UA-59049186-1 WWE Draft Was Destined to Be Flawed - Good if it Goes

WWE Draft Was Destined to Be Flawed

Years ago before WWE’s first brand split, Vince McMahon promised fans he would shake up the very foundation of the WWE- and indeed he did. WWE’s had drafts since, but this most recent draft was the company’s first in five years. After a month and a half of keeping the company in a holding pattern with no clear vision of what they wanted to do in regards to the the draft, WWE’s Smackdown Live hosted it this past Tuesday.

Details about the draft were hazy, and nothing specific was mentioned until a week out when fans were promised general managers would be appointed for each show. No, really. Shane and Stephanie McMahon’s segment weeks back on RAW with The New Day went on for fifteen minutes and provided no information.

Despite Stephanie and Shane’s television characters giving fans no actual information on what we should expect in weeks leading up to it, this was WWE’s first shot at making their draft seem legitimate.

They failed miserably. If I could compare this to a single moment in wrestling history, it was WWE’s draft version of The Shockmaster– lofty expectations with failed execution. I’ll break down what went wrong and how it could have been better.

 

  1. Not Enough Time

Their first mistake was giving the entire show only two hours. Almost any WWE fan-or non-WWE fan for that matter- will tell you three hours is too long for a weekly show. But it would make sense for a special occasion such as the draft. Make RAW two hours this week, and Smackdown Live three. Simple.

 

  1. Too Much Wrestling

Who thought we’d ever say that? WWE thought it would be smart to schedule SIX matches for a two hour show on top of the draft itself. My guess is their logic was to give fans in attendance plenty of bang for their buck, but it didn’t play well to the viewers at home. The night’s pacing was atrocious, with draft picks made in rapid fire succession (including RAW’s 3:2 ratio because it’s an hour longer).

 

  1. Focus was not on wrestlers

For a night that was to officially usher in “The New Era” and decide superstars’ futures, WWE made it seem like they were on the backburner. Instead, Shane, Stephanie, Foley and Bryan were given the spotlight during the live draft.

A shot of a room full of superstars waiting to be drafted was always a fun sight in past drafts, but this one lacked that. It would have been nice to have cameras follow them out and see stars shake hands with their respective GM and get handed a shirt. And if they just recently debuted new logos, why not have the shirts at the draft use them instead of the old ones? Terrible timing, WWE.

Unnecessary banter between picks by all four authority figures only further took away from the proper focus of the draft. Bryan’s gripe about having to draft Miz made sense based off their history, yet felt beneath the esteemed fan favorite as a returning hero of sorts. Instead of praising Miz for helping elevate the Intercontinental title and showing any respect for his abilities, he undercut Miz with his remarks and seemingly picked him because he had a title. I could say more about this flaw, but Cesaro was refreshingly honest during his interview.

 

  1. Battleground Lite

WWE in recent years loves to ruin match-ups for fans. Instead of saving them for pay-per-views/special events and building to them using anticipation and tension, they give us every variation of the match- even the exact match itself- in weeks leading up to the “big showdown”. Tuesday was different…only because it was somehow worse than usual. As mentioned previously, the show crammed six (almost seven if you want to count the Kane/Owens one that never got underway). FIVE out of those six were variations of Battleground match-ups:

John Cena w/ Enzo and Cass vs. Luke Gallows w/ The Club

Darren Young and Zack Ryder w/ Mr. Bob Backlund vs. The Miz and Rusev

Xavier Woods w/ The New Day vs. Bray Wyatt w/ The Wyatt Family

Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

The most egregious of those is Sasha Banks versus Charlotte and Dana a night after tagging with Becky Lynch to face the same foes. Last week, she faced Dana on both RAW and Smackdown. It’s just lazy booking and gives fans no reason to look forward to matches that occur at special events.

WWE’s “bold” move of a second consecutive WWE WHC match (making three in six days) was inexplicable even before it actually took place. On top of that, this time there was no controversy- just Ambrose winning clean with a Dirty Deeds. It begs the question: why stir the pot if you are going to end up pouring it down the drain soon after?

 

  1. Draft Credibility

Looking back on drafts of yesteryear, the bar was very low in making 2016’s WWE Draft look legitimate and credible. With the entire main roster available and even an actual farm system in NXT at their disposal, WWE made some baffling draft decisions.

  • Kevin Owens at 18: Owens’ character is angry at what he views as a slight. The best heels always have rationale behind their argument, even if they are wrong. Except Owens couldn’t be more in the right to be as annoyed as he is. I can’t speak for the real-life KO, but I would assume he is also very perturbed at not going at least in the top ten. Owens raises the bar on the mic and in the ring every week and deserved a much higher spot in the draft.

 

  • Cesaro at 28: The glass ceiling only gets higher for the European. His promo afterwards only reiterated how perplexing his slide was. Seeing Big Show, Natalya, Nia Jax, Baron Corbin, the stale Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho go ahead of Cesaro was absolutely mind-numbing.

 

  • Zayn/Owens & Ziggler/Corbin: Both sets of stars should have been on different shows, end of story. This takes the significance out of Zayn/KO’s Battleground match-up. If I see Ziggler never wrestle Corbin again, it will be too soon.

