Despite considerable hype surrounding the WWE Draft, the night ultimately belonged to Bayley.
Bayley, debuting a new look with shorter hair and displaying a more cunning style in the ring, closed out the main event by defeating Charlotte Flair to win the SmackDown women’s title. That win marks the second time in as many weeks that a title has changed hands on SmackDown on Fox, as Brock Lesnar defeated Kofi Kingston last Friday to win the WWE title.
The show opened with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns wrestling to decide which brand would pick first. Rollins successfully represented Raw, winning by disqualification after “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt emerged through the middle of the ring to continue his unrelenting torment of Rollins.
Longtime on-air character and WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon served as the emcee of the draft, and she announced Becky Lynch as the number-one selection for Raw before revealing that Roman Reigns will be part of SmackDown.
Only certain wrestlers were allowed to be selected, which was WWE’s way of ensuring that big names, like Daniel Bryan and Charlotte Flair, will still be available for part two of the draft this Monday on Raw. Rollins and Lesnar also remain in the pool to be selected this Monday, but it is widely assumed that Rollins will stay on Raw and Lesnar will remain an integral part of SmackDown.
Here are the results from opening night of the draft:
1. Becky Lynch (Raw)
2. Roman Reigns (SmackDown)
3. The OC (Raw)
4. Bray Wyatt (SmackDown)
5. Drew McIntyre (Raw)
6. Randy Orton (Raw)
7. Sasha Banks (SmackDown)
8. Ricochet (Raw)
9. Braun Strowman (SmackDown)
10. Bobby Lashley (Raw)
11. Alexa Bliss (Raw)
12. Lacey Evans (SmackDown)
13. Kevin Owens (Raw)
14. The Revival (SmackDown)
15. Natalya Neidhart (Raw)
16. The Viking Raiders (Raw)
17. Lucha House Party (SmackDown)
18. Nikki Cross (Raw)
19. Heavy Machinery (SmackDown)
20. The Street Profits (Raw)
And the results from the show:
• Seth Rollins defeated Roman Reigns by disqualification after interference from Bray Wyatt.
• Baron Corbin defeated Chad Gable.
• The New Day defeated The O.C. in a six-man tag when Kofi Kingston pinned AJ Styles.
• Bayley defeated Charlotte Flair to win the SmackDown women’s championship.
Here are my takeaways from draft night:
- WWE swung and missed on a perfect chance to highlight Kofi Kingston.
Kingston proudly wore the WWE championship for six months, adding a layer of representation that has often been absent throughout the lineage of the title. He dropped the belt in a nine-second match on last week’s SmackDown to Brock Lesnar, which was frustrating for those who immersed themselves in Kingston’s title run—though there was some logic behind the decision, considering Fox wants Brock Lesnar as its face of SmackDown.
But instead of returning to television the following week with an in-depth promo, Kingston first appeared during the open to The New Day’s introduction.
Kingston did hold a microphone, briefly promoting WWE’s relationship with Susan G. Komen. The segment highlighted two breast cancer survivors, but would have been just as effective had it been presented by Xavier Woods and Big E.
The chance for Kingston to cut a promo in the ring, discussing the significance of his title run and his plans for what comes next, would have given SmackDown an element of realism that the show was missing. That moment would have also made his SmackDown win, where he pinned AJ Styles to win a six-man tag, mean exponentially more than it did.
Even if WWE doesn’t have plans for Kingston to wear the WWE title again, keeping him strong only benefits the company. Failing to highlight his accomplishments on SmackDown was a lost opportunity.
- Becky Lynch was the first overall pick of the draft, with Roman Reigns selected second. Lynch will remain on Raw and Reigns will stay with SmackDown, and it is no coincidence that the top two picks are also the cover stars of the WWE 2K20 video game.
Though the draft is only halfway complete, it is worth considering the possibilities moving forward for Reigns and Lynch.
