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WWE Draft, explained: Rules, date, Superstars likely to change brands, and more

Here’s a full rundown of this year’s WWE Draft.

Wrestling: WWE SummerSlam 2021 Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s once again that time of the year where the landscape of the WWE gets shaken up. The annual WWE Draft is set to take place over the next week with the first draft show airing on this Friday, October 1st edition of Smackdown on Fox and the second show airing on next Monday, October 4th edition of Raw on USA Network. If this is your first foray into the draft, we’ll explain the particulars and significance of the two-night event.

What is the WWE Draft?

The WWE Draft is an annual measure the company uses to re-assign superstars to different shows. Both Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown have individual rosters exclusive to that particular show, so the draft serves as a proverbial portal to bring certain wrestlers to the other brand for the next year.

This is done mostly to freshen up the shows and open up the possibilities for new storylines and feuds between superstars who were previously separated by their respective brands. For example, Bianca Belair was drafted from Raw to Smackdown in last year’s draft. The new show allowed for her to shine in matchups and feuds that previously would not have happened on Raw.

Rules/Who’s Eligible

There aren’t many rigid rules for the WWE Draft as superstars are selected at random (well, determined by writers and producers of both shows, but the point of all of this is suspending disbelief). Every superstar is eligible for the draft, with Raw getting more picks than Smackdown because they’re a three-hour show. In storyline, it’s the “executives” of Fox and USA Network making the picks for their respective shows.

Tag teams and stables are eligible to be drafted together unless it’s specified if an individual is being split of from their partners. For example, the New Day was broken up in last year’s draft with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods being moved to Raw while Big E. remained on Smackdown. This allowed for creative to focus on building E. as a singles star, ultimately culminating with him winning the WWE Championship earlier this month.

In most years, NXT superstars are also eligible to be drafted as a means of being “called up” to the main roster and adding more talent to the two primary shows on WWE televisions. In turn, NXT doesn’t make any picks themselves as they’re mostly a developmental brand. If superstars are moved “down” to NXT, it’s done so quietly like when Mandy Rose transitioned to the brand in recent months.

History

The first WWE Draft was done in 2002 when the company decided to remedy a rapidly growing roster with a brand split for the very first time. The draft has undergone several formats from storyline general manager characters making the picks on screen to wrestler’s names being drawn out of a lottery.

We’ve had surprising moments like WWE Champion John Cena being drafted to Monday Night Raw in 2005 and World Heavyweight Champion Dave Batista being drafted to Smackdown that same year. It was originally done in the weeks following Wrestlemania but in recent years, they’ve gone with the tv schedule and have done it in October.

Who’s likely to switch shows

Again, anybody could be headed to the other show but there are interesting options here. Drew McIntyre has done about everything he could do on Raw, so it may be time for a change of scenery. Someone like Sasha Banks has been on Smackdown for a few years now, so it may be time for her to switch back to the red brand. And there’s the specter of NXT stars like Io Shirai or Raquel Gonzalez becoming instant impact players on the main roster upon their arrival to the two shows.

Purpose

The ultimate purpose of the draft is to basically reset the shows. It serves as a means to put characters in new situations and open up the door for new feuds to develop between now and next year’s draft.

For instance, Roman Reigns has spent the last year dominating everyone on Smackdown but what’s going to happen when he’s potentially flooded with new challengers like a Drew McIntyre or a Riddle? That’s what drives the excitement of this yearly event because the possibilities are endless.