, which Ziggler never seemed to do anything with. And if worse comes to worst, then Ziggler could always form a tag team with his look alike Tyler Breeze and they could pursue the tag team championships.
18 Apollo Crews - Monday Night RAW
As a recent call-up from NXT to the main roster, Apollo Crews has a lot more potential as a RAW Superstar than a SmackDown one. With Crews having little to no character development and only a few wins under his belt, he runs the same risk of becoming the next Neville; the other man that creative forgot. So with his feud beginning with Sheamus, it would be foolish to move him to a different brand where much more beloved technical wrestlers get showcased typically. After his feud with Sheamus ends, Apollo could benefit from pursuing the United States Championship and chasing a big win and a major accomplishment so early on into his career. Due to him being so new to the main roster, there’s plenty of time for Crews to develop and gain momentum, but it has to start now and RAW is the best place for that development to happen.
17 Kalisto - Tuesday Night SmackDown
After Rusev ended his forgettable reign as the United States Champion, Kalisto would have much more upside on SmackDown then he would RAW. For one, Alberto Del Rio wouldn’t be on SmackDown in this mock draft, so that match couldn’t be revisited for the umpteenth time. Aside from that, Kalisto returning to the tag team division would help to add more exciting teams to the show and would provide for some high-flying, fast paced action to counter teams like The New Day and The Dudley Boyz. However, if Kalisto would continue his singles career then that opens him up to matches against wrestlers on SmackDown whom Kalisto has never encountered, instead of consistently fighting Del Roio. Remaining a member of the RAW Roster would be more of the same in a lot of ways, but becoming a SmackDown Superstar may allow him to better fill the void left by the wrestler he’s often compared to, Rey Mysterio.
16 Sheamus - Monday Night RAW
As a wrestler with a gimmick of hating The New Era of the WWE, Sheamus role as a heel works best with wrestlers like Cesaro and his current feud with Apollo Crews. Sheamus is a good enough heel on the card and is a veteran at this point in his WWE career. And while he may not be that interesting at the moment, the right booking may change all of that. If another title is brought into the WWE like the European Championship or some type of WWE Television title, then Sheamus could be a great wrestler to kick start any of those belts with. After all, he is a former World Champion and United States Champion, so he does have that bit of credibility with any midcard title he holds. Sheamus' feud with Apollo Crews is too early to judge now, but if it is booked the right way, then both wrestlers can come out looking like stars of the RAW roster. But even if that feud fails, Sheamus would probably fit more on RAW than SmackDown at this point in his career.
15 Neville - Tuesday Night SmackDown
Despite already having Kalisto on this mock SmackDown roster, the fact remains that Neville is a wrestler who would need to go to SmackDown more than any other wrestler. Neville has been on the main roster for a year and did absolutely nothing of value or interest. His gimmick as The Man That Gravity Forgot didn’t really mean much considering the fact that he rarely won a match. In his second week on the main roster, he lost to Dolph Ziggler, he lost to Jericho on the Beast in the East Network Special, and he never beat any wrestler that mattered on the show. On SmackDown, Neville and Kalisto could begin a rivalry based on who the best high flyer in the company is, leading to a series of great matches. If RAW is to be different than SmackDown, then having more high-flying action on one show would definitely help distinguish the brands.
14 Alberto Del Rio - Monday Night RAW
Alberto Del Rio was brought into the WWE during the time that the Brand Split was still in effect. As a result of this, Del Rio spent most of his time on SmackDown until the latest draft in 2011 when he was drafted to RAW. Despite this, Del Rio would show up a lot more on SmackDown then he would RAW over the years, making him much more synonymous with that brand rather than RAW. So in an effort to change things up, keeping Del Rio on SmackDown might not be the best move. Despite not being very over with the fans, Del Rio is still a very good wrestler and can put on good matches. With the right storyline and characterization, Del Rio could be a much better heel than he currently is portraying. Seeing as how Del Rio is doing nothing of interest currently, a feud with Apollo Crews or Cesaro would make for some entertaining matches. And if push comes to shove, the WWE can always go back to Del Rio being The Mexican Aristocrat.
