Features

TJR: Reaction to WWE Draft Part 2 on Raw with Thoughts on Every Pick

The WWE Draft is over…sort of. There are no more announced draft picks to Raw and Smackdown, but there are still several “free agents” that WWE is going to assign to a specific show. Some of them may even be headed to NXT, but most will be on Raw or Smackdown. As a reminder, per WWE rules, Raw got 3 picks for every 2 picks that Smackdown got because Raw is three hours while Smackdown is two hours.

In case you missed it already, I wrote about the names that were draft picks after last Friday’s Smackdown. You can read that column here.

I didn’t love the way that WWE did this draft. I feel like I spent more time trying to explain the rules to people than I did interacting with them about the picks. It definitely could have been organized better by WWE. I’m glad it’s over and that separate rosters are back for Raw and Smackdown. Hopefully it leads to better shows for both brands.

Here are the names that were drafted to Raw and Smackdown with my thoughts on all of them and where they might be headed towards the end of this year as well as on the road to WrestleMania in six months.

Monday Night Raw

Universal Champion Seth Rollins (Round 1)

It was not a surprise to see Seth Rollins as the first pick since he’s the Universal Champion on the Raw brand. Rollins is also engaged to Becky Lynch, so of course they were going to remain on the same show. I think WWE has to be concerned about Rollins getting booed a few times lately after Hell in a Cell and on Raw this week when he burned down the “Firefly Fun House” set from Bray Wyatt. While Rollins has been strong in terms of beating Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at WrestleMania and SummerSlam, his feud with Baron Corbin wasn’t good and this feud with The Fiend isn’t helping him. They really need a top heel for Rollins to feud with or turn him heel. They may not want to turn him heel because everybody knows he’s engaged to Lynch, who is a top face. Seth is a great overall performer, but the booking hasn’t been very beneficial to him.

Charlotte Flair (Round 1)

I was a bit surprised by this because I figured they wouldn’t put Flair on the same show as Lynch again since it appeared that Flair turned face recently. Plus, Smackdown has two heels in Bayley and Sasha Banks that are going to need opponents. On Raw this week it looked like Flair was back to her heelish ways. I can’t really keep track anymore. It just seems odd that they would put Flair on Raw when she did more interviews and promotional work for Smackdown on Fox than anybody in the company. Anyway, Charlotte is almost always featured aside from a couple of months post-WrestleMania where she wasn’t involved much. I think she’s better as a heel, but WWE likes to turn her face sometimes too.

Andrade with Zelina Vega (Round 1)

The move to Raw from Smackdown was no surprise after they announced where Charlotte Flair was going because Andrade is dating Charlotte. If you follow either of them on social media, they are very happy to remind you they are madly in love. Best of luck to them in their relationship endeavors.

I remember when WWE to Fox was announced and people thought that Andrade would get pushed because Fox wanted a Latino star. Now he’s not on Fox. It’s just another example of why you “reports” that exist about wrestling shows can be fabricated. Anyway, I really like Andrade’s work in the ring, Zelina’s an awesome talker and a manager that gets involved in his matches to. I can see Andrade holding the US Title on Raw between now and WrestleMania. I’d like to see him to get an even bigger push. Andrade turns 30 on November 3rd, so he still has plenty of great years ahead of him.

Women’s Tag Team Champions The Kabuki Warriors – Asuka and Kairi Sane (Round 2)

It was announced by WWE that the Women’s Tag Team Titles can be defended on Raw and Smackdown. Asuka and Sane will become exclusive to Raw when they lose the titles.

When The Kabuki Warriors won the titles, Asuka spit green mist into Nikki Cross’ eyes and the idea behind that was that it was Asuka turning heel with Sane. It’s weird to think Sane as a heel since she’s a natural face, but I think Asuka will do well in the ring. I’d love to a see a Raw Women’s Title feud between Asuka and Becky Lynch because they had a great match at the Royal Rumble this year, which Asuka won. The fans like Asuka and Sane, but I hope they get to be more evil as heels. The women’s division needs stronger heels.

Rusev (Round 2)

It’s a weird time in Rusev’s career because after he took a break for five months due to unhappiness or maybe just resting his body, he’s come back in the best shape of his life only to be in a storyline with his wife Lana cheating on him with Bobby Lashley. The good thing about the angle is the crowd is going to rally behind Rusev and support him because a cheating wife is an easy way to get people to support you. I just don’t know if it’s the best thing for his marriage. Anyway, I’ve always been a Rusev fan. I hope this feud with Lashley is great for him and that he can have a lot of success again. If it was up to me, I’d bring back the “Rusev Day” thing for him and even pair Aiden English with him because it worked so well.

Aleister Black (Round 2)

Black going to Raw was obvious after the first round because it meant that he gets to be on the same show as his wife Zelina Vega. That’s not a surprise.

There were reports out weeks ago that Black was favorite of Raw’s Executive Director Paul Heyman, so I’m sure Paul is happy to have Black on Raw. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential. He’s kind of like the babyface version of Andrade where it’s a young guy that can be a future main eventer if he is booked the right way. I like his look, his strikes are impressive during his matches and he’s got credible finishing moves too.

Cedric Alexander (Round 3)

There’s a lot of potential in Alexander, but I don’t know if he’s strong enough as a character. Yes, he’s going to put on a great match with anyone. However, a lot of people in WWE can do that. What can he do to separate himself as a character? They need to work on that with him. I’m not sure what the right character direction would be, but they need to try to give him something. It may not be a bad thing to make a tag team wrestler either to add depth to the division.

Humberto Carrillo (Round 3)

Here’s another Latin wrestling star with a very bright future because he’ll turn 24 years old later this month. I think that makes him one of the youngest members of the Raw roster because most of them are 30 years old and up. A lot of fans may not know a lot about him since he was a 205 Live guy (that show isn’t very popular), so it’ll be up to Heyman and the creative team to tell us more about him.

Erick Rowan (Round 3)

The big man with the bald head and the beard got a big push on Smackdown in the last few months. However, there’s no Luke Harper on the same show (he’s on Smackdown) while his former rivals Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan remain on Smackdown. I’m not sure who he’s going to feud with or if he’ll get a significant push, but Raw is lacking in terms of having bigger guys, so perhaps his push will continue.

Buddy Murphy (Round 4)

Murphy is called WWE’s “best kept secret.” I think that’s a terrible nickname or phrase because it’s basically telling the audience that this guy is a very good wrestler, but he was not put in a position to succeed. Murphy impressed a lot on 205 Live, then he had good matches with Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan, but there was no follow up to that. Add him to the list of great in-ring performers that needs a character to make him stand out.

Jinder Mahal (Round 4)

The former WWE Champion (it’s still weird saying that about him) has been out of action since late June with a knee injury and the estimated time for return was about six months or more. Maybe he’ll be back sooner than that, which is why he was part of the draft. They didn’t include a lot of other injured wrestlers, so I find it odd that he was included unless he’s due back soon. Anyway, “Don’t Hinder Jinder” signed a contract extension with WWE earlier this year, so I expect him to get a solid push. It doesn’t make sense to pay a guy a lot to stick around and then not use him.

WWE 24/7 Champion R-Truth (Round 4)

R-Truth is one of the oldest full-time wrestlers at 47 years of age, but he looks and moves like a guy that’s about 15 years later. I think they have found something with him as a comedy guy and when he’s involved with the 24/7 Title it’s more interesting than when anybody else has it. With that said, I wouldn’t mind if he was taken more seriously and worked with some younger heels to put them over.

Samoa Joe (Round 5)

It was explained during the draft by Dio Maddin that Joe might have fallen down in the draft order due to a right arm injury. He had a cast on the arm and they hope he is back in the ring soon although no timetable has been given. I think Joe is one of the best heel talkers in the company and he’s still good in the ring even in his early 40s. I think in the right feud with the right opponent, he can still provide a lot of value to the show.

Akira Tozawa (Round 5)

I have my doubts about Tozawa a significant push on Raw. They have a deep roster and there are only so many people that can get used on a regular basis. I like him as a worker and he’s got a personality, but does he really stand out? I’m not sure. He’s another guy that could work well in a team because they can always use more teams.

Shelton Benjamin (Round 5)

Shelty B is 44 years old, so he’s one of the oldest guys on the roster. He’s still capable of good matches. However, I just don’t see WWE going out of their way to utilize him a lot more than younger guys with brighter futures.

Rey Mysterio (Round 6)

Here we go with another guy in his mid-40s because Mysterio turns 45 years old in December. It’s weird how they ordered some of these picks because a few weeks ago Mysterio was in a Universal Title shot and has been a main eventer, yet he’s picked after some guys who will barely be on the show compared to him. Anyway, I think Rey has always had a strong connection to WWE fans for a long time. I like his promo work of late and he’s still very good in the ring. I wouldn’t mind seeing him team with Carrillo once in a while in a mentor/student type of connection, but there’s also the story of Rey and his son Dominick becoming a wrestler too. Rey is one of my favorite wrestlers of the last 25 years. No doubt about it.

Titus O’Neil (Round 6)

I saw a stat this week that said the last time O’Neil had a match on Raw was in August 2018. That doesn’t count the comedy 24/7 Title. Keep in mind that he has been healthy. They just don’t use him. O’Neil wrestles on WWE Main Event (which is taped before Raw) and he works most live events. They just don’t have any use for him on television apparently. At least he got drafted unlike some of the free agents.

