The much anticipated 2016 WWE Draft is finally behind us. The brand split reboot of this generation has created an exciting buzz around the company which hasn’t been witnessed in quite a while. Perhaps it’s due of the plethora of talent–both homegrown and internationally seasoned—that are under contract to the top wrestling company in the world, making this draft one that is chock-full of intriguing scenarios.
After revealing the GMs on RAW the night before the draft it was clear what the focus of both shows were going to be. With Stephanie and Mick Foley operating RAW, we’re certain to see heavy doses of drama and a power struggle of two contrasting philosophies. On the Smackdown side with Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon manning the helm, the focus will be more on wrestling and in-ring talent.
Fans are salivating at the chance of seeing their favorites shine and be able to showcase themselves on condensed rosters. Before, with the rosters being bloated, the talent was either overexposed or underutilized. By the end of night, the rosters for both Smackdown and RAW were set and while there were some excellent picks made, there are others that are complete head scratchers.
These two ends of the spectrum will be covered in the following list in the form of thumbs up for positive decisions that were made on draft night and thumbs down for the ones that left us disappointed and bewildered.
15. Thumbs Up: New Day On Raw
Fans of the New Day have no reason to be sour as your W…(swivel hips) W…(swivel hips) E…(swivel hips) Tag…(swivel) Team…(swivel) Champions…(swivel) are intact and will be on WWE’s flagship show on Monday Nights. The trio of Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods has been a comedic hit for the WWE and when the company announced that the champions would not be split up via the draft, the power of positivity prevailed. This was an excellent move for RAW as the trio has thrived better on Monday Nights, letting loose with hilarious promos in the unique fashion that only they can pull off.
14. Thumbs Down: Carmella, Alexa Bliss And Nia Jax Being Drafted Before Bayley
No knock against any of these women who are all fantastic talent with tons of potential to be great additions to their respective rosters but those NXT picks really defied logic in a way. When the officially released rules stated that six NXT Superstars will be called up, one would assume that the GMs and Commissioners would swipe up the best of the best.
One of the best female stars on NXT is long-time mainstay Bayley. If you’re trying to craft the best roster possible to compete for brand supremacy, wouldn’t you sign the beloved Bayley? Or even Asuka for that matter? You would think that’d be “best for business” but instead the female face of NXT was snubbed.
13. Thumbs Up: Commentary Changes
The WWE Superstars weren’t the only people changing homes on Draft night as the commentary booths for both programs were also shaken up. Corey Graves, largely an NXT commentator and WWE panelist, got the biggest promotion of all as he was added to the three man team on RAW with Michael Cole and Byron Saxton. The Smackdown Team will consist of a three man team of the already beloved Mauro Ranallo, JBL and David Otunga. The glaring omission of the group is long-time commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler. Whether this means Lawler is getting his walking papers remains to be seen but you can definitely tell that WWE is taking a younger approach to their commentary teams to match the youth movement in the locker room.
12. Thumbs Down: The Club Is Split Up
The AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows trio were a fun fresh part of RAW especially in their rivalry with John Cena and the #beatupJohnCena hashtag they trended. The Club’s personality shined well together so it’s a shame that due to the draft the three won’t be a unit moving forward. The Phenomenal one will be just fine rolling solo on Smackdown but there should be some concern for Gallows and Anderson getting lost in the shuffle as just another generic tag team on RAW.
There is at least some hope they will be used correctly and effectively but they very well could flop on their own. There may be a potential rearrangement of the Club stable with Bullet Club original Finn Balor now on the same roster as his former running buddies.
11. Thumbs Up: Finn Balor Being Placed On RAW
The draft was given an extra level of intrigue with the announcement of both brands being allowed to call up stars from NXT. Raw certainly set the tone with the first NXT call up by selecting former Champion Finn Balor. While some may view this as a thumbs down or in the middle since fans of Balor would have preferred he be selected to the more wrestling-centric Smackdown brand, this looks to be a good home for him.
Balor has a chance to stand out on the RAW roster and there’s even an extra bit of suspense with The Club members Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows being separated from AJ Styles. Will Balor form his Bullet/Balor club and run roughshod on RAW? Either way he’s going to be fun to watch on a bigger stage.
10. Thumbs Down: Big Show As An Early Pick For RAW
We get it. The Big Show is a big attraction. He’s also an old and past his prime attraction. When the only match that folks want to see from Big Show is a spectacle match against retired basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, he’s not really worth a draft pick. There is a locker room filled with young and hungry talent clamoring for a spot during the so-called “New Era” and someone from the Attitude Era is drafted ahead of them all.
The last time Big Show was used was at the Andre The Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. Before that, he was in a feud with Roman Reigns which no one was really excited to see. Though it may seem a little harsh, there’s a reason people have been chanting “Please retire” to Show.
9. Thumbs Up: Charlotte Drafted To WWE RAW
The daughter of the “Nature Boy” being selected as the #3 pick of the draft for RAW was an excellent choice. Charlotte has been solid in her role as of late as the arrogant WWE Women’s Champion and has delivered above expectations on RAW.
While it remains to be seen if a Women’s championship will be created for the females drafted on the Smackdown roster, Charlotte being on RAW is ideal. Drafted along with her are stars like Sasha Banks, Paige and NXT call up Nia Jax so it presents some interesting matchups and dynamics that will make for great television Monday Nights.
