The biggest winners and losers from the WWE Draft

There were plenty of snubs and surprises from Tuesday night’s WWE Draft, which split the roster into distinct Raw and SmackDown brands. It remains to be seen which roster is stronger and which McMahon wins the ratings war – but there were a few individual stars who got a big career boost with their Draft selection, and a few who took a metaphorical chair shot to the face. 

The first NXT star taken off the board Finn Balor went fifth overall to Raw, where he’ll likely be the star of the new cruiserweight division that Stephanie McMahon announced Monday, and could even factor into the WWE Championship conversation eventually. Balor’s finally arrived on the biggest stage, and he’s going to be huge.

Bayley’s omission from the draft was a shock for many fans, though many believe there’s still a possibility she makes a surprise appearance at Battleground this weekend as Sasha Banks’ mystery partner. Seeing a fan-favorite like Bayley – who carried the NXT women’s division after the departure of the other three Horsewomen – continually passed over in favor of promising but unrefined talent like Dana Brooke and Nia Jax is gut-wrenching.  

Cesaro was taken 28th overall by Raw, and he was not happy about it. Although it’s unclear if it was a work or not, Cesaro gave what was essentially a shoot interview during which he said he felt he belonged on SmackDown, where he could better showcase his talent. As it stands, not much changes for Cesaro, who remains in the middle of a huge card on Raw.    

Paige has been lost in the shuffle to a degree since the arrival of former NXT stars Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch – in part due to a concussion that sidelined her this winter. She was the fourth female star taken Tuesday by Raw’s Mick Foley, behind Charlotte, Banks and new arrival Nia Jax, meaning she’s already stuck behind the champion and lead title contender (she’s on the show that owns the title for now, at least?). On a more personal note, Paige’s alleged real-life boyfriend Alberto Del Rio was selected by SmackDown. Awkward.  

Nick Schwartz

Styles got everything he could have asked for in Tuesday’s draft. He gets to keep beating up John Cena, and he doesn’t have to worry about guys like Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns overshadowing him on the roster, since they’re over on Raw. Styles should be in line for a continued big push on Smackdown. The only downside is Gallows and Anderson ending up on Raw.

KO is a big enough personality and a popular enough superstar that he’s always going to make his presence felt, regardless of the rest of the roster around him. Still, the Raw roster is stacked, and Owens could end up squeezed out of the main event scene as a result.

When it was announced that WWE would be drafting six NXT superstars to the main rosters, there was reason to worry. Would that mean stripping NXT of its biggest stars? Instead, WWE made the potentially wise decision to elevate a few stars who have had their moments but aren’t yet well-established in the NXT universe. At least, that’s the explanation I choose to accept for why some of the big names in NXT went undrafted.

Andrew Lynch