 

  • The biggest error was not drafting Bayley as the third woman after Charlotte and Sasha. If this were a legitimate sports league, the best are taken as early as possible- and certainly not left undrafted. Drafting Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, Carmella and Eva Marie and not Bayley seemed like some alternate universe where the former NXT women’s champion didn’t exist.

 

I explain this rationale by WWE wanting her possible debut at Battleground with Banks to have more of an impact. Yet even if she debuts as Banks’ partner, aside from pride- nothing is on the line. Tag matches involving singles champions have zero place on special event cards.

 

  1. Presentation

In all their efforts to make it feel like an official draft with WWE Network’s Draft Central (more on that in a second), it led to the actual draft presentation lacking any punch. Wrestlers were chosen anticlimactically- almost too quickly- in order to get to the full card of matches on the show. Videos were played for each star, but their immediate reaction was not available except on The WWE Network.

There was no big board. No sidebar for best available or sleepers. No Twitter scroll like RAW is known for. There wasn’t even a draft scroll for the picks taken.  WWE left this for Draft Central, which was a unique experience. That idea was admirable, but misguided.

I get that WWE wanted to make it a dual screen experience to get Network traffic and Nielsen ratings for Smackdown Live’s debut. But to undercut the very draft you are holding and saving it all for a separate show hurt the overall product.

Now this isn’t to say Draft Central wasn’t fun. It was. Draft picks came on and discussed getting picked and what was in store. They got a chance to express themselves that didn’t feel scripted or rigid. Well, except for Kalisto. That interview was painful to watch.

Sidenote: Renee Young referring to draft picks as “drafts” was annoying. But I digress.

 

  1. Nonsensical picks

Splitting up The Club so early seems premature. AJ, Gallows and Anderson have found a rhythm with “BEAT UP JOHN CENA”, and now get the rug pulled out from under them before their six man tag match. The duo without AJ might struggle similar to The Ascension in trying to gain traction, but will likely be reunited with Finn Balor- which will hopefully not lead to Balor as a heel so soon.

Another baffling pick was Carmella. She seemed destined to be NXT’s second biggest women’s star after Asuka. More seasoning in Florida is just what she needed, along with Alexa Bliss. Both have lots of promise, but are not ready for the main roster as singles stars just yet. On top of being called up, she’s not even on the same show as former NXT stablemates Enzo and Cass- or the Women’s Champion for that matter.

Drafting Kalisto to Smackdown away from Sin Cara, the US Title he lost AND  the RAW-exclusive Cruiserweight Division befuddled me. Now he’s on Smackdown- where he can possibly go after the IC title, I guess?

 

  1. Thin Divisions/Unbalanced Champions

The Women’s and Tag Divisions had just seemed to gain steam over the last year or so, giving WWE more confidence in them than ever before. So what does the split mean for them? Hopefully not separate titles for each show, as neither will have enough depth to offer new rivalries. The respective champions should float between shows, depending on who they are feuding with.

RAW snagged the US, Tag, and Women’s champions. Add in the exclusive Cruiserweight title, and that’s four champions. Smackdown has only the WWE WH and IC Champions. Had it been up to me, I would have made Cruiserweights a Smackdown exclusive and the Divas would be on RAW only.

 

  1. Identity Crisis

Years ago when RAW and Smackdown were originally split, RAW was where entertainment took priority and Smackdown was “the wrestling show”. Both gave you a reason to watch and offered something different.

Aside from the aforementioned CW division on RAW, both rosters attempted to be balanced without thinking of what would make them special. It is especially problematic for Smackdown as it’s the younger show with the returning prodigal son in Shane and the undersized fan favorite Daniel Bryan who is currently a commentator for the CWC. Yet they failed to deliver anything new or edgy in the draft.

 

  1. No surprises

There wasn’t any shocking picks, moments or surprises. There were no trades or returning superstars (Shelton Benjamin, MVP, etc). The WWE does a great job at the Royal Rumble with this aspect, but failed here.

Even a surprise during the live show such as Michael Cole being drafted to Smackdown would have been welcomed. We all know he won’t go away, but how about we give Mauro a crack at RAW alongside Corey Graves? With those two, I could handle Byron Saxton as the third member of the announce team.

 

Two Final Nitpicks-

A. This may be super specific, but the one moment I will leave you with is that of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens getting double-chokeslammed by Kane. On a night which is supposed to ring in the new era of stars, was it really necessary to have one of the longest-tenured active stars (outside of The Undertaker) look strong here?

And what happened immediately after? Zayn was drafted to RAW. Instead of being able to celebrate being drafted, Zayn was too busy selling a chokeslam that didn’t progress a storyline or even happen during a match.

B. Thirty picks were conducted on Smackdown Live. It’s almost fate it was two former members of the League of Nations: Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus. The two have been bashed for years for not being able to get over with fans whether heel or face. They simply don’t connect. Yet it was not until after Sheamus was taken at #30 that Michael Cole informed us he was the final pick. Talk about lacking suspense.

Sidenote: Heath Slater going undrafted and being the last shot of the 2016 Draft could be a genius move by WWE and jumpstart a new singles push as the company’s “hottest free agent”.

 

Time will tell whether or not this draft will be a success overall. But in the immediate picture, it’s execution failed to impress or make sense. I’m not totally sure WWE thought the entire thing about before deciding upon it, especially not being clear about championships or balancing certain divisions on specific shows to retain depth. What do you think? Was the draft a success or a failure?

 

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