Drafts have always drawn huge interest from fans given YouTube videos of the drafts involving Vince McMahon, Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, and Paul Heyman having recorded views in the millions. The Undertaker losing his mind after being drafted to Raw during the original draft and John Cena being drafted as the first Raw pick in 2005 are just two of many moments that are now etched in pro-wrestling history.
A lot was expected of World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) first draft after SmackDown’s billion-dollar move to Fox, as Fox and USA advertised it heavily. The wrestling media reporting even had wrestlers being kept in the dark about their moves adding to the excitement.
Much to the disappointment of its faithful fans, the publicly-traded company dropped the ball, making WWE Draft 2019 memorable for all the wrong reasons.
10 Leaking drafts online
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. Many wrestling news sites reported WWE was holding its cards close its chest regarding WWE Draft 2019; some even suggested that it kept the talents in the dark about where there would move. After all that, they put out the first day’s draft pool on the website, in the same order the talents were drafted. Fans on Twitter and Reddit were quick to point out WWE’s blunder and WWE tried saving face by tweaking the drafts a little bit in the final rounds, but enough damage had already been done.
9 Awkward backstage reactions
When WWE announced Fox and USA officials will be directly involved in the draft, it appeared to legitimize the process. However, the fans only got to witness reactions from dollar-store war rooms embedded here and there throughout the draft. Sure, it made for some fun TV such as Fox’s in-house CGI robot Cleatus high-fiving make-believe Fox decision makers, and USA people rejoicing over picking under-card wrestler Natalya. However, overall, it looked awkward, forced and downright insulting to the art form that is now being taken seriously again given the growing popularity of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
8 Stephanie McMahon announcing drafts
WWE didn’t do itself any favor when it made Stephanie McMahon announce the draft picks. Indeed, it had run the brother vs. sister storyline to the ground, so it couldn’t have Shane McMahon announce SmackDown’s picks while she does Raw’s. Plus, he’s fired, you know? They could have had one USA official and Paul Heyman announce Raw’s picks and Eric Bischoff and one Fox spokesperson represent Raw. Her announcing all the picks made it rather boring as head honchos of either brand trading jabs has always made for exciting television.
7 Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss as separate drafts
WWE’s announcing tag teams counted as one pick that divided fans; a few felt it took away some anxiety that comes with drafts while others were happy their favorite tag teams such as The OC and The New Day wouldn’t be split. Not many seem to complain that no tag teams were split, but many keen-eyed fans promptly pointed out that USA committed a gaffe when they drafted Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss as separate picks. While it could be justified in kayfabe as poor decision-making from USA, moving them to SmackDown as team only made loyal WWE fans shake their heads in disbelief.
6 Lack of surprise drafts
Ahead of the draft, internet fans were salivating at the prospect of John Morrison, CM Punk, or Edge being made surprise drafts. Indeed, the latter two are merely wishful thinking, but WWE definitely could have added someone like John Morrison or even a few NXT wrestlers in the draft pool. Merely having the main-roster wrestlers and a few 205 Live wrestlers rendered the draft lackluster, especially since the fans had seen multiple Superstar Shake-Ups in the buildup to the big draft. Unsurprisingly, the second day of the WWE Draft 2019, on USA, drew about 19% less viewers, compared with the first day on Fox. A couple of surprising inclusions might have helped WWE retain its viewer count.
5 Early Bludgeon Brothers split
First off, not many expected WWE to bring back Luke Harper as internet fans expected them to take the route it did with Neville. Given there wasn’t much time between his return and Sasha Banks’, they saw WWE to build him up in an attempt to keep him away from AEW’s clutches. However, not long after the Bludgeon Brothers’ reunion, it split them up again, with the former Intercontinental Champion finding TV time hard to come by on SmackDown while The Big Red kicks out of Seth Rollins’ curb stomp on Raw. Perhaps, this is WWE’s way to telling its employees it rewards patience, but it does little to boost either star’s stock in the long run.
4 Leaving Cesaro undrafted
At a time when the Internet fans are gravitating toward AEW, WWE isn’t doing itself any favor by not putting the limelight on the stars they adore. Indeed, they cannot push every wrestler they have on their payroll at the same time, but leaving an indie darling in Cesaro undrafted as part of the original draft left a lot of fans fuming. To think this happened because WWE committed a blunder by leaking its own draft order. To add insult to the injury, it left other fan favorites such as Apollo Crews, EC3 and The IIconics out of the original draft. Moves like this will only cut fans’ interest in the product.
3 Killed The Fiend’s momentum
WWE and the fans alike seemed heavily invested in Bray Wyatt’s new incarnation as The Fiend. The segments drew heavy interest from the fans and the company also played their part by booking him strongly. In kayfabe terms, he has been as strong as, if not, stronger than near-indefatigable Brock Lesnar. However, the draft sort of killed his momentum as WWE seemed to want to get a big-money feud between The Fiend and Seth Rollins before the “brand split” came into full effect. In doing so, it killed The Fiend’s momentum and got its babyface Universal Champion booed as it booked a non-finish in a match that must have, in theory, Hell in a Cell. Given his excellent character work, he has bounced back, winning the Universal Championship at Crown Jewel and made it believable, but it could have been handled a whole lot better.
2 Raw getting first draft
WWE started the draft show with a high-stakes match - it was supposed to be, at least - between Raw’s Seth Rollins and SmackDown’s Roman Reigns locking horns with each other for the first pick. WWE did a WWE by booking a non-finish again, which involved The Fiend again. Raw got the first pick as a result and that’s not how you kick off an event that garnered as much attention as it did. Even an actual finish following some distraction would have done wonders, and it’s not like the men involved have looked invincible either. Many hoped WWE would recover from that in vain.
1 R-Truth-Carmella break-up
There were a lot of things wrong with the WWE Draft 2019, but this takes the cake for us. R-Truth has been on the same level as Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, The Fiend, and AJ Styles in recent times, and probably just below Becky Lynch, in terms of popularity, since the launch of 24/7 Championship. Internet fans often joked The Fiend and R-Truth carried the company on their backs. What R-Truth carried on his back oft-times while doing that was two-time 24/7 Champion, Carmella. Indeed, her relationship with SmackDown commentator Corey Graves forced WWE’s hand to separate the Mixed Match Challenge winners. A Carmella-R-Truth reunion would spark a reaction as big as a potential The Shield reunion.