Wayne Utterback writes about the WWE and sports entertainment at large for We Are Regal Radio
The WWE Draft has come and gone and we are left with a bizarre, but somewhat promising landscape on which WWE will hopefully build new shows that feel leaps and bounds less condensed while also giving the supposed “New Era” a chance to shine.
Let’s look at the top 10 picks for RAW:
The New Day
Rusev w/ Lana
Looking at RAW’s picks, it seems hilarious that Smackdown presents itself as the land of opportunity for the youth movement, because RAW feels like it has so many up-and-coming talents being represented on WWE’s flagship show.
Sure, we have the Banned Substance Brothers in Brock and Roman and, for some reason, WWE still treats Jericho like he’s worthwhile, but we have Finn Balor making his main roster debut alongside a slowly growing crowd favorite in Sami Zayn. We also have the two top female athletes in Sasha and Charlotte leading the women’s division on RAW.
To top it off, WWE was smart and kept The New Day and Rusev/Lana together. Rollins is the natural “face” to lead WWE, and this feels like WWE’s attempt to really give him that spotlight to shine.
Now let’s look at the bizarre world of Smackdown and their top 10 picks:
The Miz w/Maryse
The first thing that leaps out at me is the ages of the picks. Sure, AJ Styles is in top flight mode right now, but having Cena and Orton on the same roster feels like it deflates the purpose of giving youth opportunity. Dolph Ziggler is DOA in my opinion and The Miz needs his belt to remain relevant.
I’m hoping Bray can break out and latch onto a real strong push up the ranks. Give him some power to break people. I’m happy to see Becky, Baron and American Alpha get a chance to step up to the plate on Smackdown. American Alpha will change the tag team game, trust me on that.
The fascinating part about the next 10 picks is that RAW definitely got the better grouping of mid-card talent. Raw’s 11-20 picks:
Enzo and Cass
Gallows and Anderson
Kevin Owens leads the pack as the one who is going to push into the top 10 in the near future, but you can’t discredit Neville, Cesaro and Enzo/Cass and their ability to engage the audience. These guys are going to be the core of the show that really keep it lively on the mic and in the ring. Big Show, Sheamus, and Golden Truth all feel redundant at this point and need drastic changes to make them feel even remotely important on a crowded roster.
I’m excited for Nia Jax to move up, as I feel like here look and style will complement the other women’s athletes and mix up match types. Gallows and Anderson will hopefully join Finn Balor in some fashion. They shouldn’t be on their own and I’m not happy about them losing AJ just as they were becoming one of the more entertaining factions on TV. As for Titus O’Neil, he needs something more to make me care other than a “Father of the Year” award.
Smackdown’s 11-20 picks:
Alberto Del Rio
This was the odd one because I feel like Natalya, Alberto, The Usos, Kane, Ryder, and The Ascension aren’t doing anything to move the needle on WWE programming. I am not interested in watching them and WWE will have to work hard to get me invested. Apollo Crews and Kalisto have the in-ring skills, but have to step up their mic work to be complete packages, but I think they can handle it.
Anyone watching NXT knows that Bliss was meant to move up the ladder and she will be an interested addition to the women’s division. Naomi is also a good pick and will add value to the women’s roster.
|Darren Young||Eva Marie|
|Sin Cara||The Vaudevillains|
|Jack Swagger||Erick Rowan|
|The Dudley Boyz||Mojo Rawley|
The rest of the crew is a curious mish-mash of talent. Raw will benefit from Paige, The Shining Stars and Darren Young. I want the Shining Stars to already split and enter the cruiserweight division. Speaking of cruiserweight division, are we just going to have Sin Cara, Finn Balor, and Neville wrestle every night?
Breezango absolutely belongs on Smackdown. In terms of tag teams, Smackdown will be superior with more natural teams existing on the roster. We’ll see if they become THE place for tag wrestling.
Overall, I feel so-so about the Draft, but that is primarily due to the fact that we have little information on what titles will sit on what shows, no details on the cruiserweight division, and an insistence on keeping around some of the older talent that are used goods at this point. The talent is there to make each show special, but WWE is going to really have to push new ideas to make this brand split truly work.
A Look Ahead to Battleground
We might get answers to those questions at the WWE’s last “integrated” regular pay-per-view (outside of the Big 4 events) which occurs this Sunday. Here is the card so far:
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya.
The Miz (c) vs. Darren Young for the Intercontinental Championship.
Rusev (c) vs. Zack Ryder for the United States Championship.
Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and a partner of her choosing.
The Highlight Reel with the Randy Orton.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens.
The New Day vs. The Wyatt Family.
John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Club.
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship.
On paper, it seems like a decent show. Becky should beat Natalya, Sami should defeat Kevin, and The Wyatts should defeat The New Day after Luke Harper comes out to interfere ahead of his slated August/September return.
The title matches are interesting in the timing and I’m calling it now: both the Intercontinental and U.S. titles will change hands, thus sending each belt to the other show while the announcers freak out about it all.
Bayley has to be Sasha’s partner for the women’s tag match. If not, the crowd will boo the replacement.
Don’t care about The Highlight Reel unless Orton gets to be a hypocrite and run down Brock’s alleged “banned substance” use.
Before The Club splits, they have to beat down Team Cena. It needs to happen in order for Cena to get his “win back” at Summerslam against AJ.
The triple threat for the title? It’s been laughable bad what WWE has done to a story that should have been the perfect backdrop to give the title picture some real depth. Three title matches in less than a week, a lack of one of the competitors for the entirety of the promotion of the match, and now the draft working into the match has really made this WWE Title bout feel played out and lacking in energy.
Dean should retain so as to cause confusion about RAW not having a world title, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Roman is given the belt since he will be returning with even more fans hating his guts.
So, we’ll see what the landscape of WWE looks like after Battleground. Hopefully, it looks like a wasteland so that we can rebuild it in the image of two great wrestling shows where the rosters are given a chance to grow organically.
Wayne Utterback is a contributor to We Are Regal Radio, Editor in Chief of Rudo Can’t Fail and co-host of Spandexistential Thoughts, follow him on Twitter @DubyaLucha; Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio