So we're coming up very close to the brand split in the WWE, where RAW and Smackdown will be exclusive brands with exclusive rosters, and Smackdown will be going live every Tuesday.
Now, there are a number of factors that could shift the way the draft is handled. For example, we're still uncertain which show Shane and Stephanie will run. We're still unsure if they're certainly going to bring back the World Heavyweight Championship, or run with my idea and merge the IC/US titles and make that the main title on Smackdown. We're still not aware if tag teams will be split, if each show will have a unique division and title. We're still not sure if we're going to have women exclusive to each show and what that means for the Women's Championship.
Now, barring all surprise (not currently on the roster, and not NXT) draft choices, let us work with a few assumptions. First, I want to assume they will be bringing the World Heavyweight Championship back. I want to assume they will only keep one tag team championship and the whole division is spread through both shows but all aiming for the WWE Tag Team Championship. I want to assume the women will be split on both shows but will all be aiming for the WWE Women's Championship. I want to assume that the IC title will be on Smackdown, and the US Title will be on RAW. Lastly, I want to assume that Stephanie McMahon (and Triple H) will be running RAW while Shane McMahon will be running Smackdown. Also, Brock Lesnar is untouchable (and default RAW). Also note some NXT talent may not be with NXT and are open to this draft.
The first 12 selections will be done on Smackdown on July 19, and the next 20 will be done on the following RAW after Battleground. There will be a few selections on WWE.com/WWE Network after.
So with that in mind, here is my mock draft, complete with some explanation.
1. John Cena. Yes, I have Cena going to RAW, which has for the first time dipped below a 2.0 rating since early in the Attitude Era. RAW needs ratings, and much of this dip was in response to Roman Reigns as WWE WHC, so Cena will be the reliable first selection.
2. Dean Ambrose. I believe Ambrose loses the WWE Championship to Rollins at Battleground, so splitting them up before the PPV hints at the change but it makes it seem like Smackdown could take the WWE Championship with them.
3. Seth Rollins. I initially wanted to put Rollins at number 1, but the ratings decline forced my hand with Cena. Rollins will be number 2, which plays out well in this current run where he's accepting challenges and pinning guys in the middle of the ring (mostly clean). It also starts to build towards Rollins vs. Triple H at Su... we'll talk about that later. Will be WWE Champion following Battleground.
4. Sami Zayn. Shane McMahon's character since he has returned is about new talent, new faces, new matches... so Shane McMahon's character needs to shine through in the draft. It is not a selection about who is most popular, it's about new, and fresh, and exciting. Shane taking this chance shows that Smackdown will be different than RAW.
5. Roman Reigns. Yes, yes, I know... this puts Reigns and Cena on the same show and people have said all along that they have to be on different shows. Well, I have Reigns being a full-fledged heel at this point to counter Tweener Rollins and babyface John. And Reigns needs to be near Triple H on- and off-screen.
6. Kevin Owens. I know what you're thinking: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens need a break. I agree. And they will, for a while. Owens and Shane need to be paired up. They both teased it, and Owens' brilliant improvisational mannerisms sold he wants to fight Shane. It happens at some point after building on Smackdown. May be World Heavyweight Champion when they crown one at Summerslam.
7. Randy Orton. Sticking with that status quo thing. Also, he's facing Brock at Summerslam, and this isn't a feud you build on different shows. You mix them up on RAW.
8. AJ Styles. Styles gets away from Cena momentarily, but they will have their rubber match at Summerslam. Having 2 months built into this feud already allows them to not have to work on the same show to build match 3 (or it allows a few Cena appearances on Smackdown in order to add some established star power to the show's first month).
9. Sasha Banks. Sasha will NOT be the Women's Champion at this point, but she will still be embroiled in a feud with Charlotte, who Stephanie has not been fond of recently on-screen.
10. Charlotte. Still the Women's Champion, Charlotte to Smackdown keeps her away from Steph and the siblings keep their own rivalry alive symbolically through Sasha v Charlotte.
11. Robert Roode. Yeah, they have had Roode touring with NXT doing live events and while it has appeared that he may be on NXT's roster, bringing him to RAW makes an even bigger impact. We also know that the WWE main-roster audience is familiar enough with guys from that other company.
12. Finn Balor. Finn will be gone from NXT following his match with Shinsuke Nakamura. Just in time for the WWE Draft as well. This pick will close the show on Smackdown.
These next few picks will be supplemental following Smackdown on the Network and will not count towards the numerical order of the Draft.
A. Apollo Crews. Crews to RAW makes a lot of sense to me. He gets to be a bit of filler, but also gets to work on his character a bit more, whereas his ring work comes naturally.
B. Lana. An awkward selection, especially going before Rusev. But we will rectify that very shortly.
C. The Vaudevillians. Throw more superstars over to RAW to keep the roster packed for 3 hours and give them a pair of reliable workers. We will put a few of the lesser teams in this supplemental round.
D. Dana Brooke. Have to keep her with Charlotte.
E. The Dudley Boys. Even more bodies on RAW, especially with Bubba Ray who is capable of having some solo matches.
F. The Lucha Dragons. Throw another team on Smackdown, and add more reason for the Hispanic/Latino audience to tune in to Smackdown.
G. Titus O'Neil. Far better suited for the RAW roster, and hopefully Vince is okay with him at this point and he can get some substantial time to progress.
H. Darren Young w/ Backlund. DY gets to show off on Smackdown and use his Crossface Chicken Wing to help get over. Hopefully DY being showcased in good WRESTLING matches with some notable tapout wins will make this storyline actually mean something.
