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Who REALLY Won the WWE Draft Tuesday Night?
- Updated: July 21, 2016
On Tuesday night, during the first ever edition of Smackdown Live, the WWE officially split its roster. A total of 59 competitors (six by way of NXT) across the two distinct brands were selected in the first WWE Draft since 2011. At face value, it would appear that Raw ran the table by securing three of the five major championships. As a result, this should create much better tag team and women’s divisions. Getting three picks for every two based on length of shows, only time will tell which brand reigns supreme.
The brands themselves will continue to compete for that supremacy, even if it is on an uneven playing field. Here’s an early look at the two rosters. How things shook out Tuesday night does point to some obvious winners and of course, losers as well.
So, who REALLY won the WWE Draft?
Seth Rollins (#1 Raw, #1 overall)
Despite not being able to walk away with the WWE Championship, Seth Rollins still had a great night as he was the first overall pick selected. Rollins is a versatile performer who could very well be the next big headliner. His recent performances as a heel have been second to none. He is one of the best in the ring and on the mic and is more than over with the crowd.
The only question mark surrounding Rollins is if he can be the next great babyface. His Shield run and the crowd’s obvious desire to cheer him suggest he won’t have a problem transitioning to the role when he is eventually called on to do so. In the meantime, Rollins fits in perfectly with Stephanie as the boss and is absolutely the right pick to lead the flagship show. Not to mention, he could be the guy to bring the championship back to Raw on Sunday at Battleground.
.@WWERollins joins Jared Goff, Austen Matthews, Mickey Moniak, Ben Simmons and Breanna Stewart as No. 1 overall picks this year.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) July 20, 2016
Randy Orton (#4 Smackdown, #9 overall)
For a guy who is likely nearing the end of his career and who has been absent from the WWE since October with a ba shoulder/neck injury, this was a higher draft position for him than I think most people expected. That said, Orton, when healthy,is capable of delivering a well worked match against just about anybody and even still, is a fan-favorite and one of the most over guys on the roster.
He’s gearing towards a huge feud with Brock Lesnar at Summerslam and his return is the most anticipated thing within the WWE right now. His stock is high and he can still perform at a high level. Not to mention,with feuds against Bray Wyatt and Baron Corbin likely in his future, Orton can put over young talent. On a smaller roster, he could even see one final title run. He’ll be a focal point of Smackdown for sure.
Dean Ambrose (#1 Smackdown, #2 overall)
Seth Rollins being drafted before John Cena was one thing, but Dean Ambrose as well? Even with the man currently serving as the company’s top champion, his selection as the second overall pick in the WWE Draft comes as a bit of a surprise. Ambrose has long been the forgotten member of the Shield and some have attributed his recent title run to nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. The transitional champion may end up having more value as he is going to serve as the top face on the Smackdown roster.
Separated from both Rollins and Roman Reigns (#4 Raw, #6 overall), Ambrose finally has a chance to step out of his former brothers’ shadow and as Smackdown’s top pick, is in a position to thrive without those two to contend against. Clearly, the WWE brass see potential in him as more than just a upper mid card guy and this draft selection proves it.
— Dean-Ambrose.Net (@DeanAmbroseNet) July 20, 2016
Sami Zayn (#7 Raw, #11 overall)
Stop the presses. Sami Zayn was drafted ahead of Kevin Owens. While this hasn’t done the man any favors in the mind of his mortal enemy, this was a huge win for Zayn. A great worker and talent in his own right, the fact that Owens (#11 Raw, #18 overall) fell so low was pretty surprising. The fact that Zayn went before him, however, might have been even more so.
There hasn’t been as much buzz around Zayn. He’s a guy who some have suggested is being made to intentionally lose matches in order for the “Underdog from the Underground” to fall into a Daniel Bryan-esque storyline. Quietly though, he has put on great matches since coming up. Zayn has brought out the best in every opponent he as faced. Clearly, the WWE brass has been taking notice. With the high WWE Draft selection, expect him to feature into the main event scene for quite some time.
