The WWE draft was one of the biggest nights in recent wrestling history. WWE completely changed the landscape of the company by separating the brands with new faces in charge and talent being split on two shows. Raw has the deeper roster and more star power at the top. Smackdown has the name value of John Cena and Randy Orton, along with new talents getting a chance to improve their standing in the company. While most of the top stars were assigned to their show going forward, not everyone on the WWE roster was officially selected to their new home on the draft.
WWE has various reasons for elaborately excluding these names from the big night. Some of the wrestlers are on the injury list with return times unknown. Others were too big for the draft and WWE wanted the mystery to continue to surround them before their return. The lack of surprise returns caused fans to complain about the predictability surrounding the draft. WWE did sign some former stars, but they somehow didn’t play a role. We’ll look at all of the stories and rationale behind the fifteen surprising WWE stars that did not get drafted to Raw or Smackdown.
15. Luke Harper
The argument can be made that Luke Harper is the most talented performer of The Wyatt Family faction. Bray Wyatt gets most of the spotlight as the leader, but Harper has better matches and an interesting personality to back it up. Harper could be one of the breakout stars in the brand split era. The new opportunities opening up means underrated talents will have a chance and Harper is a prime candidate when returning from injury later this year.
WWE kept Harper out of the draft due to his injury keeping him off television for the next few months. The Wyatt Family may be over for the time being with Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan on Smackdown, but Braun Strawman on Raw. Harper’s brand could be a waiting game to see if Wyatt and Rowan need him by their side to stay relevant. The rationale for keeping Harper out of the draft has to be making sure he has a big impact by returning to the brand that needs him more.
WWE’s experiment of the Cruiserweight Classic is already a home run with the unique programming introducing new stars to the world. The two veterans with a past life in WWE are Tajiri and Brian Kendrick. Tajiri has already been signed to a contract and is expected to be on the main roster in the near future. You would have assumed being a part of the draft would be the biggest way to reintroduce him to the WWE Universe.
WWE instead decided to prolong his return. They may be waiting until the CWC is over or he is officially eliminated. Tajiri will likely be on the Raw brand as a part of the upcoming Cruiserweight division. The Japanese star still has the ability to pull off highly impressive matches on a consistent basis. Tajiri will definitely have a role in the current WWE, but it was a bit disappointing he didn’t get the chance to be a surprise draft pick.
The women’s division is going to be one of the more fascinating aspects of the brand split. WWE genuinely wants to deliver two separate rosters with both consisting of credible female talent. Smackdown will have a tough time considering the top two stars are on Raw. One very talented female performer was not selected in the draft due to being on the injured list. Emma came into her own over the past year in NXT and was ready for a successful run on the main roster.
The injury timing harmed her, but she will have a great chance at becoming an elite heel character when returning. Smackdown appears to be the best fit to work against the likes of Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss and Natalya. It still is surprising WWE chose to leave her off of the show with no mention of her at all. The entire roster was supposed to be available and the injured Neville was even selected. Neville is ready to return so that is a different story, but Emma could have had a presence.
12. Tyson Kidd
Tyson Kidd’s career is currently in flux due to the lack of information regarding his health. The tremendous talent endured some unfortunate luck by landing awkwardly on his neck taking a Muscle Buster by Samoa Joe. Kidd is still under WWE contract and a member of the main roster. WWE implied everyone on the roster would be drafted, but Kidd was one of the names left off of the roster split.
The story would be quite inspiring if Kidd could return from the career-threatening injury to wrestle again. It is such a shame that he has to sit at home missing out on what he loves most. The timing would have been perfect for Kidd to get the spotlight as a tag team with Cesaro or a cruiserweight division standout. Kidd could have easily been in the draft to remind fans that he a part of WWE and is still hoping to return.
We all know the relationship between WWE and Ryback is in a bad place, but the fact that they didn’t draft The Big Guy is shocking. Ryback was listed on the official WWE fantasy draft page giving fans the expectations that he would at least play a role in the draft. The business relationship soured when Ryback requested to go home after frustration built up with how he was being used.
Things got worse personally when Ryback went to social media to rant about the way WWE treats performers and basically killed any chances of them getting on the same page. Ryback is still under contract, but is expected to be a free agent within a couple of months. The fantasy draft page presence made it seem like Ryback was returning or would be ribbed. WWE selecting Ryback last overall is something they would do, but shockingly there was no mention of him at all.
10. Samoa Joe
The news of six NXT selections being allowed in the draft led to fans expressing excitement about the top stars coming up to the main roster. Let’s be honest. The NXT picks were a bit disappointing. No one cares about Nia Jax or Mojo Rawley. Carmella was a bit disappointing. Sure, we were given Finn Balor, American Alpha and Alexa Bliss, but a few standout stars were left off the list. Samoa Joe especially stands out as a glaring mistake by WWE.
If we’re supposed to believe in the realistic aspect of the draft, how can one of the best wrestlers in the world and the current NXT Champion get snubbed in the favor of Mojo Rawley? The draft looks poor due to the decision to leave Joe off of the main roster. Joe will absolutely make his main roster debut in the near future, but being stricken from the draft is a weird choice by WWE.
9. Curt Hawkins
WWE is running to the free agent market in hopes of adding new talents to the roster for depth. Raw needs three hours of content every week and Smackdown needs enough wrestlers for a touring brand. Curt Hawkins is one of the names that have been signed to a new contract. It is unknown if he will get a legitimate push or will just return into the enhancement talent role. Shows like Superstars and Main Event needs talent and that could be Hawkins’ spot once again.
The best way to introduce Hawkins as being back would have been during the online portion of the draft after Smackdown Live. Hawkins is quite talented, but has the reputation of playing the jobber on WWE television. Unlike many of the former WWE stars to have outstanding runs on the independent wrestling scene, Hawkins was rather lackluster, but finds his way back in the world’s biggest wrestling promotion.
