The 2021 WWE SmackDown draft had a different feeling this time around.
With Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville as the authority figures of both RAW and SmackDown, the storyline purpose of the draft has gone from rival General Managers trying to swipe talent from one another to the company just shaking things up for the heck of it.
Let’s face it. It’s best not to think too much about the logic of the draft, because inherently, there isn’t any. Stars move frequently between the shows anyway. Plus, the two-night format means they have to hold major names off night one to build drama for night two. That means you get silliness such as Naomi being drafted before SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, or Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss taken earlier than Bobby Lashley.
It’s still an intriguing night, with the caveat of night one being it’s to be continued Monday. With that in mind, let’s look at each round of tonight’s draft. There were four rounds, each consisting of two picks for each show.
SmackDown selected Roman Reigns: It all started off making perfect sense. Reigns is the biggest star in the company and there was little chance they’d take him off their network TV show. Plus, they added some tension by not having the Usos drafted at all, putting Paul Heyman on the spot to make Roman happy making sure his support system stays in place.
RAW selected Big E: So far, so good on the logic. RAW takes its champion. Now why the champions would even be eligible for the draft . . . well, again, let’s not think too hard.
SmackDown selected RAW Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair: This left a lot of questions: If the RAW Champion is on SmackDown, will be two champions on SmackDown and none on RAW? If Becky is drafted to RAW, will she and Charlotte switch belts? Will the RAW Champ be on SmackDown, and the SmackDown Champ be on RAW and we’ll pretend we don’t notice? Thankfully, we have a few weeks to figure all this out since the roster changes don’t take effect until after Crown Jewel on Oct. 21.
RAW takes Bianca Belair: It seems you would have swiped their champion if they swiped yours, but since the picks happened in seconds, it’s clear Pearce and Deville had no room to make it look like a real draft where one side reacts to the other’s moves. Either way, Belair is a major star on the women’s side and will be working Mondays.
SmackDown selected Drew McIntyre: As I wrote two weeks ago, this is the best thing for McIntyre after his long RAW run. They still have time to address his challenge to Big E from Monday’s RAW, but McIntyre was talking about Reigns as soon as they put a microphone in front of him.
RAW selected Riddle and Randy Orton: RAW locks down its tag team champions. If it means more A.J. Styles matches with Riddle and Orton (while minimizing Omos’ contributions), the fans are in good shape.
SmackDown selected Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods: The New Day is split up again. The SmackDown tag team division get an experienced team added to the roster.
RAW selected Edge: No matter where Edge ends up, he’ll be at war with Seth Rollins for a while. Seth waltzed into Edge’s house on the show tonight after stomping Edge into oblivion back in Madison Square Garden. If I were ever sent to the hospital and then made a heroic comeback a couple of weeks later, I’d hope my family would be home watching it. Instead, Beth Phoenix seems to have chosen the time her husband returned to national TV to make a grocery run. She left the door unlocked, to boot.
SmackDown selected Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss. Now the silliness of the draft shows up. With Lashley, U.S. Champion Damian Priest, Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, the Usos and Rollins still on the board, SmackDown takes these two.
RAW selected Women’s Tag Team Champions Rhea Ripley and Nicki A.S.H.: We’ve gone completely around the bend here. Why use this as a pick when the Women’s Tag Team Champions are the only ones guaranteed to be on both shows? Moving on.
SmackDown selected Hit Row: This was a surprise. This group from NXT shows some signs of charisma. They can certainly deliver a line. Their carefully scripted promos are fine. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott is an exciting worker, but B-Fab showed last Tuesday on NXT she is a long way away from being ready to wrestle and the others have not made huge inroads.
RAW selected Keith “Bearcat” Lee: One would hope a man as talented as Lee could get a solid push and a decent storyline. The “Bearcat” nickname does not inspire confidence that this is the case.
SmackDown selected Naomi: This one did not matter much. Naomi will be tangling with Deville no matter which show drafted her.
RAW selected Rey and Dominik Mysterio: Rey is a legend, but there aren’t many fresh matches for him. Expect him to feud with his son eventually.
SmackDown selected Jeff Hardy: This will bring some crowd pops to Fridays, but it’s difficult to see this move making a large impact.
RAW selected Austin Theory: Having just returned to NXT after being off TV a while, Theory seems to be the kind of arrogant heel that could take a mid-card spot. It’s unlikely he will become a main event guy with the current WWE braintrust since he isn’t huge.
STILL ON THE BOARD
The draft is only half over, with big names such as Lynch, Lashley, Nakamura, Priest, Rollins, Banks, Alexa Bliss the Usos, AJ Styles and Omos, Kevin Owens and the rest of the NXT roster up for grabs, Monday’s rounds will give us more idea about WWE’s direction.