KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
OCTOBER 11, 2019
LAS VEGAS, NV AT T-MOBILE ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-The show opened with the new intro video, followed by a massive pyro display. “The entire landscape of WWE changes tonight,” Michael Cole exclaimed as the camera panned around the T-Mobile Arena. Cole said they were poised to “set the tone for the night” with the opening match.
-Roman Reigns’ music played and he stepped onto the stage and looked around. His patented fist slam gave way to a huge blast of pyro, after which Greg Hamilton introduced him. Michael Cole said Reigns would act as Smackdown’s representative in this matchup. He and Corey discussed how the winner of this match would secure first pick for his respective brand.
Raw’s representative, Seth Rollins, entered next. The crowd yelled along to “burn it down.” Michael Cole and Corey Graves set the table for the evening as Seth walked to the ring. Graves said representatives from Fox and USA network are on hand to make selections in the draft. Cole and Graves announced that Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman would hold a press conference later tonight.
(1) ROMAN REIGNS vs. SETH ROLLINS
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins circled the ring slowly. Rollins offered a fist bump, Reigns obliged. Seth grabbed a side headlock. Reigns broke the hold, shot Rollins off the ropes and took him down with a shoulder tackle. Rollins popped up and the two locked up again. Rollins applied another side headlock. Rollins tried for a side headlock takeover, but Reigns blocked it. He lifted Seth into the air, but Seth rolled him through.
They locked up again. They jockeyed for position in the corner. Rollins rolled up Reigns for a quick two count. Reigns dropped the outside. Rollins dropkicked him through the ropes. He attempted the suicide dive, but Reigns caught him with a forearm. Reigns went for the drive-by, but Rollins ducked out of the way.
Both men returned to the center of the ring. Reigns shoved Rollins. Rollins hit Reigns with a right hand. They began trading punches. Seth gained the upper hand initially, but Roman dropped him with a clothesline. Reigns knocked Rollins to the outside. Michael Cole sent the show to commercial.
Rollins had Reigns on the mat in a sleeper hold when the show returned from break. Reigns fought his way to his feet. Rollins went for a suplex, but Reigns blocked it. Rollins tried repeatedly, unsuccessfully. Seth rolled Roman up, but Roman scooped Seth off the mat and hit a sit-out power bomb for a two count.
Reigns set up for the Superman Punch. He charged, but Rollins caught him and sent him crashing into the middle turnbuckle. Rollins tossed Reigns to the outside, then hit two consecutive suicide dives to the outside. He tossed Reigns back into the ring and followed up with the springboard knee. Rollins ascended to the top rope. He hit Reigns with a big frog splash for a near fall.
Rollins geared up for the stomp. He caught Reigns with a kick to the mid-section. He went from the stomp, but Reigns side-stepped it and hit him with an uppercut. Rollins stumbled into the ropes and shot back at Reigns with a super kick. Reigns dropped to his knees. Rollins hit him with a second kick. He lifted Reigns into a power bomb position and launched him at the turnbuckle. Reigns bounced back and connected with the Superman Punch for a two count.
Both men struggled to their feet. Reigns backed into the corner and set up for the spear. He charged at Rollins, but Seth caught Roman in mid-air and hit the Pedigree. Rollins hooked Reigns’ leg for a believable near fall. Rollins pounded the mat, setting up for the stomp again. The lights cut out.
The Fiend popped up through the mat and grabbed Rollins with the Mandible Claw. He pulled Seth under the ring with him. The lights cut out again. When they returned, Rollins was on the mat in the middle of the ring, clutching his throat. The Fiend popped his head up from the hole in the canvas and started at Rollins. He disappeared back into the hole. The lights cut out again, and The Fiend’s maniacal laugh played.
The Fiend appeared at the top of the stage, staring back at Rollins. The lights went out and the show went to commercial.
