Tuesday night is a big night for those who watch World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) programming. Smackdown, traditionally considered the “B” show of the company’s programming, is going live on the USA network. To celebrate, the new “heads” of Raw and Smackdown will hold a draft to determine the fate of WWE and NXT’s superstars. I don’t have any skin in this, but I wanted to take a moment and conduct my own “draft” to see how things might play out.
For the purposes of this little thought experiment, I’m stepping into the shoes of Shane McMahon, the new head of Smackdown. I want my brand to be different immediately from Raw, which made a name for itself in the nineties as the place for outlandish interactions between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon, the battle between Kane and the Undertaker, the Corporate Ministry, and more. I’m interested in making my brand feel more as “sport” than “sports-entertainment.” That’s my strategy going in to make my two hours of live TV “can’t miss.”
We’re going to take the actual rules of the WWE Draft as recently announced, which go as follows:
- Raw has the first overall pick.
- Since Smackdown Live is a two hour show, and Raw is three hours, for every two picks Smackdown gets Raw will get three picks
- Tag Teams count as one pick unless a Commissioner/GM specifically only wants one member of the team.
- Six picks will be made off the NXT roster.
I’m also using the list of “draft eligible” stars off WWE.com for this little experiment.
- Dean Ambrose to RAW, John Cena to Raw, and Seth Rollins to Raw
- AJ Styles to Smackdown and the Club (Gallows and Anderson) to Smackdown.
I’m focusing on Sport, and I want the focus to be on talent with more “sport” than “sports entertainment” for this brand. Therefore, I take three guys who have experience in New Japan with a “sports” feel and leave Raw with Cena, the Champ, and Rollins so you have a built in feud and the iconic face of WWE.
- The New Day to RAW, Rusev to Raw, and Charlotte to Raw.
- Enzo and Cass to Smackdown, Cesaro to Smackdown
I place this in the realm again of looking at Raw trying to hold the champs. Smackdown needs a colorful tag team to feud with the Club, and I want Cesaro for his athletic ability.
- Brock Lesnar to Raw, The Dudley Boys to Raw, and Demon Kane to Raw
- Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens to Smackdown
This might seem like a counter-intuitive pick. Give the beast to Raw, a good tag team that can put good matches with The New Day, and Kane shows up for a heel figure that would serve in a great authority figure role if you needed someone as a check on the GM. With Smackdown I want two guys that can go and continually put out consistent matches night after night. Zayn and Owens fit that role perfectly.
- Chris Jericho to Raw, The Usos to Raw, and Roman Reigns to Raw
- The Miz to Smackdown, Neville to Smackdown, and the Vaudevillians to Smackdown.
So this continues a pick of the big names going to Raw, with additions of the Usos and Reigns to Raw. I see the big names getting picked by my counterpart. I want a champ of some sort on my show, so I get the Miz who holds the IC belt. I want a high flyer and Neville fits that. The Vaudevillians have a certain kitschy feel to them, so I want them for my show to make things different.
Round Five (the NXT Round)
- Shinsuke Nakamura to Raw, The Revival to Raw, and Askua to Raw
- Finn Balor to Smackdown, American Alpha to Smackdown
Nakamura needs time on the big stage on Raw, and his presence could help offset some of the major names on Raw that would have great matches with him. I want Balor to act as the anchoring member of the Club or keep him as a face to feud with the Club, and American Alpha fits the “sport” mentality I see present for Smackdown.
- Alberto Del Rio to Raw, Paige to Raw, Becky Lynch to Raw
- Bayley to Smackdown, Sasha Banks to Smackdown
This fills out my quota of NXT stars and gives some diversity to the women’s division. I also think Raw needs the Latino superstar, and two of the major Women’s Division talent to round them out. I think Sasha Banks and Bayley can carry a good feud for the Smackdown Women’s title, so that’s my picks there.
- Randy Orton to Raw, the Social Outcasts to Raw, and Big Show to Raw
- Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family to Smackdown
I make this pick because I think Orton, the Outcasts, and Big Show all have value to the Raw Brand. Orion and Show are the big names that already have value. The Social Outcasts are a niche group that will bring some JOB Squad level talent to the mix and can work as “enhancement talent” for any group or person they face. Plus it’d be cool if they decided “we’re tired of the jobber role and are ready to gang up on people.” I think Bray and the Wyatt Family are criminally underused on Raw, so I’d take them all for Smackdown.
So I hope this shows you a good view of continually working towards two different products that make Raw and Smackdown distinguishable and ready to compete with either brand. If I had my druthers, I’d put a commentary team of JBL, Michael Cole, and Byron Saxton on Raw, with Smackdown getting Mauro Ranallo, Daniel Bryan, and Jerry Lawler (if he ever recovers from his legal battles). Other rounds can make for good fodder off camera, but I think seven rounds of picks on TV plus after show picks will make the dearth of the draft.
If you have other picks, or think I’m dead wrong, tell me in comments or hit me up on Twitter @clsesq.