In just a few short weeks, WWE will once again shake up the wrestling landscape by bringing back the Brand Split. For those of you that don’t know, back in 2002, WWE had acquired so much talent that they decided to create competition within their own company. Both RAW and SmackDown drafted their own rosters, with the choices themselves being a complete surprise to the folks in attendance and watching at home. The draft was so successful that WWE decided to bring it back a number of times over the years, most recently in 2011.
The draft itself is a plus for a number of reasons, with the most important being that it allows the company to create new and exciting matchups, with trades being made when necessary to ensure fresh feuds. Now with the roster yet again stacked, WWE looks to bring back the separate brands as a way to make their main shows more important. As of right now, not much is known about how WWE will conduct the draft this year. In the past, they have had the picks decided by whoever the authority figure was for each show at the time, while in more recent cases it was random, with matches taking place which awarded the winning brand draft picks. However they decide to carry it out, this year’s WWE draft will be filled with historic moments. Over the years, the WWE draft has contributed to the rise of some of the greatest stars in professional wrestling. Here are the top fifteen draft picks throughout history that show just how shocking the draft can and will be.
15 John Cena Owns the Draft (2011)
At the most recent WWE Draft, the world watched in shock as John Cena was the first randomized draft pick and sent to SmackDown. The live crowd was shocked, as were the millions of fans that were watching at home. Later on that same night, John Cena teamed up with Christian and Mark Henry (two fellow SmackDown superstars) versus the RAW team of The Miz, CM Punk, and Alberto Del Rio. During the match, Henry would turn heel and betray Cena, which would allow The Miz to score the victory and secure one final draft pick for RAW. As it turns out, Cena ended up switching right back to RAW and after he dismantled his foes in the ring, he stood tall to close out the show. Even though this marked the only time in history where a Superstar was drafted twice in the same night, Cena bouncing back and forth actually lessened the importance of the draft somewhat.
14 A Short Lived Reunion (2008)
Back at the 2008 draft, fans at home were delighted to see that The Hardy Boyz were going to be reunited following Jeff being acquired by the Blue Brand. Matt Hardy was the United States Champion at the time and a member of SmackDown, and as one would expect he was ecstatic that he and Jeff were on the same show. With a draft pick on the line, the brothers would team up later that night against the underrated team of The Miz and John Morrison, who were representing ECW. Following a rollup victory, The Miz and Morrison thought that would be the last encounter they would have with the two men, that is until Matt was revealed as ECW’s random pick. Both Matt and Jeff looked at one another with disappointed faces, as the brothers became aware that this meant their reunion was going to be on delay for the moment. While the reunion was short-lived the switch ended up being a great thing for Matt, who would go on to win the ECW Championship later that year.
13 The Awesome One Arrives To RAW (2009)
Following the wave of momentum that The Miz had received after teaming alongside John Morrison, the powers that be decided that it was time for him to move on to the flagship show. While at the time Miz was still relatively green and was still finding his stride as a performer, the time was right for him to move on to a singles career. After debuting on the RAW brand, The Miz would make it his mission to target the top dog in WWE, John Cena. Even though Miz would end up on the losing end of the feud (even though he did hold a win over Cena via “forfeit”), the time in the spotlight did wonders for the young athlete. Soon after. The Miz would dominate the RAW landscape, winning the United States and Tag Team Championships, the Money in the Bank briefcase and the coveted WWE Championship all in the same year.
12 The nWo finds A Home (2002)
At the first WWE draft, the two co-owners of the company at the time (Vince McMahon and Ric Flair) each got to pick ten superstars on an episode of RAW. Once several picks had come and gone, Ric Flair made his way back out to the live audience and reveal that RAW would draft the entire collective unit known as the nWo. What this meant was that Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and X-Pac were now under the authoritative thumb of Flair. Suffice it to say they weren’t happy by any means, barging into Flair’s office and stating they were only loyal to Mr. McMahon. Not being a pushover, Flair stuck to his guns and laid down the law, letting the nWo know they were here to stay.
11 The Game is Drafted to SmackDown (2004)
During the 2004 draft, it was obvious to those watching at home that the two general managers at the time (Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff) weren’t getting along in the slightest. Always sticking it to one another throughout the show, it all came to a head when Heyman revealed the newest draft pick for SmackDown. As Heyman announced the name, Bischoff’s face turned red with anger, as he had lost arguably the single biggest star on his show at the time, Triple H. Nothing Bischoff said could convince Heyman to draft anyone else and before long backstage footage showed Triple H being both shocked and angered at the announcement. However Triple H would never make the journey to SmackDown, because later on that week Bischoff offered Heyman The Dudley Boyz and Booker T in exchange for Triple H. Heyman gladly accepted the overwhelming offer, with all three men debuting on the very next episode of SmackDown.