WINNER: Seth Rollins by disqualification in 15:00
-The show returned from break with a live look in at the Draft “War Rooms” for both Fox and USA. Both rooms featured a bunch of people sitting around a conference table looking busy. Corey Graves said Raw is officially on the clock as a result of what happened with The Fiend and Seth Rollins before the break. The replayed a clip of the attack.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match with appropriately big stakes. Cole and Graves did a nice job selling this match as a big deal and crucial to each brand’s success in the draft. Both Rollins and Reigns worked this match like it meant something, and as a result, it felt like a big deal. The action was solid. The spear into Pedigree counter was excellent. The Fiend’s appearance, though predictable, was handled extremely well. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was The Fiend’s most effective appearance to date. Coming up through the ring was a spot that works for this character, and it got the crowd riled up. I’m not usually big on DQ finishes to important matches, but I think this was the right call. Both guys were protected and The Fiend got a little bounce-back coming out of Hell in a Cell. Kudos to Cole and Graves as well for clearly explaining what the finish of the match was and why Raw now holds the first pick in the draft.)
-Cole and Graves ran down the official rules for tonight’s draft. Stephanie McMahon’s music played and she walked out to a podium positioned atop the stage. She welcomed the audience to the draft. She reiterated that Fox and USA executives have control.
Stephanie announced the first pick of the draft, headed to Raw, Becky Lynch. She then announced Smackdown’s first pick, Roman Reigns. Raw’s next pick was The O.C. (A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson.) Smackdown’s second pick was The Fiend, Bray Wyatt. The final pick of the third round, belonging to Raw, was Drew McIntyre.
Michael Cole threw to a clip of the Fox War Room celebrating the securement of their first round pick, Roman Reigns.
ROUND 1 Recap
RAW: Becky Lynch, The O.C. (A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson), Drew McIntyre
SMACKDOWN: Roman Reigns, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
-The camera cut to the draft panel, positioned at the back of the arena. Renee Young sat alongside Booker T, Beth Phoenix, and Samoa Joe. They discussed the merits of the first round. Joe played it straight, offering insight on what he felt was a strong pick by Raw in Drew McIntyre.
-“King” Baron Corbin headed to the ring. Graves lamented that Corbin must be disappointed that he hasn’t been picked yet. Corbin said he planned to make short work of “Shorty” Gable. He said it doesn’t matter if he’s drafted to Raw and Smackdown, he just wants to share his plans as king. He said he’s going to sit in his throne, high in his castle because he can’t stand the smell of filth from the audience. ‘All hail King Corbin,” he said. Cole said Corbin would face Gable able the break.
-Michael Cole threw to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman when the show returned from break. Buck talked up Troy Aikman being the number one overall pick in the NFL draft, and the importance of going number one overall. He asked Troy what his signature move in a fight would be. Troy said it would be a piledriver.
-Chad Gable headed to the ring, now officially known as Shorty Gable. Cole threw to footage from Gable and Corbin’s match at Hell in a Cell.
(2) “KING” BARON CORBIN vs. SHORTY GABLE
Corbin tossed Gable into the corner as the bell rang. He gave him a big hip toss. Gable rolled to the outside. Corbin followed him out and threw him into the ringside barricade. Corbin scooped up Gable, who slid down Corbin’s back and shot him into the ring post. Gable brought Corbin back into the ring.
Gable began working over Corbin’s leg. Corbin fought to his feet and hit Gable with a big booth for a two count. Corbin pounded on Gable’s back, then taunted the crowd. Gable retreated to the corner. Corbin charged at him, but Gable sidestepped, sending Corbin through the bottom rope and to the outside.
Gable hit a running basement dropkick through the topes. He attacked Corbin on the outside. Corbin quickly regained control, throwing Gable onto the announcer’s desk. He gave him a chokeslam onto the announcers table. The show went to commercial.
Corbin had Gable seated on the top rope when the show returned from commercial. Gable fought Corbin off and headed back to the mat. Corbin scooped up Gable for Deep Six, but Gable countered it into a bulldog. Corbin headed to the corner. Gable hit a pair of rolling sentons on Corbin, who dropped to his knees and rolled to the outside. Gable pursued.
Gable dropkicked Corbin into the timekeeper’s area. He tossed Corbin back in the ring and climbed to the top rope. Gable connected with a big moonsault from the top rope for a near fall. Both men returned to their feet. Gable when for the rolling German suplex, but Corbin fought him off and planted him to the mat for a two count.The official checked on Gable while Corbin caught his breath.
Corbin went for End of Days, but Gable slipped out of it and hit the rolling German suplex into a bridge. Corbin kicked out at two. Gable hit a second German suplex and tried for a third, but Corbin blocked it. Corbin tossed Gable up into the air, but Gable countered it into a roll up for a two count. Gable rolled into the ankle lock. Corbin crawled to the ropes, but Gable pulled him away. Corbin rolled to his back, but Gable rolled into a cover. Corbin kicked out.
Gable charged at Corbin. Corbin caught him and hit the End of the Days for a three count.
WINNER: “King” Baron Corbin in 9:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid match. These two have worked with each other recently to put together some decent chemistry. Unfortunately, this is just another instance of WWE’s 50/50 booking. Neither guy really comes out of this angle having gained anything. Also, it makes me cringe to even officially address Chad Gable as “Shorty” Gable. It’s ridiculous, it’s low-brow, and it’s flat out bad.)
-Michael Cole tossed to the crew of Fox NFL Sunday. They talked about the importance of the draft in building a franchise. Terry Bradshaw said his number one, all time, is Dusty Rhodes. Howie Long took Bruno Sammartino. Michael Strahan choose Ric Flair. Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan were also mentioned.
-Back in the arena, Stephanie McMahon stood at the podium for round two of the draft. She announced that Raw chose Randy Orton. Smackdown chose Sasha Banks. Raw selected Ricochet. Smackdown’s final pick of the second round was Braun Strowman. Raw selected Bobby Lashley.
-Michael Cole showed the USA War Room’s reaction as they drafted Randy Orton to Raw. The whole conference table shot to their feet, hooting and hollering and giving each other high fives.
ROUND 2 Recap
RAW: Randy Orton, Ricochet, Bobby Lashley
SMACKDOWN: Sasha Banks, Braun Strowman
-Renee Young welcomed everyone back to the draft panel. Beth Phoenix said it was great strategy for the brands to select “powerhouses” in Strowman and Lashley. Samoa Joe gave the edge to Raw for selecting youth anchored by experience. Booker T compared Smackdown to the New York Yankees because they’re “spending a lot of money.” Renee Young threw to recap of the conflict between Braun Strowman and Tyson Fury.
-Braun Strowman was shown talking on his phone backstage. The camera cut to Tyson Fury talking to an unnamed suit backstage. Corey Graves and Michael Cole hyped their match at Crown Jewel. The show went to commercial.
-Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman made their way to the ring when the show returned from commercial. Michael Cole hyped Lensar’s match against ain Velasquez for the WWE title, scheduled for Crown Jewel.
As the second hour began, Paul Heyman introduced himself as the advocate for the reigning, defending, undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world, Brock Lesnar. Heyman said he and Brock couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enlighten and educate everyone. Heyman said “mere beings” cower in the face of fear and confrontation. He pondered what Brock Lesnar fears. Heyman said Lesnar fears only one thing in life – reliving October 23rd, 2010. That, Heyman said, is when Cain Velasquez victimized, bloodied, and beat Brock Lesnar.
Heyman said it was an unheard of first round TKO. “Brock Lesnar has never offered a single excuse about that night, because Brock Lesnar doesn’t have any excuses about that night. That’s the kind of fighter Cain Velasquez is.” Heyman said Lesnar was forced to face the ghost and fear of his past. “Brock Lesnar embraces facing his fears, because Brock Lesnar conquers his fears.”
Heyman said Brock well conquer the nightmare of his past on October 31st at Crown Jewel. Heyman said you’ll be able to roll this clip back in a few weeks, because it’s not a prediction. Rey Mysterio’s music hit, cutting Paul off.
Rey Mysterio stepped onto the stage with Cain Velasquez. “Not so fast,” Rey said. He pointed to still images from Lesnar’s fight with Cain in 2010. Cole and Graves talked about the fight, and Lesnar’s stunning defeat. Back in the ring, Lesnar outlined the scar below his eye that he still has from the fight.
“I’ll beat you again, ” Cain said. He delivered a line in Spanish. Rey said Cain said he plans to give Lesnar a matching scar on the other side of his face. Lesnar grew irritated. Heyman held him back. Rey’s music played as Cole and Graves sold the match-up.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Great segment. Short, and to the point. Heyman sold Cain as the ultimate opponent for Lesnar, which is great for the sake of the angle, but a little disconcerting in the grand scheme of building the stars the company has full time. I’m still not terribly interested in this, but I realize it may simply not be for me. Cain appears to be over with the crowd. I wonder, though, if they’d be substantially better off putting this on Fox rather than a Saudi Arabia show that many Network subscribers refuse to watch on principle alone.)
