Tonight is the first edition of the new live-every-week format of Smackdown, and is also the Draft. Believe it or not, I’m actually kind of looking forward to this. I think reverting to the Draft is the right thing to do, and if WWE can stick to it this time, it could wind up being something special.
The show kicks off with Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon, Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. As they are getting pops from the crowd (save for Steph, who is the only heel out here), we get the rules for the Draft, and they are as follows:
-RAW has the first overall pick.
-For every two Smackdown picks, RAW gets three. (Due to RAW having 3 hours to fill?)
-Tag team count as one pick unless a Commissioner/General Manager only wants one member of the team.
-Six draft picks will be made off the NXT roster.
We are going to the first pick right now. In case you’re like me and don’t watch RAW, Steph is the commissioner for RAW with Foley being her GM, while Shane is the commissioner for Smackdown with Bryan on GM duty. Steph blathers on. Foley panders to the crowd, because he does it better than anyone. Back to Steph yammering on. Since RAW is the 3-hour flagship show, they get the first pick. Foley starts to makes the announcement, but Steph cuts him off and announces Seth Rollins.
FIRST PICK (RAW): SETH ROLLINS.
Steph says Rollins will be the new WWE World Champion after tonight. Shane acknowledges the internet by calling Rollins “Crossfit Jesus”. Now, Smackdown gets their turn.
SECOND PICK (SMACKDOWN): WWE WORLD CHAMPION DEAN AMBROSE.
Smackdown gets the champion himself. As mentioned, he will face Rollins later tonight in the main event. Foley moves onto the women’s division for the next pick.
THIRD PICK (RAW): WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPION CHARLOTTE
FOURTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): AJ STYLES
I’m just going to list the picks unless something noteworthy happens, because the talking here is otherwise completely irrelevant. Foley goes for NXT for the next pick, meaning five NXT picks remain for both shows total.
FIFTH PICK (RAW): FINN BALOR
Balor finally gets his call to the main roster.
Before any more picks are announced, we’re going into matches. Good, because I honestly didn’t want all the picks to be confined to the opening of the show.
MATCH 1: JOHN CENA VS. LUKE GALLOWS (W/KARL ANDERSON AND AJ STYLES)
Michael Cole joins the announce desk from RAW, but is otherwised flanked by Smackdown staples Mauro Ranallo and Byron Saxton. Jerry Lawler is back from suspension so he is here as well.
It makes me smile that Cena wasn’t one of the top 5 picks, nor was Roman Reigns or Randy Orton.
Before this match gets underway, Enzo Amore and Big Cass come out to be Cena’s corner men. Usual pre-match spiel thrown out here.
Gallows misses a clothesline before running through Cena with a big shoulder. Commercials. Yep. After one move.
Back from the break, Gallows catches a cross-body and turns it into a modified side slam for 2. Gallows drives some elbows into Cena’s trapezius before applying a claw. Cena breaks free, blocks a kick, ducks a clothesline, then hits three of the Five Moves of Doom. Gallows escapes the AA and plants a kick across Cena’s face. The corner men all get on the apron and challenge each other to a fight. They get in the ring before the Club reps get backdropped to the outside. Meanwhile, Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment for the 3, because of course he does.
WINNER: JOHN CENA
Thankfully, Gallows gives Cena a taste of his own medicine by not selling the move.
Back to the Draft. RAW gets another pick.
SIXTH PICK (RAW): ROMAN REIGNS
Reigns gets booed out of the building, even though he’s not actually here.
SEVENTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): JOHN CENA
I’m glad I don’t have to recap Reigns matches now, but Cena matches are equally a chore.
EIGHTH PICK (RAW): BROCK LESNAR
RAW now has both guys busted for juicing.
NINTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): RANDY ORTON
TENTH PICK (RAW): WWE TAG CHAMPIONS THE NEW DAY
RAW scores three wrestlers at once with the tenth pick.
MATCH 2-CHAMPIONS VS. CHALLENGERS: INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION THE MIZ AND WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPION RUSEV (W/MARYSE AND LANA) VS. ZACK RYDER AND DARREN YOUNG (W/MR. BOB BACKLUND)
These four will face off in singles matches at Battleground for the IC and US titles, Young/Miz and Ryder/Rusev being the bouts. Rusev and Young start, with Rusev immediately knocking Ryder off the apron. Young goes on the attack before Rusev reverses things. Miz tags in and boots Young in the corner, then misses a clothesline before Young hits an atomic drop out of the 80’s. Ryder tags in and hits a slingshot splash for 2. Miz reverses a whip and runs into a pair of boots. Rusev causes a distraction, allowing Miz to pull Ryder off the buckles. Miz lands a low running boot for 2 before applying a cravat. Ryder tries to power his way to the corner before hitting a jawbreaker to break the hold. Miz recovers and falls into the Reality Check for 2. Rusev in. He punches and kicks before throwing a sloppy suplex. He screams in Ryder’s face before Ryder counters a suplex into a neckbreaker. Miz and Young tag in. Young gets some hot tag offense in before tossing Miz with an overhead belly-to-belly. The Gut Check connects, but Rusev breaks up the pin at 2. Rusev throws his shite suplex again before accidentally throwin an incoming Ryder into the Miz. Miz gets rocked with a Rough Ryder in the process. Rusev tosses Ryder outside, who lands on the apron. Young then throws Rusev to the floor, where Ryder nails him with a missile dropkick from the apron. Young calls for the crossface chickenwing, locks it in and gets the submission win.
