The shocking news of the brand split coming to the WWE has caused some serious waves in the wrestling world. RAW and SmackDown will once again feature exclusive rosters splitting the talent in half between to the two programs. There’s no word yet on what the format will be in terms of how it is run. We could see Stephanie McMahon and Shane McMahon each run a brand or maybe Triple H will take over SmackDown. Regardless of how it goes, WWE is expecting big results and looking for SmackDown to become a relevant brand with the move to live shows every Tuesday starting in July.
The most exciting part about all of this is the upcoming draft. Wrestling fans love speculating and the idea of being able to play around with the fantasy drafting. Everyone is talking about how RAW and SmackDown will be split today. but a more broad idea was thought up here. What if every wrestler of all time was available in their prime for a talent draft between RAW and SmackDown? How would we properly construct a roster and make the right decisions with such a vast talent pool out there when looking at history?
I’m trying my best here to put myself in the shoes of both brands and how a genuine draft would go. Both shows would need variety on each roster with different skillsets to make a great program. The top names should provide incredible matches and captivating stories. The second tier of elite performers needs to have the ability to excel in various roles with so few main event positions open. My goal for the draft is putting together two shows that would deliver must-see television for all wrestling fans. Put on the fantasy aspect and enjoy the mock draft of RAW and SmackDown selecting stars from the all-time talent pool.
RAW #1: Steve Austin
The first pick in an all-time fantasy draft should be the biggest star and the most complete performer in WWE history. Steve Austin personified both of those titles and would undoubtedly be the top pick. Everyone remembers his tremendous character work by Austin, but his in-ring skills were spectacular as well. Austin was one of the premiere workers before even coming to WWE and showed an ability to excel in any role. You can have Stone Cold play a face or heel, a serious badass or hilarious comedic character, and just about anything in between. Austin is absolutely the first overall pick in an all-time draft, regardless of your criteria.
SmackDown #1: The Rock
The only way to counter a selection of Steve Austin is to go with The Rock. Not only is SmackDown originally named after one of The Rock’s catchphrases, but he is one of the few wrestlers in history good enough to lead a brand. The Rock is a very rare wrestler in that he would be able to succeed in any era. The Rock’s charisma is second to none in wrestling history and he knows how to connect with any audience he performs in front of. There are a couple of other choices that would make sense here, but The Rock is the safest Superstar to lead a show to huge success.
RAW #2: Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan belongs in any conversation with Steve Austin and The Rock when looking at the all-time greats. The three icons are in a league of their own with unmatched box office records for pro wrestling. Hogan is not as versatile as the top two stars, but he has the track record and star power that no one left in the draft pool can match. You can easily argue that Hogan was the greatest face in wrestling history during the Hulkamania era and the greatest heel of all time during his nWo days. Hogan would be drafted in the second round with a dream match against Stone Cold as the main selling point on RAW.
SmackDown #2: The Undertaker
No one has meant more to the history of WWE than The Undertaker. For over twenty-five years, ‘Taker has been a constant in the upper echelon of pro wrestling. WWE didn’t even want to put the WWE Championship on him that much in the 90s because he was over enough without it. You know a wrestler is a big deal when they don’t need a belt to be acknowledged. The Undertaker in his prime was arguably the best big man worker of all time and there’s no doubt he’s valuable in any era. The Rock being the face of SmackDown is enough to sell the tickets, but The Undertaker being the next draft pick ensures a consistent source of greatness for years.
RAW #3: John Cena
Love him or hate him, there’s no debate that John Cena is already a top five WWE Superstar of all-time. Cena may have the greatest body of work in WWE history when looking at solely great WWE matches in one career. The past decade has been dominated by Cena in the top spot and no one else has been able to match him. Cena entering RAW as the third round pick and being placed in a main event scene with Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan would set up a thriving brand. The fantasy booking element and talent roster here allows Cena to finally turn heel. Hooray!
SmackDown #3: Randy Savage
One of the most important things for a top star on a loaded roster is versatility. No one was more successful at adapting to various roles than Randy Savage. The guy easily went back and forth from beloved hero to villainous heel like it was nothing with the ability to get a crowd to do anything he wanted. Many of us wish he was pushed harder than Hulk Hogan in the 80s, but Macho Man still found a way to leave a lasting legacy despite being the second biggest face of the era. All diehard wrestling fans and wrestlers love Savage’s work and he would be an early pick in any historical wrestling fantasy draft or you’re just doing it wrong.
RAW #4: Ric Flair
The Nature Boy is on everyone’s list when breaking down the greatest wrestling icons. With his in-ring work matching his larger than life personality, Ric Flair proved you didn’t need the WWE to become an icon in wrestling. Flair spent the majority of his career with NWA/WCW and still revolutionized the sport as much as any top WWE star. His role on this fictitious version of RAW would definitely pit him as the top heel. You’ll have the best heel in wrestling history ready to go against Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and John Cena. That’s easy money for any brand with basically no possible way to screw it up.
SmackDown #4: Shawn Michaels
No one can argue against Shawn Michaels being a pristine in-ring worker and his biggest fans would proclaim him the best of all time. Some would also debate that Shawn should be higher on this list, as ge was a special once in a lifetime talent, HBK guaranteed a great match any time he stepped foot inside the squared circle. The SmackDown roster would have another great worker and credible main eventer to draw the viewer in. Michaels could add depth to any division he wrestles in from singles to tag team action given how much he excelled in both styles of wrestling. The Heartbreak Kid being able to wrestle against The Rock or Randy Savage is a selling point given we never got those matches on big events during their actual careers.