10 Kane Returns to RAW (2008)
Following one of the quickest title changes in WrestleMania history, Kane would lead the ECW brand as their Champion after beating Chavo Guerrero at WrestleMania XXIV in a record setting eleven seconds. Kane would go on to hold that championship until the final One Night Stand event in 2008, but along the way he managed to make history. Being drafted to RAW during that year’s draft, Kane would become the first man in history to hold the ECW Championship as an active RAW roster member. Even though former WWE superstar Bobby Lashley had been drafted as champion to RAW the year prior, the fact that he was stripped of the ECW title on the spot meant he never competed on the show as champion.
9 Rey Mysterio is Drafted to RAW (2008)
On the same night that Kane made history, Rey Mysterio would change the landscape of the entire WWE when he was drafted to the RAW brand. Immediately coming down to the ring and shaking the hand of then WWE Champion Triple H, Mysterio looked poised to be a big time player on RAW. Already a former World Heavyweight and Tag Team Champion, Mysterio had the accolades and athleticism necessary to be considered a viable threat to the other notable members of the RAW roster. Although this marked the first time that Mysterio would call the RAW brand home, he didn’t really do much during his tenure there. After failing to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Unforgiven later that year, Mysterio would transition into a feud with Kane for the rest of 2008. He would go on to defeat him both at that year’s Cyber Sunday and No Mercy events. After that, Mysterio would set his sights on JBL and the Intercontinental Championship.
8 The Viper Slithers Over To SmackDown (2011)
Although the 2011 draft will be remembered more-so for what happened with John Cena than anything else, it also marked the first time Randy Orton was to be a part of the SmackDown roster since 2006. When he had left the Blue Brand years prior, he was an accomplished young athlete, yet when he returned he was a solid nine year veteran of the main roster. Immediately entering into a feud with then World Heavyweight Champion Christian, Orton would shock the world by winning the championship in their first encounter on SmackDown. The fun wasn’t done there however, with the next several pay-per-views being dominated by one great Christian versus Orton match after another. Without a doubt the feud wasn’t just one of the best out of both men’s respective careers, but it made SmackDown almost as must-see as Paul Heyman had made it years before. Once their feud culminated at SummerSlam of that year, Orton would drop the title to Mark Henry before focusing on rising superstar Wade Barrett.
7 The Olympic Hero is Back on RAW (2005)
The 2005 instalment of the WWE Draft will be remembered for a number of reasons (some will be mentioned later on in this article), with one of the biggest being that Kurt Angle made a shocking return to RAW. During an in-ring segment where Triple H and Ric Flair goaded whoever the next RAW draft pick was to come out to the ring, fans rejoiced when a familiar tune began to play throughout the arena. Even though fans would welcome Angle back with a chorus of “You Suck” chants (nothing new for Angle), he made his way down to the ring and confronted the two men. The segment itself was pure gold, with everything from Angle bringing up Stephanie McMahon as a means to humiliate Triple H to a “woo off” between Angle and Flair being must-see television. Even though WWE seemed to be hinting that Angle and Triple H were going to lock horns, it turned out it was only a tease by creative. Before long Shawn Michaels would make his way out to the ring, confronting Angle and challenging him to a match at Vengeance. Angle accepted the challenge, with fans everywhere being rewarded with the rematch from their epic WrestleMania XXI encounter later that month.
6 The Undertaker is Drafted to RAW (2002)
After defeating Ric Flair at WrestleMania X8, the last things fans expected was to see The Undertaker on RAW. Vince McMahon had promised Undertaker a spot on SmackDown during the WWE draft and it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Flair was willing to oblige. As it turns out, Vince would use his first pick on The Rock, while Flair would shock the world and announce Undertaker as his first draft pick. To say Undertaker wasn’t happy would be an understatement, the man was livid that his former enemy was now the man in charge of him. Backstage footage showed The Undertaker lowering his sunglasses and tossing chairs around the room where all the superstars had gathered. Demanding that McMahon undo what had just happened, The Undertaker could only stand by as a powerless McMahon watched his greatest creation slip through his fingers. Although the night didn’t turn out the way he envisioned it, 2002 ended up being a very good year for the Dead Man. He would go on to defeat Steve Austin at Backlash later that month before dethroning Hulk Hogan to win his fourth WWE Championship.
