Okay, so first off: Roman Reigns is not included in this article so please don’t click that red X just yet. All jokes aside, the draft is now done and dusted, so let the speculation begin. The top picks were pretty predictable, as there really wasn’t any huge shock. Still, hearing the name Finn Balor was music to the ears for plenty of fans aspiring for change, but we'll have more on The Demon to Raw a little later in the article.
The picks pretty much classified under three categories for most of us. The first category are the bulk of the picks after SmackDown that we really didn’t care for. The second category makes up the, "what the hell, and why?" column. And finally, the third category were the picks that got us excited and eager to see how this crazy scenario would all unfold.
Kudos to the WWE for making its Universe buzz, as we can truly say the company has us talking. As of now, we sincerely hope this all works out and that the split will serve a purpose in creating various new stars, and most of all excitement. With this in mind, let us begin with the opposite end of the spectrum pertaining to wrestlers we didn’t really care for that got drafted. This article will look at five of those, five of the worst selections that basically made no sense, and five of the best picks overall. Enjoy!
15 Nobody Cares: Neville
You can blame the WWE for this one; after a brilliant debut with NXT it seemed like Neville was destined for superstardom on the main roster. Fast forward to his WWE run with the big boys and it’s been nothing short of a disaster. His injury might have been a blessing considering he was enduring absolutely nothing of significance pertaining to a creative standpoint. Neville can really look at this as a fresh new start for his main roster career.
He’s still only 29 and has lots of talent; so no, all is not lost with Neville. Though, many believe that with SmackDown being labelled as the “wrestling” brand that Neville would perhaps be better suited for the Tuesday show. Regardless of the outcome, we seriously hope he can recreate that magic from NXT and take off that silly cape once and for all. Seeing how the company has continuously dropped the ball with NXT talent, making Neville great again would be a tremendous redemption story for a guy who definitely deserves it.
14 Worst: Cesaro
This pick was horrifying to say the least, especially for the Cesaro section that wanted to see the Swiss Superman enjoy a fresh new beginning. For his career, going as far away as possible from Monday Night Raw was crucial in resurfacing his character, but he somehow was selected to the brand. It won’t be too surprising if a trade of some sort is made that sends Cesaro over to SmackDown, because in terms of brand identity, the veteran belongs on Tuesday nights.
Barring that there is no trade, Cesaro did give fans some hope following the program when being interviewed about his thoughts on heading to Raw. He was quite upset and gave a sort of shoot promo claiming he actually knows how to talk and wants Raw to be about wrestling and not the politics outside of the ring (in regards to Stephanie or Mick Foley). His statement gave us some hope that he might possibly play a rebel-like figure on Monday Night Raw; but then again, he lost to Jericho that very night... talk about a momentum swing.
13 Best: American Alpha
Quite the telling tale when you consider the loudest pops of the draft came from NXT stars in Finn Balor and American Alpha. At the announcement of their names the crowd roared out of their seats. So it’s pretty obvious that these two are main roster “ready, willing and Gable”.
The drafting of the two NXT stars to SmackDown really gave the show some huge depth, especially when you consider the lack of any type of division they have at the moment with the Cruiserweights exclusively on Raw, and the most dominant female faces on the roster all on Monday Nights as well. This gives the two an opportunity to solidify a new and exciting Tag Team division which starts with contributions from the two spectacular performers. Tuesday nights got a heck of a lot better with the announcement of these guys to SmackDown Live! If you haven’t seen them yet, get ready to be dazzled by these fantastic Superstars.
12 Nobody Cares: The Miz
Even Daniel Bryan himself seemed bitter about making the pick which had value because it came at the expense of the Intercontinental Championship. Hate to knock The Miz, but with the emergence of new stars, you tend to lose his name in the mix of plenty other mid-card wrestlers that we’d rather see holding this once prestigious Championship.
With this mind, we can only hope that SmackDown Live will once again make this championship great again and in order to do so, The Miz must play a pivotal role in helping to build a future star that will claim the Championship from his hands. The show is filled with future potential stars in Apollo Crews, Kalisto and Baron Corbin, who can certainly benefit from a championship run which will only do the title good at this point. No disrespect to The Miz who has been a model employee, but we hope he will be initially used in this manner.
