The WWE Draft took place with great fanfare on the inaugural live edition of SmackDown. Both shows had representation of their Commissioner and General Manager working together to make the selections. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon were at a disadvantage with the rules being made that Raw will get three picks out of every five selections for each round. This allowed Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon to dictate the pace of the draft. Each brand left with a couple of different strengths on their side. Raw will have the stronger tag team division and deeper women’s division. The New Day, Big Cass & Enzo Amore, The Club, Charlotte and Sasha Banks heading to Raw gave an insight into that.
SmackDown’s strength will come from the combination of youth and experience. John Cena and Randy Orton have been the stalwarts of WWE over the past decade. Both future Hall of Famers are reaching the end of their prime but bring star power to the top of SmackDown. American Alpha, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin and Alexa Bliss are just a few of the new stars bringing change to the program. Younger talent will have a better chance at stepping up on SmackDown. We’ll recap the entire draft here with a look at the best eight and seven worst picks that were selected on the television broadcast of the draft.
Best: Seth Rollins (Raw)
The first overall pick of the draft had to be Seth Rollins going to Raw. John Cena is no longer working a full-time schedule when it comes to house shows and is transitioning his role in WWE. Roman Reigns didn’t deserve the honor after violating the wellness policy as WWE World Champion. Brock Lesnar is in the news for failing drug tests as well before his UFC fight. Dean Ambrose made more sense for SmackDown and is a secondary talent to Rollins.
Raw set the tone of Rollins being the most highly pushed in-ring performer on the show going forward. Reigns, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and many others will be gunning after Rollins but there’s no doubt he holds the top spot on Raw. There’s a very good chance he either wins the WWE Championship at Battleground on Sunday or ends up winning a vacant new title down the line. WWE has given Rollins a bigger role with the Reigns suspension and he is scoring touchdowns every week out. The first overall pick had to make a statement and Rollins did just that.
Worst: Randy Orton (SmackDown)
Randy Orton wasn’t a bad pick by any means, but he went a little earlier than he should have. WWE is banking on the audience treating Orton like a top level star due to his past accolades but he really was relegated to the midcard during his most recent stint. The push for his return will see him return to the top of the card with a huge SummerSlam match against Brock Lesnar and an important spot on Smackdown.
The problem is Orton was selected over many other more deserving talents in the ninth overall position. Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn could have benefited from a better draft spot. Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch being chosen in the top ten would have further cemented the women’s division. The tandem of The New Day certainly holds more relevance than Orton at this stage. It is understandable why WWE did it, but Orton being in the top ten picks didn’t come across as realistic.
Best: Becky Lynch (SmackDown)
From a realistic perspective of two shows battling for talent, the pressure was on SmackDown after Raw selected both Charlotte and Sasha Banks early in the draft. The two top female stars were off the board and SmackDown started their women’s division by snagging Becky Lynch. Most view Lynch as being beneath Banks and Charlotte in the pecking order of women’s wrestlers in WWE. The main roster career of Lynch sometimes flies under the radar but she’s as talented as anyone.
You can argue Lynch has been the most consistent member of the women’s division over the past years with a consistently charming face character. We have seen the downfall of Paige, the injury to Nikki Bella and the retirement of Brie Bella completely change the division hierarchy. Banks has dealt with injury issues and Charlotte has been highly inconsistent. Lynch becoming the top name in the SmackDown division is a great choice and she’ll lead the way with less depth behind her.
Worst: Big Show (Raw)
Big Show will always be respected for his achievements over the span of a long career but he had no business being on the television portion of the draft. WWE will realistically have Big Show on the roster for another few years before he heads into retirement or stops working house shows in favor of a lighter schedule. The big man has rarely been showcased following WrestleMania 32 and will likely make his return to a storyline in the near future on Raw.
WWE wanting to add depth to Raw with a credible veteran is not a bad thing but he was selected above likes of Neville, Cesaro, Apollo Crews and others stars that are trending upwards. The respect for Big Show likely led to the decision to have him get drafted 23rd overall. Show will be in the background of WWE television going forward and the company should have made it a bigger priority to help establish the rising talents more ahead of him.
Best: Kevin Owens (Raw)
One of the biggest surprises in the draft featured Kevin Owens falling all the way to 18th overall before getting selected by Raw. The star of Owens has been rising with a consistent body of work making him one of the most compelling characters in WWE. Many expected him to land on SmackDown to add more depth to that roster, but he is staying on Raw with Sami Zayn.
The pick of Zayn long before Owens was rather shocking considering KO has been more successful on the main roster. If wrestling was real, the selection of Owens in the latter end of the middle rounds would be considered among the best value picks. Owens will play a huge role on the heel side of things with only Seth Rollins above him and fans basically treating Rollins like a face anyway. The upside of Owens on Raw is huge and there’s no doubt he’ll break the glass ceiling with the brand split giving him a great chance.
Worst: Alberto Del Rio (SmackDown)
The final two television picks on the draft caused it to end in the most lackluster fashion possible. Alberto Del Rio was sent to Smackdown with the 29th overall pick. No one cares about the career of Del Rio right now due to horrible booking and uninspired performances by him. It is a sad story of a once tremendous performer exhibiting minimal passion or excitement in his matches. The smaller roster on SmackDown also gives us the fear of a huge push for him.
WWE’s post show on the Network aired an interview Del Rio expressing zero emotion about being selected to SmackDown. This could be due to being upset about his girlfriend Paige getting drafted to Raw and splitting up their road time. The more likely scenario is he’s just doesn’t care about anything these days, as seen in his matches. Del Rio was a wasted pick by SmackDown to close out the draft by leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the fans.
Best: Sasha Banks (Raw)
Charlotte getting selected with the 3rd overall pick by Raw to establish a strong women’s division was huge but the pick of Sasha Banks 13th overall provided the biggest female wrestling star drafting. Banks is the beloved face and will likely finally win the Women’s Championship at Summerslam. The Boss should have been selected earlier to cement her star power but going in the first few rounds still showed how important she is.
Banks is bound to lead the women’s division into the future with a spot on the flagship show. Charlotte, Nia Jax, Paige and Summer Rae give us an eclectic mix of talented individuals to give many great matches for Banks. Nikki Bella is expected to return from injury soon and Bayley is absolutely getting called up in a big way in the near future. All of this leads to Banks being the right choice to center the Raw women’s division around as things evolve for women’s wrestling.
Worst: Chris Jericho (Raw)
The work of Chris Jericho has been highly comical with his delusional heel character giving a great deal of laughs. We have to appreciate the gift of Jericho but we can drink it in without having him get such a prominent role in the draft at 15th overall. Jericho is nowhere near the main event performer he used to be and will continue to spend the rest of his career putting over new stars in the midcard.
All of that is good but he went far too far for someone of his position today. Kevin Owens, Cesaro, The Club, Big Cass and Enzo Amore are just some of the talents that deserved a higher ranking than Jericho. WWE is trying to respect Jericho’s stature as a legend for his past work with his draft selection, but his booking doesn’t match that. On behalf of all the stupid idiots out there, Jericho should have been a late pick among the final televised selections.
Best: American Alpha (SmackDown)
NXT’s presence in the draft added a very exciting element to the brand split. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan were the biggest pick by SmackDown from the developmental brand. They have dominated the NXT tag team division as American Alpha and shockingly lost the titles a month ago to The Revival. The news of the draft put everything together and it made sense that the tremendous duo would head to the main roster.
SmackDown chose Gable and Jordan with the 22nd overall pick and the second NXT selection of the draft. Daniel Bryan put them over as the best tag team in NXT that was arriving to make change in WWE. The SmackDown tag team division badly needs them. Raw getting New Day, Big Cass & Enzo and The Club meant the three most popular teams were not on board for Smackdown. American Alpha are being given the responsibility of leading the SmackDown tag team division and will live up to expectations.
Worst: Dolph Ziggler (SmackDown)
Dolph Ziggler’s career has gone downhill over the past few years with the ascension of new stars outshining him. Ziggler can deliver good matches but he has certainly regressed with little to no support from WWE creative. The company has basically given up on him by making the former World Champion devolve into a glorified enhancement talent. Ziggler has zero buzz and even less momentum surrounding him these days.
Given his recent track record, Ziggler getting selected 24th overall to SmackDown seemed foolish. The rest of the names selected after him in the first round all seem more credible in the current landscape of WWE. SmackDown wasted the pick on another fading talent with nothing to do. WWE is trying to create competition between the two shows but SmackDown having to fix Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and Bray Wyatt among others is not a good start for the blue brand.
Best: Finn Balor (Raw)
Everyone expected Finn Balor to finally find his place on the main roster during the draft but he was selected earlier than anyone thought. Balor went fifth overall to Raw to close out the first round with Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon changing the landscape. The crowd exploded and Balor’s pick was an elaborate idea to bring him up in the most high profile way possible. WWE has waited a long time to make sure Balor would have big plans when he finally left NXT.
The longest reigning NXT Champion actually was selected before the likes of John Cena, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. That alone gives you enough proof that Balor is heading to the main event picture very quickly. An extra benefit to Balor’s push is his ability to sell merchandise and appeal to all audiences. The demon masks and Balor Club shirts have been at the top of the WWE Shop charts. Balor is bound for huge things and the draft started it in the best way possible.
Worst: Nia Jax (Raw)
The most bizarre draft pick from NXT was Nia Jax getting drafted by Raw towards the end of the televised portion of the draft. Jax entered the WWE developmental system with a world of hype due to being The Rock’s cousin. It appears she will follow the footsteps of Roman Reigns by getting a huge push way too early into her career. Jax was selected 25th overall and will play the monster heel in the women’s division on Raw.
While she does show signs of potential, Jax is nowhere near polished enough to perform on national television every week. The risk of being put in a swim or sink position on Raw with such a high draft pick may spell horrendous results for Jax. WWE will give her every chance to succeed but the viewers are far more vocal today. Jax will be met with “go away heat” instantly and you have to wonder how that will shake the confidence of a relatively new wrestler.
Best: John Cena (SmackDown)
Say what you want about John Cena, but he is still the most popular performer in WWE and is at the top of his game. Cena has delivered classics against Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, A.J. Styles and numerous others over the past year. The return of an injury makes him a more limited performer as he is only appearing on selective house shows to maintain his health for high profile matches on PPV and television.
Cena getting drafted 7th overall was way too low for his stature, but it allowed other rising stars to get the rub by being selected above The Face That Runs The Place. The SmackDown brand is definitely the weaker roster but Cena gives them an asset Raw can’t match. Roman Reigns just isn’t “the guy” and fans don’t invest in him the way they do with Cena. SmackDown having the top guy in the company will allow them to have a chance as thriving under the brand split.
Worst: Roman Reigns (Raw)
WWE has invested everything into Roman Reigns over the last couple of years and it blew up in their faces when he violated the wellness policy. Reigns getting publicly suspended for failing the drug test led to him losing his spot as the absolute top star in the company. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have been put on the same playing field as him. Reigns likely would have gone #1 just a month ago but he slipped to 6th overall via Mick Foley and Raw.
The pick was still too high given his current position as the suspended guy. Fans reacted to him going in the top six by booing him louder than any heel on the night. Reigns should have been humbled by falling out of the top ten to send a message that he needs to earn his way back up to the top of the mountain. The early drafting adds more incentive for fans to resent Reigns being treated like a top guy during the worst possible timing.
Best: The New Day (Raw)
The best overall pick of the draft has to be Raw selecting The New Day with the 10th overall pick. One selection gave Raw three of the best performers in the company, all coming to the show together with the tag team gold. Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods are magic together. New Day is still selling tons of merchandise and receives among the biggest ovations every single night. They provided the greatest value pick for either brand all night.
Aside from John Cena, there’s no single “top guy” in WWE right now. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose all are battling for the spot, but it is wide open. New Day have to be in the conversation for hottest commodity as an act together. They have become huge stars for WWE and will make Raw an exciting product every time they come to the ring. The tag division is guaranteed to be a hit with New Day leading the way and having Big Cass & Enzo as their rivals going forward.
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