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.
Much like I said after Night 1, I thought the 2021 WWE Draft was well done on the whole this year. Trust me, it's far from a perfect process and I'm still left questioning why certain moves are made and why certain stables aren't picked all together, but I wasn't left scratching my heads this year as much as I have been in the past. Baby steps, I suppose.
The biggest issue with the 2021 WWE Draft was that the draft pools were never announced ahead of time, even though they were in 2019 and 2020. Granted, there was never any justification for why certain Superstars were eligible on certain nights and why others weren't eligible at all, but at least it made things a bit easier to follow. We didn't get that at all this year. Worse yet, they didn't bother to put a pool together before Raw telling fans who was left to be picked coming out of Night 1. Nothing! We were left to figure that out ourselves, which tells you how late they stated putting this stuff together.
Nevertheless, you'll find that I was a fan of most of the moves made and what round they were drafted in. The inevitable swapping of the Raw Women's Championship and the SmackDown Women's Championship is going to be dumb (and is another reason why we shouldn't have brand-specific titles), but I'd say both rosters made out well and are fairly even. Raw definitely comes away stronger and with more star power, but what they'll do with those competitors remains to be seen.
Here's my full analysis of each round from Night 2 (including the additional draft picks made on Raw Talk on Monday night) and who went where. As you probably know by now, these moves will not go into effect until the October 22nd edition of SmackDown, the day after the Crown Jewel pay-per-view.
Despite WWE not having the strongest track record with the annual Draft shows in terms of how they're typically structured, I thought Night 1 was a success all things considered. The formatting was tweaked a bit compared to previous installments with SmackDown getting the first overall pick (for the first time since 2011 I believe) and there only being four picks per round with two going to Raw and two going to SmackDown. We'll see if Raw gets the first pick come Night 2, but either way, this makes much more sense compared to how WWE has done the Draft in the past.
My biggest knock against the Draft this year was that unlike in 2019 and 2020, the draft pool was not announced ahead of Night 1. For Night 2, anyone who wasn't selected on Night 1 is obviously eligible, but the list of eligible Superstars wasn't made clear prior to Friday night, leaving a lot of fans to question where certain stars where and whatnot. We were also told that NXT Superstars were eligible, but again, it was never made clear who exactly. For example, why would Austin Theory be picked before Samoa Joe, Johnny Gargano or almost anyone else on the roster?
We still don't have a clear-cut answer on who exactly has input on these decisions outside of "network executives" and the usual nonsense. and that's the problem you run into when you don't have on-air general managers assigned to each brand (I barely count Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville). There was never any talk of trades or why certain stables and groups could be selected as a single picks and others could not, but I've come to expect that sort of thing from the WWE Draft every year.
On the bright side most of the moves made were the right ones. There were some surprising selections, including a few that I'm slightly skeptical of on the surface, but I don't have a ton to complain about coming of Night 1 as far as the draft picks go. Night 2 could be entirely different story, of course, but I'm content with what we've gotten so far and hope that trend continues on Monday night.
Here's my full analysis of each round from Night 1 (including the additional draft picks made on Talking Smack on Saturday) and who went where. As WWE noted multiple times, these moves will not go into effect until the October 22nd edition of SmackDown, which is the day after the Crown Jewel pay-per-view.