The year was 2002, the WWE was fresh off winning the Monday Night War. They had bought out both WCW and ECW, leaving them with largest roster of talent they had ever had before. Something needed to be done to separate the talent. They eventually decided to split up Raw and SmackDown into two separate brands. In order to split the brands they would hold a draft. Ric Flair represented Raw, while Vince McMahon represented SmackDown.
By dividing up the rosters it meant that both brands would have their own separate championships and Pay-Per-Views (minus sharing the big four). A couple positives of the brand split were that both shows had their own distinct feel. Also, some of the midcard wrestlers would have not gotten the pushes they got, if they were still buried behind the same deep roster on both shows.
After nine years the brand extension experiment was officially over in 2011, as both brands were turned back into one. It's been five years since then, is it time for another brand split in 2016? The WWE as a company is whole lot different then it was in 2002. The roster is nowhere near as big as it was back then, but a brand split could still be a positive thing for the WWE.
The WWE is full of talented midcarders that deserve to be on the top of the card. A smaller roster will help those wrestlers get more of a push. With SmackDown's move to the USA Network, the show is in desperate need of shot in the arm. It has recently been nothing but a glorified Raw recap show. By separating the show, it can once again have it's own identity.
The list below is how the draft would go if it was held today. Part timers like Triple H, Undertaker, and Chris Jericho will not be included in the draft. The same rules that applied in 2002, will be applied here.
Without further ado, let the 2016 WWE draft begin.
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20 Raw: Brock Lesnar
The "Beast Incarnate" is arguably the WWE's biggest attraction. He is one of the few Superstars whose popularity is beyond the scope of the WWE Universe. Although he isn't a true full time performer, he has worked more dates since he signed his new contract in March of 2015. Lesnar was actually selected with RAW's 8th pick in the original 2002 draft. His stock has sky rocketed since then, even with a nine year absence from the WWE. At the age of 38, Lesnar should still have a few more years worth of taking his opponents to Suplex City.
19 SmackDown: Roman Reigns
Despite the fans repeated rejections of Reigns a top baby face, the WWE continues to push Roman as "The Guy." Reigns' in ring work has improved, however his work on the mic is definitely in need of improvement. At this point, it might be best for the WWE to try and turn Reigns heel. The question is does Roman have that heel mentality in him? If he does, the two time WWE World Heavyweight could be SmackDown's top heel for years to come.
18 Raw: John Cena
Like him or not, Cena is the WWE's top babyface. He has shown recently with his United States Open Challenge, that at the age of 38, he is still able to put on some amazing matches. He still should have at least one more well deserved championship run in him, tying Ric Flair's record in the process. It is a bit scary that RAW's first two picks have a combined age of 76, but both Lesnar and Cena are capable of putting over new stars.
17 SmackDown: Seth Rollins
When Seth Rollins eventually comes back from his serious knee injury, it will be almost a year he has been out of action. When a Superstar is out that long, it is almost a sure fire guarantee they come back as a babyface. That is exactly what will happen with Rollins. His style of wrestling suits more a babyface anyway. If the WWE decides to turn Roman Reigns heel, Rollins would be the perfect opponent for Reigns. They can finish off the feud they didn't get a chance to at last year's Survivor Series. Rollins could become the top babyface on SmackDown if the fans can get over that fact he turned on The Shield.
16 Raw: Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose is one of the few strong babyfaces the WWE has going for them. There has been hints of a possible heel turn for Ambrose. That might not be greatest thing to do considering the WWE is lacking Superstars like him, who fans truly rally behind. With drafting Ambrose to Raw, it would finally take him out of the shadow of Roman Reigns. Ambrose has shown in the ring and on the mic that he has the potential a top player for years to come.
15 SmackDown: Charlotte
By taking the current Divas Champion early with the sixth pick, it will show how significant women's wrestling is becoming in today's WWE. Charlotte's recent heel turn was a great decision by the WWE, as she plays a lot better heel than babyface. She is capable of leading the Divas division on SmackDown while there is a great deal of up and coming talented women wrestlers who will be trying to take her spot.
14 Raw: Randy Orton
The "Viper" has battled numerous injuries recently, but is still a top level talent. At the age of 35, Orton still has some good years left in him. The question is would fans get behind him for another championship run? Based on his last run as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, they probably won't. It might be time for Orton to be pushed down the card in order to make room for newer talent. However, Orton can still serve as a great opponent to the up and coming stars.
13 SmackDown: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens is quickly becoming the top heel in the entire WWE. He has shown he can be the complete package, minus not having an athletic physique. Since he has moved up to the main roster, he has put on some incredible matches. He is also has proven to be one of the best talkers in the entire company. A WWE World Heavyweight Championship run should be in the near future for him as Owens represents the next generation of Superstars in WWE.
