It’s finally the night of the WWE Draft 2016, the event that will once again separate Raw and Smackdown into two separate brands and, crucially, two separate rosters.
To mark the occasion we decided to have our own draft, playing the parts of the GM’s of Raw and Smackdown, choosing talent to assemble the best possible roster for our respective brands. While fun and a chance for us to get competitive against one another without any actual physical exertion, it will also be interesting to see what it says about the state of the WWE roster going into the draft and what you end up with by the end if really trying to build the best.
So here we go, to be as accurate as possible we abided by WWE’s Draft Rules which were:
- Raw has the first overall pick
- Since SmackDown Live is a two-hour show and Raw is three hours, for every two picks SmackDown Live receives, Raw will receive three picks
- Tag teams count as one pick unless a Commissioner/General Manager specifically only wants one member of the team
- Six draft picks will be made off the NXT roster
As we were unsure how WWE is going to compensate for the two picks against three we decided to have the regular draft until Smackdown got its complete share then give Raw the remainder. It took doing Math but trust us it works.
After a mean spirited coin flip I (@themarcuswood) got to represent Raw, giving me first pick leaving @danrobertcam with Smackdown. Let’s get to picking.
Raw/Marcus First Pick- Seth Rollins- Number one pick and the man to build the brand around. He routinely has great matches with anyone, brilliant on the mic and is already a main event calibre former World champion. Heel, face, it doesn’t matter Rollins is excellent as either, able to make you love him or hate him, which gives a lot of mileage going forward. Speaking of mileage Rollins is just 30 years old, so should have a good few years ahead of him as one of the faces of Raw.
Smackdown/Dan First Pick- Brock Lesnar – Although Brock is something of a Luxury choice, his unrivalled MMA/WWE crossover appeal aside, Lesnar brings star power to the brand and the opportunity to elevate any one of the younger stars on the Smackdown roster.
Marcus’ Second Pick- AJ Styles– Since debuting in the WWE in February Styles has put on excellent matches with some of the top guys in the company, looking completely at home doing it and making his opponents (Cena, Reigns especially) look great in the process. He’s a fresh face with many guys on the roster he has yet to face. By drafting him to Raw the show gets the benefit of all these stories to come. Seth Rollins versus AJ Styles anyone?
Dan’s Second Pick- John Cena – John Cena is the current top star on the WWE payroll. The largest merchandise mover, a great talker, a solid worker, clearly beloved by his fan base and capable of garnering a reaction from everybody else. John Cena is the man to lead the Smackdown brand into the ‘Live era.’
Marcus’ Third Pick- Kevin Owens- The best heel in wrestling today is my third pick and ensures my main event scene is set straight away. Owens is something different, from his look, to his promos to the trash talk in his matches and importantly it’s something different people want to see.
Dan’s Third Pick- Cesaro – With a roster consisting of stars whom hold excellent promo crafting ability, Cesaro is a star who is at his best when given a solid opponent and as much time as needed within the ring. Genuine respect has built between Cesaro and his fanbase due to his in ring work which has led to the favourable crowd reactions recieved in recent months. A much deserved transition into the main event scene is certainly possible whilst on the Smackdown roster.
Marcus’ Fourth Pick- Sasha Banks– The Boss is my fourth pick and a pick catch for Raw at that. Banks has a fully developed, brilliant character which is a tough thing to achieve and has looks, charisma and a star quality that will go far. While she is great now I firmly believe she has a long way to go and is going to be a HUGE star for WWE and picking her now means the brand is on the ground floor ready for The Boss’ rise.
Dan’s Fourth Pick- Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady – Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady are a refreshing lick of oil within the WWE machine. Providing the company with truly likeable, charismatic characters missing since the days of the attitude era, Enzo Amore and Big Cass have the ability to provide hours of entertainment to viewers, consistently backed up by impressive ring work.
Marcus’ Fifth Pick- Bayley- With this pick I’ve just ensured Raw has the best Women’s division if nothing else. In the last few years Bayley has become an incredibly popular fan favourite for NXT and she’s overdue to bring that to the big stage and become the phenomenon she’s destined to be. Also while she is popular generally, she’s mega over with kids and families, which it gets forgotten is a huge segment of the fan base.
Dan’s Fifth Pick- Finn Balor – The first of my NXT choices, Finn Balor carries a worldwide recognition factor within the industry, after excelling during his time spent in NXT, the time is right to bring Balor up to the main roster. A solid Intercontinental Championship feud could cement Balor as a certified star and subsequently offer the Championship renewed prestige that it so richly deserves.