The fact that Tamina went undrafted put her in a terrible spot in the landscape of WWE. Tamina is still dealing with an injury, but you could have assumed she ended up on Smackdown as part of Team B.A.D with her partner Naomi. The only worthwhile role for Tamina in WWE is portraying the bodyguard type enforcer for a more talented performer. For all intents and purposes, Tamina is the female version of Diesel and desperately needs her Shawn Michaels.
WWE didn’t draft her due to the injury and likely wanting to separate Naomi from her. The skills of Naomi are outstanding and Tamina benefits greatly from being paired with her. Tamina is likely in trouble going forward with this spelling bad news. No one views her as a credible singles performer and the lack of a role dictated in the draft could mean she is getting released in the near future.
Another veteran recently signed to a main roster contract to return thanks to the brand split is Rhyno. The Man Beast is still jacked and can perform at a high level. We have seen him in NXT occasionally over the past year and made his recent return to NXT TV in a short feud with Samoa Joe. Rhyno will be on either Raw or Smackdown going forward as we ease into the slitting of the brands.
Smackdown seems like a better fit with a younger roster needing veterans to help get them along. Rhyno is currently involved in a political race to serve as a representative in Michigan. History could be made if he wins his election while working on WWE television. The fan base is very familiar with Rhyno and likely would have responded well if he was announced as a draft pick. Rhyno could have been a better pick than the aggressively uninteresting pair of Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus.
6. Heath Slater
The most amusing story of a WWE superstar not getting drafted is Heath Slater. WWE decided to throw in some comedy during the important night. The Social Outcasts continued to cut promos all night on the WWE Network broadcast of the behind-the-scenes reaction to the draft. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel were drafted to Raw, but their cohort Slater did not get selected at all. The show ended with him sitting alone as the lights went out.
Slater is one of the best comedic performers in the business today and did a good job getting across the segments. WWE is currently listing him as a free agent and even jokingly teased him leaving the company for Evolve or other independent wrestling promotions. Slater is definitely remaining in WWE and will find a way on one of the shows in a creative fashion. No one would have expected Slater being one of the highlights of the draft due to not being selected.
NXT’s growth over the past couple of years has been thanks to developing new stars that fans come out to see in droves. The biggest female star currently in the developmental promotion is Bayley. Between her incredible matches and authentic character work, Bayley has fans of all demographics supporting her. She has all of the potential to become a huge draw for the women’s division on either Raw or Smackdown.
The wrestling world was stunned when Bayley did not get drafted. To make matters worse, three other women from NXT were selected with Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss and Carmella getting promoted. Bayley remained in NXT due to the brand needing her star power to sell tickets and generate buzz for the upcoming shows this summer. WWE has to call her up very soon because fans are growing impatient. Bayley not getting drafted hurt the overall credibility of the NXT picks.
4. The Undertaker
The Undertaker is still a part of the WWE roster and will likely return in time for WrestleMania 33. As the most respected veteran in the industry, Undertaker basically calls his own schedule and wrestles as much as he chooses to. WrestleMania is his home and he plays a huge role in the booking of it every year. WWE chose to remove Undertaker from the draft with no explanation or rational behind him being excluded.
Brock Lesnar also wrestles part time, but was selected in the second round to become a member of the Raw brand. Undertaker should have at least been mentioned at some point during the draft. The legendary icon being exempt or having the ability to appear on any brand he chooses would have been a nice nod to him while also explaining why he isn’t a part of it. We will definitely see Undertaker by WrestleMania season, but it is anyone’s guess which show it will be.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
The signing of Shinsuke Nakamura will go down as one of the greatest moves made by Triple H. Nakamura instantly became the most popular star in NXT and is selling more merchandise than many of the active performers on the main roster. New Japan saw Nakamura make the big decision to leave in favor of trying his luck in the bigger ocean of WWE. Wrestling fans badly wanted to see the King of Strong Style play a role in the draft, but he was snubbed.
Nakamura will be the top star in NXT for the foreseeable future, but he belongs on the main roster. Star power and charisma like Shinsuke’s is impossible to duplicate. WWE made a mistake not having him go as a high pick in the draft. We were supposed to believe the general managers and commissioners wanted the best talent, but left Nakamura for the likes of Bo Dallas and Mojo Rawley.
2. Nikki Bella
WWE needs many stars to build up women’s divisions for Raw and Smackdown, but the roster is quite small. There are a few dynamic talents like Charlotte and Sasha Banks, but the big names are lacking in star power. The Bella twins are polarizing, but you can’t argue with their strong fan base bringing success to WWE. Nikki Bella had the longest running Diva’s Championship reign for a reason and it is due to her being one of the biggest female stars on the roster.
Nikki has been dealing with injury issues for almost a full year, but the rumors have been circulating that she will return in the very near future. The potential for noteworthy storylines with new talents will make Nikki a hot commodity whenever she returns. Smackdown needing a big name for the division could see her be a great fit. John Cena is already on the blue brand and keeping Nikki together with him for the traveling schedule could benefit both.
1. Triple H
The most interesting story that no one is talking about in the aftermath of the draft is Triple H. We have not seen The Game on WWE television since losing the WWE World Championship to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32. Triple H still is vocal on Twitter with his presence in NXT, but we are all waiting to find out where he plays in the new world of WWE. As an active performer that wrestles a few times per year, Triple H did not get selected.
You would assume he ends up on Raw due to his wife Stephanie McMahon running the show, but Shane McMahon could be his ideal opponent for a return feud. There’s also the potential of a storyline with protégé Seth Rollins. Not only was Triple H missing at the draft, but he is absent from WWE for some reason and the reveal will be fascinating to watch unfold.