-Backstage, New Day stood in gorilla position. Big E delivered his signature introduction. Kofi carried a plate of pancakes. A graphic announced that their six man tag match would be coming after the break.
-New Day were dancing atop the stage when the show returned from break. Cole said they had an announcement to make. First, he tossed to a breast cancer awareness video package. Back live, Kofi said New Day takes being able to promote the power of positivity very seriously. He said they’re proud to be partnered with Susan G. Komen. Big E welcomed the two women from the video package, Samantha and Sarah Veilleux, survivors of breast cancer.
Xavier Woods said the women were winners of the Champions of Hope contest. He recounted their story. Woods said they’re two of the strongest people New Day has met. He said they were proud of them. He gave them replica championship belts. New Day headed to the ring for their match. Kofi tossed out pancakes excitedly as though he didn’t just lose the WWE title in four seconds a week ago. The O.C. headed to the ring next.
(3) THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E & Xavier Woods) vs. THE O.C. (A.J. Styles & Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson)
Xavier Woods and Luke Gallows began the match. Gallows took down Woods with a big boot immediately. He challenged Big E and Kofi to get in the ring. With the referee distracted, Styles and Anderson beat down Woods at ringside. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Anderson and Woods were both on the mat when the show returned from the break. Woods made a tag into Kofi Kingston, Anderson made a tag into A.J. Styles. Kofi hit Styles repeatedly with leaping clotheslines. He connected with the boom drop, then set up for Trouble in Paradise. Gallows hopped up onto the apron, but Kofi knocked him off.
Styles charged at Kofi, Kofi caught him with a kick. He climbed to the top rope and hit Styles with a cross body off the top. He covered Styles, but Anderson broke up the count. Big E got into the ring and gave Anderson an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Gallows ran in and caught Big E with a big boot. Xavier Woods hit Gallows with a tornado DDT. Gallows and Anderson rolled to the outside. Woods flew over the top rope and took them both out.
Styles and Kingston were left alone in the ring. Kofi dumped Styles onto the apron. Styles hit a forearm. He leaped onto the ropes for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Kofi ducked it and set up for the SOS. Styles fought out of it and set up for the Styles Clash. Kofi flipped out of it and hit a dropkick. Styles backed into the ropes. Kofi charged, Styles caught him and rolled through the Calf Crusher, but Kingston rolled free. Styles immediately rolled Kofi up for a two count.
Styles hoisted Kofi onto his shoulder, but Kingston flipped free and clear onto his feet. He ducked a shot from Styles and connected with Trouble in Paradise for the three count.
WINNERS: The New Day in 6:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Not much to this one, but a much-needed rebound win for New Day, and more specifically, Kofi Kingston, following last week’s debacle. I appreciated Cole and Graves specifically discussing Kofi’s positivity following the loss, but I still dislike the demeanor overall. Kofi’s momentum came to a screeching halt last week and he’s playing it off as though he doesn’t care at all. Perhaps this will lead to more character development down the road, but as of right now, it feels like Kingston will just casually slip back into his jovial character without so much as a second thought about his heartbreaking defeat. I hope I’m wrong.)
-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves recapped the opening match, specifically The Fiend’s attack on Seth Rollins.
-Stephanie McMahon returned to the podium to announce round three of the draft. Raw’s first pick was Alexa Bliss. The Fox War Room was shown looking frustrated and upset that they lost out on Bliss. Smackdown chose Lacey Evans next. Raw’s second pick was Kevin Owens. Smackdown’s final pick of the third round was The Revival. With their final pick of the round, Raw selected Natalya. The USA War Room was shown looking comically excited about their picks.
ROUND 3 Recap
RAW: Alexa Bliss, Kevin Owens, Natalya
SMACKDOWN: Lacey Evans, The Revival
-Charlotte Flair was shown backstage stretching. Corey Graves hyped her match with Bayley for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. The show went to commercial.
-Stephanie McMahon was back at the podium for the fourth and final round of the draft to be broadcast on Smackdown. She announced that Raw had selected the Viking Raiders. Smackdown chose Lucha House Party (Kalisto, Gran Metalik, and Lince Dorado) with their first pick of the fourth round. Next, Raw selected Nikki Cross. Smackdown’s final pick was Heavy Machinery. The Fox War Room was shown celebrating less enthusiastically than USA’s. Stephanie announced that Raw’s final pick was the Street Profits.
ROUND 4 Recap
RAW: The Viking Raiders, Nikki Cross, The Street Profits
SMACKDOWN: Lucha House Party, Heavy Machinery
-Renee Young took over from the draft panel. She asked Samoa Joe for his final thoughts. He sided with Raw. Beth Phoenix sided with Smackdown. Booker T said both sides were awesome, but he was particularly excited about Raw’s selection of Ricochet.
Renee Young confirmed that anyone in the available pool that was not drafted on tonight’s live show are now considered free agents, able to sign with either brand. She said to visit WWE.com for up-to-date information.
-Charlotte Flair headed to the ring for the main event. Corey Graves said he hopes Charlotte remains on Smackdown. Cole said the main event was next.
-After the break, Cole and Graves cited press coverage surrounding the Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury match at Crown Jewel. They then recapped Charlotte and Bayley’s match from Hell in a Cell.
-In the ring, Charlotte stood stoically awaiting her opponent. Bayley headed to the ring sporting a new entrance coat with a hood. She unleashed the Bayley Buddies, but then the music cut out. She removed her coat, revealing shorter, darker hair. Bayley grabbed a pick from the ground. She sliced open the Bayley Buddies, one by one. She tossed a couple of them off the stage, then walked to the ring.
(4) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. BAYLEY – Smackdown Women’s Title match
Bayley attacked Charlotte as son as the bell rang. The two women jostled for control in the corner. Charlotte gained the upper hand and hit a neck breaker. Bayley retreated to ringside. Charlotte climbed outside and tossed her into the barricade. She grabbed Bayley and threw her over the barricade into the crowd. Bayley fought back and dropped Flair by her hair.
Bayley climbed back into the ringside area and slammed Charlotte’s head off the ring steps. She slid back in the ring and smiled at the camera as Cole sent the show to commercial.
Bayley had a side headlock on Charlotte when the show returned from the break. She pulled Charlotte to the mat by the arm and then hung her up in the middle rope. Bayley kicked at Charlotte, downed her, and covered her for a two count. She slapped on a side headlock again.
Charlotte fought free with punches to the ribs. Bayley grabbed the headlock again. Cole remarked how well Bayley was controlling Flair. Bayley got tossed onto the apron by Charlotte. She caught Charlotte with a kick and went for a guillotine through the ropes, but Flair tossed her to the floor. Charlotte dove over the top rope and onto Bayley. She tossed Bayley back in the ring.
Flair connected with a number of chops. She whipped Bayley into the corner and hit another big chop. She followed up with an overhead slam. Charlotte grabbed at Bayley’s leg, but Bayley grabbed the ropes for leverage. Bayley recovered. Charlotte gave her a big boot to the floor. Charlotte went outside to recover her challenger. Charlotte climbed the barricade and hit a moonsault onto Bayley. Both women returned to the ring. Charlotte covered Bayley for a two count.
Charlotte grabbed at Bayley’s leg again. Bayley kicked Charlotte in the knee. Bayley hit the Bayley to Belly, but Charlotte kicked out at two. Bayley got frustrated with the referee. Charlotte recovered and dumped Bayley face first into the turnbuckle. She climbed to the top rope and went for a moonsault, but Bayley got her knees up. Charlotte caught her legs and rolled her into a Boston Crab. Bayley reached the ropes, but Charlotte pulled her away.
Charlotte tried to turn over into the Figure Four, but Bayley kicked her into the turnbuckle. She rolled up Charlotte and put her feet on the ropes. Charlotte kicked out at two. Bayley began pounding away at Charlotte. She hit a back suplex, then a running knee into the bottom turnbuckle. She dragged Flair to the center of the ring and climbed to the top rope. Bayley hit the elbow for a near fall.
Bayley began arguing with the referee again. Charlotte recovered and caught Bayley with Natural Selection from behind. She turned Bayley for the Figure Four. Bayley grabbed Charlotte’s hair and pulled her into a pin. She scored a surprise three count.
WINNER: Bayley in 12:00 to become the new Smackdown Women’s Champion
Bayley celebrated with the title as Charlotte looked on in surprise and disappointment. New, generic rock music played for Bayley.