13 Baron Corbin - Tuesday Night SmackDown
Due to the sheer amount of feuds that occur on Monday Night RAW, Baron Corbin has been given about the same amount of exposure as Apollo Crews. And with such little time on RAW, it may be best if The Lone Wolf becomes a member of the SmackDown brand. Corbin’s gimmick of an anti-indy wrestler guy who just wants to make money would do wonders amongst a roster that tends to showcase more hardcore fan favorites on the show. With the wrestlers you'll discover throughout this list (plenty of indy guys), Corbin would be able to develop his character more against the guys he claims to hate. With Sheamus on RAW talking about hating The New Era, it would make sense to have a similar character on SmackDown in Corbin. As far as title pursuits go, it’s way too early for him but having some good feuds that further his development would probably be best if it occurred on SmackDown.
12 Rusev - Monday Night RAW
As the new United States Champion, Rusev has a chance to recapture some of the momentum he lost when Cena beat him for the title and with the Intercontinental Championship booked for SmackDown in this mock draft, the United States Championship would need to be on RAW. Rusev has only been in the company for two years and still has tons of matches he can have with new wrestlers. Superstars like Apollo Crews, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and others would make for great feuds that could elevate both the title and Rusev. Even after he loses the championship, RAW would still be the best place for him as a midcard monster heel.
11 Sami Zayn - Tuesday Night SmackDown
Continuing his pursuits of both the Intercontinental Championships and a victory in WWE against Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn would benefit greatly from being drafted to SmackDown. As an underdog who has very similar traits to Daniel Bryan, Zayn has lost more matches then he’s won, yet continues to garner the respect of the audience. Zayn has only been involved in feuds for the Intercontinental Championship and Kevin Owens, which provides him a golden opportunity to have great matches with other wrestles on this list. Matches against Baron Corbin, Ziggler, or his old NXT rival Neville would make for good feuds and wrestling. And if his pursuit of both Kevin Owens and the Intercontinental Championship is to continue, then Zayn will have a decent number of feuds lined up for him.
10 AJ Styles - Monday Night RAW
Since debuting at the Royal Rumble, AJ Styles has been a great part of the weekly programming of the show. His feud with Chris Jericho led to some of the best matches of the night and his recent feud with Roman Reigns established him as a wrestler who can perform at a main event level to the casual audience. And while Styles won’t be back in the main event for a while, there is still a ton for him to do as a member of the RAW roster. Pursuing the United States Championship would make for some great matches between The Phenomenal One and The Bulgarian Brute, as well as elevate that belt to the level that John Cena had it. Also, he can pursue individual feuds amongst wrestlers like Cesaro, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton under the guise of chasing the championship. There’s still a ton of fresh matches and feuds for Styles to partake in and having them happen on RAW would only further increase the entertainment value of the show.
9 Kevin Owens - Tuesday Night SmackDown
Kevin Owens shocked the world when he made his main roster debut against John Cena and cleanly defeated him. His feud with Cena and the buildup on RAW were some of the best things going on television at the time. And with his current obsession of regaining the Intercontinental Championship, drafting Owens to SmackDown sounds like the best move for him in the long run. Assuming he isn’t going to win the Money in the Bank Briefcase, although it would be great if he did, Owens pursuit of the Intercontinental Championship has helped to add value to the title. Instead of abandoning the pursuit of the title at the first sight of a World Title opportunity, Owens has made his intention known about regaining his title. Having Owens in the midcard until the time is right is the best move for him now. In the event that he actually does regain the Intercontinental Championship, having feuds with Neville, Ziggler, or John Cena again would do wonders for the credibility of the belt and the continued rise to stardom of Owens.
8 Bray Wyatt - Monday Night RAW
As a superstar with some major momentum before his injury, Bray Wyatt and the rest of The Wyatt Family have the best chance to build up some momentum as members of the main roster. Wyatt seemingly turned face after WrestleMania and received a huge reaction while teaming with Roman Reigns for the first time. As a face, there are several feuds that could occur with Wyatt at the helm of his group, including the possibility for a feud with The Club should Finn Balor debut or if AJ Styles reunites with the group. Also, the past feud between Reigns and Wyatt led to some great moments and matches, so if Wyatt ever pursues the World Title, then it would make for some more great encounters.
7 The Miz - Tuesday Night SmackDown
This has more to do with the title The Miz is holding than with Miz himself because assuming that the WWE will keep the midcard titles brand specific, then it will only be natural for The Miz to come along for the ride as the Intercontinental Championship. His current run as the Intercontinental Champion has been much better than his previous runs due to better matches as well as having his wife, Maryse, as his valet. In the past, The Miz would seem to make more appearance on SmackDown that he would on RAW anyway, so continuing this trend seems like an ideal move. What his next step will be upon losing the title will be interesting, but as for now, The Miz’s championship reign and who will take the title from him is a good storyline for the title that continues to play out week after week.