8. Thumbs Down: Brock Lesnar Being Eligible For The Draft
Now I know what you’re thinking, how is the Beast Incarnate a thumbs down on anything (unless we’re talking USADA protocol)? In this case he’s a thumbs down because in storyline context and in general it’s a dumb move to make and something that doesn’t fit his character. Had he been present on Draft night, Lesnar’s advocate Paul Heyman would’ve been fuming and talking the entire WWE Universe’s ear off about how his client is an attraction and is bigger than any brand.
The fact of the matter is, he really is bigger than both brands. And he should be the legitimate holder of the nickname, “Mr. PPV.” Brock is not going to wrestle Monday Nights nor would he on Tuesday Nights with Smackdown. He’s a special occasion star just like how he is portrayed in the UFC. If the draft was real, why would either brand waste a draft pick on someone who’s hardly going to be on their show?
7. Thumbs Up: John Cena Returns To His SmackDown Roots
This move was another smart one to make and John Cena’s reaction to being back on the Smackdown brand where he made himself a household name was actually quite exciting. On the WWE Draft Live special he proclaimed that RAW is no longer the flagship show if he’s on Smackdown which further solidified the thumbs up.
Cena is transitioning into a new phase of his career as a special attraction star. He still has a lot left in the tank as a performer and puts on consistently great matches with anyone he is in the ring with. Cena can take a backseat to the future stars and give them the rub when they need it, whether in a rivalry or teaming up with an up and comer.
6. Thumbs Down: Kalisto Is On SmackDown For Some Reason
Right now on the WWE Network the Cruiserweight Classic Tournament is under way and hardcore wrestling fans are captivated by the diverse competition and the high-octane matchups that have taken place so far. The announcement from Stephanie McMahon on RAW in which she stated that RAW would be the home of the cruiserweight champion and the cruiserweight division generated even more buzz for the red team.
So the question is: why the heck was Kalisto, a premier cruiserweight, selected to Smackdown? It was a baffling decision to say the least and it was something that Kalisto was tongue tied over as well as seen by his colossally butchered promo reacting to his Smackdown draft selection.
5. Thumbs Up: The Phenomenal One Is SmackDown Exclusive
AJ Styles may have been separated from his buddies in The Club with his draft selection but this move to Smackdown is something the Phenomenal One should be very happy about. AJ Styles is an in-ring specialist and being on the brand that puts a premium on how you perform in the squared circle, AJ will be a man amongst boys on Smackdown Live.
With more main event spotlight to go around via two brands, AJ Styles has less people standing in front of him on the main event tier. In the past brand extension, Smackdown excelled to the point of overtaking RAW in terms of popularity largely due to scrappy veterans that left it all out in the ring for the fans enjoyment. This go around, it may definitely be more of the same with AJ Styles representing Smackdown.
4. Thumbs Down: Cesaro On RAW
Cesaro appeared none too pleased about being drafted by RAW and he let his feelings be known when he gave his live unscripted reaction to the drafting exclusively on the WWE Network Draft Center special. Cesaro is a phenomenal superstar in the ring and can put on a great match with just about anyone. He recognizes that being in a soap opera and cutting long promos is not his strong suit which is essentially what RAW will be going for, putting a premium on showing personality over in ring prowess.
Cesaro is not one to whine and stated he will make the most of his time on RAW and prove to everyone that he is deserving of a top spot. However, he would ultimately be better utilized on Smackdown with the philosophy they are basing themselves off of so we understand his disappointment.
3. Thumbs Up: Seth Rollins #1 Draft Pick For RAW
The self-proclaimed “Architect of the Shield” said it best in his live reaction to the news of him being selected as the number one pick of the WWE Draft, “Was there ever any doubt?” Seth Rollins is a workhorse and he deserves to be the #1 pick of the company. He was on fire in 2015 and the only thing that slowed him down was a freak accident that resulted in a devastating knee injury.
It makes all the sense in the world for Stephanie McMahon to select the man that her husband Triple H named as his successor and even gave the okay to use his pedigree finisher. Seth did carry RAW unofficially for a while now, this pick just symbolizes the faith that WWE has in him to be the true future of the company.
2. Thumbs Down: MoJo Rawley On SmackDown?
Mojo Rawley? As stated earlier, if this was a legitimate draft between two competing companies trying to craft the best roster possible and they have a chance to grab anyone from NXT, wouldn’t they grab the best superstars available to beef up their talent pool?
Samoa Joe would have been an excellent choice and deserving. He’s a long-time indy veteran and has proved himself all over the world and if anyone deserved to bypass NXT and go straight to the big leagues, it should’ve been him. The same exact thing could be said of Shinsuke Nakamura. Both were passed over for “Hype bro” Mojo Rawley. I get that we are supposed to suspend our disbelief when watching wrestling but this is just an insult to fan intelligence when every NXT star was eligible to be drafted. Nothing against the man himself but come on now— Mojo Rawley? The only pick that could have possibly been worse is No Way Jose. Please prove me wrong, Mojo.
1. Thumbs Up: Dean Ambrose Moving To SmackDown
The lunatic fringe is on top of the world at the moment as the WWE Champion and the decision for him to be on Smackdown was the best thing that could happen for him. The reason why is mainly because of his former Shield teammates being drafted to RAW. With Ambrose now apart from Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, Ambrose can shine as a marquee singles star on the Blue Brand.
Previously, he was lost in the background as Roman’s buddy sidekick or constantly feuding with Rollins which at this point has been done to death. The move to Smackdown keeps things fresh for Ambrose and brings forth new interesting matchups and interactions with talent he hasn’t been in the ring with yet.
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