Posted July 23, 2016 by LJ Zenarosa in Entertainment

Pick’ Em Payoff: The 2016 WWE Draft and Beyond


For the first time in five years, the WWE has decided to shake things up in a way that would hopefully rival the free agency period of professional sports leagues. The powers that be have decided to make Raw and SmackDown separate brands yet again by bringing back the Draft. The Draft took place on July 19 (July 20 Manila time), the first episode of SmackDown Live.

 First introduced in 2002, the Draft was a way for WWE to capitalize on its massive roster after Vince McMahon bought WCW, along with a handful of its wrestlers, from Ted Turner. For this, Raw and SmackDown were split into separate brands, each with distinct storylines, wrestlers and personnel. The concept of the brand split went up a notch in by introducing brand-exclusive pay-per-view events in 2003 and officially reviving ECW as a third brand in 2006. However, the concept of the brand split started to decline later that year when interbrand matches became more prominent. Following WrestleMania 23, all PPV events were back in featuring matches from all brands. Later in 2007, ECW began a talent exchange with SmackDown and later part of that year, also with Raw.  By 2010, ECW was dissolved and some of its Superstars were distributed. The brand split ended altogether by August 2011 when Triple H, now the on-air COO of the WWE, announced that Raw would regularly feature SmackDown Superstars.

 A week before the Draft, Mr. McMahon announced that Shane McMahon will run SmackDown while Stephanie McMahon-Levesque will continue running Raw, both of them serving as Commissioners for their respective brands. The following week on Raw (the last before the Draft), Shane and Stephanie assigned General Managers to run both brands on a weekly basis in their stead. For Raw, Stephanie chose “The Hardcore LegendMick Foley. As for SmackDown, Shane named Daniel Bryan, who was greeted by a rambunctious crowd with applause and “Yes!” chants all around.

As laid out by the WWE, the rules of the 2016 Draft were as follows:

  • Raw has the first overall pick.
  • Since SmackDown is a two-hour show and Raw is three hours, for every two picks SmackDown 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

 A total of 30 picks were announced throughout the debut episode of SmackDown Live, with five picks alternating between Raw and SmackDown in between matches, while the others were picked via the Supplemental Draft over on the WWE Network-exclusive Draft Center Live. By the end of the night, the rosters for both brands are as follows:


Given the run time of Raw and SmackDown, the rosters seem pretty evened out. As a bit of a refresher, injured Superstars such as Luke Harper and Tyson Kidd are exempted from the Draft, so it will be interesting to see where they end up once they make their in-ring return. Also an interesting bit was Heath Slater remaining the only undrafted Superstar in the pool. Now the “hottest free agent” in wrestling, one can only wonder how they’ll make this compelling, to say the least.

 On paper, Raw aimed to stick around as the flagship show by making some major moves early on. Though expected, Seth Rollins solidified his status as “The Man” after being picked first overall in the Draft, giving him the keys to the driver’s seat as WWE heads into the New Era. Finn Balor being Raw’s third pick is a pleasant surprise, especially for those who have been clamoring for his call-up for a while now. Raw also seems to be set as the go-to show for tag team action by drafting a total of six teams, including Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows (hinting at a possible reunion with a certain Real Rock ‘n’ Rolla *wink wink*). Factoring in a future appearance from a re-emerging Cruiserweight Division, the Red Team is geared to their three hour show every Monday night the most exciting fans will ever see. 

Raw No1Pick

As for SmackDown, the roster is comprised mostly of new talent, including the majority of NXT picks (American Alpha, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, and Carmella). Given that this brand is full of young talent, this is an opportunity for SmackDown to become the top brand once again. With WWE Champion Dean Ambrose leading the charge, the Blue Team will have to embrace the pressure of performing at a high level that would rival that of the Superstars during the era of the SmackDown Six (Edge, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Chavo Guerrero). Seasoned veterans like John Cena and Randy Orton will help legitimize the brand and the roster get to that upper echelon.


 The title picture will also be interesting to look at. The Intercontinental Championship and the United States Championship are on separate brands, which will hopefully mean they will be given equal regard, and the Cruiserweight Championship might be resurrected under Raw. Which leaves the fate of the Tag Team Championships, Women’s Championship, and the WWE Championship uncertain in terms of brand exclusivity. Though rumors of having separate world titles have emerged (the WWE Championship omitting “World Heavyweight” from its name being a supposed indication), one can only wonder if the Women’s and Tag Team Titles will float between brands or they will be exclusive to Raw, allowing SmackDown to create its own set of titles for their women’s and tag team divisions, respectively.

 To sum it up, reintroducing the brand split is a good way to give opportunities to some of the talent who ended up lost in the main roster shuffle, especially those who languish in shows such as Superstars and Main Event and those whose jets were cooled early on. The split would also hopefully force the Creative team to do away with repetitive booking for both shows. They have the bigger responsibility of helping each brand establish its own identity. And while five hours of WWE programming on TV within two days may seem too much, it also creates a battle for ratings and fan base between Raw and SmackDown. Both Raw and SmackDown thrived as separate entities when they focused on playing in their own playground, even down to their exclusive pay-per-views, and saving interbrand matches for special occasions (not including Bragging Rights). And this year should be no exception. This “own brand” approach would legitimize not only the Draft, but the brand split in general.

 The Draft may be over but we’ve only just begun.

All pictures are from WWE.com

LJ Zenarosa

Nurse by day but a geek 24/7. Cat Lady who loves wrestling. And can eat lots of sweets -- like a LOT.