Liv Morgan (Round 6)

The word potential comes to mind with Liv because she’s only 25 years old. I mention age a lot because it’s important when trying to analyze some of these picks. I think somebody like Liv is about trying to build her for the future. They need to get her in the ring with some of the better, more experienced women on Raw like Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Asuka and others in order to help Liv improve. Perhaps there will be a Riott Squad reunion soon since Sarah Logan is on Raw, plus Ruby Riott should be back early next year after double shoulder surgery. I like Liv’s potential a lot, but it may be a few years until she’s one of the top women in WWE.

 

Friday Night Smackdown

WWE Champion Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman (Round 1)

This pick wasn’t a surprise at all since the WWE Championship is associated with Smackdown while Lesnar is WWE’s highest paid and most bankable star right now. We know Fox Sports wants more mainstream attractions on their show. Lesnar is arguably the most well-known guy in all of WWE right now. It’s going to be interesting to see if WWE pays Lesnar enough to have him appear on a near weekly basis and if he wrestles on TV occasionally because that would help the ratings for sure. I know a lot of people reading this don’t like Lesnar, but there’s no question he brings a lot of value to WWE and that’s why Vince McMahon pays him a lot of money.

Looking ahead for Brock, I really hope they don’t do Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania next year. Reigns has been out of the WWE Title picture this year. I doubt that lasts much longer. I just don’t want to see Lesnar vs. Reigns again because we’ve seen it so many times.

The New Day – Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods (Round 1)

The popular New Day trio remains on Smackdown where they have been for a few years. I actually thought a move to Raw was coming since it would be a change for them, but WWE likely wanted to keep them where they are as mainstays on the blue brand. It was a great year for Kofi Kingston although the way he lost the WWE Title to Brock Lesnar in ten seconds was disappointing to see. We know they’ll always be in contention for the Tag Team Titles as well.

Is a breakup coming for them at some point within the next year? I don’t see it happening, but never say never in wrestling. I like them as a group and I know all three guys have said they want to stay together until retirement. That’s nice in theory, but we’ve seen too many breakups in wrestling to really believe it’s going to last that long.

Daniel Bryan (Round 2)

Bryan has been on Smackdown since he was the GM in July 2016 and he’s still there as a wrestlers. I’ve said it many times in the past and I’ll continue to say it – Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler in WWE. By wrestler that includes everything from matches to promos to being successful as a heel or face and everything else you want to consider. The last few months have seen him not wrestling as much, but in the first half of the year I thought he was amazing. I’ll miss his heel turn if he’s back to being a face. Hopefully there’s a good storyline for him because he needs something interesting to do now.

Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley (Round 2)

The heel turn of Bayley became official last week when she cut her and also cut her inflatable “Bayley Buddies” balloons that were part of her entrance for the last five plus years. Bayley also regained her Smackdown Women’s Title, so she’ll be at the center of the women’s division. With her buddy Sasha Banks also on the show, I think the long term story may be a Banks face turn to challenge for the title (perhaps at WrestleMania), but short term they should dominate on Smackdown.

Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura with Sami Zayn (Round 3)

I have enjoyed the Nakamura and Zayn duo although I wish Zayn was featured more as a wrestler. Clearly, somebody in WWE may not like Zayn as a solo act. It might be Vince McMahon since Zayn doesn’t come off as a big personality on his own. I think Nakamura has been booked well as IC Champion. There are plenty of babyfaces he could feud with whether it’s a fellow veteran like Daniel Bryan, a former rival like Ali or somebody new like Shorty Gable.

Ali (Round 3)

The exciting Ali (who really should be able to use the full name Mustafa Ali) remains a Smackdown guy with a lot of potential. I love his matches. He’s very exciting on offense, but he also sells big moves as well as anybody in WWE. The way he takes a bump into the ring post, for example, is perfect. This guy is great. With that said, he’s not booked like a big enough star right now. I hope he’s in line for a push.

Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler (Round 4)

The veteran heels that have only teamed up for a few months are useful either as a team or in singles. I don’t think it matters what role they are in because you know they are going to produce good matches and promos when given the chance. Are fans clamoring for either guy to get pushed? I don’t think so, there’s nothing wrong with them being together.

Carmella (Round 4)

Smackdown needed some babyface women, so it was a good call to have Carmella stay on the blue brand where she’s been for over three years. I don’t think she’s as good as some of the best WWE women in the ring, but she gets good reactions from the fans. Carmella also gets to be on the same show as boyfriend announcer Corey Graves, which will make both of them happy.

