For the second time in its history, WWE has gone draft crazy with last night’s SmackDown Live signalling the start of a New Era – although how that fits into the last one, I don’t know. Like most of these events, the actual show itself was a bit of a disappointment, with the awkward podium sections not hiding that most of the matches were throwaway at best. Even the main event was hardly a classic. However, it’s got us where we need to be and after Battleground we will have an all new WWE. So how does each roster look going into that new world?
At first glance, it’s hard not to feel like SmackDown got shafted. Not only does Raw have a new Cruiserweight division on the way it also got the Woman’s Title and the Tag Titles. Unless SmackDown is set to get their own belts (as they only have six women two of whom are Naomi and Eva Marie and two more are new call-ups – Carmella and Alexa Bliss – they might struggle in that regard) they seem to be relying heavily on the IC Title. I just can’t believe that the World Title will be exclusive to the Blue Show.
However, when you scratch beneath the surface, there is a lot of talent on that roster. American Alpha could hark back to SmackDown’s heydey and Ambrose, Styles, Orton, Cena and Wyatt provide some star power. You’ve also got a couple of sleeping giants in Ziggler and Del Rio who could still mean something. Even your Zack Ryders and Kalistos are hardly slouches. While Raw has received the current ‘buzz’ talents, SmackDown has perhaps received those that with a little bit of work could catch up with them.
Which brings us nicely to Raw and those ‘buzz’ talents. Draft picks like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Brock Lesnar and Cesaro (who I thought was a dead cert to be on SmackDown) are the ones to get fans excited. Most crowds have sided with Seth Rollins in the SHIELD feud and even if crowds hate him, they do talk about Roman. They also have the Charlotte vs. Sasha feud all set up and ready to go and even if it seems to end New Day vs. The Wyatts, the inclusion of The Club, gives them a solid first tag team feud. All things said Raw looks like it is in a position to go on the offensive from the start with a lot more natural ingredients already in place.
Raw’s problem? Well, it’s run by Stephanie McMahon. We already saw the start of what I’m sure will be her regular attempts to strip Mick Foley of any credibility and it won’t be long till the talent are treated in the same way. While SmackDown is set up to be a show where the authority figures take second billing to the wrestlers, Raw looks to be the exact opposite. It doesn’t help that Steph seems incapable of shutting up.
There are other questions which still need to be answered. What happens with injured talent like Luke Harper? How do call-ups from NXT work? Are they free agents? Perhaps more importantly, how are the titles going to work? Can champions work on all shows or will they be brand exclusive? In that case, can we expect SmackDown to create a few new titles? As long as none of them have a butterfly on them, I guess that would be okay.
What’s clear coming out of the Draft, is that Raw is still the big boy. SmackDown may be getting billed as an equal party, but there is no chance that will be the case. However, there are also a lot more questions than answers in place. When you see names like Finn Balor on that roster, though, you have to get excited (and also ponder whether the splitting up of AJ Styles and The Club might allow them to go back to the plans they seemed to have in mind a few months ago.) All things said even if the first SmackDown Live might not be a show for the ages, the next few months are going to be fascinating for anyone with the slightest interest in Sports Entertainment.