Over the weekend I teamed with John Morgan Neal of the ESO-PRO podcast for something just about every wrestling site is doing over this weekend, predicting their layouts one-on-one of the WWE draft. John Morgan picked Smackdown as his brand, and I took Raw. With the assumption Smackdown gets the first pick, we started to run down our own rosters.
We had a few simple rules: single stars remained singles stars while tag teams remained tag teams unless a good reason existed to break them apart. Any NXT star of extended service (i.e. ready for the main roster) was allowed as a draft pick, but no higher than round four. Brock Lesnar is considered an automatic free agent, as Paul Heyman refuses to have him tied to a single brand. Finally, we were each allowed one surprise outside pick which you will see down the list at certain points.
With the assumption that this draft will be extended longer than the show itself, probably through WWE Network picks, John Morgan and I went twenty rounds to pick our choices for the best names on both new brands.
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RAW: Stephanie McMahon wants the newest star on the WWE roster, a man that has made a name for himself in just the six months since his first appearance at the Royal Rumble. He's the man that beat John Cena. He is a wrestler and a man that inside or outside the ring is simply Phenomenal. Raw's first round pick is AJ STYLES.
Analysis: Clearly both John Morgan and I knew the importance of John Cena to WWE's product. If JMN hadn't recruited him, he would have been Raw's first pick. But with Cena taken for Smackdown, his current foil seemed like the perfect first round pick for Raw, even if it did leave the World Heavyweight champion and his contenders by the wayside. Besides, I am still amazed that I live in a world where AJ Styles could have an outside shot of being a first round draft pick for a WWE draft. Five years ago, I would have told you that you were clearly insane to even think that idea. Oh how the times change.
SECOND THROUGH FIFTH ROUNDS
SD: While Shane's first pic was using the past to help the future his next pic is the future, the face of the future in fact and a potential new WWE champion as of Battleground: SETH ROLLINS!
RAW: Raw's second pick is a man Stephanie doesn't like very much, but who has proven he can survive a beating and keep going. That resiliency made him the WWE champion and his name is DEAN AMBROSE.
SD: Well one world champion deserves another so Shane decides to be positive with his next draft as to not be booty and picks the two times Double U. Double U. E. Tag Team Champions THE NEW DAY: Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods.
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RAW: Last year, Stephanie started the revolution. This year she will take control of that revolution. The third pick for Raw is the WWE's women's champion CHARLOTTE.
SD: And Shane was instrumental in the New Era which Smackdown is going to be all about. And that area is all about the new! For his next pick Shane welcomes someone new to the main roster. FINN BALOR!
RAW: Stephanie doesn't like him. Heck, she hates him. But she knows that in this business respect must be played to the man that rises against all obstacles. Whether he's the good guy or the bad guy, he is Raw's guy: ROMAN REIGNS.
SD: Shane shows he is not above picking someone he doesn't care for either. But talent is talent and no one in the WWE has more of it than KEVIN OWENS!
RAW: He's perhaps the most dominant champion in WWE today and has destroyed the competition that has came in his path. The fifth pick for Raw is the United States champion, RUSEV.
Analysis: I'm not sure I agree with John Morgan in choosing Seth over Dean unless he wins the title on Monday night. I think the third round feels right as I expect both the tag and women's championship to be high in the prize list. I certainly wanted Stephanie to continue to focus on the women's division as well, so Charlotte had to go high to guarantee the title was held there. I wasn't surprised by most of the other picks on the list, but I was a bit surprised either secondary champion wasn't picked until the fifth round. I actually waited that long assuming JMN would take his pick and I could counter with the other. But I happily took Rusev, a man with tons of potential still untapped.
SD: He's a TV star, a movie star, an A lister and part of the beautiful people with his lovely wife. But most importantly he is the current IC champ. So the next awesome pic is THE MIZ.
RAW: This draft isn't just about the most talented people in WWE today, it is also about the men and women with the most potential. Very few WWE superstars have as much potential as the Swiss Superman: CESARO.
