June 11, 2007
WWEís annual Draft is or was (depending on when you read this) this week, so I thought I would take a look at what the Draft means this year as well as tell you a great story about the first ever WWE Draft, of which I was a part.
Before we go to far I need to make clear that I am writing this Sunday night so I do not, as yet, know who was drafted to which shows. The Draft concept on the whole I thought was a very good idea. When the Brand split was first devised it was held to very strictly and there were no cross Brand matches or angles. With both Brands (There were only the two back then) kept completely separate the concept of the Draft offered a lot to fans.
The Draft created a bit of a season feel to the WWE. WrestleMania has always being the WWEís World Series or Super Bowl so with the Draft following WrestleMania it felt like the start of a new sports season with both Brands drafting potential talent for the new season. The Draft offered that ďrealĒ sports feel and gave fans the opportunity to speculate about trades, drafts, and potential new match ups and feuds for the season to come.
As I said, on the whole I thought the Draft was a very good idea, but perhaps youíve noticed Iíve been using the past tense. The build up to this years Draft has been somewhat farcical. The Brand separation has all but been ignored of late; making the move from Brand to Brand in the Draft seems almost pointless. Guys have been jumping Brands so much itís some times hard to tell which Brand you are watching or which Brand certain talent is on. It has gotten so bad even WWE announcers are unable to tell which Brand talent belongs to, and they actually work for the company. On a recent episode of RAW Jerry Lawler speculated about the possibility of the World Tag Team Champions, Matt and Jeff Hardy being drafted to different brands and what that could mean to their title reign, when in fact, Matt currently is on a different Brands, as Matt is technically a Smack Down performer despite holding the RAW Tag Titles, and competing on both RAW and ECW this year.
Mercury and Nitro of MNM at one point over the past year were on Smack Down and RAW respectively, yet competed as a tag team in ECW. Vince McMahonís ECW Title reign and resulting feud with ECWís Bobby Lashley took place all over RAW, with at one point Lashley wrestling 4 times on RAW including the Main Event. The Great Kahli jumped from Smack Down, to ECW, to RAW this year with no clear explanation as to why. Davari jumped from Smack Down to ECW and back to Smack Down with again little or no explanation offered.
If all of this isnít confusing enough the night Shane McMahon announced this years Draft, he hyped that on the 3-hour Draft special, talent from all three Brands would be present on RAW. This all sounded well and good except for the fact that all three Brands were represented on RAW that very night with 10 non-RAW performers appearing on the show.
With all of this I find myself significantly less interested in this years Draft. There are a few brand shifts that could be interesting, but most of them are with undercard players, as they seem to be the only guys who havenít been jumping back and forth anyway. Iíd love to see Benoit, Regal, and or Finlay move over to RAW. I catch that show more frequently and think all three guys could be stepped up considerable and either work with Cena or perhaps even capture the IC Title and restore some of itís lost credibility. How great would it be to see Finlay or Regal show up and destroy the Italian kid to win the title?
I best wrap this up before I run out of room for my promised Draft story. The very first Draft kicked off the Brand split and was a very big deal. Guys who had always traveled together were forced to consider new travel partners after years of being on the road together, for us it was a very traumatic time. The office was also very paranoid about word getting out and potential Draft picks leaking on the Internet so they played everything very close to the chest. We were kept completely in the dark as to who was getting Drafted to which show. This was very annoying and we were all amazed at how little we were told. Most Draft segments were a complete shoot; we would set up the back stage segments be told where to stand etc. but were not told which names would be announced and encouraged to just react as we would when the names were revealed. If something specific was required they would just pull the individual aside minutes before the segment was to air and brief them on what they needed to do.
I believe they only announced the top 10 Draft picks on the show and announced to fans that the rest of the draft picks would be revealed on WWE.com. They then told us all we would have to head to Smack Down for the last show before the split would take effect. When we asked how we were going to find out which show we were drafted to, we were simply told we could find that information on WWE.com.
Yup, to find out which Brand we would be working on, and where our WWE career were headed we had to go online and read it with all the fans. I have never been more shocked or offended in my life. Almost two thirds of our life each year is spent on the road with WWE and travel partners and road schedule are a huge part of staying sane on the road, and our employers couldnít be bothered to tell us where our lives were headed. I understand them not wanting secrets to get out before the RAW broadcast but could they not have posted a list at the exit of the building so we could check on our way out after the show? The list was going up online at that point so itís not like we could leak any secrets at that point.
I think it was Christian, Edge, and I riding together that night so as we drove to Smack Down we had to try to figure out how we could get on line to see which show we were drafted to. It was too late at night to phone anyone on the East coast so I eventually remembered that our buddy Lenny (Dr. Luther) lived on the West coast and would likely still be up. I called Lenny and asked him to go to WWE.com for us. Lenny was far more helpful than our employers and he was the one who informed us all that we ended up on Smack Down.
P.S. Iíll get my reactions to the Draft and the apparent death of Vincent Kennedy McMahon up ASAP