Tuesday, June 18, 2024
EditorialMistakes Made in 2023 WWE Draft, Where Free Agents Should Go &...

Mistakes Made in 2023 WWE Draft, Where Free Agents Should Go & More

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If done well, the WWE Draft can truly freshen things up. Moving people around creates new pairings of Superstars to feud with each other, NXT call-ups can be game-changers, and it can change careers for the better.

When done poorly, WWE can create massive problems for months to come, stifle talent to be stuck in a go-nowhere position, and back themselves into a corner with illogical plot holes.

There were certainly some major positives to this year’s draft so far, but even before the dust settles, some huge problems are already glaringly obvious—to the point that you have to wonder how WWE didn’t see these things coming when planning this out.

Let’s start breaking down some of the future issues I can imagine WWE will run into and look back on with the benefit of hindsight and wish they hadn’t made.

For the Record, Here are Some Positives

Before anyone complains that this is “always negative” and so on, I’d like to toss out some of the massive “wins” from this year’s draft that prove this isn’t an all-or-nothing doomsday scenario:

  • Mostly all couples stayed together, like Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano, Bianca Belair and Montez Ford, etc. Even the ones that aren’t as high profile like Emma with Riddick Moss are on the same brand. The only oversight here is that Samantha Irvin is the SmackDown announcer and Ricochet is on Raw, so unless they’re moving Samantha over to the red brand and swapping Mike Rome to SmackDown, that would be the one split I can think of.
  • Gunther being on Raw means he stands an extremely good chance to win the World Heavyweight Championship, particularly because that brand is in desperate need of heels.
  • Raw’s got some good feuds to look forward to, particularly with Gunther. He’s got Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, maybe Finn Balor eventually, Johnny Gargano, Kevin Owens, Matt Riddle and Sami Zayn. A guy like JD McDonagh against any of them, as well as Ricochet and Chad Gable, will be great. Bronson Reed against Braun Strowman and that bunch? Sign me up.
  • Raw’s women’s division has a nice shot in the arm with Indi Hartwell, Zoey Stark and Katana Chance and Kayden Carter (who will likely just be enhancement talent, but still). Liv Morgan will make for a good challenger for Rhea Ripley at some point, as should Raquel Rodriguez (my pick to dethrone Ripley) and Becky Lynch.
  • SmackDown’s got Pretty Deadly, Cameron Grimes and Grayson Waller, as well as Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn. Good for them for their call-ups! Fresh faces are a necessity and they’ve all reached that point where being in NXT isn’t all that valuable for them anymore.
  • Belair and Charlotte Flair on the same brand means they’re destined to clash. Good choice.

The SmackDown Has No Babyfaces Conundrum

My biggest “WTF?” about this is that Raw has far too many babyfaces and not enough heels, while SmackDown has far too many heels and not enough babyfaces.

Granted, maybe WWE has plans to do a hard reset with some of these people and they plan on turning them heel/face to balance it out, and we just don’t know that yet. But if that isn’t the case, we’re looking at some major problems.

Who fights Roman Reigns over the next year heading into WrestleMania 40? We know he’s not dropping that belt any time soon, given they felt the need to create another world title just to avoid never having any world title matches and not having the belt ever change hands.

Reigns will probably not be defending that championship more than 3 or 4 times in the next 12 months. But even so, your ENTIRE list of babyfaces on SmackDown right now consists of Bobby Lashley, The Brawling Brutes, part-timer Edge, The Latino World Order, The O.C., The Street Profits and Rick Boogs. That’s it. And when you toss out how Angelo Dawkins, Cruz Del Toro, Karl Anderson, Ridge Holland, etc as well as Boogs aren’t actually viable contenders in any way, that means the entirety of SmackDown’s future for Reigns is AJ Styles, Bobby Lashley, Edge who he’s already fought, Rey Mysterio and I guess Sheamus or Santos Escobar, and maybe Cameron Grimes if he stays a face, but he’s not ready for that.

That’s not good enough. Yes, Lashley vs. Reigns and Styles vs. Reigns will be more than fine for one-off feuds, but the rest don’t measure up right now to hold down the fort. Even though I’m a fan of them, I’m just being realistic.