RAW #5: Bret Hart
The best way to follow a draft pick of Shawn Michaels is to select Bret Hart. Both technical wrestling kings were bitter rivals during their prime years in the WWE. The feud could continue through the brands with each man wanting to show he is doing more for his show than the other. Hart could be argued as the greatest pure wrestler ever when looking at his best days. The WCW portion of his career and injuries retiring him early changes the historical narrative, but at his best, Bret was as good as anyone. His style was also perfect for adapting to any opponent and giving them the best opportunity at having a masterpiece. RAW’s current roster in this mock draft has star power but needs a couple more elite workers like Hart.
SmackDown #5: Triple H
The next pick for SmackDown has multiple reasons behind it. Triple H is a legend and would help either show. Having him as part of your roster is only positive, but a prior pick also adds rational for selecting him here. Shawn Michaels and Triple H being on the same roster give you the ability to form D-Generation X. The act was a huge draw at its peak and the duo being together ensures you have a very exciting stable for the show. Michaels and Triple H trying to take over the show with the likes of The Rock, Randy Savage and The Undertaker standing against them gives you interesting matchups and entertaining television.
RAW #6: Roddy Piper
As mentioned earlier, the first three selections of RAW featured three of the greatest face characters of all time. The heel side of things needs to have some main event level personalities to look credible against them. Roddy Piper was as hated as anyone else during his peak days at drawing heat. We all know just how effective the feud between Hogan and Piper was. The potential money involved in a feud between Piper and Austin or Cena would be a formidable main event for any show. Piper was never the face of the franchise, but his presence was incredibly value.
SmackDown #6: Dusty Rhodes
We’ll keep the trend going with another legend from the 80s that would succeed in any era. Dusty Rhodes’ promos provided emotion that sparked a special connection with his fan base. The American Dream could be slotted into any spot on this version of SmackDown and find a way to give great results. Rhodes throwing a couple of elbows on DX or giving his all in a war of words against The Rock are can’t miss ideas. The art of the promo is as important as anything else for a wrestling brand and Dusty being a member of the roster is best for business.
RAW #7: Kurt Angle
The best of the best are being selected for this list and Kurt Angle is another worthy main event talent that will find his way on RAW. Pro wrestling’s only Olympic gold medalist was a natural superstar and delivered unbelievable spots on a weekly basis. Angle was also one of the most entertaining personalities at his peak, with a comedic timing no one could have predicted. There’s no scenario where Angle doesn’t become a huge success and great addition to a roster. On a show with Ric Flair and Bret Hart, the technical wrestling would reach another level providing some of the most breath taking matches of all time.
SmackDown #7: Mick Foley
We tend to forget just how special of a performer Mick Foley was during his prime in The Attitude Era. Foley showed versatility with various character role, as he played three completely different characters in WWE. Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack were all successful despite the drastic differences between them. Foley’s ability to tap into any character added another dynamic performer to the show during the late 90s. The same would take place here with his versatility playing into anything you want to do with him. Foley will never be stale due to the ability to change his entire persona any given week.
RAW #8: Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero’s legendary career reached its peak in his last few years. Guerrero unfortunately passing away at a young age left us wondering just how much richer his legacy could have been. WCW sadly wasted many years of Eddie’s career in the lower card with no opportunity to become a main event star. WWE showed us his potential and it was magnificent. Eddie at his peak could match anyone in the ring. This version of RAW is already stacked with main event stars and great workers. Guerrero would have classics against just about everyone else selected so far to make RAW a must-see program for any wrestling fan.
SmackDown #8: CM Punk
CM Punk was the best in the world at one point in his career, but he would not be able to make such a claim on this roster. Punk still would have a great presence and skillset that could provide great results for a SmackDown brand full of great promos. Imagine a big main event match between Punk and Randy Savage or a promo battle with Punk trying to get the better of DX. SmackDown drafting Punk to add another star with main event potential gives them a boost with the eighth round pick in the draft. Punk would provide the same spark Piper would to RAW.
RAW #9: Sting
The one man that didn’t get to spend a long time period in the WWE but still managed to achieve superstardom was Sting. We were robbed of Sting having classic matches and stories with many of the all-time greats because he didn’t make his WWE debut until 2014. Sting is known as “The Icon” for very good reason due to his great library of work. The majority of Sting’s best moments took place in WCW and he would be able to rehash the epic battles with Ric Flair in this version of RAW. We would also get dream matches against the likes of Eddie Guerrero and John Cena.
SmackDown #9: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has had one of the most successful careers of all-time with twenty-six years of experience and counting. The body of work put out by Jericho is among the best you can imagine with excellent matches at most time periods of his career. Jericho has also delivered some of the most compelling promos in recent memory. Y2J’s strong skills make him a very valuable commodity to slot into any role you want from him. SmackDown would be a better show for Jericho, as he’d become a member of the roster that can work a match or storyline with any other performer on the roster.
RAW #10: Trish Stratus
Every wrestling show needs variety and a successful women’s division helps round out an all-around entertaining show. Trish Stratus is the biggest star in women’s wrestling history and is a benefit to any brand she appears on. Not only was Stratus was one of the most marketable ladies in WWE history, but she performed at a very high level when the bell rung. Any women’s division needs a cornerstone to build around and Trish is the top female pick for that very reason. The variety of roles in which she excelled also made Trish Stratus a perfect performer for a division needing a leader. This fantasy can turn into an actual possibility with the recent rumblings of a potential Trish return.
SmackDown #10: Lita
The only way for SmackDown to counter RAW’s draft pick of selecting Trish Stratus as the face of their women’s division would be to go with Lita. The two rivals were the two most successful female performers in WWE history and they earned it with great careers. Lita added an identity that many fans could relate to and she made a great deal of money for the company. We could have two great women’s wrestling divisions causing the brands to compete with each other in every aspect. Lita combating Trish and giving SmackDown a new face of the division is the wisest pick to close out this fantasy draft.
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