5 The Animal Is Unleashed on SmackDown (2005)
Once the 2005 Draft had concluded, SmackDown found itself without a World Champion. Then WWE Champion John Cena had been drafted to RAW (more on that soon), taking the title with him, meaning that there wasn’t even a championship to compete for. To rectify this issue, SmackDown General Manager Teddy Long booked a six man elimination match, with the winner becoming the new “SmackDown Champion.” The winner of the match ended up being former WWE Champion JBL (John Bradshaw Layfield), but it turned out he wasn’t world champion. Instead it was announced that he had earned the right to be number one contender against Batista and the World Heavyweight Championship. At that moment Batista made his way out to the ring and confronted JBL, pandering to the crowd and holding the actual Championship above his head. These two men would go on to have several World Heavyweight Championship matches that year, with Batista leaving the arena as champion time and time again. He would go on to hold that championship until January of 2006, when an injury forced Batista to relinquish the title.
4 Lita Makes History (2002)
As the 2002 Draft slowly started to come to a close, co-owner and head of RAW Ric Flair was given the honor of having the final live draft pick. Taking a moment to think about his decision, Flair would announce that he would pick Lita to join the RAW roster. Even though Vince McMahon would arrogantly state that Flair had seemingly wasted a draft pick, Flair stuck to his guns and felt as though Lita would make a great addition. Despite what McMahon thought, Flair picking Lita was one of the smartest moves he could’ve made at that point in time. Lita was the most popular female athlete on the roster at that time, with the crowd reaction she received when drafted to RAW only adding to that belief. On that night she also made history, becoming the first woman to ever to be selected during a WWE Draft. Unfortunately, before Lita could really get comfortable in her new environment she was derailed with a severe neck injury which cost her a year of her career.
3 Batista Returns to RAW (2008)
Back in 2005, Batista had arrived on SmackDown as World Heavyweight Champion and proceeded to establish himself as one of the top stars in the company. On his way out of the Blue Brand, Batista was embroiled in a feud with Edge, who was the World Heavyweight Champion at the time. Interfering with Edge’s match with John Cena during the 2008 Draft, Batista drove the World Champion up the ramp and towards the titantron. John Cena had won via count-out, meaning that Edge had refused to go back into the ring before the count of ten. Because of this, RAW was awarded one draft pick, with the pick surprisingly being Batista himself. Realizing that he had dodged a major bullet, Edge held on to his championship and waved his competition goodbye, knowing full Batista could no longer challenge him for the title. As cameras panned back to the ring a stunned Batista could only look at himself up on the titantron, still in shock over what had just transpired.
2 John Cena Makes an Epic Debut (2005)
Being the WWE Champion at the time of the 2005 draft, fans everywhere predicted what was in store for John Cena. The man was in the middle of his first World Title reign in the company and it seemed as though no one on the SmackDown roster was capable of stopping him. Fresh off defeating JBL at Judgement Day, Cena would shock the world and debut during Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. As fans in the arena came unglued at the sight of Cena, even Jericho himself couldn’t hold his excitement, clapping as Cena made his way down to the ring. Following a strong promo where Cena called out the RAW roster, Christian would make his way down to the ring with Tyson Tomko to confront Cena. Once Christian and Cena had laid a verbal barrage on one another a brawl ensued, a brawl in which even Jericho got involved in. At the end of the segment, Jericho and Cena stood tall, with Cena making the best out of his first appearance as a member of the RAW roster.
1 A Game Changing Moment (2008)
The final top tier star to be drafted in 2008, Triple H closes out the list as the most shocking draft pick in history. Following a tri-brand battle royal where the winning team received two draft picks for their respective brand, both Mr. Kennedy and Triple H were sent over to SmackDown. While Mr. Kennedy was nowhere near the level of popularity he had been a year prior, Triple H was in the midst of establishing himself as a legend. The RAW locker room was Triple H’s domain, which made his transfer over to the Blue brand all the more shocking. When the cameras finally panned to Triple H his expression told the story, he was absolutely disheartened and stunned to learn that he was leaving RAW. Despite the brand switch, Triple H would continue to find success on SmackDown, dominating the WWE Championship scene for the rest of 2008 before transitioning into a feud with Randy Orton.
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