WINNERS: ZACK RYDER AND DARREN YOUNG
Zack Ryder and Darren Young, winning matches and getting title shots on PPVs? What year is this? Young already has better music, BTW.
Tonight, Sasha Banks takes on Charlotte and Dana Brooke in a handicap match. Also, Xavier Woods faces Bray Wyatt next.
MATCH 3: BRAY WYATT (W/ERICK ROWAN AND BRAUN STROWMAN) VS. XAVIER WOODS (W/BIG E AND KOFI KINGSTON)
Wyatt takes his time taunting the crowd and Woods in the opening moments, while Woods talks to his teammates. Wyatt drops to his knees in front of Woods, begging for a punch. Woods just kind of stares as he inches closer. Wyatt grabs him by the shoulder, as if he’s been hypnotized. Woods snaps out of it, but not before Wyatt beats the hell out of him with punches and stomps. Wyatt drives his knee into Woods’ back before applying a modified rear chinlock. We are informed that the Wyatts can only be drafted separately, which makes a ton of sense. Woods connects with a back elbow off the ropes, so Wyatt just forearms him across the face. He then taunts the tag champs on the outside, then flattens Woods with a standing uranage. Wyatt follows up with a running senton, then another. Woods gets dragged to the corner near his teammates as Wyatt goes back to intimidation. Woods crawls across the ring to the opposite buckles, where he hits an uppercut. Woods fights back with a few punches, then ducks a clotehsline and “connects” with a high knee (“connects” meaning he made no contact whatsoever). Wyatt is down, but springs back up off an Honour Roll attempt with Sister Abigail for 3.
WINNER: BRAY WYATT
MATCH 4: KANE VS. KEVIN OWENS
Yes, Kane still works here, in case anyone cares. No one does, though, because he’s Kane. Owens screams at both GMs on his way down to the ring. Sami Zayn comes out and brawls with Owens on the ramp before the match even starts. Owens rolls into the ring and plants Zayn with a superkick before realizing Kane is still in the ring. He throws Zayn in for a clothesline, but Kane decides to hit a double instead.
WINNER: NO MATCH TOOK PLACE
Time to go back to the Draft.
Steph continues to remind us that RAW is supposedly the #1 show, something she has been doing at the beginning of every Draft session. It’s really obnoxious.
ELEVENTH PICK (RAW): SAMI ZAYN
TWELFTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): BRAY WYATT
At least for now, the Wyatt Family is no more.
Foley points out Smackdown hasn’t drafted any women yet.
THIRTEENTH PICK (RAW): SASHA BANKS
I’m fine with that. Her gimmick is terrible, and WWE doesn’t know how to book her anyway.
Daniel Bryan says Smackdown is now going to pick the best woman in the company, and he’s not lying. It’s my woman.
FOURTEENTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): BECKY LYNCH.
I’m very happy I get to keep calling her matches.
FIFTEENTH PICK (RAW): CHRIS JERICHO
No skin off my ass there.
We go to an interview recorded earlier with Dean Ambrose. He’s happy to be on Smackdown. If he goes, the belt goes. Tonight, he finishes Rollins and will roll into Battleground as champion, where he will also walk out as champion.
We get a list of the apparent top superstars still available for the Draft: Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, Enzo & Cass, the Miz, Rusev, Cesaro, Kalisto, Alberto Del Rio, the Usos and the Big Show. Okay, that’s actually 12 counting tag partners, but whatever. How in the hell is Show a top pick? When was the last time he did, well, ANYTHING? He’s a big lump of fat and sweat who offers absolutely nothing to this company.
MATCH 4-2-ON-1 HANDICAP MATCH: DANA BROOKE AND WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPION CHARLOTTE VS. SASHA BANKS
I am really, REALLY hoping Brooke goes to RAW. Why does Charlotte Bedazzle her own face? Who is that for? Banks hits a nice double knee to Charlotte at ringside. Brooke then kills that by just sucking at everything she does. Charlotte makes a blind tag as Banks locks in the Banks Statement on Brooke. Charlotte hits the Natural Selection, a horrific flipping neckbreaker, for 3.
WINNERS: DANA BROOKE AND CHARLOTTE
Back to the Draft, as that’s what’s really important on this episode.
SIXTEENTH PICK (RAW): WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPION RUSEV AND LANA
Good. He can go put people to sleep on RAW with Roman Roids.
SEVENTEENTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION THE MIZ AND LANA
Daniel Bryan begrudgingly made that pick.
EIGHTEENTH PICK (RAW): KEVIN OWENS
NINTEENTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): BARON CORBIN
TWENTIETH PICK (RAW): ENZO AMORE AND BIG CASS
That’s a relief. Steph is unbearable in trying to rattle off catchphrases tonight.
MATCH 5: CHRIS JERICHO VS. CESARO
Randy Orton will be a guest on “The Highlight Reel” at Battleground. Again, no one cares. Cesaro slaps Jericho, which gets him a couple of Europeans and a clothesline to the floor. Cesaro wipes him out with a cannonball from the apron, then nails a European against the barricade. Back in, Cesaro heads up and connects with a cross-body for 2. Cesaro sets up the Cesaro Swing, which Jericho counters into a victory roll for 2. Jericho goes for the Walls, which Cesaro twists out of. Jericho nails a step-up enziguri for 2. Jericho boots Cesaro, then slaps his head a few times. Jericho applies a rear chinlock before hitting a kneelift. Cesaro comes back with a sunset flip for 2. The two trade pinfall attempts until Jericho rolls out and goes on the attack with chops. Cesaro avoids an Irish whip and hits a boot from the apron. Jericho crotches him as he goes up top, then chops away at Cesaro. Cesaro headbutts him down before eating a forearm. Jericho goes for a super hurricanrana, which connects for 2. Michael Cole claims that Jericho is always reinventing himself with moves like that, despite the fact that Jericho has been doing it for 20 years. Michael Cole is a complete tool. Cesaro blocks a Codebreaker and goes into the Uppercut Train. Jericho halts it with a boot out of the corner and hits a back elbow. Cesaro sees a lionsault coming and counters with a side-Russian from the middle for 2. Cesaro breaks his own pin for the Cesaro Swing, then goes for the Sharpshooter. Jericho kicks him away, so Cesaro double-stomps him. Jericho counters the Neutralizer with a back-body drop. Cesaro lands on his feet and comes of the middle for a spinning European, which Jericho counters with a mid-air Codebreaker for 3.
WINNER: CHRIS JERICHO
Cesaro got a jobber non-entrance, so the loss was a foregone conclusion. Why does Creative hate Cesaro so much?
After some commercials, we come back where Becky Lynch has assaulted Natalya at ringside. Apparently, Nattie was supposed to have a match, but Lynch put a stop to that. I think every referee on the payroll is out here, giving this feud a bigger feel. I appreciate that. Both these woman are phenomenal and deserve the attention. During the melee, we were informed Nattie’s opponent was supposed to be Alicia Fox. Thank Lynch for making sure we didn’t have to see that match.
More Draft picks!
TWENTY-FIRST PICK (RAW): KARL ANDERSON AND LUKE GALLOWS
The Club is no more. Honestly, this is for the best. Anderson/Gallows need to be a bigger fixture in WWE’s tag team scene, and Styles doesn’t need to be in a faction.
TWENTY-SECOND PICK (SMACKDOWN): AMERICAN ALPHA
Smackdown scores the second NXT Draft pick with former NXT tag champs Jason Jordan and Chad Gable.
TWENTY-THIRD PICK (RAW): THE BIG SHOW
I am SO GLAD I don’t watch RAW anymore.
TWENTY-FOURTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): DOLPH ZIGGLER
TWENTY-FIFTH PICK (RAW): NIA JAX
RAW gets the third NXT pick in Jax. Oh, sure, they could have gone with Bayley or Asuke, you know, someone fans actually want to see, but no. Let’s go with a waste of space instead!
We get a recorded interview from Seth Rollins. He’s happy about being on RAW, and tonight, he’s walking out the new WWE World Champion, and walking in/out of Battleground as champion. Basically, the same thing Dean Ambrose said earlier.
This will be the last round of Draft picks to air. The rest will be announced on the WWE Network.
TWENTY-SIXTH PICK (RAW): NEVILLE
Neville is back from injury. Sadly, he’s going on RAW.
TWENTY-SEVENTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): NATALYA
Nattie and Becky Lynch can continue their feud as a result.
Mick Foley points out that this very building in Worcester, MA was the same one he won his first WWF title in before going into the next pick.
TWENTY-EIGHTH PICK (RAW): CESARO
I’m glad his pick made it on the air, but the fact that he’s so far down and going to RAW sucks.
TWENTY-NINTH PICK (SMACKDOWN): ALBERTO DEL RIO
THIRTIETH PICK (RAW): SHEAMUS
MATCH 6-WWE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: SETH ROLLINS VS. DEAN AMBROSE (CHAMPION)
It’s rare to see a World title match on free TV. Even more rare to see one on Smackdown. Rollins attacks Ambrose before the bell, clubbing him from behind and then stomping him down in the corner. Ambrose gets kicked to the floor, where Rollins pounds on him some more before throwing him into the ring post. Rollins grabs the belt and holds it over his head. Commercials.
Back from the break, referee Mike Chioda is checking on Ambrose to make sure he’s fit to compete. Ambrose gives him the go-ahead, and this match is officially underway. Rollins jumps Ambrose in the corner and stomps him again, then hits a falcon arrow for 2. Rollins gets in Chioda’s face briefly, then goes back on the attack with forearms. He grinds his forearm into Ambrose’s face on the ropes, then heads to the apron for a kick to the head. Rollins drops a knee, then kicks Ambrose in the spine. Rollins stays on Ambrose in the corner with various strikes. Ambrose gets whipped hard into the buckles, then takes a Hart Bump into the buckles before a modified backbreaker gets 2. Rollins grinds away on a rear chinlock, then covers for 2 while maintaining the hold. Ambrose fights out, but then gets tossed to the floor. Ambrose fights back at ringside until he’s whipped into the barricade. He backdrops Rollins into the timekeeper’s area, then climbs on the announce desk. He misses a dive and lands on the barricade. Rollins quickly rolls Ambrose back in and connects with a springboard knee, followed by a superkick for 2. Commercials.
We’re back, and Rollins is still in control. He sends Ambrose to the buckles for a corner forearm. A second one also connects. A third, however, is met with a clothesline from Ambrose. Ambrose throws a bunch of punches, hits a pair of back elbows and turns a kitchen sink into a schoolboy for 2. A swinging neckbreaker also gets 2. He heads up for the flying elboline, which is blocked with a boot. Rollins hits the bucklebomb before missing a frog splash. A la magistral from Ambrose gets 2. Ambrose goes for Dirty Deeds, but Rollins backs him into the corner, where he thumbs Ambrose in the eye out of sight of the referee. Ambrose reverses a Pedigree with a backdrop to the floor. He hits a tope suicida, then rolls Rollins back in. Rollins rolls back to the floor, where Ambrose connects with the elbowline. Back in once more, Ambrose heads up for another, but Rollins goes to the top and lands a superplex. He rolls through into another suplex, but Ambrose escapes that and spikes Rollins with Dirty Deeds for 3.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: DEAN AMBROSE
Pretty slick finishing sequence there. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon run down to celebrate with their top Draft pick. A “Yes!” chant closes us out.
END OF SHOW
The “Supplemental Draft” took place on the WWE Network after Smackdown went off the air, so I’ve decided to include those picks here in the recap as well.
RAW: GOLDEN TRUTH, TITUS O’NEIL, PAIGE, DARREN YOUNG & MR. BOB BACKLUND, SIN CARA, JACK SWAGGER, THE DUDLEY BOYZ, SUMMER RAE, MARK HENRY, BRAUN STROWMAN, BO DALLAS, THE SHINING STARS, ALICIA FOX, DANA BROOKE AND CURTIS AXEL
SMACKDOWN: THE USOS, KANE, KALISTO, NAOMI, THE ASCENSION, ZACK RYDER, APOLLO CREWS, ALEXA BLISS, BREEZANGO, EVA MARIE, THE VAUDEVILLAINS, ERICK ROWAN, MOJO RAWLEY AND CARMELLA
So, the Lucha Dragons are no more, while Smackdown keeps two-thirds of the Wyatts in Bray and Rowan. Beyond that, the tag teams all look like they’re mostly staying intact. RAW got two-thirds of the Social Outcasts while Heath Slater is completely absent from both rosters. Dana Brooke joins Charlotte on RAW (thank Lynch for that), while WWE dooms us all by calling Eva Marie back to the main roster and throwing her on my damn show. She will get the Brooke treatment from me. Meanwhile, Smackdown got all three of the remaining NXT drafts with two more females in Alexa Bliss and Carmella, as well as Zack Ryder’s “Hype Bros.” partner Mojo Rawley. I have no real opinion on any of these three. I am curious if Rawley and Ryder will bring their team to the main roster, however. The rest of the picks were pretty much meh. Based on the top 30 picks, you can see who WWE really gives a damn about (and Big Show). I expect a good portion of the Supplemental picks will be looking for new employment in the near future to make room for more NXT workers, which is fine.