Marcus’ Sixth Pick- Sami Zayn- Playing the role of the underdog, everyman fan favourite will be Sami Zayn. Zayn has a Daniel Bryan-esque likeability about him which can’t be learnt and doesn’t come along everyday. Add into his ability to put on good to incredible matches regularly and he is an obvious choice. Plus now I can have him and Owens feud until the end of time.
Dan’s Sixth Pick- Gallows and Anderson -Misused thus far on Raw, a change for Gallows and Anderson will see them establish a sustained period of dominance within the tag team division and become the Smackdown brands most formidable team. With Balor also on the Smacksown roster, an opportunity of pairing them together is also a real possibility.
Marcus’ Seventh Pick- American Alpha– In the 21st century and in the era of UFC having a legitimate feel in pro wrestling is a rewarding but tough thing to pull off but American Alpha have achieved it by coming from impressive athletic backgrounds and their intense, explosive performances in the ring. I believe both guys can be main event performers in the future but that’s a long way off, for now they can be the centre piece of the Raw tag team division and amaze audiences weekly there first.
Dan’s Seventh Pick- Shinsuke Nakamura – Nakamura is the second of my NXT picks and potentially the most important acquisition. Throughout recent history Japanese stars in WWE have never yielded particularly profitable careers, this could all change with Nakamura’s eventual call up to the Smackdown roster. Pending a successful transition, Nakamura’s successes could open the door for an influx of highly talented Japanese stars (such as recently signed Kota Ibushi) to test their ability in a WWE forum. An internationally known star, an engaging personality and possessing a truly outstanding set of ring skills, Nakamura deserves his place on the Smackdown roster.
Marcus’ Eighth Pick- WWE Champion Dean Ambrose- Shocking that the World Champion was picked at eighth but at least it has benefited Raw. While Ambrose has a great skill set, up there with the best, I want the Ambrose that debuted with the Shield not so much the “lunatic fringe” we have now. But that’s just a character shift and by picking Ambrose I get the potential for that along with a genuinely entertaining guy with enough natural charisma to anchor down a program. I also get the real WWE World Title and Champion with this pick which helps credibility right away.
Dan’s Eighth Pick- Roman Reigns – A controversial figure and by-proxy a controversial choice for sure, Reigns offers legit star power to the main event of Smackdown. At this point, a heel turn should be a formality and an absolute necessity. As a heel character Roman offers unlimited potential in the main event scene, a feud with John Cena would generate discussion regardless of fan opinion.
Marcus’ Ninth Pick- WWE Tag Team champions The New Day– Undoubtedly one of the most entertaining acts in WWE right now, the creativity and chemistry they have with each other means you just have to put them in front of a camera and let them go. This pick also means Raw gets three good performers with no real weak links.
Dan’s Ninth Pick- The Miz – Often critiqued, often unfairly. The Miz is a vastly underated performer that can always be relied upon to provide a solid in ring performance and a truly fantastic believable heel routine that, even after a ten year tenure (inclusive of a minor face run) still remains as fresh as the day we were first introduced to Mike Mizanin. The Miz is also the current WWE Intercontinental Champion therefore would be bringing the belt with him to Smackdown.
Marcus’ Tenth Pick- Becky Lynch- It may seem like I’m trying to reassemble the four horsewomen but that’s just a by-product of these women being as good as they are. Becky Lynch is the alternative one of the girls and will provide the final core part of the division. While no doubt good in the ring, especially with the other women I’ve picked, I’ve chosen Becky for her charm and likeable weirdness, qualities you can’t really teach and that makes her a fan favourite.
Dan’s Tenth Pick- Charlotte – The current benchmark for the Womens division Charlotte is a truly gifted athlete who is currently excelling as a despicable heel character. Breaking her away from Dana Brooke and allowing her to establish dominance could see Charlotte become the biggest active female heel since Lita in 2005.
Marcus’ Eleventh Pick- Randy Orton- Another one who’s a surprise he’s this low on the list but his experience and star power alone make him a pick for Raw. As a multi-time World Champion and a marquee name on and off over the last ten years he brings instant credibility to the brand and slot right into the main event or midcard as needed. Besides everything else I either get a great anti-hero or ultimate dick heel.
Dan’s Eleventh Pick- The Revival – The Revival are a refreshing hard hitting smash mouth tag team who, whilst are still in the latter stages of developmental at this point, I could truly see flourishing under the guidance of the other more experienced stables on the roster. A quintessential heel tag team if ever there was one, matches involving other teams on the roster could make for engrossing storytelling opportunities.
