Always an opportunity to “shake things up,” the 2023 WWE Draft took place this past weekend across SmackDown and RAW, as well as on their support shows SmackDown Lowdown and RAW Talk. Who went where? What brands are the belts on? JEZ Sports has all the details from this year’s switcharound.
The 2023 WWE Draft took place over two nights this year, starting on Friday night’s SmackDown broadcast and concluding with Monday Night RAW. The Superstars were split between two pools of talent with half eligible to be selected on each night. We also came into this draft knowing that it would make Roman Reigns and his WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship exclusive to one brand once again and that the other brand would received the new WWE World Heavyweight Championship unveiled by Triple H the week previous.
Night 1: SmackDown
Round 1 – Presented by Triple H
SmackDown opened with Triple H and the first four picks of the 2023 Draft. The first round wasn’t particularly earth shattering with three of the four choices remaining on their respective brands. The only change saw RAW Women’s Champion, Bianca Belair, sent to the SmackDown brand. In a rather clunky promo on her cellphone, Belair shared that she was excited to be coming to SmackDown as the SmackDown Women’s Champion. Guess we’re getting another post draft title swap coming up soon…
Round 2 – Presented by RVD and Michael Hayes
In the second round, we saw Edge returned to his spiritual home of SmackDown. With the prevailing opinion that Edge is looking to retire this Summer, could we see him get another crack at Roman Reigns? Once Reigns passes 1000 days, the Rated R Superstar could be the man to dethrone him. Imperium were also drafted to RAW which also sends the Intercontinental Championship to the red brand.
Round 3 – Presented by JBL and Teddy Long
In the third round, WWE buried the biggest news of the night that AJ Styles was making his long awaited return from injury. He and The O.C. were drafted to SmackDown, along with Bobby Lashley; all legitimate contenders for Reigns and the Universal Championship. Drew McIntyre was sent to RAW (unless he doesn’t come back…) and The Miz remained on RAW. Miz often flip-flops between the brands so it was a surprise to see him stay put for once.
Round 4 – Presented by Shawn Michaels and Road Dogg
The fourth round, the final round on SmackDown, was a big one. In addition to sending Shinsuke Nakamura to RAW (where he’ll likely compete for the new World Title) and Damage CTRL to SmackDown (where Bayley will torment Michael Cole), we also saw all of NXT’s Women’s Title holders sent up to the main roster. While this probably won’t mean much for the NXT Women’s Championship (Indi Hartwell will either vacate or drop it at a future event), we could be seeing a major shakeup as it pertains to the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships. With Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez drafted to RAW (more on that later) with no mention of them being able to travel between the brands any longer, we could see the NXT belts rebranded to SmackDown Women’s Tag Team Championships. NXT really doesn’t need the belts but having tag titles on both brands could be a way to place more focus on a women’s roster that has been greatly expanded in the draft. You heard it here first.
Night 1: Supplemental Draft Picks
Announced on the SmackDown Lowdown, we had supplemental draft picks to close out Night One. With the announcement that Zoey Stark and JD McDonagh would be promoted to the main roster, it’s a shame we couldn’t have just had this picks on SmackDown. There was certainly plenty of time throughout the programme.
Night 2: Monday Night RAW
Round 1 – Presented by Triple H
We were once again presented with a lacklustre opening round to Night 2 of the draft by Triple H. It could be argued that Rhea Ripley officially bringing the SmackDown Women’s Championship to RAW with the first pick was big news but it didn’t net a change in brand for her and was inevitable based on Bianca Belair’s less than stellar video message on SmackDown. Austin Theory heading to the blue brand is the only actual change in this round and we fully expected this move after GUNTHER was drafted by RAW on Friday night.
Round 2 – Presented by Booker T and Sharmell
Stacked round here. The Undisputed Tag Team Champions were drafted to RAW and, from the language used by Kevin Patrick and Corey Graves on commentary, they won’t be travelling between the brands any longer. Splitting up these belts would be a great move since there are far more established teams to compete for these titles on each of the brands now. Paired with my theory regarding the Women’s Tag Team Championships earlier, we could see men’s and women’s tag titles on both RAW and SmackDown. The Judgment Day join Mami on Monday nights and Rey Mysterio is removed from his son once again as The L.W.O. remain on SmackDown.
Round 3 – Presented by Shawn Michaels
With the exception of Sheamus and the Brawling Brutes, all change here. Nothing too exciting as most of these Superstars have been on both brands before.
Round 4 – Presented by Eric Bischoff and Rob Van Dam
No real changes here either. Rousey and Baszler move back to RAW but everyone else stays put. No surprise that Trish Stratus remains on RAW with Becky Lynch as their rivalry is just getting started.
Round 5 – Presented by Road Dogg and Molly Holly
Yes, boy! Pretty Deadly coming to SmackDown is the highlight of round 5. This pair have been main roster ready for quite some time and they’ll fit well with this new crop of SmackDown Superstars. Shotzi stays put, Reed remains RAW and Little & Large leap to Monday nights.
Round 6 – Presented by Teddy Long and JBL
More NXT callups in this round with Cameron Grimes finally heading up to SmackDown, having been of NXT television for several months. Katana Chance and Kayden Carter are another long overdue call up and will slot right into the Women’s Tag Team Championship picture. Rick Boogs moves to SmackDown, away from Shinsuke again, and the Alpha Academy stay put. Commentary noted that Otis is staying with Maxine Dupri; god knows where that draft announcement was made, or what happened to Mansoor and Mace. Bit of an anticlimatic final round, if we’re being honest about it.
Night 2: Supplemental Draft Picks
Just like at the conclusion of Night 1 of the WWE Draft, we saw a number of supplemental draft picks made on the post show, RAW Talk. The majority of the pickups belonged to RAW with Johnny Gargano and Nikki Cross amongst the most notable to be staying on the red brand. We also saw some more callups from NXT with Indus Sher, Odyssey Jones and Grayson Waller all getting callups.
Also during the SmackDown Lowdown, it was announced that MVP had negotiated free agent status for his client, Omos. It was also announced that Mustafa Ali, Dolph Ziggler and Von Wagner would be free agents.
Triple H also announced at the top of Monday Night RAW that Brock Lesnar had renegotiated his free agent status and would not be drafted.
More free agents were announced on RAW Talk with four Superstars down on their luck in Baron Corbin, Elias, Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander free to travel, as well as the little seen NXT Superstar, Xyon Quinn.
It is expected that the majority of those declared free agents will be enhancement talent across both RAW and SmackDown going forward. Brock Lesnar and Omos are the obvious exceptions to this.
When you look back at the results of this draft, not a huge amount has changed from the previous rosters. It seems that the purpose of this draft was more to reestablish that the split was still a thing, force Roman Reigns back to one brand, and create a pool of jobbers that can lose on either brand. Still, change is a good things, even if that change is limited, and we can look forward to the fallout of these changes after Backlash, as well as the tournament to crown RAW a brand new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
How are you feeling about the results of the 2023 WWE Draft? Are your favourite Superstars on new brands or hasn’t much changed? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!