The Miz (Round 5)

It was weird to see The Miz drop so far since he’s arguably a main event still and has accomplished a lot in WWE in the last 15 years. It’s not like he is way past his prime at 39 years old. The face run of Miz has not been booked well since he lost to Shane McMahon multiple times, which was silly and instead of having him get rid of Shane, they had Kevin Owens do it. I don’t think Miz got the proper revenge for Shane humiliating Miz and his dad, George.

It’s also weird to see Miz on Smackdown since it’s a Fox show and his Miz & Mrs. reality show is on USA Network. You would think USA Network would prefer him on the network where they are producing his reality show. It’s rumored that he was a name that WWE changed their minds about after the initial lists came out, so maybe he was going to be on Raw and they decided to move him. It doesn’t matter that much. Miz is a solid veteran talent.

“King” Baron Corbin (Round 5)

Here’s another guy that dropped a lot lower than you would expect. Perhaps it was on purpose and it will be something for Corbin to complain about. They could use it in a storyline where he’s pissed off about being picked in round five considering he won King of the Ring and all his other accomplishment. He can feud with Ali over it, for example, since Ali was picked two rounds before him. I don’t know if that’s a plan, but it’s certainly a possible angle for him.

Chad “Shorty” Gable (Round 6)

The name “Shorty” Gable pisses me off and it’s not because I’m a short man because I’m 6’1” – it’s because the name is crap! The guy was in the Olympics and you don’t need to change the name to emphasize that he is short. We can see. On the plus side, at least WWE is utilizing Gable more and he is winning over the fans with strong performances every time he has a chance to have a long match. I’d love to see him challenge Shinsuke Nakamura for the IC Title. That would be a lot of fun to watch.

Elias (Round 6)

It’s interesting to see how far Elias has fallen. I’m not sure if management has soured him due to his performance in the ring or what it may be, but earlier in the year he was feuding with Roman Reigns and in angles with Shane McMahon. Now he’s the last pick for Smackdown in the second part of the draft. I feel like his guitar playing gimmick is limited although at least it makes him stand out in a company where there aren’t enough gimmicks for wrestlers. It seems like Raw would have been a better fit because when he was there they had more time for his “concerts” and while on Smackdown, he rarely gets to do that. I’m not sure what the plan is for him on Smackdown.

Free Agents

The following people were not drafted, but they were assigned to Raw or Smackdown on Wednesday morning. I’ll just paste in most of what I wrote earlier today.

MONDAY NIGHT RAW

  • No Way Jose
  • Mojo Rawley
  • Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins
  • Sarah Logan
  • The IIconics – Peyton Royce & Billie Kay

The group of Jose, Rawley, Ryder, Hawkins and Logan remain on Raw where they already were. The IIconics are the only new additions. They haven’t got that much TV time since being off Smackdown, so maybe they’ll get more time on Raw. Logan is married to Erik of the Viking Raiders, so it’s not a surprise she would be on that show. As I mentioned earlier, Logan’s Riott Squad buddy Liv Morgan was drafted to Raw and their leader Ruby Riott is going to return from double shoulder surgery soon, so maybe there will be a Riott Squad reunion.

 

FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN

  • Luke Harper
  • Cesaro
  • Drake Maverick
  • Fire & Desire – Sonya Deville​​​​​​ & Mandy Rose
  • Dana Brooke

Harper was already on Smackdown after months of inactivity. Hopefully he gets used again. Cesaro is the one guy in this list that sticks out as somebody that should have been drafted. You’re telling me Titus O’Neil is a better pick than him? It’s silly. Drake Maverick was booked in a serious match on 205 Live once, but is otherwise a manager or comedy guy. Since he’s the GM of 205 Live, it makes sense for him to be on Smackdown. I think he should be a manager again. Deville and Rose were already on Smackdown. I think they should have been drafted too. Dana Brooke was on Raw for the last three years, so it’s a change for her, but it may be harder for her to break out since Smackdown is one hour shorter than Raw.

The AOP tag team of Akam and Rezar have not been assigned to Raw or Smackdown yet. Perhaps it’s back to NXT? I don’t know what the plan is.

The Usos and Naomi (Jimmy Uso is nominated to Naomi) were not part of the draft even though they are healthy. They have just been on a break. Matt Hardy’s another name that wasn’t part of it. There are others too. This whole thing has been unorganized and a bit of a mess by WWE.

That’s all for now. I may do another column this week looking at both shows with a list of wrestlers that are faces and heels, but I’m not sure if I’ll have time with all the reviews I do in a regular week.

Thanks for reading. Go Los Angeles Rams, reigning NBA Champions #WeTheNorth Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook