Vince McMahon finally named Shane McMahon as the Commissioner of SmackDown and Stephanie McMahon the Commissioner of Raw. We all saw this coming from a mile away with the two McMahon children being given their own brand in the story of the shows competing. The important news is finding out Shane has the power of running the SmackDown side of things. Shane-O-Mac has been preaching change since returning to the WWE and this shows us that his program will be a completely updated product. The show should see changes to make itself a unique brand and represent what the “new era” is all about.
Shane has been credited for the new faces arriving to the WWE in the past few months. The Raw after WrestleMania gave us NXT debuts, surprise returns and an awesome show catering to the diehard fan base. That’s likely going to continue on the SmackDown brand with Shane in charge as the face of change. WWE needs to go all in with the reboot to make the show an exciting watch after years of irrelevancy as the secondary show. The McMahon children will have to pick General Managers and the hot rumor is that Daniel Bryan will be working directly under Shane on the SmackDown brand. That just gives extra incentive to make the show a hot product. Now we will begin with filling the brand with the talent, we are going to pick out fifteen wrestlers that absolutely have to join Shane on SmackDown.
15 Enzo Amore and Big Cass
The tandem of Enzo Amore and Big Cass personify everything about the new era approach of the WWE. Shane McMahon’s vision of SmackDown should be about showcasing the rising stars that will both be the future of the company but also have the skills to shine in the present. Enzo and Big Cass appeared together on the Raw after WrestleMania as a move made by Shane-O-Mac. SmackDown has to have a bit of the NXT feel to it for it to work.
Many of the wrestlers to become stars in NXT should fit in perfectly on the show ran by Shane’s new approach to changing the WWE. The two shows will likely need separate tag team divisions. Big Cass and Enzo are good enough to be the top faces on SmackDown. Both men have different strengths that allow them to make up for the other’s weaknesses. The tag team division should revolve around Enzo and Big Cass as the most popular duo.
Another exciting aspect of the brand split and draft will be wrestlers getting a fresh start. Most of the roster is stale with lowered ceilings in the current landscape in the company. The brand split cuts the roster in half and allows more opportunities to open up for talents that have been out of the spotlight lately. Paige was originally supposed to be the face of the women’s division as the first big NXT women’s wrestler to get called up following WrestleMania XXX.
Just a little over two years later and Paige is one of the most forgettable women on the roster. Her in-ring work and overall presence has paled in comparison to newer stars like Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch. SmackDown should provide the perfect environment of less nonsense being involved in the characters to give someone like Paige a better chance at success. WWE’s best bet is turning Paige heel on SmackDown as the top villain for at least one of Banks, Lynch or Bayley.
13 Finn Balor
The time is now for Finn Balor. No one has done more for the growth of NXT in the past year but Balor has wasted too much time on the smaller brand. WWE‘s main roster desperately needs depth with the draft and Balor’s skills are far too impressive to not call up. NXT started to sell out big arenas and become a thriving touring brand under Balor’s title reign. That says a lot about how he connects with the audience.
The marketability of Balor is also too much to pass on with his merchandise being among the top sellers on the WWE’s website despite him not having national television exposure. SmackDown’s identity will be formed during the draft and Balor being selected as a top five pick is something that should go down for Shane McMahon’s preaching of a new era to work. Balor is good enough to be instantly slotted into the upper echelon of the WWE as either a singles face or a heel with The Club.
12 Apollo Crews
WWE has done a terrible job introducing Apollo Crews to the national audience with a weak booking following his call-up from NXT after WrestleMania 32. The extremely talented young man is one of the best athletes in the company but it’s hard to realize due to his inconsistent television time. Crews entered a forgettable feud with Stardust quickly into his debut and spent the majority of it on shows that don’t really matter like Superstars and Main Event.
The idea of having him work against Sheamus made sense. Two talents having nothing to do and working against each other for the first time is never a bad thing, but the lack of direction made it come off as pointless. Crews is in danger of becoming another face in the crowd and the brand split is arriving just in time to rescue him. The midcard division of SmackDown will be pivotal to its success and giving a legitimate push to new faces with potential is necessary for the new era to fully thrive.
