Another WWE Draft is in the books, with both Raw and SmackDown refreshing their respective rosters with some NXT pick-ups sprinkled in. The draft occurred over two nights. Beginning on SmackDown and ending last night on Raw. The new rosters won’t go into effect until Friday, October 22, which is the day after Crown Jewel.
One of the biggest news items of the draft saw Brock Lesnar become a free agent, meaning he can freely appear on both Raw and SmackDown. With the increasing news reports of Fox and USA wanting WWE’s biggest stars appearing on their respective networks, the free agent stipulation will make everyone happy.
Also, Lesnar’s character does whatever he wants anyway, so the designation was long overdue. John Cena is the only other wrestler who has free agent status.
Several NXT talents made their way to the main roster. Popular stable Hit Row comprised of NXT North American Champion Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Top Dolla, Ashante “Thee” Adonis, and B-Fab was drafted to SmackDown. British brute Ridge Holland was also drafted to the blue brand alongside Xia Li and Aliyah while Raw scored The Way’s Austin Theory.
Ridge Holland’s call up to the main roster isn’t surprising upon examination. He was pushed beyond his current station in NXT, with talented performers such as Kyle O’Reilly and Tommaso Ciampa carrying him to good matches.
Holland is green but has shown he can listen and learn. While he’s not ready for prime time, certain wrestlers on the come up will only learn so much in a development environment until live experience becomes their teacher.
The New Day was broken up once again as Big E remains on Raw while Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were drafted to SmackDown. This move suggests that WWE believes Big E is stronger on his own than with Kofi & Woods.
Big E is new to the leading role of WWE Champion, and the more shine on him, the better. However, the people love The New Day together, and Big E brings up Kofi and Woods instead of being held down by the duo.
All of the women’s tag teams were broken up except for Rhea Ripley and Nikki A.S.H. Natalya, and Tamina lost most of their matches as champions. They lost to Tegan Nox & Shotzi twice, who never got a title match and are no longer a team, thanks to the draft.
The only modicum of value those belts have is the hall pass for titleholders to appear on any brand.
The biggest story of the draft occurred in the final round. Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, Gable Steveson, has already been drafted to Raw. Stevenson won the gold this past summer at the Tokyo Olympics and signed with WWE in early September.
Stevenson signed a NIL deal so both parties can make money off his likeness while he completes his degree program at the University of Minnesota. Steveson plans on training for pro wrestling while competing for a second NCAA National Championship.
Putting Steveson on Raw is a good call that creates a unique synergy. USA is owned by NBC Universal, which airs the Olympic games. I hope that WWE hasn’t placed too high expectations upon Steveson.
Not knowing what you’re going to get in a gold medalist and ending up with Kurt Angle is one thing. Expecting to get a Kurt Angle size investment out of a prospect is an entirely different story.
Finn Balor being moved to Raw gives him a fresh start after losing for the first time as his “Demon” persona at Extreme Rules. Kevin Owens’ switch to Raw is interesting, considering his contract is reportedly up in January.
Overall, this incarnation of the WWE Draft told a few different stories. SmackDown ended up with the stronger tag team division. On the other hand, the Universal Title picture only gives Roman Reigns one strong challenger in Drew McIntyre. Perhaps, it doesn’t matter since Reigns isn’t losing any time soon, nor should he.