12 Raw: Sasha Banks
After an outstanding run in NXT, Sasha Banks is more than ready for the spotlight on the main roster. It has been a slow go for her on the main roster so far, but it looks she is finally getting a shot to compete for the Divas Championship. She has already been in the main event of NXT Takeover: Respect. It's only a matter of time till she main events Raw and soon could be headlining WrestleMania. Of course with Charlotte on SmackDown, Sasha would first have to win the Divas Championship back for her brand.
11 SmackDown: The New Day
In 2002, Ric Flair drafted the entire nWo with his second pick. So if we are going with those same rules, then drafting all of New Day with one pick is fair game. It took a while for The New Day to find itself as group, but once they did they became the hottest faction in the WWE. With the group currently being heavily featured on both Raw and SmackDown, they are being a bit too overexposed. Just being on SmackDown will keep their antics from getting old.
10 Raw: The Wyatt Family
They tried to split The Wyatts up before, with terrible results. They are much more valuable as a group. Bray Wyatt probably has the most potential of the group. Would Bray make a good WWE Champion? He certainly would be a unique champion. The other promising member of the Wyatts is Braun Strowman. He's very green but everyone knows Vince McMahon loves his big men, so he should continue to get pushed regardless of live and internet fan reactions.
9 SmackDown: A.J. Styles
If the draft was based on wrestling skill alone, Styles would be number one on this list. However, he's new in the WWE and still needs to prove himself. Would fans get behind him as a Heavyweight Champion? Yes, without a doubt. Would the WWE get behind him? We will have to wait and see for that answer. His lack of mic skills is the one thing that might hold him back. Not to mention his size, which is often one of the main reasons a Superstar is kept away from the main event.
8 Raw: Paige
Paige has sort of been forgotten recently after being one of the main focuses of the Divas division for the past year. With more talented female wrestlers coming up to the main roster, Paige should get used to fighting for the spotlight. Having a separate women's divisions on Raw and SmackDown should help the talented Paige get the attention she deserves and regain a crucial spot among the women, a spot which once belonged to solely to Paige.
7 SmackDown: Becky Lynch
When Becky was first brought up to the main roster, her character was used for more comedic purposes than actually in the ring. The results were sometimes downright embarrassing to watch. However, her recent feud with Charlotte has proven she has what it takes to be one of the top women in the Divas division. Her feud with Charlotte has easily been the best in the division since the start of the so called "Divas Revolution" began last year.
6 Raw: Cesaro
Cesaro is a great wrestler who hasn't gotten the push he deserves. Things were looking good for Cesaro when he won the first ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX. The next night on Raw he sided with Paul Heyman but that went absolutely nowhere. The fans were really starting to get behind Cesaro again until he got injured. Hopefully, when he comes, back he continues that momentum he had going for him.
5 SmackDown: Dolph Ziggler
Just when you think Dolph Ziggler is about to get that big push, it all falls apart for him. His last big push came at the 2014 Survivor Series, when he was the sole survivor of Team Cena when taking on The Authority. It's been all down hill since then for Ziggler, whose recent storylines include a "Kiss My Arse" match and a horrible love angle featuring Lana, Rusev, and Summer Rae. A smaller SmackDown roster could be what Ziggler needs to get back to where he once was.
4 Raw: Alberto Del Rio
The WWE simply has not gotten their money's worth ever since they brought back Del Rio at last year's Hell in a Cell to defeat John Cena for the United States Championship. The fans just don't seem to care for him any more. He is still however a very talented performer in the ring. If the WWE can find something different creatively for Del Rio, all might not be lost for the former WWE and World Heavyweight Champion.
3 SmackDown: Neville
With the recent retirement of Daniel Bryan, the WWE is in need of a good underdog story. Neville would be a great candidate. The former NXT champion may lack size, but he is one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch in the ring. If he can improve his work on the mic, the sky's the limit for "The Man That Gravity Forgot." Meanwhile, performing on a smaller stage such as SmackDown could be just what Neville needs to jump-start this rise up the card.
2 Raw: Rusev
It's crazy what a few months can do. It looked like Rusev was on his way to becoming one of, if not, the top heel in all of WWE. Then came his absolute horrible feud with Dolph Ziggler. The WWE has already back pedalled (although they were somewhat forced with the whole engagement thing) and realigned Rusev with Lana once again. Has the damage already been done? Or does Rusev still have a chance to get back where he was just a short time ago? Time will tell.
1 SmackDown: Kalisto
Ever since Kalisto did a death defying Salida del Sol off a ladder at WWE TLC, the fans have quickly got behind the small luchador. The WWE is looking for the next big Mexican Superstar, and Kalisto might just be it. A long reign as United States Champion will go a long way in establishing that. The WWE just might have their next Rey Mysterio if they play their cards right as Kalisto continues to improve and grow on the fans each week.
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