WWE has been long overdue for a roster shakeup. The last installment of the Draft took place in October 2021, over 18 months ago. In that time, Triple H assumed creative control of the company, which led to the rules of the Brand Split being completely ignored. They weren't exactly enforced prior to that point, but the Brand Split is essentially deemed dead by end of last summer. If there was ever a time to bring it back, post-WrestleMania season made the most sense, so I'm glad they waited until now to hold the Draft.
Night 1 is in the books as of Friday's SmackDown, and although it was an eventful evening, I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a success, at least not yet. In short, a lot of mind-boggling picks were made for Raw and SmackDown, but the biggest problem with the format was that there were no authority figures making the selections, just guest presenters for each round. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing Rob Van Dam and others, but why would they ecare about who goes where? In the past, we were told the decisions were largely made by "network executives," and that was ridiculous as well. Bringing back general mangers would be a simple solution.
The picks themselves were questionable, to say the least. I'll get into each round momentarily, but I was left with more questions than answers, and not in a positive way. Are we in for yet another silly belt swap with the women's championships with Bianca Belair taking the Raw Women's Championship to SmackDown? Are Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns really going to separated for good? How will the NXT titles be dealt with? Sure, I was shocked by multiple draft picks, but shocking isn't always what's best in these sorts of situations. Maybe Night 2 will clear things up, but I wasn't left overly optimistic once Night 1 concluded. On the bright side, no tag teams or stables were split (is that a first?), so that was refreshing.
Triple H mentioned that the new rosters will go into effect after the Backlash pay-per-view, which takes place on Saturday, May 6. Apparently talent can be traded, but WWE hasn't done that too often. The first four rounds were televised on Friday's SmackDown with additional draft picks taking place on The SmackDown LowDown the following Saturday morning and a handful of stars declaring themselves as free agents. Below, you'll find my in-depth analysis for all of the Raw and SmackDown selections. My Night 2 analysis should be up sometime this coming week.
NWA USA Review - April 29, 2023
Damage def. Rush Freeman
Are we really headed for a Blunt Force Trauma vs. Spectaculars match? Ugh. Neither team does anything for me personally, so here's hoping this was just a one-off to give Damage a victory. The best thing I can say about this is that it was kept relatively short and sweet. He made quick work of Freeman and that was it. Unfortunately, the aforementioned tag team match is probably coming to keep Blunt Force Trauma rolling.
Tyler Bate def. Luca Crusifino
I've seen the rumblings that Bate could be main roster bound in this year's WWE Draft, and although his name wasn't called on SmackDown, that doesn't mean it can't still happen, and I hope it does. He's been way overdue for call-up and shouldn't be toiling in NXT any longer. The crowd was very much behind him here and he carried Crusifino to a competent contest. I'm still not a fan of the latter's silly gimmick, though I guess it fits right into the gimmicky NXT.
Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens Exchanged Words with The Usos
Triple H announcing the Round 1 picks for the WWE Draft preceded this quick exchange. The two teams didn't say anything new, but it was an effective last-minute effort to hype up the tag team title main event. Honestly, I found the backstage segment with The Usos, Paul Heyman and Solo Sikoa later on more intriguing teasing that there would be consequences for The Usos if they failed again.