-Michael Cole promoted night two of the draft, this coming Monday on Raw. They showed a graphic of the remaining wrestlers eligible for the next rounds.
-Back live, Bayley stood in the ring with a microphone. “Hey bitches,” Bayley smiled, “screw all of you.” She threw the mic down. Her new music played again as she held up the title. The show faded out.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Huh. Okay. Let me preface this by saying I’m fine this decision if, and only if, it doesn’t lead to Charlotte Flair winning her eleventh women’s title in a matter of weeks. If this was a vehicle to officially, fully turn Bayley and get the title on her long term, then I take no umbrage with how this occurred. I liked the match, though I don’t think anyone needs to go out of their way to check it out unless you’re curious about Bayley’s new look and music. I’m interested to see where this goes.)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS: Though tonight was centered around the draft, it was anchored by two pretty big matches, as well as a key segment for Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. I thought all three of those segments delivered. In fact, I’d argue this show was a slight improvement over last week’s debut, though it obviously lacked the star power.
FULL DRAFT RECAP
RAW: Becky Lynch, The O.C. (A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson), Drew McIntyre, Randy Orton, Ricochet, Bobby Lashley, Alexa Bliss, Kevin Owens, Natalya, The Viking Raiders, Nikki Cross, The Street Profits
SMACKDOWN: Roman Reigns, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, Sasha Banks, Braun Strowman, Lacey Evans, The Revival, Lucha House Party, Heavy Machinery
(LeClair’s Analysis: I wanted to save my thoughts on specific draft choices, and the presentation of the picks until the show had concluded, as I found it trivial to analyze round by round with so many moving parts and ineligible roster members. I thought they did really well in terms of formatting. Unlike previous editions of the draft, this felt like a big sporting event. You could tell they were trying very hard to mimic the feels and aesthetic of the NFL Draft, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. They did so with mixed results. The live War Room look ins were a fantastic detail, but I thought they went a little to heavy-handed on the celebrations. It’s good to present network executives as being supremely familiar with the roster top to bottom and excited to celebrate their perceived victories, but some of this crossed into the territory of parody. Still, kudos to them for trying something new.
Renee Young’s draft panel was a solid addition as well. Samoa Joe played the reliably Raw-centric analyst, while Beth Phoenix sided heavily with Smackdown. Booker T mostly stumbled over his talking points and made little sense. Samoa Joe was particularly poised and articulate, playing the role of a straight analyst, not unlike former football players turned talking heads. I don’t know what Joe has left of his in-ring career, but he should unquestionably give some consideration to filling this type of role when he does decide to hang it up. He’s very good.
As for the picks themselves, I disliked the way the roster was split up for eligibility. It’s unlikely that anyone had a score card sitting in front of them to refer to which wrestlers weren’t eligible to be drafted until Monday, so the result was a constant feeling of “well what about ______ (insert wrestler here.)” It’s no surprise that Lynch and Reigns went first overall to their respective brands. I suspect Rollins and Lesnar will occupy the first two picks on Monday.
At first glance, it seems as though Raw is working with a slightly more balanced roster, though that’s to be expected given the extra picks. I did like that there seemed to be an emphasis on all major divisions – we saw multiple tag teams drafted high, and of course, a large group of women as major picks.
I’m intrigued by the prospect of Kevin Owens as a babyface on Raw with room to breathe. Smackdown’s limited real estate and focus on big stars may have left him a little lost on Friday nights, so I think Raw will be a good fit. Becky Lynch appears to be the anchor of the B-brand, which is nothing to squawk at. At first glance, Braun Strowman seems slightly out of place on Smackdown until you consider the tonal shift the show has undergone now that it’s become the primary property. I like the idea of Sasha Banks, and by extension, mostly likely Bayley, anchoring the Smackdown women’s division and I expect Charlotte to act as the primary foil to the two of them. Bray Wyatt, to me, felt poised to be positioned as the top heel on Raw, but I’m intrigued as to how he fits into the more “mainstream” presentation of Smackdown. I was most pleasantly surprised by the high selection of Drew McIntyre to Raw. Hopefully this means bigger and better things are on the way for a grossly underutilized talent.
Unsurprisingly, it looks like Smackdown may wind up aligning more closely with Vince McMahon’s vision of an “A” roster, seeing as it is now the primary show. It’s futile to judge until we see how things shake out in their entirety.)