11 Worst: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
So let me get this straight: you build up Gallows and Anderson back together with AJ Styles, only to have them drafted on another brand? Yikes. Initially, it seemed The Club was sticking around for a long time, though that is apparently not the case with AJ on the other show. Gallows and Anderson had meaning alongside Styles, so you get a bit concerned thinking about the future they have, especially due to the fact that it’s on Monday Nights.
The only real logical explanation to this is that the pair will team up with a new leader in Finn Balor. On paper, this would seem like a logical choice, although it is kind of a head scratcher when you consider how over Finn will be once he arrives to Raw. Is turning him heel as a member of The Club really going to work? Or did the WWE just put the duo on Raw to make Finn get his feet wet feuding with the two? No matter how you look at it, it seems like the WWE dropped the ball with the team with this decision.
10 Best: Sami Zayn
Fans saw him as a SmackDown guy, simply because of his tremendous wrestling ability resonating with Tuesdays being labelled as the “in-ring” brand. Though, for Zayn to truly thrive as a major underdog he must swim with the sharks to really get that major babyface underdog story of his to truly succeed in the long run.
This pick will add so much value to Monday Night Raw. They don’t call him Mr. Versatility for nothing, as the guy can truly be booked just about anywhere from the opening match, to the mid-card segment to even a main event type of match, which we will no doubt be seeing him in sooner rather than later. Ending up on Raw just showed how high the WWE really is on this guy, so look for big things from Sami on the Raw roster. He’ll probably lose quite a bit, but eventually, Zayn will get his moment. A win-win situation for both Raw and Sami.
9 Nobody Cares: Sheamus
A pick so irrelevant that I had to log onto WWE.com to refresh my memory of where Sheamus ended up. For those of you that do care, he got selected to Raw. At the age of 38, the veteran has done it all, and kudos to him for winning three World Heavyweight Championships, a World Heavyweight Championship and a Royal Rumble victory in 2012. The reality of the situation though, is that was then and this is now. With a new era in place, fans are anticipating something new and fresh, and Sheamus certainly does not fit the bill when it comes to this criteria.
Not knocking his body of work, the Celtic Warrior can still deliver in the ring and his conditioning still seems to be top shape, though at this point, his involvement doesn’t really excite anyone. Booking-wise, look for Sheamus to be used as a talent enhancer working with young stars in hopes that he will put them over and make them look credible in the process. Look for Balor to be a first potential opponent of his (don’t roll your eyes at me).
8 Worst: The New Day
So the WWE made a bold claim telling its universe that Tag Teams will potentially be broken up, leading us to believe that The New Day would probably be going their separate ways. What the WWE really meant though, was that the Lucha Dragons would be one of the only teams to actually split up. Oh wait, I almost forgot The Social Outcasts.... In typical WWE fashion, the announcement fell a little short with most teams of actual meaning still being together. Which leads us to our next question: is keeping The New Day together the right move? For the short term, I’d say yes; milk it, sell more merchandise and heck why not? They're still so over. But in a long term aspect, the answer is no. The brand split promised fresh new characters, and The New Day is certainly not that. It seems to be working now but what about in a couple months when the team drops their titles. Will we still care? Knowing how talented all three of these individuals are, the company might have made a big mistake not allowing them to branch off on their own with such an opportunity.
7 Best: AJ Styles
With a New Era of the WWE in mind, AJ Styles was the perfect fit for the SmackDown Live show. His body of work speaks for itself. The Phenomenal One will work wonders on the program making it must-see television sooner rather than later. Although Ambrose was the first pick, most of us can agree that the brand will be recognized and identified under AJ’s watch.
It’ll be interesting to see what the SmackDown brand has in store for Styles. Will he stay as a heel even though he’s without his fellow Club members? Who will he be put up against? And how long before he becomes the champion? All these questions will be answered in time, but for now let’s just all enjoy the fact that Styles was chosen as a catalyst to recreate a program's identity. Honestly, the WWE could not have chosen a better guy. Styles on SmackDown increased the show's brand value a heck of a lot.
6 Nobody Cares: Alberto Del Rio
Similar to Neville, you can thank the WWE for Del Rio becoming an irrelevant player. His talent and charisma is still there, but instead terrible booking decisions have made him become an under-card player at the blink of an eye, it would seem.
