It’s time for the flawed WWE Draft to come to an end


The Oct. 5 episode of Raw capped off the 2021 WWE Draft, which started on the Oct. 1 episode of SmackDown.

With WWE’s loaded weekly television commitments and bloated pay-per-view schedule (all of this being self-imposed, to be clear) forcing the company to burn through many of its top matches (or schedule endless rematches), the two-night draft gave the promotion a chance to shuffle the roster to create fresh matchups for the next year.

On the surface, refreshing the talent pool on Raw and SmackDown for the next year isn’t a bad idea. In fact, the mere idea should — and in some cases, did — excite fans ready for something resembling change. However, like a lot of WWE’s “changes”, the draft is a primarily cosmetic fix to a lot of its underlying problems.

The WWE Draft needs to end.

Watching the two nights of the draft, it’s clear that WWE has no idea what makes drafts such an intriguing television experience. For sports leagues in the United States, drafts aren’t a showcase of established talent moving from show to show (that’s what free agency and trade deadlines are for); it’s a time to spotlight the next generation of potential stars taking the next step in their careers.

It’s easy to get excited about, say, Zion Williamson or Trevor Lawrence getting selected first overall in their respective sports; it’s a little harder when it’s Kevin Owens switching from brand to brand every year, especially when there’s little difference between the shows outside of the runtime and color palette.

And that’s the thing: None of these picks feel meaningful because fans know that those wrestlers will probably move back to the other show within a year. And that’s without bringing up the possibility that the promotion undercuts all of this by enacting the “Brand-to-Brand Invitational” or the “Wild Card Rule” to get certain stars on whichever show it feels needs some star power, if not putting people on shows with no explanation at all.

All of this reflects WWE’s continuous lack of booking discipline, but it’s also is a consequence of the company’s long-standing struggles to create new stars. If WWE actually spent time building up multiple main event stars on both shows — the purported purpose behind the brand split — they wouldn’t need to flip the rosters every year or script loopholes to get wrestlers on other shows.

But you could’ve said the same thing about WWE in 2020, 2019, 2018, and so on down the line. Yet here we are again about to see them run through the same process to mask those issues. It’s like watching a child “clean” their room by stuffing all their belongings in the closet or under the bed. Eventually, the mess WWE made will spill out.

Cleaning it up wouldn’t take too much effort on WWE’s part, but it would require the company to eliminate some bad habits, and ceasing to present the draft as they currently do would force them to do so.

Instead, WWE should try out other means of roster construction. They could introduce contracts and contract lengths to the on-screen canon, giving them a chance to script interesting stories around where certain big stars could go when their deals are up. Setting up a month-long window for trades could also work (and it would open the door for surprise appearances).

Even if WWE wanted to keep some version of a draft, that could work, too; just set it up in a way where it’s either for picking talent from NXT 2.0 or certain standouts from the Performance Center. All of those options are preferable to what WWE does now, and they each require a level of restraint and attention to detail that the product needs.

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It doesn’t need to be any of those choices, as long as whatever they do includes them discontinuing this version of the draft.