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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Draft Lottery: Vince Just Has To Get This One Right

Courtesy of Piledriver Online's Steve Ashfield:

The clock is ticking away and in just a few weeks time the annual asset stripping of the Smackdown roster takes place. Ok Vince doesn't call it that, he prefers the title 'The Draft Lottery' but we all know what happens each and every year and this year will be no exception. It can't really be anything else can it? The ratings for Raw are struggling and it'll take more than a million dollars cash prize to stop the downward slide and from the look of it even that's not helping. That means making major changes and even though Vince doesn't want to leave Smackdown and of course ECW too weak, he has little option but to seriously strengthen Raw. So what can he do to achieve that and does he actually need to do it anyway? Time for the Piledriver Point to be made in no uncertain fashion.

Do we really need a draft? All WWE PPVs now include all three brands and every week it seems someone from Raw ends up on Smackdown and visa versa. That's definitely the case in the lead up to the main shows, so why have the brand extension at all? ECW and Smackdown already share a roster, forget about this talent trading rubbish, they share a roster.

That might get a bit awkward if ECW does indeed get filmed before Raw rather than before Smackdown but it can only lead to more confusion. Vince can decide certain Smackdown stars can appear on that weeks ECW and you bet he'll be tempted to stick them on Raw in some way. However the pretence of a brand extension still exists so the draft will go ahead.

Now last time there was a draft lottery it truly was a three-way event but with those changes on ECW will that be the case again? I'm guessing it will be but if anyone goes from Raw to ECW, appearances on Smackdown have to be a strong possibility. Amid all the confusion though I'm more interested in simply discussing who's going to leave Raw and who's going to leave the Smackdown/ECW roster.

So who's going to leave Raw? I have to start with two of the biggest names and that's Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Triple H is of course currently the World Heavyweight Champion but that doesn't make him safe from having to work on Tuesday nights. Batista made the swap when he was the champ on Raw so there is a precedent. Looking at the Raw roster at the moment Triple H is beginning to run out of fresh opponents. The Randy Orton feud has gone on for months but he's injured now. That at least gives WWE the chance to give the feud a break and perhaps resurrect it in the autumn. What else is there for Triple H on Raw at the moment? It depends again on Triple H's attitude, a heel turn during the feud with Cena is likely and that prospect might just keep Triple H on Raw. I'd like to see him move to Smackdown because that would help the brand but with Raw losing viewers and Triple H being Triple H I reckon he'll stay on the number one brand and new blood will be drafted to face him on Raw.

What about Shawn Michaels who since the brand extension began has always been a Raw wrestler. Again he's wrestled most of the roster on Raw time and time again and if he moved to Smackdown he'd be able to continue his feud with Batista, not that being on separate brands at the moment has prevented that happening anyway. However with a Michaels v Jericho feud and Batista seeming to be a face again as he chases the World Heavyweight title (again) I feel Michaels will stay on Raw as his ego wouldn't fancy a move to the lesser (and we know that's what it is) brand.

The chances of Chris Jericho leaving Raw are pretty slim too with his feud against Shawn Michaels gradually building up steam. Mr Kennedy may not be getting main event chances but with his feud against Paul Burchill going along nicely he could well go onto better things in the future. The return of a certain Smackdown star to Raw might just resurrect a popular feud he had a while back.

I reckon Umaga's days on Raw are numbered. He's not really going anywhere at the moment and there's no chance of him stepping up to the main event on Raw. Move him to Smackdown and he can continue that feud with Batista that has gone nowhere since their match at WrestleMania. A feud with Big Show could be appealing and he can also go onto ECW and feud with Kane. A move for Umaga is a must in my book. I'll take a quick look at the Diva's (no not in that way). Now the Playboy push is over I'd move Maria over to Smackdown. She's not anything special in the ring but if Smackdown is going to get a Diva's title she'd be a useful acquisition.

Santino Marella has done pretty well on Raw because he's so good on the mic. Sometimes we almost forget he's a former IC Champion. Once this stuff with Cousin Sal is over, move him to Smackdown and let him feud with Matt Hardy. Oh and Carlito can join him to help the tag division out on Smackdown. Cade and Murdoch are at each others throats but that's hardly going to be a long running feud. Let them have a couple of matches in the next few weeks then give Cade a chance to shine on Smackdown.

So who heads for Raw? Before Edge won the World title again I'd have tipped him for a return to Monday nights especially after his wedding to Vickie ends in disaster as it most likely will. However I see him staying on Smackdown for a bit longer. MVP isn't in title contention at present and his feud with Matt Hardy can't go on forever. A move to Raw is a strong possibility I feel.

What do WWE have in mind for CM Punk? Since winning the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania he hasn't had a great deal of success. Just what title is he going to chase and do WWE really want to continue the push? Just because he has the briefcase now doesn't mean he's going to keep it. I see him possibly going to Raw but there seems to be no consistency in what WWE bosses want to do with him. I don't see the Hardy's changing brands at present and besides a Hardy Boyz reunion can happen anytime Vince wants in this fluid brand extension. Other possible movers to Raw include ECW's Elijah Burke and how about splitting up The Miz and John Morrison (giving Finlay and Hornswoggle the title belts for a while) and sending Morrison to Raw.

There's a big name I haven't mentioned yet and that's The Undertaker. After losing to Edge at 'One Night Stand' his time in WWE is over, yeah right. Considering the problems WWE have at present Vince would probably try to keep Undi even when he actually dies. So what happens? Does he somehow come back and appear on Smackdown or does he return to Raw? I reckon the latter is the best bet, Undi v Michaels, Triple H, Jericho or Cena would definitely sell tickets.

Apparently even WWE writers don't know who's going to be moving yet so anything really could happen in the next couple of weeks. WWE does need a big shake-up with some fresh matches. Forget the initial idea that the brand extension will allow mid-carders to move up the ladder because now one-brand only PPVs don't exist that's not going to happen. Vince knows this draft lottery Ii an important one and he can't afford to mess this one up.