The WWE entered a new era Tuesday with the WWE Draft, and the result give us an indication as to the future of both established veterans and rising stars. With just a few days until Battleground, here are the wrestlers trending upward.
Ryder heads to the smaller SmackDown roster, where he’ll be less buried and should have a shot at The Miz’s Intercontinental title (should The Miz keep it this weekend). The Draft also reunited The Hype Bros, as NXT’s Mojo Rawley was taken in the last round by SmackDown.
The WWE Draft crowd reacted to American Alpha’s selection as if Stone Cold Steve Austin’s music had hit. These guys are incredibly talented and are going to look great on SmackDown, where the tag team lineup isn’t as stacked.
It’s a bummer that Nakamura wasn’t selected in the WWE Draft, but it wasn’t exactly a surprise given that Nakamura only arrived a few months ago. He’s still got a likely NXT championship reign upcoming, and the eventual arrival of Cruiserweight Classic standouts (like Kota Ibushi) in NXT will make for even more must-watch Nakamura matches. Nakamura just won an excellent match against Finn Balor, and his TakeOver: Brooklyn match will be one of the most hyped of the year.
Reigns has been kept surprisingly relevant on weekly programming throughout his suspension for violating the WWE’s Wellness Policy, and while it’d be a hugely unpopular move to give Reigns the title this week, ending up on Raw alongside Rollins should keep Reigns in the title picture for the foreseeable future regardless of who wins
Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn (tie)
The Zayn/Owens match at Battleground is being billed as the “final chapter” of their rivalry, but given that both wrestlers were drafted to Raw that seems somewhat unlikely to be true. These guys are probably going to steal the show Sunday
The WWE’s biggest star is off the flagship program, but he’s just settling into what will hopefully be a long feud with AJ Styles on SmackDown that could make Tuesdays the must-watch night of the week.
Balor’s WWE debut is finally happening, and Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley seem poised to make him a big part of Raw after taking him fifth overall in the draft. Balor will be the shining star of Raw’s new cruiserweight division.
Banks wasn’t drafted to her favorite show, but ending up on Raw keeps her closer to the Women’s Championship, and there’s a title clash with Charlotte at SummerSlam on the horizon.
Ranallo is a rising star in WWE, and he’ll remain as the play-by-play voice of SmackDown. Along with Daniel Bryan, Ranallo’s helped make the Cruiserweight Classic arguably the best weekly WWE program. If you aren’t watching the CWC yet, you need to start immediately.
Ending up on SmackDown is a win for Orton, who is an A-level star but would have likely been shuffled behind the three former Shield members on the Raw card.
Bryan returned as the general manager of SmackDown to huge ovations from fans, and Bryan’s recently proven himself to be an incredible color commentator with his work on the Cruiserweight Classic. While it’s still heartbreaking that Bryan can’t compete in the ring, he’s set for a long, long career at the forefront of WWE.
Ambrose wasn’t taken first overall, but he’s successfully defended his title twice this week already heading into a triple-threat match at Battleground. It’s anyone’s guess if Ambrose will keep the belt, but a SummerSlam main-event rematch of some type seems in the cards for the ex-Shield trio.
A year ago, Styles had just lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a match a tiny fraction of the WWE Universe ever heard about. On Tuesday, Styles was the fourth overall pick in the draft and now will be one of the main draws every week on SmackDown. It’s been a wild ride for Styles since debuting at the Royal Rumble, but WWE is clearly aware of how popular Styles has become with fans.
Daniel Bryan remarked that he was stunned Charlotte was taken third overall in the Draft, but she’s currently one of the longest-reigning champions in WWE and she doesn’t have to put her title on the line this weekend, which will likely extend her run to SummerSlam (if not beyond). Life is good for Ric Flair's daughter.
Rollins was taken first overall despite not holding a title, and WWE has made it a point to highlight his alliance with Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon. Rollins is going to be champion again, it’s just a matter of time.