In splitting up the brands, it was known that there would likely be matches fans would never get to see again. While in some ways (Rollins vs Ambrose) this is the case, for the most part, WWE kept its current feuds in tact. Cena and Styles will continue to go at it on Raw alongside Lynch and Natalya, who had become a bonafide secondary feud for the women’s division. Speaking of that division, Banks and Charlotte are still together on Raw. Also together are Alexa Bliss and Carmella, whose recent NXT rivalry has been quite good. Fans will finally get to see Rollins vs Reigns one-on-one and perhaps most importantly, the rivalry between Owens and Zayns lives to fight another day. Overall, it was a very strong draft for keeping these established feuds alive.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 20, 2016
Neville (#15 Raw, #26 overall)
Returning from injury on the house show circuit recently, Neville is ready to get back to televised action. He is undoubtedly is the biggest beneficiary of landing on one brand as opposed to the other. A high-flyer by nature, Neville belongs on Raw. He should serve as the focal point for launching the new cruiserweight division. That’s not to say Neville should be pigeonholed as a cruiser forever, but he’s a great guy to build around and as the division finds its footing. Neville has all the talent that he needs to be pushed toward the U.S. title. He was drafted before the show went off the air as well, giving him a little bit of a boost in that department.
The Women’s Division
Actions speak louder than words and on Tuesday night, WWE showed that they are all-in on the women’s division. Three of the top 15 picks, including Raw’s second selection and the third pick over, WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte, belonged to the ladies who are the real reason the term “diva” seems to have been retired. Selecting Charlotte so high specifically completely legitimizes the division. That she went before names like John Cena, AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, etc is huge for her stock. Charlotte more than earned the high WWE Draft selection as she has rounded into an excellent heel champion and has really found her niche as the new “dirtiest player in the game.”
Adding Sasha Banks (#8 Raw, #13 overall), arguably the most over woman on the roster, is huge for Raw. Smackdown following up with Becky Lynch (#5 Smackdown, #14 overall), who like Dean Ambrose receives a great opportunity to shine without having to worry about Charlotte and Banks, supported their own focus on building up the women’s division across the blue brand. WWE made the commitment to have the women on separate brands. While both might seem a little thinned out, there are definite opportunities for new faces to break out and make a name for themselves on the main roster. Overall, women’s wrestling took a step forward on Tuesday night.
— WWE (@WWE) July 20, 2016
The Usos (#11 Smackdown, #32 overall)
Once the most over babyface tag team on the roster before the New Day boom, the two-time Slammy award-winning Usos find themselves in a great position thanks to the lack of depth in Smackdown’s tag team division. Picked second only to American Alpha (#9 Smackdown, #22 overall), these two teams are poised to sit atop the standings. They should provide entertaining matches whenever they go head-to-head. The Usos benefit from being away from the New Day, The Club and perhaps more importantly, away from Roman Reigns and Bloodline. Alongside American Alpha, they’ll get that exposure back at the top of the division and will have a chance to recapture what made them so successful in past runs. They’re a perfect fit for Smackdown.
Whether it was in the first NXT champion being drafted first overall, Finn Balor being taken fifth overall (#3 Raw), three of the Four Horsewomen going in the top-15, three former NXT champions (Rollins, Balor, Zayn) going in the top-11 or six superstars being promoted, NXT was put over as being a respectable third brand in a big way Tuesday night. The high selection of Balor immediately raises NXT’s stock. 10 of the top-20 overall WWE draft picks all have past ties to the developmental brand as well.
NXT is creating bonafide real stars who are going to take the WWE into the future. Thanks to this draft, there is no denying just how much value it brings to the table. There was a premium placed on these stars. Now, NXT free agents are going to be as hot a commodity as anything else. Not to mention, the NXT call-ups were purposeful and, while their women’s division took a bit of a hit, the brand was not raided as some had feared. It’s still in a great position to continue touring and drawing an audience as it has been.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 20, 2016
Bolstered by the WWE Draft and the fact that the show was making its live debut, Smackdown pulled in a ratings coup, perhaps more so than anyone expected. The blue brand increased its own viewership numbers from a 0.56 demo rating in last week’s final Thursday night show to 1.18 on Tuesday (a 111% increase) and a 53% increase in audience jumping from 2.068 million viewers to 3.17. It was also the highest ranked show on cable of the night. On top of that, in the first battle of the ratings, Smackdown came out on top of Raw (for the first time in 13 years), besting its competition by 4% in the demo and 1% in total viewership.
It is unlikely this happens on a weekly basis, especially given how the rosters are shaping up, but it was a great debut for Smackdown. The show posted its highest numbers since 2010, to kick off the new Monday/Tuesday night wars. Add to the fact that when the fall TV season kicks off and Monday Night Football and The Big Bang Theory return to screens, Smackdown has the more ideal timeslot and really could soar without that level of competition.