The 2020 WWE Draft, set to start on Friday, Oct. 9 on SmackDown and conclude on Monday, Oct. 11 on Raw, is always an excellent opportunity to freshen up storylines and reinvigorate under-utilized talent.
As WWE continues to cope with product presentation in the age of COVID-19, brand identity has lost any sort of uniqueness it once had. WWE likes to trumpet that Survivor Series is the one night a year when you can see Raw wrestlers and SmackDown wrestlers going head-to-head, but that has hardly been the case over the past several months due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.
Raw and SmackDown superstars have gone back and forth between shows without much significance, and so the annual draft is another opportunity to separate the roster of wrestlers in two distinct groups.
There is a potential wrinkle this year as well, when it comes to NXT, WWE’s developmental show that airs Fridays on Sportsnet 360 at 7 p.m. ET. NXT superstars have been drafted to both Raw and SmackDown in the past, but with wrestlers like Finn Balor and Ember Moon moving from the main roster back to NXT in recent months, there’s a possibility for NXT to be involved in drafting wrestlers from both main rosters.
Ahead of NXT TakeOver 31, however, NXT executive producer Paul Levesque (Triple H) noted he was unsure what role the black and gold brand may have in the draft.
“I wish I did (know), but I don’t,” laughed Levesque. “I don’t know. The draft is coming (but) I’m unsure. You, like myself, will have to stay tuned, and wait and see.”
As the wrestling world waits to see what sort of curveballs WWE will throw, Sportsnet took some time to map out the potential top-five picks of both Raw and SmackDown.
1st Overall Pick – Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns has suddenly become the most interesting character in all of WWE. Wrestling fans had been begging for a heel turn from Reigns for years, and now that they finally have it, Reigns has proven that it was worth the wait. The Universal Champion, with advocate Paul Heyman at his side, is a top draw on any show right now and should go No. 1 overall, no matter which brand holds the first pick.
2nd Overall Pick – Big E (with The New Day)
When Xavier Woods went down to injury, Big E and Kofi Kingston easily slotted into the roles as SmackDown Tag Team champs. When Kofi went down with an injury, many thought this would be E’s time to shine. So far, that hasn’t been the case. WWE has somewhat featured Big E in main event roles on television, but nothing monumental. A move to Raw has the opportunity to permanently catapult the multi-time tag team champ into the main event stratosphere. Big E has everything you could possibly want in a world champion, and I think it’s time that E gets his shot.
3rd Overall Pick – Sasha Banks
The version of Sasha Banks that we’re all witnessing right now on SmackDown is the version that I want as my top women’s superstar. Sasha has been fantastic since her split with Bayley, and their (likely) upcoming match at Hell in a Cell should tear the house down. I imagine Sasha will finally end Bayley’s run as SmackDown Women’s champ, therefore cementing herself as the top women’s superstar on the blue brand.
4th Overall Pick – The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, Roderick Strong)
Shock the System. Fans have long wrestled with the idea of whether or not The Undisputed Era should be called up from NXT. The foursome has become synonymous with the black and gold brand, with Adam Cole carrying the torch for much of the past three-plus years.
However, with all the gold having been won and nothing left to accomplish, it’s time for U.E. to get their callup. This faction would be well served on a Raw show that is looking for personality outside of the main event storylines, and new challengers within the tag division. Call them up BAY-BAY.
5th Overall Pick – Bayley
Wherever Bayley might end up, both in regards to show and overall draft number, it needs to be on the same show as Sasha Banks, but also below her in draft order. The feud between Bayley and Sasha could continue for months on end, and with their chemistry, there’s nothing to suggest that it won’t proliferate in interest. Meanwhile, with Bayley being chosen below Sasha, she’ll then have plenty to gripe about in terms of being slighted.
6th Overall Pick – Drew McIntyre
The WWE Champion could, and maybe should, be a first-overall selection. McIntyre has carried the WWE flag as best as anyone could during the COVID months. No crowd, no problem for McIntyre when it comes to getting over with the fans. McIntyre’s rivalry with Randy Orton has been stellar television, however it’s time for that feud to end, and give McIntyre some new challengers. The draft is a perfect way to do so.
7th Overall Pick – Keith Lee
This is where I think WWE can begin some long-term storytelling when it comes to the Universal Championship. Keith Lee was highly touted when he was debuted on the main roster in August. Since then, he’s been involved in some moderately high-level matches on Raw, but nothing noteworthy.
Once Roman Reigns finishes up his rivalry with his cousins, The Usos, and he remains champion, he’ll be looking for a legitimate challenger. Enter Keith Lee. These two should clash all the way until WrestleMania where Lee is crowned champion. Lee has got it all when it comes to being a potential star, and the wheels could be set in motion for a star-making moment at the draft.
8th Overall Pick – Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae
Johnny TakeOver becomes Johnny Monday Night. OK, we’ll work on the nickname, but this selection makes all the sense in the world. Gargano and LeRae (real-life husband and wife) both lost their matches at NXT TakeOver 31, suggesting that their time in developmental may finally be over. There is less than nothing left for both to accomplish, save for being duel husband and wife champion, so it’s time for a new challenge. Gargano would immediately slot into a weekly show-stealing calibre matches, with whomever he may be paired. Meanwhile, LeRae will inject new life into what’s been a stagnant women’s division on Raw.
9th Overall Pick – Randy Orton
Randy Orton has been exhibiting some of the best work of his career over the past several months, perhaps stretching back as far as the last couple of years. As mentioned above, his storyline alongside Drew McIntyre, where Orton has been chasing his 14th world championship, has been fantastic. However, the rivalry will come to an end at Hell in a Cell and, should Orton lose, it will be time to move on to other things. Orton could then turn his attention to Reigns and his championship or renew his legend killer role on SmackDown. Either way, a change of scenery will continue to keep Orton fresh.
10th Overall Pick – Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn should be a contender for the 2020 Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete. The Montreal native sat out several months following WrestleMania due to COVID concerns, only recently returning to recapture his Intercontinental Championship. Zayn’s role as a slimy, cowardly heel as been absolutely spectacular. Whichever brand ends up drafting Sami and his IC Championship, they will be getting a star who can steal the show on any given week, whether it be in the ring or on the microphone.