The brand split was a huge change for WWE fans, when the company announced that it would revert back to its old format of both a SmackDown and a Raw roster and keep them completely separate, thus making Survivor Series much more competitive again.
WWE had worked as one whole roster for a number of years and had even decided to unify a number of their Championships in order for the roster to work much better as one. It was thought that the brand split would allow SmackDown to be a threat to Raw once again and for the first time in history, the company would broadcast the show live.
It has been a year now since the split was made official and the superstars of WWE were drafted to each roster, with many stars coming up from NXT and making a statement of intent on the main roster.
The following list looks at 15 stars who have benefited the most from the brand split and took full advantage of the place they were drafted this time last year.
15. Mojo Rawley
Mojo Rawley was one of the last superstars to be drafted to the main roster from NXT back in July last year. Rawley has since made an impact on the SmackDown Live roster and was able to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale at WrestleMania back in April.
This win was supposed to push Mojo forward on the roster and allow him to then move into a mid-card title picture or even into a memorable feud, given that SmackDown is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Instead, Zack Ryder made his return to WWE recently and it looks likely that the team could be set for a controversial split, which will only help push both Rawley and Ryder further up the ranks on the SmackDown roster.
14. The Usos
Jimmy and Jey Uso have been Tag Team Champions before, and are Slammy Award winners as well. The brothers have been able to claim the SmackDown Tag Team Championships and have recently rehashed their rivalry with The New Day since the trio were drafted to SmackDown Live following WrestleMania, but this time The Usos are the heels and The New Day are the faces.
The Usos have been given much more freedom, both in the ring and on the mic on the SmackDown brand and it seems that they are finally enjoying wrestling again. It is a feud that could see the Usos drop the Championships, but it has definitely allowed SmackDown to make their Championship picture interesting again and allowed the brothers to remain relevant, something that they were not before the brand split.
13. Heath Slater
Heath Slater was left with very little to do in WWE when the company released Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre, who were his teammates in 3MB. Slater was then left to work as a jobber on the Raw roster before the fact that he went undrafted was then made into a storyline on SmackDown Live.
Slater was given Rhyno as a Tag Team partner and the duo went on to become Inaugural SmackDown Tag Team Champions at No Mercy last year. Even though the duo have since lost the title, Slater and Rhyno were drafted to Raw back in April and somehow Slater has become involved in the Intercontinental Championship picture alongside The Miz. It seems Slater finally has a new lease on life, which could finally lead to singles gold for the longtime star.
12. James Ellsworth
James Ellsworth was brought into WWE as a jobber to take on Braun Strowman and make the bigger man look like a monster for anyone he faced in the company moving forward, but it seems that Ellsworth made such an impression with the WWE Universe that he was able to sign a contract with the company and join the SmackDown roster.
Ellsworth then became involved in the WWE Championship picture with Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles and even managed to pin Styles on more than one occasion, before this ran its course and it was decided that Ellsworth would partner Carmella instead, the woman who recently made history by becoming the first ever Miss Money in the Bank, thanks to James Ellsworth. Without the brand split, it is likely that Ellsworth would never have been signed by WWE.
Naomi came to WWE as a dancing valet for Brodus Clay alongside Cameron, and it has been hard for WWE to take her seriously ever since. When she was drafted to the SmackDown roster she thought it was the perfect time for her to debut her new Glow gimmick, something that has not only kick started her career, but it has led her to her first Women’s Championship in seven years.
Naomi has never held Championship gold and was even able to win it in her hometown at WrestleMania, which made it even more special. She has since been able to defend it a number of times and proves that despite not being the most popular female on the SmackDown roster, she is still worthy of being called a Champion.
10. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin was called up to the main roster when he won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at WrestleMania last year. Instead of beginning his career, this seemed to just stall it. It is only since the brand split that Baron has been able to get his claws into feuds with the likes of Dean Ambrose and now with Shinsuke Nakamura.
Baron is the current Money in the Bank briefcase holder and could well be WWE Champion one day. SmackDown Live has already given him the opportunity to fight for that Championship on a number of occasions, most memorably, inside Elimination Chamber earlier this year, when his dream was denied by Ambrose, which is what kick started their memorable feud.
9. Big Cass
Enzo and Cass came to the main roster long before the draft took place, but it is the fact that Cass is one of only a number of men on Raw who could be seen as future Champions, that allowed him to be involved in the first ever fatal-four-way for the Universal Championship back in August last year.
Cass was obviously eliminated from the match, but it proved that WWE sees him as a future main eventer and it has allowed the feud between him and Enzo Amore to heat up in recent weeks. Cass wouldn’t be given the TV time he has had over the past few weeks if the brand was still one whole roster because there are much bigger stars than him in the company right now, and WWE used to be reluctant to look at the future stars.
8. Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose was the final member of The Shield to lift the WWE Championship, a Championship that he was then able to take over to SmackDown Live as their first draft pick when he defeated Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns at Battleground last year.
Ambrose had a hard time as Champion when he was working against someone of AJ Styles calibre, but it seems that he found his feet when he dropped into a mid-card feud with The Miz over the Intercontinental Championship. The duo went back and forth over the title for a number of months and are somehow still feuding over the same belt now over on the Raw roster. Ambrose has proved a lot of doubters wrong over the past few months and stepped up when WWE needed him to.
7. Jinder Mahal
If anyone benefited from the brand split then it would definitely be Jinder Mahal, the man who was released from WWE a few years ago due to budget cuts, only to be brought back in and given the WWE Championship and put into a feud with one of the biggest stars that the company have ever made, Randy Orton.
Mahal never won a title in WWE before his most recent win and if there wasn’t a brand split then there was no way WWE would allow Mahal to be the only Champion in the company. It seems that he has benefited quite nicely from coming back into WWE and slotting into a position that was left free when Bray Wyatt was drafted over to Raw.
6. AJ Styles
AJ Styles only came to WWE last year and made his official debut at The Royal Rumble, when AJ was drafted over to SmackDown and it was made obvious that Dean Ambrose didn’t fit well in the Championship picture. It was AJ who stepped up and proved that he easily had what it takes to be the face of the brand.
AJ has managed to stay in and around the main picture as well, with his recent feud with Kevin Owens becoming much more popular than the main event picture with Jinder Mahal as Champion. AJ has been a consistent performer for SmackDown and much of the time it has been AJ who has kept their head above water, so he deserves to be the Champion right now and in a position to steal the show every week.
5. Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman was another member of The Wyatt Family when he was drafted away from the rest of his group to Raw last year. Strowman was then slowly able to be built as a threat to the roster in squash matches before he was made the enemy of Roman Reigns.
It seems that WWE hoped the Universe would cheer for Roman over Braun if it came down to it, but instead it is Braun who has become a face on the brand after his many run ins with the former member of The Shield. Strowman has rebuilt himself as a singles competitor and future Champion ever since he was put on the Raw roster and has greatly benefited from the time he was able to spend away from his former family.
Before the brand split, Carmella was used sparingly on the NXT roster because Enzo and Cass were promoted to the main roster without her. She was then left to prove that she had what it takes to be in the Women’s Division on her own.
Carmella was one of the final women to be drafted and she was put on the SmackDown brand where she decided to turn her attention to Nikki Bella. The two had a brutal feud before Carmella was then recently partnered with James Ellsworth and became the first ever Miss Money in the Bank. Carmella now has the chance to become Women’s Champion for the first time and it is all because she was drafted over to the right brand.
3. The Miz
The Miz and Daniel Bryan had a memorable feud in WWE when Bryan was still an active competitor but when Miz was put on the roster with the General Manager it seems that the former WWE Champion was able to use this to his advantage and was able to deliver some of the best promos and ring work of his career against Dolph Ziggler.
Miz was drafted over to Raw where he continued a lengthy feud with Dean Ambrose and has now been given his own entourage with Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas and it seems that the company finally see Miz as the future star that he always could have been. This is thanks to Miz being given the chances he deserves and stepping up when he needed too.
2. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens has been one of the main men who have benefited from the draft because he was the one who walked out with the Universal Championship when it was deemed that Finn Balor couldn’t continue his reign. He then entered a partnership with Chris Jericho in what became one of the highlights of the year before their feud ended and Owens was brought over to SmackDown.
Owens then became United States Champion when he managed to defeat Jericho for the second time and has become one of the biggest stars on the SmackDown roster, seemingly taking the place of John Cena, who went on hiatus following WrestleMania. Owens has a decent gimmick as “The New Face of America” and could push his career into a new level with it.
1. Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss had just broken from Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy and wasn’t fitting in well on NXT when she was drafted over to SmackDown Live. She then proved that she could step up and take on the opportunities that WWE was giving her when she lifted the SmackDown Women’s Championship for the first time.
Alexa accomplished everything she needed to on SmackDown and was then drafted over to Raw as part of the superstar shake-up and made history by becoming the first woman to hold both Women’s Championships when she lifted the Raw Women’s Championship a few months ago, a title she still holds now. Alexa has been the star who has stepped up the most in the past year and she has been given the championships she deserves because of this.
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