After a historic night, the WWE has successfully been split into two unique rosters – one for Raw, one for Smackdown. Much like the initial brand split in 2002, we’ll be feeling the ramifications of this draft for years to come. But, what makes this draft different from the one in 2002?
First of all, Smackdown is now live on Tuesday nights. Without being able to read spoilers online, more eyes figure to fix on USA Network on Tuesdays. Ah, that’s another thing – USA Network. Smackdown isn’t on UPN anymore. The WWE won’t have to worry about USA getting angry that another network is getting a better product than they are. Plaus, this is the deepest roster of talent the WWE has had in years.
All of this is going to make for a much more balanced, competitive Smackdown. Before we start looking too far into the future, let’s settle up with what worked and what didn’t in the 2016 WWE Draft.
What Went Right
The top two – Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose going first and second was the absolute correct call. They are the two cornerstones of the WWE. It makes perfect sense for each to become the face of a brand. They’ll be able to put on quality matches and interact with any other superstar on the roster for years to come.
The NXT call-ups – Finn Balor and Nia Jax are going to Raw. American Alpha, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, and Carmella are headed to Smackdown. Would it have been nice to see Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, and Bayley get a call up? Sure. At the same time, look at that would have left NXT with. Bayley has the biggest gripe of any of them. Her call up is long overdue, but I’ll hold my tongue on the matter until she’s ruled out as Sasha Banks’ partner at Battleground.
The saying ‘crap or get off the pot’ comes to mind when thinking about Rawley and Bliss. It was time for the WWE to see what those two can do on the main roster, so I have no gripe there either….overall happy night for the Performance Center.
Smackdown main event scene – Ambrose, AJ Styles, John Cena, Randy Orton, and Bray Wyatt have all main evented pay-per-views and can step in right away to contend for the WWE Championship. Not to mention, previous headliners like Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, and Kane now reside on Smackdown.
Keeping tag teams together – splitting up The Dudley Boyz in 2002 was downright awkward. Thankfully, all of the tag teams with the exception of the Lucha Dragons were drafted together.
Splitting the women – Seven women went to Raw, six to Smackdown. Hopefully, the Women’s Championship will float between the brands, but regardless, both rosters have enough women to keep things fresh and entertaining.
What Went Wrong
Raw main event scene – It’s hard to see why people are proclaiming Raw as the clear winner of the draft when the brand’s only credible main event wrestlers are Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Brock Lesnar. Even if all three are actually active, one of them is a part-timer, and the other two have wrestled plenty of times already. Actually, we’ve already seen every combination of these three: Reigns vs. Lesnar, Lesnar vs. Rollins, Rollins vs. Reigns. Unless they plan on pushing Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro to the Moon, or reintroducing Sheamus and Big Show to the main event scene, seems like they’re going to run out of options quickly.
The secondary titles – I can understand wanting to make Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, the Women’s Revolution, and New Day look really important. I have no qualms with that. But, if you have a championship, you should be drafted high. Period. Way too much time passed before The Miz and Rusev were selected. Not to mention, the current number one contenders for both titles weren’t even drafted on television. If we’re to uphold the Intercontinental and United States Championship as prestigious entities, maybe do more to make them feel like it.
The Cruiserweight division – I guess we’re getting Neville vs. Sin Cara over and over in the Cruiserweight division on Monday nights. There’s not a lot of options to begin with, so why on Earth would you not have Kalisto, one of your top two cruiserweights, on Raw?
That’s it – a few minor gripes in what was overall a great night for wrestling.
Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, covers the NFL’s Tennessee Titans for Pro Football Spot, and is the Editor of The SoBros Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT’s Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.