As fun as the whole idea of a WWE Draft is, it wasn’t exactly riveting programming. With a lack of real surprises, the Draft more or less ran…like a real draft. I loved the idea of including NXT superstars, which was the only part of the show that was remotely exciting. We could assume that Finn Balor was going to get the call up, but not as early as the first round.
Finn Balor is undoubtedly going to be a success on Raw, who picked him as the fifth pick in the first round, and the third pick by Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley. The strange thing about the format of the Draft was that the odds were heavily in Raw’s favor. Not only did Smackdown only get two picks for every three Raw picks, but Raw also got the first pick at the beginning of each round; so Raw would get back-to-back picks after every fifth pick.
This doesn’t quite suspend our disbelief that Smackdown is going to be a viable competitor for Raw. The top talent on Smackdown are Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, John Cena, Randy Orton, and Bray Wyatt. Styles and Cena can continue their feud going into Summerslam, and the fact that fellow “Club” members, Anderson and Gallows, were drafted to Raw, Cena will finally get his one-on-one match with Styles.
But why in the world would WWE want to split up such a hot new heel faction? Well, in Gallows and Anderson’s post-draft interview, they talked about dividing and conquering the WWE. This could be especially opportunistic for WWE for create a similar dynamic to the Attitude era. It’s no secret that The Club is modeled after The Kliq of the 90s, who arguably ruled over both WWE and WCW. While Shawn Michaels and Triple H notoriously crawled inside Vince McMahon’s ear and had unprecedented backstage pull in WWF as Degeneration X; Kevin Nash and Scott Hall went to WCW and infected the entire locker room with the NWO. Sean Waltman went back and forth between brands, but The Kliq more or less collectively held the wrestling world hostage for much of the late 90s.
So, it makes sense for The Club to be the first cross-brand faction since The Kliq. While in Japan, as Balor was leaving as head of the Bullet Club to come to the US and join NXT, AJ Styles entered NJPW and took the helm as the Bullet Club leader. Now the inverse is happening. As Styles goes to Smackdown and leaves the rest of The Club on Raw, Finn Balor could enter the flagship show and regain his position as The Club’s leading man.
Now, there are no former Bullet Club members on Smackdown for AJ to join up with, but that doesn’t mean he can’t recruit! This could create a very NWO-esque atmosphere with Styles turning some impressionable talent into new Club proteges. Perhaps a young tag team like American Alpha could turn heel and become AJ’s new backup. Perhaps some more established superstars like Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, or even Randy Orton could convert to The Club; especially since those are three guys who have had some trouble getting over on their own in the past. We might get a little more insight into their plans tonight at Battleground and on the upcoming Raw and Smackdown.
Battleground will be significant as it’s the last payperview featuring both brands in matchups before they’re separated. It could also become the perfect payperview designated for cross-brand matchups.
“Battleground” is a much better name for that kind of show than “Bragging Rights.”
Considering the promotional graphic of Battleground seems to be superstars holding flags and about to engage in medieval warfare, it would make sense for it to become a Raw vs. Smackdown event, which this new reboot of the brand split desperately needs. While we’re supposed to believe these two separate entities will be competing for ratings only, the fans are going to want to see some real, physical matchups between the brands and their respective athletes. This is wrestling, after all.
There was one glaring oversight in the NXT call-ups which seems a little too convenient. Bayley, who should have been brought up to WWE with the “Divas Revolution” group, was not drafted. It just so happens that Sasha Banks has a tag match against Charlotte and Dana Brooke, where she will be naming a mystery partner. If there’s one person who should welcome Bayley into WWE, it’s Sasha Banks. The two may have had the greatest women’s match in WWE history at NXT Brooklyn last year, and since Banks is a face now, the two can work their chemistry as a team with mutual respect for each other. This all adds up, as Charlotte and Dana are also a former Bayley rivals in NXT. Bayley’s debut is long overdue, but her first appearance at tonight’s Battleground as Sasha’s mystery partner is a very safe speculation.
The way we watch wrestling is changing. On a payperview event week, a wrestling fan who wants to watch all of the content available has a full time job. It’s going to be exhausting to watch a ppv on Sunday, Raw on Monday, Smackdown on Tuesday, and NXT (As well as the Cruiserweight Classic) on Wednesday. For all of this time that wrestling fans will now have to contribute just to keep up, let’s hope that WWE and their Creative team put in an appropriate amount of effort. If this new incarnation of Raw vs. Smackdown truly turns out to be a mock Monday Night War, I’ll take it.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston. He hosts the comedy podcast, “So Now I’m the Asshole” on Fans.FM and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke