If you were watching SmackDown on Tuesday night and following along via any means of social media, the WWE Draft created an absolute cacophony of news and opinions. Wrestling fans are nothing if not passionately opinionated, and there were mumbles and grumbles to be had in great amounts. From complaining about the lack of Bayley to grousing about how lopsided the Raw picks seemed in the early going, everything just moved so fast that it was often overwhelming.
But now that we’ve had some time to ruminate on things a bit, the WWE Draft sure has a lot of things that can either give fans some cautious optimism, or are at the very least intriguing. Let’s break down the very best moves of the draft — your opinion, of course, can and likely will vary — and talk about why they look great on paper. At least until Monday night, when everything becomes the worst again.*
*Source: the internet.
SmackDown drafting John Cena
The primary directive of the entire 2016 brand extension, from WWE’s point of view, is to make people take SmackDown seriously as a television show and as a brand. To that end, they have to stop treating SmackDown as “Raw Jr.,” effective immediately. The main way to do that is to put legitimate main event performers on that show and that show only. John Cena is the legitimate main event performer, regardless of whether you want to admit it.
To be honest with you, I felt that drafting Cena to SmackDown was the No. 1 “must” for WWE in the draft and I was scared they wouldn’t be able to commit to it when it came time to pull the trigger. They did, and I believe that’s an easy win. Sure, there is the easy joke to make that for all Shane and Bryan’s preening that their brand would be different, they still drafted Cena and Randy Orton. But that’s a necessary evil. The original “Smackdown Six” still had Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio, after all.
SmackDown can still be the indie workrate darling of the two brands, if that’s where they want to go with it. You can have that AND have John Cena. We haven’t already forgotten Cena going on his PWG Memorial United States Open Challenge, have we? His feud with AJ Styles will continue and he’ll hopefully move on to mixing it up with more people who could use his expertise. But having him on the blue brand is an important step to legitimacy for the show. It was vital, in fact.
Raw selecting Finn Bálor as the No. 5 overall pick
If WWE was looking to make a statement about their “New Era,” it’s hard to make a louder or stronger statement than Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley saying they have an eye on the future and selecting Finn Bálor as the final pick in the first round of the draft. Rollins, Ambrose, Charlotte, Styles, Bálor. That’s your top five, must-have main event players, as far as kayfabe goes in 2016. That’s huge. That’s enormous.
Cena didn’t go until the seventh pick. Orton was ninth. Big Show was 23rd. The times aren’t changing, they’ve changed. Bálor’s top-five selection, following months on end of speculation about his call-up, is a statement. We can all wring our hands about how WWE will drop the ball on him, but all of the authority figures involved and the announcers put over Finn as a legitimate big deal. They didn’t put him over as a cruiserweight, or as a nobody. They said this is the guy, he’s the future, he’s great. And he’s worth spending the fifth most valuable pick on.
And he’s also winding up on the same show as an AJ Styles-less Club. Hmmm. HMMMMMM. NO WAY WE’RE GOING TO SPECULATE ENDLESSLY ABOUT THIS ONE, NO SIR.