6 Randy Orton - Monday Night RAW
As a former World Champion and major star from The Ruthless Aggression Era not named John Cena, Randy Orton on RAW would only help to further increase the star power of the show. While it may be a bit unrealistic for Orton to go into the midcard like John Cena did, Orton still has a ton of great feuds he has yet to have. Matches against the likes of AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt would be entirely new matchups if the WWE were to pursue these matches. There’s also the very real possibility that Orton could be put into another feud with Roman Reigns, which would probably be fantastic again. In addition to the fact that most of Orton’s accomplishments occurred as a member of the RAW roster, it’s only fitting that he continues to build up the brand that made him the star that he is today.
5 Dean Ambrose - Tuesday Night SmackDown
Initially, the thought occurred that having Ambrose on RAW would be a better idea, but considering Ambrose’s status in the company as of now, it would probably be best if he were drafted to SmackDown. Ambrose, despite winning his last two PPV matches, has lost a lot of steam from his feuds with Brock Lesnar and Triple H. At one point, it seemed like he was the next wrestler to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion but now it feels like the WWE has absolutely no interest in going in that direction right now. While he is currently in the Money in the Bank match, Ambrose winning the briefcase would be a major step in his career and would provide fans hope with him becoming a future World Champion. However, before he would cash in, it would be best for him to be booked better first. Having Ambrose pick up PPV win after PPV until the time of his cash-in would do wonders for his credibility and would make his cash-in that much greater when it would happen. If he doesn’t win the briefcase, then at least he can have some better feuds with this roster.
4 Seth Rollins - Monday Night RAW
Fresh off of a return from injury and headed for a title match against Roman Reigns, the WWE would be wise to draft Seth Rollins to RAW in order to preserve some of the star power already on the roster. Despite many differing opinions about Seth Rollins’s title reign this past year, the fact remains that Rollins is a big star with a lot of momentum on his side. He’s not the best on the microphone, but he is a great in-ring performer. His high-flying, fast paced moveset will be just what RAW needs to have more variety amongst its roster. And, in the event that the WWE will turn him face at one point, that will open the door to a plethora of new opponents for The Architect of The Shield.
3 Chris Jericho - Tuesday Night SmackDown
It’s currently unknown how long The Ayatollah of Rock-N-Rolla will be in the WWE, but for as long as he is in the company, his star power is needed a lot more on SmackDown than it is for RAW. Chris Jericho is a six-time world champion, a nine-time Intercontinental Champion, and a seven-time Tag Team champion so his accolades along with his abilities on the mic and in the ring will be of great value to SmackDown. Assuming his feud with Dean Ambrose is over, there are a lot more opponents for Jericho on SmackDown than there is for RAW. Feuds with fellow Canadians like Sami Zayn are possibilities depending on how long he stays, as well as pursuing the Intercontinental Championship once again. If he turns face at any point, matches against Baron Corbin and Kevin Owens would definitely help to elevate them. Even if Jericho will only stay until SummerSlam, that means he’ll be available for one more good feud against just about anyone on the SmackDown roster.
2 Roman Reigns - Monday Night RAW
As the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, it would be wise for the WWE to adhere to a formula in which the World Champion, Women’s Champion, and Tag Team Championships are allowed to appear on both shows during their title runs. However, in the event that Roman Reigns loses the World Title, it would be best for Reigns to be the face of RAW. Though many fans have problems with Reigns’s character at this point, the fact remains that he is one of the biggest stars in the WWE right now. Reigns is the new face of the company and he should be the face of the biggest show.
1 John Cena - Tuesday Night SmackDown
No matter how many great wrestlers are added to SmackDown, the bottom line is that the show will need star power in order to matter. And since the current World Champion Roman Reigns would be a much better fit for RAW, the best thing for SmackDown would be for Big Match John to become the Tuesday Night Delight. John Cena began his career in the WWE on SmackDown when he answered an open challenge from Kurt Angle and spent a few years there until he became the WWE Champion and was drafted to RAW in 2005. Since that time, Cena has become one of the biggest draws for WWE and his name and star power carries a lot of weight to it; evident by how he elevated the United States Championship in 2015. With the main event scene currently filled by Reigns and Seth Rollins, this provides a golden opportunity for Cena to do more work in the midcard again. Whether it’s pursuing the Tag Team championships, pursuing the Intercontinental Championship, or just having non-title feuds with whoever’s on the show, SmackDown would benefit greatly by having the face that runs the place on their roster.