His return was epic to say the least. Del Rio defeated John Cena (something that not many can say), claiming the United States Championship. It seemed like huge things were coming for the veteran, but well, this is the WWE and sometimes the obvious does not play out. His Championship run turned out to be lacklustre (to put it nicely). The company, for whatever reason, stopped the United States Championship Open and instead put the title back as an irrelevant Championship with seemingly no meaning. That was rather apparent when Del Rio and Kalsito swapped the title between each other, doing absolutely nothing for neither of the two. What was next for Del Rio, a stable that disbanded after a couple of weeks? Seriously, for the sake of his legacy and talent, we hope that Alberto will find his form on Tuesday Nights.
5 Worst: Kevin Owens
If having Owens and Zayn back on the same brand was mind-boggling enough, the company decided to put both of them on Raw. We discussed it earlier, it did make sense for Zayn to end up on the program, but KO, really? Raw? The decision was certainly confusing to say the least. KO is due for a Championship run which seemed likely on SmackDown which has a lack of established heels on its roster. Raw on the other hand, is loaded with upper-card talent, from Rollins to Reigns to Balor to Lesnar to Y2J to even Cesaro.
In terms of depth and value added by Owens, SmackDown would certainly benefit more from KO on the roster. You have to believe that either he or Sami will likely get dealt to the other brand at some point, though. But for now, we can only hope that Kevin continues to thrive as a big game player. What’s next from him? That remains to be seen.
4 Best: John Cena
Thanks to the multiple wrestling outlets online, it wasn’t really a surprise to hear that Cena was drafted to the Tuesday show. The company made it clear that they wanted a huge face to join the program, and who better than “the face that runs the place” in John Cena himself?
Although most of us knew that Cena would end up on SmackDown, it was still pretty cool to see it actually play out that way. How many times have we seen the WWE back out of a bold decision? So it was rewarding to see it all unfold. The call to have Cena on the show was aggressive, which is why it works out so well. Fans want to see the company push the envelope, and what better way to do so than by sending the most prominent face over to a show that is trying to reclaim its identity? Any way you look at it, Cena to SmackDown Live is definitely a plus.
3 Nobody Cares: Big Show
It truly hurts me to knock a guy that has worked so much in the last two decades, but seriously, did the WWE really have to announce his pick live on the air? The decision to do so only hurt Show’s credibility; you could hear the crowd "Boo!" in anger of the selection. Why the company didn’t wait for the after show to announce his brand is truly beyond me. Heck, not even Kane was named on the actual show.
Putting that aside, I truly feel for Big Show, who is really at the wrong place at the wrong time at the moment. With an emphasis on the word "new", Show represents everything the Universe doesn’t want in today’s product: a big, slow wrestler that we’ve seen before and is sadly past his prime. With this being said, the former WWE Champion lands in the "irrelevant" column for this article and most probably future bookings as well.
2 Worst: Sasha Banks
Man, did the WWE ever drop the ball with this pick. She has SmackDown written all over her. She is a different breed and provides something new and exciting for fans to chew on. Instead, the company took the easy route and decided to keep her as a member of Monday Night Raw.
The problem with this move goes beyond Sasha, as the Women’s Division collectively looks far worse on SmackDown than it does on Raw. Pretty much all the prominent females are on Raw, from Sasha to Paige to Nia Jax to the Champion Charlotte. As for SmackDown, well it now looks like the Women’s Division is a land of opportunity more than anything else, with most of the females being relatively new. With these being said, we seriously hope that another top tier name will be added to the SmackDown brand's Women’s Division. And yes, the option seems very obvious, but please, oh please, assign Bayley to the Tuesday show.
1 Best: Finn Balor
What added so much more value to the draft was thinking of where the NXT legend Finn Balor would end up. The hype was met with a massive roar from the crowd, and the roar seemed like relief more than anything. Hearing his name finally uttered meant that Finn was finally making the jump, and rightfully so, to Raw.
What excites fans the most about Finn is predominantly the fact that whether you realize it or not, Balor is the face that represents change. NXT took the wrestling industry by storm and gave fans an alternative, and this alternative turned into an overnight sensation that gave the WWE fans some hope to finally bank on. It ensured that the future was bright after all. This is exactly what Finn brings to the table. He is NXT. He is the new face and most of all, he brings hope to a show desperate for change. Will Finn be the savior? Let’s sit back and watch!