The WWE draft provides opportunity. If that sounds like promotional jargon that the WWE has Michael Cole spout out on a regular basis, that’s because it is. There is however, a lot of truth to that statement. The draft went into effect this week, and we have already seen the opportunity that could arise. Now, this could all be potential that is never fulfilled. Maybe we will go back to seeing the shows dominated by few talents, who become largely over exposed. As of right now however, we’ve seen six NXT call ups – with more likely to follow on a more regular basis than beforehand – we’ve seen more talent given decent time in one week than I can remember in a long time and we’ve already seen two former talents return, with more apparently in the pipeline. Maybe this draft really will provide opportunity, this opportunity will only continue if it’s capitalised upon.
We now have three hours of RAW, and two hours of Smackdown to fill, with far less talent available on both shows than before. We’ve seen how it would operate before, most of the talent who competed on RAW, would be given significant screen time on Smackdown also. Now that can’t happen, with wrestlers tied to just a single brand, more competitors have had to be given more time on television. I’m sure the WWE wouldn’t have been against just giving us a RAW mostly dominated by Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, multiple promos, and each having a long match. At this point they’ve realised they need to put other stars around those two, and build up other stars. We saw Finn Balor become the star of RAW this Monday. The women’s division hit arguably its biggest point ever with the Sasha Banks title win. Additionally to this, we saw talent like Braun Strowman and Nia Jax showcased. The show felt like it never hit a low point; there was so much variety, so many different talents were given proper screen time. History shows some wrestlers only needed that extra little bit of TV time and some extra focus on their character development to become stars. Enzo Amore and Big Cass have really taken steps to becoming stars in the past few months. This is because they’ve been given time, on the microphone, in the ring. Finn Balor’s stock rose massively in what was one of the best, most impactful debuts I’ve seen, since possibly and ironically – The Shield.
The use of “enhancement matches” was one thing I was a big fan of on RAW. It looks like it might be used on Smackdown too (Would have happened this week if it wasn’t for pesky Heath Slater). This provides opportunities in many ways. For a start, a local talent gets a pay day and a chance to earn some experience. Plus, I’m sure that guy that was destroyed by Strowman on Monday night will be receiving more Indy bookings. This helps avoid 50/50 booking, and beating some of your stars too often. By having local talents take loses when building up new stars, it prevents existing, contracted wrestlers taking those loses. This means those matches can be built up in the future, and mean more. Plus because your own contracted talents are taking less loses they are retaining credibility by probably earning more wins. Nia Jax and Strowman instantly looked fantastic, throwing their smaller opponents around like rag dolls. The only problem with these enhancement matches, is figuring out when the time is to take talents out of them, and begin to have them face contracted wrestlers instead.
The vast majority of Smackdown’s roster was used this week. Now, it’ true that there won’t be a battle royal every week. Nor will every woman wrestler coming out to stare each other down. Next week it’s likely we will see less talents used. However, NXT has proven time and time again that every one of your talents does not need to appear every week. Specifically with Smackdown, with it being a two hour show, this template could be used. American Alpha did not debut this week, they saved it for next week, gave a hook for next week. I like that. Becky Lynch does not need to appear every week. She can be the face of Smackdown’s woman’s division, but she will feel more special if she doesn’t appear every week. Similarly with John Cena, he’ll likely be the face of Smackdown; he doesn’t need to be there every week. Cena already has plenty of fans; he doesn’t need time to prove himself. He can be kept special and giving reasons to tune into the episodes he does appear on. I really hope Smackdown utilises “enhancement matches” Especially with tag teams, we’ve seen before on NXT that a team like the Ascension benefits from these types of matches. A team like them, that could do with a little rehab, could make real use of these matches. If you build them up strong, a match with American Alpha eventually will mean a lot more and gather far more interest.
There probably isn’t anyone that after the first week of the draft has seen as much reward as Finn Balor. Dolph Ziggler has probably benefited the second most. Dolph was losing to Baron Corbin a few months back, a match for the WWE world title at Summerslam seemed a distant dream. With the realisation that they need to build up the midcard, WWE knew Ziggler was one of the best options to offer a serious threat to anyone on the Smackdown roster. There is no reason why the likes of Ziggler, Ambrose, Wyatt and AJ Styles can’t all be kept strong on the blue brand. This will mean the victories over each other will have to be rarities. Again though, with older talent like Rhyno surely there to help out younger talents, enhancement matches and not having to use every talent every week, that won’t be hard.
The WWE draft genuinely does provide opportunity. Of course, this opportunity can be snatched away any time the WWE chooses to do so. They wouldn’t do that without a reason and a cause though. The rosters on both Smackdown and RAW are bursting with talent, incredible athletes who have a variety of different characters. I have no doubt they can seize these opportunities, they will just need to be provided with the correct tools.