I. Natalya. Natalya to RAW is a safer bet for me, since she will be paired up with Sasha, who is going to get face reactions no matter what for the time being. Could be a great feud following Sasha v Charlotte.
J. Becky Lynch. Get her away from Natalya. Their feud shouldn't last, entertaining as it may be. Becky fits what I think Smackdown will be built as.
13. Alberto Del Rio. He makes a lot of sense on Smackdown if the focus will be on in-ring, but Del Rio is the kind of guy who can enhance RAW's show in a 3-hour format.
14. Rusev. The Bulgarian Brute needs to be on the show that will showcase his ability in the ring, and be away from the bigger superstars that WWE is inclined to bury him in feuds with.
15. The New Day. Yes, all 3 members. As I said, the tag team division will be spread but they will keep teams together. It also allows for more draft picks in a shorter time span on the show itself. New Day's entertainment factor will put them on RAW rather than Smackdown.
16. Enzo & Big Cass. Responding straight away, Shane drafts his buddy Enzo and brings his tag partner along. While the entertainment factor would probably benefit them on RAW more, it brings something different to Smackdown's programming.
17. Sheamus. Sheamus is just a body for RAW at this point. He's capable of making a feud physical and can be a stopgap if anyone gets injured.
18. Neville. Not only should Neville be returning soon, but he should be on Smackdown where he can show off his in-ring work and maybe bring back his feud with a Kevin Owens.
19. Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt is going to RAW in this mock draft even though I feel he needs the same focus that Rusev needs. However, Bray is more character than in-ring worker, and RAW being 3 hours every week allows Bray ample time to be shown in vignettes, promos, and matches.
20. Luke Harper. This is my shock selection of the draft. Immediately following Bray's selection, Harper is split from Bray and sent to Smackdown. He will still be on the shelf but there's a hint at something greater here.
21. Dolph Ziggler. Smackdown would be the better option for him, but RAW needs some in-ring ability, and someone who can bump and sell and put on entertaining matches with anyone.
22. Chris Jericho. This run has been more than we expected, and Jericho has gone back to the heel tactics. Maybe that's why he is so happy to keep this run going this time around. Plus, we need a ton more from Jericho & Owens going forward.
23. The Usos. It's time to start going back to tag teams, and these guys fit on RAW where they can be some filler and maybe even be heel and keep along with Roman.
24. The Club. Dropping hints at them joining Finn and turning on AJ.
25. Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman. They get to follow Bray to RAW, and they can continue their feud with The New Day on one show without having to force travel the first month.
26. Cesaro. I wanted Cesaro on the RAW roster, but I think he's better off against guys on my Smackdown roster where ring work is more important. Plus, Vince won't be directly overseeing Smackdown, so hopefully that allows Cesaro a little more freedom and breathing room.
27. The Miz w/ Maryse. I wanted to put Miz so much higher based on his current run being so entertaining. I also think he works better with some of the Smackdown roster, but he's a good enough heel to help maintain babyface reactions for guys like Cena and Dolph.
28. Bayley. Yep, she will be on her way to the main roster soon enough.. might as well do it at the draft and try to get her there as quickly as possible.
29. Baron Corbin. Relax, relax... I'm not suggesting they do any more Baron v Dolph matches, I just think that he's best suited on RAW where he can be another powerful heel.
30. Ryback. Yeah, yeah, I know... he's in a contract dispute, or happiness dispute, or shoot mode, or something... it's all a work. Ryback took time off to get necessary surgery and get his mind right. He has also been trying to rehab some nagging injuries, so this break was worked to look like Ryan Reeves was unhappy.
Following this RAW, the rest of the roster will be determined on the WWE Network.
A. Zack Ryder. Ryder needs character development more than anything... and he IS a good character. Hopefully with 3 hours and a limited roster, Zack is able to get some on-screen time and show off his creativity.
B. Breezango. This is more for Tyler Breeze than Fandango. I think the team sticks together for a while, but I think the goal has to be to find a way to put these guys over as workers.
C. Golden Truth. I am not thrilled about this team at all... but Vince McMahon is. They're bodies on RAW.
D. The Ascension. Get them the Hell away from Vincent Kennedy McMahon. I know it's built to look like Shane is running Smackdown, but that's Triple H's show in reality and he knows how to make these guys look strong.
E. The Shining Stars. Yeah, Primo and Epico to RAW... because why not? They'll be given lame promos and camera time for a couple of weeks.
F. Paige. Paige belongs on Smackdown where maybe she can start caring about WRESTLING again.
G. Nikki Bella. I'm still unsure when she's set to return. They've suggested multiple times that it could be any day now, but that has been going on for a little over a month. She's not going to be far from Cena, especially while shooting for Total Bellas.
H. Big Show. Kinda just throwing a part-time giant who does a lot of face work for the company now over on Smackdown where he can help elevate some talent. As much as I dislike Big Show the wrestler in 2016, he's still capable of telling a good story IF booked correctly.
I. Social Outcasts. There was a "squad" back in the day... they will fill this role. And no, I will NOT use that word and disrespect Kevin Owens.
J. Alicia Fox. Just filling gaps now.
K. Naomi w/ Tamina. Naomi isn't going to be far from her Uce husband.
L. Jack Swagger. Again, filling gaps.
M. Kane. I guess I have to put him somewhere.
N. Rosa Mendez. Yup.
O. Eva Marie. She's got legit heat, can't wrestle great... she can mask that deficiency on RAW and just be a face for the brand.
P. Summer Rae. Better in ring than she has looked since joining the main roster. Needs the right opponents to help her out.