Editor’s Note: This blog was written before the WWE releases on May 6. A WWE brand split appears imminent and with many debating whether the roster is deep enough to be divided successfully, long time WWE fan Steven Barnes and I decided to have a legitimate WWE draft in order to figure out for ourselves whether a brand split would be effective.
This was a standard draft with Steven taking the role of Raw general manager and me taking the role of SmackDown general manager. We took turns picking one superstar or tag team each in order to draft all 44 members of the WWE roster.
If anything, this article can be used to show how the average WWE fan values each superstar, who the fabled number one draft pick would be and who would be the last person picked against the wall in high school.
Here were the rules we decided on for the draft:
- Raw gets pick one, but has to draft to fill three hours of content while SmackDown needs to fill two hours.
- The New Day, The Usos, The Ascension, The Social Outcasts, The Wyatt Family Anderson & Gallows, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady, The Vaudevillains, R-Truth & Goldust and Los Matadores all count as tag teams and can be drafted with ONE pick.
- The Women’s Division will function entirely on one brand or across both brands and therefore will not be featured in the draft.
- Finn Balor is the only NXT talent allowed to be drafted
- All injured Superstars can be drafted, but their injuries must be taken into consideration when drafting.
- The Intercontinental Champion (The Miz) and the United States Champion (Kalisto) must be on separate brands.
- Part timers will not be drafted. EG: Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, The Rock, etc.
- The assumption must be that this is a brand split to create two viable rosters for this very week’s programming.
Raw (1): John Cena
Steven: My first pick is John Cena. The face that runs the place. Love him or hate him he draws crowds and sells merchandise like no other. Still has many good years and matches in him and can put over any wrestler to make them a main eventer.
*Slated to return to WWE television May 30th.
SmackDown (2): Seth Rollins
Nic: No one on the roster will be more over when he returns as a babyface than Seth and he’ll be the face of the blue brand.
*Injured, return imminent.
Raw (3): The New Day
Steven: Whether they stay a tag team forever or split up, there is much potential in this three man band of awesomeness. They sell a heap of merchandise and appeal to casual and hard core fans alike with their humorous antics.
Smackdown (4): Roman Reigns
Nic: Whether fans appreciate him or not, Roman is a top star and more than capable of putting on elite matches. He’s finally being utilized in a role that suits him and having him and Seth on the same roster means they can finally have their big money feud that will carry SmackDown early on – a steal at pick four.
Raw (5): Kevin Owens
Steven: The heel that can do it all, he is just starting what will no doubt be a massive career and is over as a heel like only Seth Rollins has been in recent memory.
SmackDown (6): Sami Zayn
Nic: It’s ironic that Sami Zayn goes at pick six to SmackDown as my aim is to recreate the SmackDown six from Paul Heyman’s SmackDown and Sami Zayn, along with Seth, will be a big part of that. He is the next big babyface in WWE and will thrive with the extra spotlight on SmackDown.
Raw (7): Dean Ambrose
Steven: Ambrose has fantastic mic skills and has been over for as long as I can remember. He could fit a face or heel role for Raw.
SmackDown (8): Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
Nic: Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows. Individually, they may not be worth pick eight, but they will be the main tag team of SmackDown and it also sets them up to carry a lot of the heel work for the brand as individuals later down the track, in a similar way to the Guerrero’s back when they came to SmackDown in 2002.
Raw (9): Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
Steven: A feud with them and The New Day would bring a lot of interest and they are stronger on the mic than almost anyone.
*Enzo Amore unusable until cleared to return from concussion.
SmackDown (10): Finn Balor
Nic: As the only NXT star eligible, Finn will be a massive star and the face of the brand for a very long time. Seeing him come up with some blue themed body paint would also be cool.
Raw (11): AJ Styles
Steven: Styles is an indie darling who the fans are already right behind. His opponents may not “want none” but Raw certainly does.
SmackDown (12): Randy Orton
Nic: Orton has missed a lot of time with injury and is need of something fresh which SmackDown can provide him with. Orton himself believes he has over five years of wrestling left in him which means this pick certainly isn’t short sighted.
*Injured, returning in June.
Raw (13): Rusev
Steven: Rusev is a massive figure who has been completely wasted over the last year and along with Lana, is able to generate strong heat.
SmackDown (14): Cesaro
Nic: Cesaro is one of if not the best professional wrestler in the WWE and he will be a vital part of the main-event scene of SmackDown. Along with Seth, Finn, Anderson, Zayn and Gallows, he’ll round out the new SmackDown six.
Raw (15): Damien Sandow
Steven: A fantastic wrestler who just needs time to shine. The audience gets behind him every time he steps through the curtain and he is capable of becoming the new Daniel Bryan story.
SmackDown (16): The Usos
Nic: The Usos, because SmackDown needs a few more tag teams and The Usos, though bland, are excellent at putting on fast paced matches that fire up crowds.
Raw (17): The Wyatt Family
Steven: A renewed interest from the audience after Wrestlemania 32, this collective has a big face turn coming when their charismatic leader returns from injury.