SD: Shane agrees so his next pic is one of the people Shane has given the most opportunity since he arrived on the main roster. Shane chooses SAMI ZAYN. And then Sami and KO brawl.
RAW: The tag team division is a highlight of the WWE and there's no team better in WWE today than Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, THE CLUB.
SD: That ends now Shane says as he introduces his next pick AMERICAN ALPHA! Young, hungry and supremely talented. They will be the vanguard of the future of the tag team division with their coach KURT ANGLE!
RAW: Charlotte has dominated the women's division for most of the last year, but there's one woman she has never been able to beat one on one in WWE. Her name is SASHA BANKS and she is Raw's #8 draft pick!
SD: Shane realizes he has been remiss with the women's division so he chooses the third component in the first women's title match at Wrestlemania the fiery fan favorite BECKY LYNCH! And then someone turns on her.
RAW: Raw doesn't think of the women's division as just an afterthought. The women of WWE will be as iconic as the men in this revolution. Raw's next pick is the woman that will team with Sasha Banks at Battleground and make her main roster debut. It's BAYLEY!
SD:Shane not about to be topped agrees with his sister but he feels that what the WWE women's division needs is further variety and style and nothing will bring that better than ASUKA! The woman who dethroned Bayley,
RAW: We at Raw don’t have to like the talent to know the WWE Universe loves them. With that in mind, we chose two of the best entertainers of the new Era. Welcome to Raw, ENZO AMORE and BIG CASS!
Analysis: The second half of the first round was spent shoring up the bases of both shows. Smackdown gained the Intercontinental championship, a continued feud in Zayn (with Owens) and its surprise pick, Kurt Angle. I'm not sure the likelihood of Angle's return to WWE television, but working with American Alpha would be a sensible place for them. He also finally saw to his own women's division with Becky Lynch and Asuka on his list, both of which would have been 11 and 12 for me. On Raw, I added a clear contender for Rusev in Cesaro, a pair of tag teams already feuding and managed to get three quarters of the Four Horsewomen with Bayley and Sasha Banks.
ELEVENTH THROUGH FIFTEENTH ROUND
SD: We at Smackdown don’t have to like the talent and in fact we can live in fear of the talent but cannot deny the effect they have over a large portion of the WWE Universe. So making the Firefly's happy the next pick is BRAY WYATT and the WYATT FAMILY.
RAW: Few certified legends, obvious future hall of famers work week in and week out for WWE. But since his return at the Royal Rumble, one man has. Raw is proud to welcome CHRIS JERICHO to its roster. RAW IS JERICHO!
SD: For Shane's next pic he says he wants someone who's presence is bound to impact Smackdown immediately in the same way AJ Styles did. New to WWE but a total veteran. Smackdown chooses SAMOA JOE!
RAW: Sometimes the newest impact doesn't come from a star appearing but from a star being born. That's happening today in WWE as with the help of Mr. Bob Backlund, our next pick has risen to the test in WWE. The 12th pick for Smackdown is DARREN YOUNG!
SD: So that Shane won't be called a perro idiot he next chooses former WWE champion. MITB winner and winner of the biggest Royal Rumble ever ALBERTO DEL RIO!
RAW: He is new to the WWE roster, but perhaps no one has more potential than the next young man recruited to Raw. We are proud to welcome APOLLO CREWS!
SD: He has one of the most storied careers and has been on the shelf but it about to make his comeback. We told him about this pick yesterday so that he could start his walk down the aisle then so he would be here by now. Outta nowhere RANDY ORTON!
RAW: He's been a star everywhere but WWE. He may be the best free agent WWE could ever bring in. And no one will take the respect he's earned better than BOBBY ROODE.
SD: Smackdown wishes to head to the future via the past so the next draft pick reaches all the way back to the turn of the century and they choose THE VAUDEVILLAINS!
RAW: He just returned from injury and three surgeries. But before he went out, he was the hottest star in NXT. Now he is the newest addition to WWE's greatest show: HIDEO ITAMI!
Analysis: This is where the roster deepening begins. I don't know if realistically the Wyatt Family or Jericho would go this late, though I did enjoy putting Jericho outside the top 10 just as he was in the first WWE draft. Smackdown picked up two roster veterans in Orton and Del Rio, while strengthening its tag team with The Vaudevillains and bringing Samoa Joe up from NXT. I picked Young because he was feuding with Rusev and has a great new gimmick, then I wanted to add some NXT recruits with Apollo Crews, Hideo Itami and the very recently signed Bobby Roode, a man with no need to be on NXT at all.
SIXTEENTH THROUGH TWENTIETH ROUND
SD: It can be argued that this Anti-Diva lit the fuse of the Divas Revolution and at only 23 is far from peaked Smackdown picks PAIGE!
RAW: He has potential left unseen in WWE. But Raw thinks he only showed a glimmer of his future in the Andre the Giant battle royal. Raw's sixteenth draft pick is BARON CORBIN.
SD: Smackdown seeks to deepen the tag team ranks further and in their own way they take a path to the future via the past with THE REVIVAL.
RAW: Raw knows that sometimes talents can be stuck in a rut. And sometimes a team can be stuck with dead weight. With that in mind, we see a bright future on Raw for BUBBA RAY DUDLEY.
SD: Smackdown next choose one of the finest technical wrestlers ever and he has lots to still show off about. DOLPH ZIGGLER!
RAW: We have great superstars on WWE television, but RAW wants The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. The next draft pick for Raw is Double A: AUSTIN ARIES!
SD: Big. Bad. Bully. The Celtic Warrior is an ever present threat. So Smackdown chooses SHEAMUS, Fella!!
RAW: The tag team ranks of RAW need some high flying action. WWE has no one that flies higher though than the LUCHA DRAGONS!
SD: Smackdown seeks to fly high with the man that gravity forgot NEVILLE as their last pick.
RAW: Smackdown has a great roster, but not as great as Raw's obviously, but it doesn't have one very important feature. It's just not very Cool. Raw is proud to introduce the return of the coolest wrestling in the world, along with his family the SHINING STARS. Welcome, CARLITO!
Analysis: Ziggler and Sheamus were afterthoughts for us just as they were for WWE in the last few months. I brought Austin Aries up to the main roster while also picking up Baron Corbin and the Lucha Dragons to cement my midcard. Bubba Ray Dudley was the one hit on the tag team rule as I just feel it is time for WWE to let him be more of a Bully and let D-Von do his own thing either on Smackdown or even in NXT. John Morgan secured the last of the active NXT champions in The Revival, guaranteeing an awesome tag division for Smackdown. Neville's return will hopefully make up for fan antipathy toward Ziggler and Sheamus. I saved my surprise pick for last as Carlito seems like a very safe bet for the draft, especially as a way to make the Shining Stars actually relevant.
1. John Cena
2. Seth Rollins
3. The New Day
4. Finn Balor
5. Kevin Owens
6. The Miz
7. Sami Zayn
8. American Alpha w/ Kurt Angle
9. Becky Lynch
11. Wyatt Family
12. Samoa Joe
13. Alberto Del Rio
14. Randy Orton
15. The Vaudevillains
17. The Revival
18. Dolph Ziggler
1. AJ Styles
2. Dean Ambrose
4. Roman Reigns
7. The Club
8. Sasha Banks
10. Enzo & Big Cass
11. Chris Jericho
12. Darren Young
13. Apollo Crews
14. Bobby Roode
15. Hideo Itami
16. Baron Corbin
17. Bubba Ray Dudley
18. Austin Aries
19. Lucha Dragons
20. Carlito & the Shining Stars
Would you watch two shows with those rosters? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook. And don't forget to check out ESO-PRO, perhaps the best wresting podcast in the world today!