11 American Alpha
The success of NXT is likely the biggest reason for the WWE feeling comfortable enough to split the roster in half with the brand split. Tag teams will be greatly needed with two separate rosters each needing unique divisions. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable recently lost the NXT Tag Team Championship in shocking fashion. Collectively known as American Alpha, the duo has developed incredible chemistry to become one of the most exciting wrestling teams in the world.
Jordan and Gable have the “it factor” desperately needed in the tag team division. The timing is perfect for them to play a major role in the draft. SmackDown just appears to be the better fit for them with the show emphasizing new stars being built. American Alpha has the potential to be the best WWE tag team of the past fifteen years. Gable and Jordan are both uniquely gifted talents but they are on another level when working together.
Cesaro has been lost in the shuffle seemingly every time he appears ready to move up the card. Vince McMahon obviously doesn’t believe he’s a huge main event star but the brand split may force him to give The Swiss Superman a chance. SmackDown has to establish a deep roster of credible talent that doesn’t feature the same old faces dominating the main event picture. Cesaro is ideal to serve as a strong upper midcarder that can occasionally enter the main event scene.
Cesaro's talent is second to none and his strong suit of delivering superb matches will be more suited on SmackDown’s early days on its own. While the current approach is treating both brands like equals, we all know Vince McMahon will always be more “hands on” with Raw. The expected increase of freedom on SmackDown will only help Cesaro get a chance to take the ball and run with it.
The timing of Neville’s injury was absolutely horrible, forcing him to sit out WrestleMania 32. Zack Ryder replaced him in the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match and ended up winning the title. Does that mean Neville was originally scheduled to win the match? We’ll never know, but you have to believe it just motivates him to get back on track when he returns. Reports state that Neville is already cleared to compete but WWE is waiting until the brand split to bring him back for a larger emphasis.
Neville has always been considered the top high-flier in the wrestling world. Recent matches have put Ricochet and Will Ospreay to the forefront outside of the WWE. Considering the buzz their moves have inspired, WWE may give Neville the spotlight to show his skills without any limitations. Don’t get me wrong. Neville is way more than just flashy moves. The younger audience responds to him well at live events to show he connects with all demographics.
8 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin is what the original intent of NXT and the Performance Center was supposed to be about. The former NFL prospect learned how to wrestle solely under the WWE experiment and made his way to the main roster. Corbin’s Battle Royal win at WrestleMania 32 should have instantly made him a credible performer on Raw and SmackDown every week, but he has neared flop territory. A long feud with Dolph Ziggler didn’t help either man and Corbin is ready for the draft.
Both rosters will need new heels to elevate their game into the upper echelon of the WWE. Corbin should be drafted to SmackDown and instantly placed into programs with the top stars on the roster. The ability to get fans to genuinely dislike you is rare to find these days but Corbin knows how to tap into the hatred of the audience when given the opportunity. Corbin has all the tools to become an elite heel in the SmackDown environment.
7 Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
The new tag team of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are now starting to find their footing in the WWE world. They dominated New Japan for years in a competitive atmosphere but WWE provides a completely different challenge altogether. The decision to pair them back with A.J. Styles as The Club was the perfect way to make everyone more important. Everyone knew them from their Bullet Club days and putting them back together just reminded us how great they are.
If American Alpha and Big Cass & Enzo Amore are on SmackDown, they will need a strong heel tag team to make the division have a successful balance. The Club are the ideal villainous tag team for a credible division and could create huge money against the top face units in the WWE. SmackDown needs the majority of the new talent arriving in the company to fill out the roster. Anderson and Gallows will hit home runs if given the freedom to swing for the fences on SmackDown.
6 A.J. Styles
A.J. Styles has to stay paired with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in The Club on whichever show they get drafted to and it should be SmackDown. Reports have circulated that Vince McMahon has fallen in love with the work of Styles over the past few months and regrets not signing him a long time ago. With this being the case, some argue he may end up on Raw as a major player. There’s no doubt Styles deserves to be a top name on either program but the new SmackDown show should have him play the major heel on it especially with the brand direction.