*Luke Harper is also drafted here despite being out for 10+ months.
*Bray Wyatt also not yet cleared to return.
SmackDown (18): The Miz
Nic: The Miz, because he is the most versatile man in the WWE, hosts a talk show segment that could be handy for structuring a show, can be used on commentary and is a completely revitalized character since Maryse returned.
Raw (19): Kalisto
Steven: The little high flyer has been on fire since coming to the main roster and could be the next Mysterio if his mic skills improve a lot.
SmackDown (20): Baron Corbin
Nic: While nothing special in the ring or on the microphone, his presence alone makes him something worth shaping, especially this early on in his career. Corbin is capable of anything.
Raw (21): The Vaudevillains
Steven: If they can recreate their magic on NXT and turn face, Gotch and English could prove to be a popular tag team, especially with fewer teams to compete with on Raw.
SmackDown (22): Dolph Ziggler
Nic: Even though he only has another year or so before he retires, Ziggler is virtually a guaranteed good segment every week and there are plenty of good storylines to tell using him.
Raw (23): Neville
Steven: Proved he can hang with the big boys in his excellent match with Seth Rollins on Raw for the World Heavyweight Championship.
*Out for a few more months.
SmackDown (24): Stardust (Cody Rhodes)
Nic: Cody is the most underutilized talent on the roster and if returned to his normal persona and pushed properly, could carry the SmackDown mid card and push into the main-event scene. He will provide value far above the 24th draft pick.
Raw (25): Ryback
Steven: Even if he leaves the company soon, his size can be used to put over other talent trying to break into the mid-card and make them look good.
*Current at home due to a contract dispute
SmackDown (26): Sheamus
Nic: SmackDown needs another mid card heel and Sheamus fits that bill well. Sheamus is an established name who you can use in virtually any slot on the card.
Raw (27): Alberto Del Rio
Steven: Del Rio is a strong wrestler who can put on a great match. Pair him with a better talker and you have a recipe for increased viewership.
SmackDown (28): The Dudley Boyz
Nic: The Dudley’s can make great lackies for any heel and also contribute to the tag division, helping younger teams develop.
Raw (29): The Social Outcasts
Steven: Whether they stay together or not they can put over talent rather well and every roster needs jobbers.
*Adam Rose currently suspended.
SmackDown (30): Apollo Crews
Nic: Despite his lack of gimmick/personality, Crews is a fantastic athlete who has plenty of time to develop into a fantastic performer. Consider him the development pick of the draft.
Raw (31): Titus O’Neil
Steven: O’Neil is a big man with a big heart and great for Raw’s wider image.
SmackDown (32): Tyler Breeze
Nic: Breeze has been completely wasted since coming to the main roster and needs a fresh start on SmackDown. If booked as he was in NXT, he’ll make a credible Intercontinental Champion. Breeze is another Superstar who’ll be used well above where he’s drafted.
Raw (33): Zack Ryder
Steven: Ryder is a loveable underdog who has showed he can still get the crowd to chant Woo Woo Woo.
SmackDown (34): Big Show
Nic: Show may not have much time left, but he can be used to get younger guys over and he’s a big name that is still a house show draw. He also deserves one last solid run and he can do that on SmackDown away from the lime light.
Raw (35): Kane
Steven: Also soon to retire, but can put people over and has a few last big rivalries left for him.
SmackDown (36): Goldust & R-Truth
Nic: While they may not be anything more than a gag tag team and haven’t even gotten together officially yet, they’ll be handy on house shows and probably more useful to put fresh tag teams over. They’ll also be handy individually later on.
Raw (37): The Ascension
Steven: They look cool while they are constantly getting hammered and can make up numbers in a battle royal.
*Konnor is currently suspended.
SmackDown (38): Fandango
Nic: As far as jobbers go, he’s probably the most entertaining of the bunch. There’s also the potential to revitalize him as something more.
Raw (39): Los Matadores (Epico and Primo)
Steven: They can feature in video packages while the ring is reset for the next match.
SmackDown (40): Jack Swagger
Nic: Swagger is another guy who can be used sparingly to get over other talent. His status as a ‘former world champion’ may still be handy… I guess?
Raw (41): Sin Cara
Steven: To warm up the crowd in dark matches and give Kalisto hot-tags in tag matches.
SmackDown (42): Mark Henry
Nic: Henry mightn’t have long left, but he will make a few intermittent appearances. A feud to put over Corbin might be worth the 42nd pick alone.
Raw (43): Darren Young
Steven: When Titus needs a partner.
SmackDown (44): Tyson Kidd
Nic: Kidd may be injured and may never even return to wrestling, but if there’s a chance, he’s worth the shot as he’s still one of the best there is.
*Injured, out indefinitely.
What this draft showed is that there is certainly more than enough talent to split the roster in half with no damage done to the NXT brand. The biggest issue facing the brand split is filling all three hours of Raw and what to do with the women’s division.
However, this exercise shows that a brand split is more than just possible, it’s the best thing to freshen up WWE programming right now.
By Nic Negrepontis and Steven Barnes