The Reality of Wrestling: The Draft

The Reality of Wrestling: The Draft
By Phil Clark

Same ‘ol, same ‘ol?

While the big stories from this past week was Vince McMahon’s untimely “death” and Kurt Angle winning King of the Mountain, I decided to skip both of those topics and go straight for a wrestling metaphor if there ever was one: The Draft. Three of the last four years (was there a draft in ’06?) The E has prepared for SummerSlam by having a draft sometime in-between Mania and SummerSlam thus moving people from each show to create a fresher product; at least that’s the goal. In the case of the ’07 edition, it showed almost definitively the pecking order for T.V. in The E: (in order) RAW, ECW, SmackDown.

P.C. Says: The draft was another way for The E to show that RAW is their #1 show

It’s no secret that RAW has always been Vince’s favorite show. It was the first weekly show that The E produced that was in primetime (a big deal when it began) and with the Monday Night War, it became close to Vince as it was the barrier between WCW overtaking The E. When SmackDown came into the fray, people thought it would be Raw v.2. While that could be seen as true during the pre-brand extension years, since the original extension in 2002, Smackdown has created its own identity: the wrestling show compared to RAW’s sports entertainment, and as the B show compared to RAW. RAW’s ratings have always been better and will always be better than SmackDown’s for reasons ranging from Monday being a wrestling night to even non-fans and the fact that SmackDown’s move to Friday has turned into a hurtful act rather than a helpful one. Based on the history involved here, it should be a surprise to no one that RAW ended up getting the better of the other two shows in the 2007 draft.

SmackDown, like the whipping boy it is, got absolutely brutalized by The Draft as they lost Kendrick & London, King Booker, Mr. Kennedy, William Regal, and Chris Benoit and got The Great Khali, Kenny Dykstra, Ric Flair, Bob Holly, Eugene, and Chris Masters. Compare those two lists and tell me if SmackDown made out good. From a talent perspective, they got raped. From a drawing perspective, they got raped. The imagery is brutal, but so was the talent swap that this show now has to deal with. While Flair will never be considered a bad choice in yours truly’s opinion, he is near the end and really can’t benefit anyone else or the show at this point. Khali just got done jobbing to Cena in two title matches at two straight PPV’s, so he—the one guy of the bunch that SmackDown could insert into the title race—can’t be used in a main-event because nobody will buy him in a main-event after two straight losses. A bigger problem with SmackDown based on the draft is that they have basically gone through a mid-card switch. All of the people they lost that I listed and all of the people they gained that I listed could be considered mid-carders at this point. Looking at it that way, they really did get the shit end of the stick now didn’t they?

ECW didn’t make out too bad with The Draft. Losing Sandman does hurt them and will hurt The Sandman as a result because people don’t know him from anywhere, but ECW because he’s never been anywhere other than ECW. Moving him=stupid move. Still, ECW’s “picks” went as follows: The Boogeyman, Chris Benoit, Viscera, The Miz, and Johnny Nitro. Boogeyman, while terrible, does fit in ECW more than he did anywhere else (they did have a zombie remember). Benoit & Nitro are the best picks for ECW and it has nothing to do with “BEING HARDCORE!” What it has to do with is ECW compiling an ok list of talent from an ability standpoint. Along with Benoit & Nitro, ECW has C.M. Punk, Matt Striker, Elijah Burke, and Monty Cor Von. For a brand with a one-hour T.V. show and an atrocious PPV last December, that’s not bad. For Nitro, this is a shot for him to finally get a singles push as he fell through the cracks on both other shows when he wasn’t in the tag division. Of course, all is not well with ECW as they still have a generally shitty show as the few good wrestlers can’t overcome a lot of the bad that comes out of ECW, and the loss of Lashley doesn’t help either. Lashley is a pet project for Vince and having him in ECW did give that brand one star in a land with no others. Now without him, it’ll be up to Benoit to give ECW that one spark and that one star it needs to maybe (I mean maybe) gain respectability amongst the other two brands. Plus, the prospect of Punk/Benoit might make me actually watch the show.

And yet, when all was said and done, RAW still reigns supreme. After The Draft, they could run RAW-only PPV’s against SmackDown & ECW co-brand PPV’s and RAW’s would kill them every time. To put it bluntly, RAW IS FUCKING STACKED. In The Draft, RAW got London & Kendrick, William Regal, King Booker, Bobby Lashley, and Mr. Kennedy Kennedy. London & Kendrick being on RAW automatically spruces up their tag division and a long-term feud with Haas & Benjamin would produce in-ring gold. Lashley and Booker offer RAW two new main-event faces, something RAW needs desperately as they burnt out Khali quickly (good job), but are missing HBK and HHH and I’m guessing are waiting for SummerSlam for Cena/Orton. Updated rosters would point to Cena/Lashley being a perfect main-event for The Great American Bash with Cena being something of a giant killer this year (Umaga, Khali) and with Cena being much better in the ring since he fully adopted a brawling style, the match may not be that bad. What RAW got from the draft that no other brand did—main-event stability, mid-card stackage—points to them being very lucky considering the so-called randomness of the selections.

Yet, it’s something simpler that told everyone last week that RAW is still Vince’s #1: he died on RAW. The angle with Mr. McMahon’s limo getting blown up could’ve been on any of the three brands (I personally think that it would’ve fit the best on ECW) and Vince had it on RAW. That wasn’t an accident, and the overrun numbers showed that Vince got what he wanted for the show he loves: a boost in ratings, if only for one week.

The Reality is while RAW looks the best from a talent perspective, it’s still up to the people behind the scenes and the people in the ring to execute. While I have way more faith in the people in the ring, it’s the behind the scenes people you need to watch. For one thing, giving away the first meeting between London & Kendrick and Haas & Benjamin on T.V. without any type of hype or notice or anything shows already that it might be same shit, different people. For ECW, the task is a lot simpler since they only have one-hour of T.V. time each week and most people are looking for them to fail or aren’t looking at all. SmackDown however is in trouble as they have been fed a crop of mostly no-talent wrestlers or ones that may be out of their element on the show in question. The E’s response: make it work. Easier said then done. Of course that mentality seems to be the norm in wrestling these days: “we’ll try the same old stuff with new people and the new people will make it work.” A nice state of being, but the reality is that new people should be doing new things, their own things (duh). Whether it’s The E or TNA or NOAH somebody has to think of something that will make the light bulbs light up over everyone’s head. Until then, it doesn’t matter who is put out there, the product will remain stale and dull in the big leagues and will remain overly optimistic and fresh in Indy Land.

Tags: , , ,