The 2023 WWE Draft is officially in the books. Was it "truly game-changing" as Triple H alluded to when he announced the two-night event last month? The answer is a resounding no, but that doesn't necessarily mean I was unhappy with the results. In fact, I enjoyed it on the whole, probably because I wasn't expecting anything massive to begin with, not to mention I tend to enjoy the annual roster shakeups. That's despite the fact they almost always end up meaning nothing because the company can't stay committed to doing an actual Brand Split.
Nonetheless, Night 2 was largely solid, at least in my book. There were definitely some questionable choices made on Night 1, but I was left a little more optimistic after Night 2. Everyone that was eligible on both nights was either drafted to Raw or SmackDown, or was declared a free agent. The status of some Superstars is unclear each year, but I'm glad that wasn't the case with this year's installment. Aliyah might be the only person who apparently isn't hurt but wasn't eligible. Otherwise, everyone else's name was called at some point.
The champions have evened out, but my biggest question still remains: Are we getting a title swap with Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley or not? Belair remains Raw Women's Champion despite being a member of the blue brand and vice versa with Ripley. Both will be in action at Backlash, but Belair's match is with a fellow SmackDown star in IYO SKY, so it's not as if dropping the belt to her would solve the problem. I maintain that rebranding the belts would be the way to go, but I doubt WWE agrees and thus both women will have their reigns interrupted soon, which is especially a travesty for Belair who is days away from becoming the longest-reigning Raw Women's Champion ever.
Between the two brands, unlike in past years, I don't really feel strongly about one roster over the other post-Draft, and that's a positive. WWE tends to stack one show with stars and shaft the other one, so I'm happy that wasn't the case this year. I think many people can benefit from where they've been slotted depending on how the booking goes, but that's honestly the key: if the booking can pick up again, then new stars can be made. The debut of the World Heavyweight Championship helps, but it's also a matter of how they handle it. Either way, I'm excited to see who thrives on their respective show.
Six rounds for Night 2 were televised during Monday's Raw with additional draft picks taking place on Raw Talk immediately afterward. Raw obviously ended up with more picks because it's a three-hour show compared to SmackDown's two hours. Per the rules, free agents can appear on both brands. As previously noted, the new rosters will officially got into effect starting next Monday, May 8th. Here's my in-depth analysis of every pick from Night 2 of the 2023 WWE Draft.
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.
Nearly 13 years ago, I did a write-up for Bleacher Report (mere months removed from when I was brought on as a writer for the site which was still in its infancy) detailing my experience meeting WWE's Daniel Bryan (now known as Bryan Danielson in AEW) at a Northeast Wrestling show.
I had already attended a handful of N.E.W. shows dating back to May 2009 (my first indie ever), but that October 2010 night in particular was one I'll never forget, and N.E.W. played a big role in making it so memorable. I have been an avid attender of the promotion ever since, though I admittedly fell off a bit from 2013 through 2016 due to being in college.
I have always said that Northeast Wrestling was where you could meet the biggest stars in wrestling and also be treated to a kickass show. Thanks to them, I have had the opportunity to meet everyone from Chris Jericho, Bret Hart and Mick Foley to The Hardy Boyz, AJ Styles and Cody Rhodes. It's truly astounding to see how many notable names they've hosted over the years, while also paving the way for the future: Carmelo Hayes, Dijak, Robert Stone, Matt Taven, Mike Bennett, Ivar of The Viking Raiders, and countless others.
WrestleMania weekend 2022 in Dallas, Texas wasn't what some would call, "Wrestling for the wrassling purists," but WWE proved once again, when they know how to and want to, they can deliver, even if from a more "Sports-Entertainment" angle.
The weekend was marked with several big star studded shining moments, so it's hard to pick a "single moment." Although, arguably it should, technically go to Cody Rhodes' return since the weekend was fueled by rumors of his imminent return, and had been for what was, at the time going into WrestleMania, Saturday was 45 days since news had broke on the former EVP and his wife, Brandi leaving from AEW. The return, much like CM Punk's AEW debut in August, was admittedly, "Wrestling's worst kept secret" but that of course, still didn't stop it from being every bit of a memorable moment that wrestling fans won't soon forget, or stop tweeting about.