With Universal champion Seth Rollins now as close to a guarantee as possible to stay on Raw, his storyline with Bray Wyatt will be forced to come to a halt. Reigns and Wyatt have history (and it would be fun to hear Wyatt’s take, years later, on his old “Anyone but you, Roman” catchphrase), but Reigns is also a logical choice to challenge Brock Lesnar.
The Raw-bound Lynch will move on from her storyline with Sasha Banks, who is headed to SmackDown. Her next opponent could be Alexa Bliss, but WWE should also keep the door open for a Lynch-Asuka feud by bringing the Kabuki Warriors to Raw.
- The symbolism on display in Bayley’s entrance adds a drastically more compelling component to her character.
WWE has allowed Bayley to fully embrace her new position on the card as a villain. She cut her long hair and chopped down her wacky, waving, inflatable arm flailing tube men on the way to the ring, and she even had new entrance music.
Bayley defeated Charlotte Flair in the show’s main event to become the new SmackDown women’s champion. In an era where cheering the antagonist makes more sense than supporting the protagonist, Bayley has differentiated herself as a heel you actually dislike. She closed the show by delivering a five-word promo (“B*****, screw all of you”), which was another strong introduction of herself as a villain.
- Bray Wyatt is headed to SmackDown.
Drafted fourth overall, Wyatt’s move likely signifies that he will move on from his pursuit of Seth Rollins and the Universal title.
Since WWE champ Brock Lesnar is scheduled to remain on SmackDown, which places Universal champ Seth Rollins on Raw, there is certainly logic as to why WWE could not have Wyatt defeat Rollins this past Sunday at the Hell in a Cell pay per view.
But, if you’re WWE, why allow yourself to be booked into a corner by putting Wyatt and Rollins together in the Hell in a Cell main event? With only those two involved, there was no easy way to finish the match and keep Rollins as champion. The match ended in disarray, courtesy of referee stoppage, after Rollins continued to decimate Wyatt. Had the roles been reversed, with Wyatt wreaking havoc onto Rollins, then a stoppage would have meant Wyatt was crowned champion, which WWE does not want at this point.
It made sense that Wyatt headlined the Hell in a Cell show. But it remains surprising that a third man wasn’t added to the match to take the pitfall.
- One of the highlights of the draft was the first-round selection of Drew McIntyre to Raw.
McIntyre, if presented correctly, has the potential to be world champ as either a babyface or a heel. His size, which WWE has capitalized upon, makes him an easy villain, crushing everything and everyone in his way. But he would also make a tremendous fan favorite.
Raised by a mother fighting a disability, McIntyre has far more of an underdog background than his powerful frame might suggest. If he can connect with the audience, he will have multiple reigns as world champ.
- The draft “war rooms” for Raw and SmackDown were likely more appealing for a younger audience, but the draft panel added value to the show—especially seeing Samoa Joe in the role of analyst.
The fiery Joe is the complete opposite of a WWE babyface, but hearing him out of character showed off another dimension to his personality. If WWE has exhausted all of the best possibilities for Joe as a heel, why not move him to the face side of the card? In addition to a new creative challenge for Joe, this move would also give him a whole new slate of opponents.
- The cross-promotion between WWE and Fox was on full display.
There was a plethora of cameos, which included Troy Aikman, Joe Buck, Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long. Bradshaw, who will forever be known as the greatest quarterback in Pittsburgh Steelers history, mentioned “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes as his all-time favorite wrestler, while fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Long chose Bruno Sammartino.
Corey Graves had the line of the night following the brief clip of Aikman and Buck awkwardly talking about drafts and piledrivers, when Graves told Michael Cole, “You’re like the Joe Buck of WWE—despite being really good at your job, no one can stand you.”
- Not everyone was surprised by the order of draft selections.
Social media was buzzing when it was discovered that a WWE website post from Thursday accidentally revealed the majority of Friday’s draft selections.
- Paul Heyman fans have many reasons to be excited.
Raw already has a roster of Becky Lynch, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley (with Rusev not far behind), Kevin Owens, Ricochet, and the Street Profits.
That is a roster full of Heyman picks, which is great news for those of us who watch three hours of wrestling every Monday night.