Strap yourselves in folks. The Roman Reigns Era is just getting started.
Just in case it wasn’t clear following night one of the WWE Draft, the Tribal Chief’s reign as the WWE Universal Champion is not going to end any time soon.
It’s either that or Cody Rhodes was just never going to be the man to end his record breaking run.
The two WrestleMania 39 main eventers were drafted to separate brands on Friday night, going 1st and 2nd overall, respectively. Speaking honestly, Raw selecting the American Nightmare with the 2nd pick was a head-scratcher.
Keeping Cody away from Roman at this time either means that the plan is to have those two run in back in Philadelphia at WrestleMania 40 after, presumably, Rhodes wins the Royal Rumble for a second consecutive year, or... he’s going to win the World Heavyweight Championship as the way to finish his story.
Cody Rhodes winning that Championship turns it into what many are calling it already, a consolation prize. He should almost flat out refuse to ever challenge for that Title, but Rhodes going that route doesn’t exactly bring prestige to Triple H’s shiny new trophy.
Constructive criticism, not hate. Words to live by. I’m never going to be one to dive deep into the pool of negativity, there’s already too much of that in this world. I’m willing to see how Cody approaches his Championship aspirations on television before I react too harshly to WWE’s decision to keep him away from Roman Reigns.
#SmackDown gets the next pick in the #WWEDraft:#WWERaw Women's Champion, The EST @BiancaBelairWWE! pic.twitter.com/eUv9PC5fUD— WWE (@WWE) April 29, 2023
The real reason that I loathe Cody Rhodes going 2nd overall to Raw is that he was chosen over Bianca Belair. I don’t care if you’re a fan of the E-S-T or not, but as RAW Women’s Champion, she was the clear first choice for the Red Brand and it’s maddening that she was passed up.
The end result could be even more infuriating. If Bianca Belair defeats IYO SKY at Bashlash, she’ll become the longest reigning Raw Women’s Champion of all time, passing the record currently held by Becky Lynch. She’ll be the first woman to reach 400 days with that Championship, and that run is now most likely going to end with a Title swap?
No. Please. Don’t do that. Anything else. And this has nothing to do with the most recent exchange between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair being a total disaster. In certain circumstances, I don’t mind a swap. In this case, it’s a horrible idea that’s probably only being done to get Bianca and Rhea Ripley in the ring for a segment to tease a future match.
I hate it. Just rebrand those Women’s Championships once and for all and avoid a situation like this from ever happening again.
This is of course assuming, that Rhea Ripley is headed to Monday Night Raw. We have another draft night to get through first.
Let’s mock shall we?
Now that we have a better understanding for how tonight’s proceedings are going to work, each round of this WWE Mock Draft has been structured with four alternating selections - two for each show.
Since SmackDown received the first pick on Friday, the assumption has been made that Raw will receive the first overall selection tonight. Also, the assumption has been made that we will see six rounds on television this evening since Raw has an additional hour of programming.
With all that out of the way... here we go!
Superstars with an * by their name indicates an NXT call-up
At the absolute risk of looking like a fool, again, I have to keep the faith that WWE will show the true value of its Women’s Division by taking Rhea Ripley number one overall tonight. Even with heavy hitters like Seth Rollins, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Brock Lesnar available, Raw has to prioritize locking up the other Women’s World Champion after inexplicably letting SmackDown poach Bianca Belair.
The Red Brand needs to make its Women’s Division a priority overall tonight, because SmackDown cleaned up on Friday. Stealing Belair and Bayley was one thing, but adding the likes of Dakota Kai, IYO SKY, Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn has SmackDown set up for the future. The work WWE put in to reshaping that roster was one of the best results of night one, but it left the cupboard practically bare on Monday nights.
By the close of night one of the Draft, Raw had Becky Lynch and NXT Women’s Champion Indi Hartwell on its roster. That’s it. Raw did do well in the supplemental rounds on Saturday to add some untapped talent. Candice LeRae and Zoey Stark could be major players if given the opportunity, but they’ll need time and investment to get over with the main roster crowds.
Rhea Ripley is a hot commodity now and is about to go on a dominate run as whatever Women’s Champions she’s going to be moving forward. She has to be the first overall selection, assuming Raw has those honors.
SmackDown will then have a tough choice on its hands, but securing the services of both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn with one pick is like a cheat code in this Draft. I’d personally like to see them split from the Bloodline and head over to Monday nights, but I don’t see how Raw ends up with Rhea, the Tag Team Champions, and Seth Rollins. All four competitors will go off the board early and SmackDown will end up keeping Canada’s favorite sons.
Raw is then going to play its next two selections brilliantly. With GUNTHER and the Intercontinental Championship already on the way, whomever sits in the war room can prioritize going after two main event Superstars while SmackDown, almost out of necessity, has to invest an early selection in Austin Theory and his United States Championship.
Seth Rollins is the betting favorite to walk out of Night of Champions as the new World Heavyweight Champion. In order for that to happen, he has to be on Raw. He’ll be the 3rd pick of the night, allowing Theory to move over to Friday’s to close out round one.
Brock Lesnar comes off the board with the 5th pick and then the Queen will stick around on the Blue Brand as SmackDown nabs another bonafide Superstar for it’s Women’s Division. Originally, I had Charlotte Flair moving over to Raw, but with Rhea Ripley headed there it was best to keep those two separate for a while.
Besides, Bianca Belair is going to need new challengers if she gets past IYO SKY at Backlash. The Queen is the last big hurdle that the former college track and field star has yet to clear.
Raw grabs incredible value with the 7th overall selection, acquiring both Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez, along with their Women’s Tag Team Championships.
Finishing off round two, SmackDown hangs on to one of the best tag teams of a generation. I could be wrong here, but I don’t see WWE splitting Jimmy and Jey Uso from the rest of the Bloodline. There’s too much story left to tell as dissension boils over and Roman attempts to turn Solo Sikoa against his own brothers.
Don’t upset Mami. Also, don’t pass up a chance to add three Superstars with one pick. As I wrote about last week, Raw needs bodies. And without the 3-2 draft pick advantage this year, the Red Brand will be wise to nab as many factions as it possibly can to help fill out that third hour.
Finn Balor and Damian Priest are future World Heavyweight Championship contenders and you cannot split Rhea from her Dom Dom. Judgment Day stays together on Monday nights.
You know it’s a deep draft when one of the greatest women’s performers of all time doesn’t come off the board until the 11th overall pick, but the uncertainty of how long Trish Status will be sticking around as an active competitor leads SmackDown to take Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler over the WWE Hall of Famer.
Regardless of when she gets taken tonight, Trish is staying on RAW to continue her feud with Becky Lynch. This much is a guarantee.
With one Hall of Famer off the board, SmackDown takes another in Rey Mysterio. And as an added bonus, they get the rest of the LWO - Santos Escobar, Zelina Vega, Joaquin Wilde, and Cruz Del Toro.
Putting those LWO shirts on Legado Del Fantasma was one of the smartest moves WWE has made in a long time. Despite racking up a ton of losses recently, the group is way over with the crowd. Look for LWO to really start flourishing on Friday night’s once they have been split from the Judgment Day.
It’s a new brand for the New Day. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston are headed to Raw to open up the 4th round and hopefully Woods’ push for singles gold continues once he gets there. That man is too talented and has been undervalued for too long. Stop sleeping on Xavier Woods, y’all.
This is also a sneaky good pick for the Red Brand beyond the obvious reasons. Lord willing, when Big E is cleared to step back into a wrestling ring, conventional wisdom says he’ll rejoin forces with his New Day brethren on Monday nights.
Friday night is still fight night for SmackDown. They hang on to the Brawling Brutes with the 14th selection, opening up Raw to hang on to the Empress of Tomorrow at 15th overall for night two.
Bronson Reed may end up being the steal of the draft. Getting in the ring with Bobby Lashley has really allowed the big man to showcase what he can do. The crowd eats it up every time these two kaijus throw hands and they’ll be able to keep doing it for the foreseeable future as Reed and the All Mighty stay on the same brand.
This pick will also guarantee that whomever walks out of Backlash with the United States Championship, will carry it into SmackDown the following week.
Sometimes when you try to read the tea leaves, you look down right foolish. Reports suggested that multiple NXT Superstars were set to be backstage on SmackDown this past Friday and not a single one of them ended up appearing on the show or getting drafted.
Last week’s mock draft suffered as a result. A whopping 0-5 on NXT call-up predictions. Didn’t even land a single one in the supplement picks.
To be fair, no one saw Indi Hartwell, Alba Fyre, or Isla Dawn getting moved up. They all just won their respective Championships at Stand & Deliver. But they all got the call. Congratulations to those incredibly talented ladies and kudos to WWE on the swerve.
So how does one tackle the night two mock draft after several huge swings and misses? By doubling down, of course!
Bron Breakker, Pretty Deadly, Roxanne Perez and Cora Jade are all going to hear their names called tonight. The only “call-up” not getting carried over from Friday is Cameron Grimes. It’s just too hard to predict what is going on with him, as he’s reportedly been on the main roster now for a while. Hopefully we see him soon.
These later rounds are going to prove to be very fruitful for Monday Night Raw. Grabbing L.A. Knight, Johnny Gargano and Karrion Kross. All of them potential cornerstones of the new World Heavyweight Championship division.
Gargano slides to the 19th overall selection due to his current shoulder injury, but he’s the final piece to the puzzle. With Candice LeRae, Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis all on RAW as a result of Friday and Saturday’s draft process, it appears that a big time NXT reunion is on The Way.
I’ve already written about why The Way needs to make its return to television and we could be one draft pick away from that coming to fruition.
Don’t let us down Triple H. This is The Way.
What do you guys think? Who does number one overall tonight? Will we see more NXT call-ups? Let us know in the comment section below. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.