The WWE draft concluded Tuesday Night with 59 WWE superstars finding themselves wearing Raw red or SmackDown Live blue. Some of the picks were expected. Some of them were not. Brian Campbell and Tim Fiorvanti, representing Raw and SmackDown Live, respectively, look ahead at what's next for each of the brands.
Brian Campbell: Why Raw won the draft
Roster: Seth Rollins, Charlotte, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, The New Day, Sami Zayn, Sasha Banks, Chris Jericho, Rusev (and Lana), Kevin Owens, Enzo and Big Cass, Gallows and Anderson, Big Show, Nia Jax, Neville, Cesaro, Sheamus, Golden Truth, Titus O'Neil, Paige, Darren Young, Sin Cara, Jack Swagger, The Dudley Boyz, Summer Rae, Mark Henry, Braun Strowman, Bo Dallas, Shining Stars, Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, Curtis Axel.
It's far from surprising that the flagship three-hour Raw would come out of the WWE draft with most of the advantages. Logistically, with an extra hour of programming to fill each week, Raw was given three picks per round for every two made by SmackDown. In addition, Raw is run by a heel commissioner in Stephanie McMahon, which naturally provides the show with resources in order to gain sympathy for their dark horse opponent.
When you take a minute and compare the two rosters, however, the difference for Raw is almost an embarrassment of riches. While SmackDown is built strongly on the foundation of WWE champion Dean Ambrose, John Cena and top heels AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt, Raw has just about everyone else.
The intention of the brand extension is to create legitimate in-house competition between both brands. But after Tuesday's draft, there really isn't any competition on paper.
Raw possesses the two most popular tag teams (The New Day, Enzo Amore and Big Cass) and the two biggest rivals on the Intercontinental title level in Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Raw will also be home to the two women who are head and shoulders above everyone else in the company -- WWE champion Charlotte and Sasha Banks.
In addition, Raw boasts NXT's top pure talent in Finn Balor, who not only appears ready to enter the main event level, but has an opportunity to reunite with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson from their days in Japan as The Bullet Club. All this and I haven't yet mentioned the three biggest names on the Raw roster: Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.
One thing SmackDown does have is a group of promising and unproven talent, not to mention an underdog identity behind the on-screen leadership of babyface commissioner Shane McMahon and GM Daniel Bryan. But if you only have time to watch one WWE show each week, that show will be Raw. End of discussion.
Raw's biggest steal
Raw had a number of them, including The New Day slipping to No. 10 and Rusev at No. 16., but nothing tops Enzo Amore and Big Cass at No. 20. While the smack-talking duo still have more to prove in the ring, they are solid gold on the mic and, like The New Day, can carry a 15-20 minute segment on their own. They also represent something fresh and new about where WWE is headed, which would have made them an instant cornerstone for SmackDown had they been taken earlier.
Raw: Best potential feud to make
Seriously, take your pick on the entire Raw roster from Charlotte-Sasha Banks to Finn Balor-Kevin Owens and a second helping of Seth Rollins-Roman Reigns. But one that truly intrigues me is the idea of seeing how Rusev would do against an elite opponent as physical as Brock Lesnar. Considering the bad press of Lesnar's drug testing issues following his "one-off" return to the UFC, pairing him with a nasty heel like the "Bulgarian Brute" may be the best medicine to steal back some cheers.
Seeing who didn't get drafted from NXT was more surprising than the list of six who were called up. While it's smart for WWE to protect its developmental third brand by leaving behind a core of established names to sell tickets, the uber-charismatic Shinsuke Nakamura could've potentially been the wild card for SmackDown in terms of the one name with the most potential to cross over worldwide on the main brand.
The trade I'd make right now
With the announcement on Monday that Raw would become the exclusive home for the WWE's new cruiserweight division, it seems odd that Kalisto was drafted on SmackDown. A trade to Raw would not only reunite him with Lucha Dragons teammate Sin Cara, it would rightfully place him alongside a returning Neville as the faces of the new division. Considering Raw's incredible depth, sending Cesaro in return to SmackDown would greatly increase his chances of competing on the upper card.
Fiorvanti: Why SmackDown Live won the draft
Roster: Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, John Cena, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Becky Lynch, The Miz (and Maryse), Baron Corbin, American Alpha, Dolph Ziggler, Natalya, Alberto Del Rio, The Usos, Kane, Kalisto, Naomi, The Ascension, Zack Ryder, Apollo Crews, Alexa Bliss, Breezango, Eva Marie, The Vaudevillains, Erick Rowan, Mojo Rawley, Carmella.
There are a lot of things working in SmackDown Live's favor. In the first round, they drafted the WWE Champion in Dean Ambrose, who's been given a lot more air time of late and is one best workers in the business right now. Plus, in AJ Styles, they get one of the most exciting heels. You can't ask for much more than that in your first two picks, and then you get the franchise with your third and fourth picks. John Cena is back to where it all started, anchoring SmackDown Live as the veteran presence and transcendent generational star, and then added his long-time nemesis, Randy Orton.
I'd be lying if I said I loved Wyatt without the family, but you can't deny his potential, and adding the Intercontinental Champion The Miz gives you a strong start to the upper-midcard.
Among NXT talents with potential, you can't do much better than American Alpha, and as far as now or never, it's time to give Mojo Rowley his chance to sink or swim.
SmackDown Live also has an intriguing women's division with (currently) no title to fight for, but there's great excitement ahead for the trio of Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss and Carmella.
SmackDown Live's biggest steal
It's a toss-up between Cena at seventh overall versus Wyatt in the third round. I'm going to give the thinnest of edges to getting Cena, who brings some serious gravitas and legitimacy to Smackdown as a brand.
SmackDown Live's best potential feud to make
I think a showdown between AJ Styles and Dolph Ziggler would work two-fold. It would give AJ a chance to face off with an equally dynamic opponent that could truly spotlight his abilities, and Dolph gets a badly needed high-profile opponent to dig him out of the pit of mediocrity he's been stuck in for far too long.
How did Bayley not get drafted? The company does need to keep a few stars around to keep NXT viable, but it's mind-boggling that she's been leapfrogged by Nia Jax, Carmella and Alexa Bliss in getting the call. She deserved to be on the main roster when Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were called up, and she's long past overdue now.
The trade I'd make right now
I see no good reason to separate Braun Strowman from the Wyatt family right now. I'll trade the Usos to let them contend for the tag titles in an ever-improving RAW tag team division and get the family back together to run roughshod over SmackDown Live.