WWE has been changing lately. Following years of flat storylines and declining viewership, the company has decided to inject some fresh blood and new ideas into both of its major weekly shows - and, if fan reception is any indication, WWE has been making the right moves.
What's even better is that the WWE shows no signs of slowing down. Following the announcement that SmackDown would be going live, the company revealed that it would be 'splitting the brand' - basically, instead of SmackDown and Monday Night RAW sharing the same talent, each show would have its own roster of Superstars. Not only will the split give fans a reason to watch WWE's other shows, but it should give more up-and-coming wrestlers a chance in the spotlight.
Last night, the brand extension finally went through, and the majority of SmackDown Live was dedicated to a new WWE Draft. For the first time in five years, there are two distinct talent pools in the WWE: a larger group of wrestlers for the three-hour marathon that is Monday Night RAW, and a smaller, more experimental group for SmackDown Live.
If you happened to miss either of the drafts last night (the latter half of which was broadcast exclusively on the WWE Network), we've got the full list of both rosters right here:
Monday Night RAW
|Overall Pick||Brand Pick||
|10||6||The New Day|
|20||12||Enzo & Cass|
|21||13||The Club (Gallows & Anderson)|
|23||14||The Big Show|
|31||19||The Golden Truth|
|42||25||The Dudley Boyz|
|52||30||The Shining Stars|
In all honesty, the RAW draft went how most people expected it to: WWE is obviously positioning Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins as its top faces, and big names like Brock Lesnar and The New Day should guarantee that RAW's larger audience stays right where it is.
To be fair, there are a few surprises: the fact that the Wyatt Family has been split up is huge, and Finn Balor is guaranteed to pull in NXT fans. Also...wait, Curtis Axel still wrestles?
|Overall Pick||Brand Pick||
|17||7||The Miz (w/Maryse)|
|29||12||Alberto del Rio|
Again, the SmackDown Live roster is more or less what fans were expecting. As the smaller of WWE's two main shows, the new roster is a bit more experimental, with a larger focus on up-and-coming stars and NXT transfers. That's not to say that there's no major talent on the show, however.
John Cena is the obvious draw here - while the Superstar's momentum may have slowed down over the past few months, there's no denying that Cena is still the face of the company (regardless of what the Authority claims). It's something that SmackDown Live desperately needs, especially when compared to its Monday night counterpart.
The only worrisome thing is the addition of Dean Ambrose. It'd be shocking to see the WWE Championship stay on SmackDown Live - and, with Rollins and Reigns both on RAW, there's a good chance that Ambrose could lose his title at Battleground. The WWE would have its flagship title back on its flagship show, which makes sense...but it'd leave Dean without a feud and SmackDown Live without a major title.
Honestly, the Draft is the best thing that WWE could have done for SmackDown Live and the company as a whole. With two separate rosters, there will be more chances for more Superstars to make an impact - and, considering the fact that the brand split has been behind some of the company's best storylines, the week-to-week action should also get a boost.
The true start of the new SmackDown Live kicks off next week, following WWE Battleground this Sunday.