And if you say “But Reigns is only defending the belt 3-4 times, right? So he only needs those guys.” You mean to tell me you’d buy into investing 2-3 months per each of those to have a “fight with Solo Sikoa and The Usos and cut promos about Reigns until we have the one match that ends the same way all those matches do” storyline? You’d really be interested in that? And who is the big person you build to out of that bunch for WrestleMania 40? Oh, I know, “not any of them, because we’ll get The Rock instead, and if not, we’ll just transfer someone over from Raw in the Royal Rumble.”

That’s pretty lame, and it also means that the United States Championship will have to become the de facto “might as well be the top title” since it’ll be the only one defended. But if you look at that list of babyfaces, guess how many heels Austin Theory has that will be fighting against him for equal footing for that “I can’t possibly beat Roman Reigns because he’s a heel and won’t drop the belt anyway, so I’m stuck hoping for the U.S. title at best” spot?

Assuming Grimes stays a face, Theory still has Karrion Kross and LA Knight and Grayson Waller. All of those guys are going to be positioned as the ones to lose the feuds that put over the Lashleys and company on their way to fighting Roman. That’s a shame.

The Raw Has No Heels Conundrum

When you look at Raw, they have too many babyfaces in the upper spots.

A-Tier Guys (all fighting for that top spot) = Cody Rhodes, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins

B-Tier Guys = Braun Strowman, Johnny Gargano, Matt Riddle, Ricochet, Shinsuke Nakamura

C-Tier Guys = Dexter Lumis, Odyssey Jones

Don’t forget about Chad Gable and Otis, or Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, or Apollo Crews.

Who are the top heels? I get the sense Gunther (who is already holding the midcard title, so that rules him out) and….well, then, we’re looking at Bronson Reed, JD McDonagh, and The Judgment Day’s Finn Balor and Damian Priest. The Miz is there, yeah, and I love The Miz, but he rarely gets treated like a true TOP heel. Maybe this changes that, but I don’t have faith in that happening.

I feel like at the very least, McIntyre needs to turn heel, if not also a guy like Strowman. And when you factor in that Tommaso Ciampa will likely go to Raw with Gargano once he’s healthy, and I think we’d all agree they work better as a babyface team, then that’s one more face to add in there.

We need Randy Orton to come back and to be on this brand, too. Maybe Bray Wyatt (ugh) if they have him as a heel. Poor Kross isn’t going to touch a world title ever at this rate, but if he were in this group, he’d easily have feuds to check off with Rhodes, Rollins, Strowman, etc.

Miscellaneous WTFs

  • I haaaaaaaaaaaate the stupid title swap thing we’re going to get with Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley.
  • So…what’s up with the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team Championships, eh? Not only have they had these ugly belts forever, and they’re the only belts without side plates, but we’re just going to have the whole “hard brand split, Roman can’t travel” thing immediately undercut by “Owens and Zayn can hold 2 sets of belts and go back and forth, though”?
  • Then again, this is the company that put Brock Lesnar in the pool just to go “Oh crap! We forgot that we want to keep him a free agent! Never mind!”
  • Speaking of championships, let me get this straight. Indi Hartwell retained the NXT Women’s Championship over Zoey Stark and then Roxanne Perez AND Tiffany Stratton, just so she could be in a “forced to vacate” situation?
  • Wait, wait, let me get THIS straight. Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn are called up while holding the NXT women’s tag titles, and they get challenged by KC and KC, only for KC and KC to get called up, also? This means on NXT, these two teams will fight for the right to vacate the title immediately?! LMAO what?? Why not at least book Dawn and Fyre against a team that is sticking around in NXT?
  • Grimes, Waller, Knight and Pretty Deadly are all guys who could have been better served on Raw, where there’s an extra hour. That gives them more opportunities for mic time and backstage segments.
  • They split up Dominik and Rey? How’s that feud going to reach a proper ending? Surely, Rey being ringside to watch Bad Bunny beating Damian Priest isn’t the finale. Are we just going to wait a full year for Mania 40 to have the mask match, or are they flat out not doing it? Lame as all hell if that’s the case.
  • No call-up for Bron Breakker, The Creed Brothers, or Andre Chase, who seemed like he was hinting at leaving NXT. I guess maybe Chase is leaving WWE?
  • Bianca Belair and Damage CTRL have fought each other a million times. Moooove oooon.

Where Should the Free Agents Go?

As of right now, 19 men and 4 women are specifically classified as main roster free agents, rather than NXT Superstars. It makes no sense for 2 of them, but whatever.

Here is where I think they’d be best served:

  • Alexa Bliss = Keep her away from Bray Wyatt, in my mind. For now, I’d say SmackDown needs her the most.
  • Aliyah = I’m surprised she’s been sitting on the shelf all this time. Concussion or whatever that they don’t want to say is a touch-and-go thing? If and when she returns, she’ll likely be a jobber, so just put her on SmackDown as that brand needs more people.
  • Baron Corbin = Raw needs heels. I like the guy more than most people, but even I have to admit at this point, he’s more of a midcarder.
  • Big E = If he’s ever able to wrestle, he needs to go with The New Day on Raw.
  • Bray Wyatt = If he’s a heel, Raw to feud with Cody Rhodes and such. As a babyface, which I really don’t like, mind you, he needs to be on SmackDown to have a feud with Roman Reigns.
  • Brock Lesnar = Keep him as a free agent. He pops up like a dozen times a year anyway.
  • Carmella = She’s pregnant. Let her be. But wherever Corey Graves is, that’s where she should go. Keep families together.
  • Cedric Alexander = Can he be drafted to AEW in exchange for Brian Cage or Christian Cage or Miro or whatever? I’d send Cedric down to NXT to fill in the Apollo Crews type role of “veteran who will seem like a bigger deal and help out the younger guys who need guidance”.
  • Dolph Ziggler = Ziggler worked in NXT, but if he stays on the main roster, put him on SmackDown as a babyface.
  • Elias = Keep him with Boogs on SmackDown.
  • Lita = She’s a part-timer we might not even see wrestle again. Effectively, she doesn’t count. I don’t even know why they bothered to make Trish Stratus and Edge draft picks instead of free agents, for that matter.
  • Logan Paul = The only smart move is keeping him a free agent so he can bounce around. He’s only going to wrestle a few times as a featured attraction like Lesnar.
  • Mustafa Ali = Uh….Raw’s midcard?
  • Omos = Frankly, I think he’s proven he’s only really useful to trot out as a special attraction for a few more times until the value of seeing his size gets diminished. Having him as a free agent is probably fine.
  • Randy Orton = Raw as a heel to feud with Cody and Riddle, among others.
  • R-Truth = Ultimately, he’s just enhancement comedy talent, so maybe Raw where there’s more of a chance he can pop up and do something, or at least wrestle on Main Event.
  • Robert Roode = Sadly, I don’t think we’re ever going to see him reach the level he should have as a top heel. Realistically, just put him in Raw’s midcard as a heel. But if he’s a babyface, put him on SmackDown.
  • Shanky = Release him.
  • Shelton Benjamin = If WWE plans on doing The Hurt Business reuniting with Lashley to fight The Bloodline, then he and Cedric need to go to SmackDown. Otherwise, Shelton is an NXT top dog or Main Event jobber on the Raw roster.
  • Tommaso Ciampa = Raw with Gargano.
  • Von Wagner = I wouldn’t have called him up yet. I guess SmackDown.
  • Xyon Quinn = I wouldn’t have called him up yet, either. Maybe turn him face and put him on SmackDown?

Which Brand Won the 2023 WWE Draft?

At this point, Raw has its problems, but because it has more people, there’s more flexibility. I can’t wrap my mind around how SmackDown is supposed to work with mostly just a few babyface factions and The Bloodline without its leader most of the time. I guess they really plan on having Solo Sikoa and The Usos hold down the fort for the next year.

What did you think of the 2023 WWE Draft? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

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