Marcus’ Twelfth Pick- U.S Champion Rusev w/Lana- When Rusev is allowed to do what he does best, he’s the classic foreign heel, something there’s definitely still a place for when done this well. He’s also very athletic and skilled in the ring for a big man which is always valuable and has yet to face much of my roster so far. Also I’d be lying if I said the fact he comes with Lana didn’t factor in who is one of the best talkers in the WWE today and completes a great double act with Rusev.
Dan’s Twelfth Pick- Asuka – Due to her dominant persona and characterization Asuka is an anomaly in the Womens division at this point. The Womens division rarely has a face character of this type, therefore the refreshing nature of Asuka as a member of the active roster would be very much welcomed. A long running feud with Charlotte has the potential for golden television.
Marcus’ Thirteenth Pick- Chris Jericho– Drink it in maaaan, Y2J is coming to Raw. I’ve picked Jericho as he’s a very experienced WWE performer who can balance out my relatively fresh roster but his star power and entertainment value will always be valuable especially when he’s elevating those around him which he does so well.
Dan’s Thirteenth Pick- Bray Wyatt – Brays characterization faults are well documented in wrestling media, the foremost of which being that despite the gifted, often harrowing promo style, the character itself regularly offers very little actual threat within the confines of the squared circle. I believe this can be remedied without too much work however and with re-adjusted, focused booking the Wyatt character could be a major player in the main event scene.
Marcus’ Fourteenth Pick- Eva Marie- Okay, hear me out, I haven’t picked All Red to be controversial. Well, maybe a little but I have other reasons. Firstly mainstream crossover appeal, while she may not be great in the ring the mainstream world doesn’t know that, they do know she looks incredible and has the makings of a star/celebrity. Marie can get the Raw brand into arenas wrestling doesn’t usually reach and as a result may bring in a lot more mainstream coverage and new viewers. My other reason is that Marie may be one of the top heels working today and while this may have started off as X-Pac heat, her work on NXT I believe has turned her into a legitimate heel performer hated by design and people will pay good money to watch Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch beat her.
Dan’s Fourteenth Pick- Luke Harper – Harper is possibly the most impressive big man that the entire company has at their disposal. Unfortunately Harper has suffered from inconsistent booking throughout his tenure thus far, much in the same way as his fellow Wyatt family members. With Wyatt family feudal opportunities involving Enzo, Cass and The Club, I believe Harper to be a solid choice for the blue brand.
Marcus’ Fifteenth Pick- Dudley Boyz- Another pick in the Jericho vein, The Dudley Boyz are two very experienced performers, whose record and name value will mean they’re always an attraction and work well as heels or faces regardless. Being honest they’ll be there to elevate other teams and get them over but they’ve got to rise to be able to fall, so one more nostalgia filled title run wouldn’t be out of the question.
Dan’s Fifteenth Pick- Neville – Neville is the most exciting wrestler I have ever seen perform in a Live environment. His in-ring athleticism is unrivalled by anybody else on the roster. Thus, Neville would offer a completely different dynamic. Match-ups with Nakamura, Balor and Cesaro to name but a few are a mouth watering prospect.
Best of the rest for Raw- Apollo Crews, Kalisto, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder, Summer Rae, Alberto Del Rio, The Vaudevillains, The Big Show, The Acension, Baron Corbin, Kane, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, Sheamus, The Golden Truth, The Shining Stars, Social Outcasts, The Usos, Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, Naomi
Other honorable picks for Smackdown -Erick Rowan, Paige, Natalya, Dolph Ziggler, Titus O’ Neil, Breezango, Darren Young.
Dan- In conclusion it must be said that the Smackdown roster I have chosen is of course the better of the two. My strong main event scene is backed by a solid midcard complete with some of the best personalities and in-ring workers available in the company today. Partner this with the marquee attraction that is Brock Lesnar and here you have a roster unrivalled by any other in the WWE.
Unsurprisingly I disagree and think I got the better part of the draft with the pick of the main event talent in Rollins, Styles and Orton, the stronger mid-card featuring Owens, Zayn and Jericho undeniably the best women’s division headed up with Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch. Crucially many of the picks have long term careers in front of them full of potential and improvement which is going to carry the Raw Brand forward. To try and be impartial though I think Dan got the headline names in John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Also, although close Dan may have assembled the better tag team division with a few standout teams who are in the prime of their careers.
Taking a look at the overall draft and the order of picks it looks like we had different priorities for what we wanted to build our individual brands on, with Dan looking more for star power and big names while I wanted the talent in the ring. In addition while I was looking for long term prospects and individuals like Sasha Banks and American Alpha, Dan was getting established and proven acts such as The Wyatts and The Miz.
So there we have it, our draft is done but onto the WWE’s draft tonight where we’ll get to see how ours compares to the real thing. In the meantime who do you think assembled the best roster? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @CantPauseThis.