On March 22, 2002, in Pennsylvania, WWE began the brand extension by holding the first ever WWE draft. At the time, it was an actual draft. Vince McMahon would lord of Smackdown! leaving RAW to Ric Flair. Vince drafted The Rock to Smackdown! with his first pick; Flair took the Undertaker. It was unprecedented.
Eight years later (and, subsequently, eight drafts later [this include the "overlooked" 2006 when, while it doesn't appear at first glance, one did occur - just not on the same level]) we find ourselves on the day of the 2010 Draft Lottery.
These days, wrestlers switch brands at random. RAW doesn't have a General Manager to draft picks. Wrestlers will compete on tonight's 3-hr RAW for their brand's right to randomly draft a wrestler to their brand. In the past several years, the selection for RAW would have to come from Smackdown! or ECW. This year, and this is actually the first year where it will take place in this format (but very slightly), RAW will randomly pick from Smackdown! and vice versa.
So what's all the hubbub about?
It is tonight's RAW that, perhaps more than any episode of wrestling that will take place during the year, guarantees the most unpredictability. It's pretty much, and this simply my opinion, the only genuinely interesting night of the year.
You see, as always is with the case before the draft, the two brands have began to intermingle. This, usually, calls out for cries of ending the brand split (more on this later) since everyone appears everywhere - despite this genuinely happening at this point in time every year. After tonight, it won't happen again (to the degree that it's been happening) until this time next year. Sure, there will be a few times throughout the year where Smackdown! talent appears on RAW (and vice versa), but never again with the degree that it's been happening recently.
There is also, of course, the opportunity for shocking moves. In 2008 I was genuinely shocked when Triple H was legitimately moved to Smackdown! I mean, honestly, Triple H? On the B-Show? Or, more importantly, on The Undertaker's show? But it happened. What about the first big shocker of lottery drafts? Shelton Benjamin being split up from Charlie Haas (a move that, ultimately, doomed either man's career)? Jim Ross, the voice of Monday Night RAW for over a decade, got switched to Smackdown! and Rey Mysterio, the Latino-audience megadraw of the Latino-audience driven Smackdown!, moved to RAW. And, of course, Melina's moving, tearful goodbye to her friends - not so much shocking by her moving brands, but ultimately her reaction.
The draft hasn't been good for everyone. In fact, I'd imagine most guys dread getting moved to RAW. Shelton Benjamin serves as the biggest example of what moving to RAW means: a mountain of expectation that when you don't meet them, effectively ruin your career. Shelton isn't the only sufferer. Carlito, Paul London, Brian Kendrick, Jamie Noble, Deuce/Sim Snuka, and MVP all thrived (in one way or another) on the "Blue Show," but saw their career ultimately ended (some, like MVP and Carlito, are merely biding their time) when they moved to Monday nights.
As mentioned, there are some who believe the brand split should simply cease to be. Since that fateful day in March of '02, I've been a huge proponent of the brand split. Without it, guys like Edge and CM Punk would never have been given the opportunities they've received. Plus, overall the 'E has always had to big of a roster to support four hours of original programming. You see, even before the brand split, the same guys took up the same amount of time on both shows. Just because you had two shows, didn't mean The Rock only appeared on one. No, The Rock took up just as much time on Smackdown! as he did RAW. Things would be no different now, except instead of The Rock taking up time, it would be Randy Orton. I'm still not a fan of the brand split ending, but recent events have really pushed me to the edge of that. Batista is, allegedly, on his way out. The Undertaker is on vacation. Triple H, according to some, will be taking time off (allow me the caveat of adding that I don't see this one happening). Quite frankly, the 'E is in a position where it's either end the split or make new stars.
Lucky for them, tonight gives them that rare opportunity to reboot both shows and do just that.
For my predictions, I'm thinking John Cena might move to Smackdown! Otherwise, I have nothing except the brimming feel of excitement that only comes once a year.
My Opinion is Right
Ric Flair has finally done it after last week's episode of TNA, and particularly his moment behind the mic on Lockdown. He's cemented his position as the best promo man in the business currently. Who would have thought that over 30 years after first debuting, he would STILL be the Man? It's amazing to see what he can do when he's not shackled to a script. Give him bullet points and let him do what he does best. Even better than that, you can plainly see the influence he's had on AJ Styles.
Now, if they'd just keep him from getting in the ring and cutting promos BEFORE Styles.
Did You Know?
Randy Savage is a 6-time World Champion. He has two runs in the 'E and four runs in WCW. Each of those six title reigns has ended to one of two people: Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Randy Savage has never dropped a World title to anyone else.
Wrestler of the Month:
Tyler Black: After several successful title defenses (including a MOTYC against Roderick Strong and Austin Aries), it's Tyler Black who stands out as the best wrestler this month.
Spotlight On: Jon Moxley