The argument can be made that A.J. is the best wrestler in the world. We all know the SmackDown brand will have a stronger emphasis on work rate and that just makes Styles even more valuable than he would be on Raw, as Styles would prosper on SmackDown. It is a no-brainer to put Styles on the show where he could feud with Finn Balor or even lead The Club as a top heel faction to make Shane McMahon’s life miserable.
5 Dean Ambrose
The placement of the three Shield members will be the most interesting aspect of the draft. It is highly unlikely to envision a realistic draft that would land all three men on the same show. The most likely outcome would feature two of them landing on one show with the last remaining member being on his own. Dean Ambrose should be the odd man out and should end up on SmackDown.
We will likely see Dean be the champion heading into the draft and that could make him the top overall pick. SmackDown needs to experiment and Ambrose being the champion is a better project for Tuesdays. Shane McMahon’s environment seems ideal for an unconventional talent with the unique skills of Ambrose. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns both have a lot of the usual traits in the traditional WWE landscape that help them excel on Raw while Ambrose is a top SmackDown star.
4 Sasha Banks
The women’s division should be one of the top goals in establishing SmackDown as a unique show. Both programs will have to showcase women’s wrestling for the brand split to work effectively but Shane's brand deserves to have the top talent. Sasha Banks would be the number one female draft pick for most wrestling minds and she has publicly gone on the record about wanting to be on the SmackDown roster following the news of the brand split.
Banks has yet to be showcased as a top star on the main roster. The use of Sasha saw her become one of the most beloved wrestlers of any gender. There’s a reason fans chant “we want Sasha” and the brand split could give her the freedom to prove why she’s known as The Boss. Banks is the prototypical performer and her place in women’s wrestling is the ideal hook to push her to the moon on the SmackDown brand.
3 Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have to be separated in the draft. The hatred between the two means their story will go on forever unless they are on different shows and that’s needed right now to get their careers going on Raw and SmackDown. Owens has the charisma and personality that's ideal for the Raw brand. Stephanie McMahon has shown signs of favouritism towards him which would give her incentive to draft him. The same applies to Zayn on SmackDown.
Zayn wins you over with his wrestling and the emotion sparked from his matches and drive will cause new fans to fall in love with him. It is very reminiscent to how guys like Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and Edge got over on SmackDown in the old brand split days. Zayn should represent everything associated with what the brand becomes in 2016. The work rate, the storytelling and the determination of Sami Zayn can make him one of the biggest stars for Shane McMahon.
We’ve already discussed how important the women’s wrestling will be for the success of SmackDown and the brand split in general. Bayley is the X-factor currently in NXT that has to play a role in the upcoming draft. Bayley's work is untouchable in NXT as one of the most beloved characters in the wrestling business. She has stellar matches and her character work forces fans of all demographics to believe in her as the ultimate babyface.
WWE can’t continue to prolong the call-up of the elite NXT talent. She is a star and deserves to be on the biggest stage and make as much money as possible. Bayley has the potential to be the biggest female wrestling star of all time if her current act is allowed to continue on. The gimmick would be a much better fit in the new era feel of SmackDown under Shane McMahon’s banner. Bayley getting young fans to believe in her and show support is desperately needed for the women’s division. SmackDown has to draft her and make her a huge star right away.
1 John Cena
The premise of this list has been built on youth. Young stars, NXT names, new talents from other promotions and interesting prospects have all been the ones most needed on SmackDown, so why John Cena? The majority of new stars made in the WWE through the past decade all had impressive outings against Cena. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Edge became main eventers by feuding with him. Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens became credible main roster stars by defeating Cena.
The passion exhibited by Cena to help make others around him more popular is pivotal to the success of growing a star. SmackDown would have an advantage with the average fan with Cena leading the brand and everyone would be elevated by working with him. Both shows have to have a top star to become the face of the franchise and SmackDown absolutely has more of a need for the biggest name in Cena. The matches, star power and selflessness make John Cena the most important star needed on SmackDown.
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