How WWE Looks One Year after Draft
This week marks one year since the WWE Draft of 2016. There were a lot of hope and expectations going into it as far as what new feuds we could have, better shows and better pay per views. Have they brought us everything we hoped for or did it fall flat on its face? Let’s take a look.
One of the most amazing things about this year has been wrestlers who weren’t on the main roster when the draft happened to where they are now. A great example of this is James Ellsworth. He was the first opponent for Braun Strowman when he started as a single’s competitor and gave one of the best lines ever in wrestling, “Anybody with two hands has a fighting chance”. Who would’ve ever thought that those words would end up starting the run of perhaps the single most unlikely run in WWE history. After being destroyed by Strowman, Ellsworth would eventually go to Smackdown and would not only defeat AJ Styles on three separate occasions, but would also challenge him for the WWE Championship. He has remained a fun character to watch every week as he is currently together with Carmella and has managed to stay relevant in the company. Another example to this is Jinder Mahal. Nobody, and I mean nobody, thought a year ago when this draft happened that in one year Jinder Mahal would be the WWE Champion. Anybody who says that they knew it would happen is a liar. He returned on a segment on Raw with Heath Slater and ended up having a brief match to win a contract on Raw. Jinder would stay in the low mid card for a while until one moment took place that might have changed his fortunes for the better. During the Andre the Giant battle royal at Wrestlemania, he went outside and got into a confrontation with NFL star Rob Gronkowski and would eventually get back at Mahal, eventually being the last man eliminated from the battle royal. Since then he has been on an incredible roll that nobody could’ve seen coming. He goes to Smackdown, wins a six-pack challenge to become the number one contender and then at Backlash in one of the best moment of 2017, defeats Randy Orton to become WWE Champion to the shock of everybody. Since then, he has become the main heel on Smackdown and will be in one of the main event matches at Summerslam in three and a half weeks. Absolutely amazing what has happened for Jinder Mahal.
A group that has done really well has been the wrestlers who were drafted to either show from NXT. Finn Balor, Nia Jax, American Alpha, Alexa Bliss and Carmella have taken advantage of the opportunity given to them and ran with the ball. Finn Balor on his first night on Raw defeated Roman Reigns in the main event of that week’s episode to be in the match to crown the first Universal champion. However, during the match at Summerslam against Seth Rollins he was injured but would continue the match and win but would have to vacate the title the next day. His return the night after Wrestlemania proved that he is still very popular and while at the moment he isn’t in the Universal title picture, it is only a matter of time before we see him chase for the title. American Alpha were the hottest tag team in NXT when they made their debut in WWE and people knew of them which helps. They would win the Smackdown tag team titles at the end of 2016 and would stay champions for three months before losing them to the Usos. Since then, the team as a whole hadn’t been really used which is a shame because the team is fantastic. But with the recent moves of seeing Chad Gable wrestle in singles competition on Smackdown and Jason Jordan being revealed as Kurt Angle’s son on Raw both of them will now get the opportunity to prove they can hang with the best that WWE has to offer. Will we ever see these two men team up again, who will be the first to win a singles championship and which one will be the first to headline a pay per view are some of the questions that will be asked of these two men while they are on their own.
The women have had some very big opportunities in the last year and they haven’t disappointed. But three women who were drafted from NXT have really come a long way from where they started. Nia Jax has proven to be the big, dominating female monster that hasn’t been seen in WWE for a while. She hasn’t won any championships but has had her chances including being in a fatal four way elimination match at Wrestlemania and is still to this day a legitimate threat to the Raw women’s title. She still needs to improve in my opinion but she has come a good way from when she started a year ago. Carmella was the very last pick in the draft and has had a long journey to get to where she is at today. When she started on Smackdown she was a face that nobody really got behind. However, when Nikki Bella returned this was the perfect opportunity to change Carmella and it has changed her career for the better. She has become one of the biggest female heels in WWE and gets a reaction from the crowd. Her winning the Money in the Bank ladder match proves that WWE has trust in her to become a champion and her improvement has shown. It really is a matter of time before she is champion. But of all three women, Alexa Bliss has gained the most in one short year. The smallest female competitor came in with this I’m better than you attitude and it has gotten her to the top. Not only did she become the first ever two-time Smackdown women’s champion but she also won the Raw women’s championship and became the first woman to win both brands women’s titles. In less than one year she has been champion on both shows, was the next to the last match at this years Wrestlemania and will be one of the big matches at Summerslam this year. A great year for a woman who wasn’t really the best when she was in NXT.
The shows itself have been very interesting as you can see which shows are going right and which shows are going wrong through pay per views. Raw in the beginning was very good with the shows with the amount of talent that they had and the pay per views were decent. But as time went on you can see that not only is three hours too much for a weekly TV show, you also see how it can drain fans out of a pay per view and how they manage the wrestlers. A great example of this is the Cruiserweight division with the competitors who were coming from the tournament the previous summer. Not only did we get a show just for the Cruiserweights but they would also be on Raw every week. The problem is that we have only one or two matches per week on Raw and don’t get to see everybody we want to see. Plus, when you have them on pay per views they are either on the pre-show or are on the show early which doesn’t really show the abilities that the wrestlers in this division have. Another problem is we don’t see enough diversity of the roster week in and week out. It seems like they are sticking with the same old routine of let’s keep the big names at the top and not use the wrestlers that were drafted and have anytime. Meanwhile, Smackdown has truly been the land of opportunity. Look at the amount of stars that have either had second life or have been made while being on the show. The Miz has had his best run of his career right now and it started on Smackdown, James Ellsworth became as mentioned earlier the most unlikely superstar WWE has ever had, Baron Corbin has been able to be one of the big heels on the show and it has great effect. For only a two-hour show you can see the motivation that the wrestlers have when they are on TV. It also shows on the pay per views where Smackdown usually has a great show meanwhile Raw is usually an okay show for pay per views.
The biggest problem for me from this first year of the brand split has to be the lack of new stars being made. WWE has brought in names from the past to be in the company to have mainstream focus such as Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Matt & Jeff Hardy just to name a few. They have made some wrestlers into stars such as Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman. My fear is that WWE right now doesn’t have the confidence on the current roster or the NXT roster that they can be the next big stars and instead go with established stars with some who have passed their prime. Will we see new stars created over the next twelve months? It depends on what WWE wants to do, if they can start to trust the current roster then they have something special but if they don’t you will hear a lot of people complain more about the people who are at the top and those who should be at the top.
In the end, this first year for the most part has been enjoyable to watch. We’ve had really good matches, stars coming from out of nowhere and shows that have been quite entertaining. How will year two go? Will it be as good, better or worse than this first year? Will ratings go up and down or stay in one spot? But most important of all, will we have new stars created in this time period? If WWE can look at the roster they have right now, there is a chance we can see new stars established. If not, then we are in for a long ride going into 2018.