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Draft winds favorable for Raw
Vengeance: Night of Champions is this Sunday live on pay-per-view
Let's be honest: no one likes change. Yet, without change, one runs the risk of growing…well, stagnant. But after a vigorous week-long drafting process that simultaneously ushered out nine Superstars and welcomed in 11 from the SmackDown and ECW brands, Raw won't have to worry about that problem for a long, long time.
Without question, the Superstars exiting from Raw — The Great Khali, Torrie Wilson, Chris Masters, Ric Flair, Kenny Dykstra, Viscera, Victoria, Eugene and Johnny Nitro — left large, gaping holes in the Raw roster. But consider what's taking their place based on fan opinions, plus several highly-unscientific, yet nonetheless undeniable factors:
1) Monster-makers. If you're relying solely on yardsticks and tape measures, Raw concedes losing out in the height and mass departments. But at the very least, Snitsky and Bobby Lashley draw the brand equal, if not ahead, in terms of sheer "monster" mashing.
"Snitsky's out of his freakin' mind," is pretty much all Tisha Watts wanted to say about the crazed colossus who was drafted from ECW. Her short-and-sweet summation, however, describes precisely the way Snitsky dealt with most of his Extreme adversaries. As seen by the way he manhandled The Miz on Raw last week, defeating the competition just isn't enough for him; he has to pound them until they can no longer move. So Raw's Superstars better make sure their health insurance is up to date.
Then there's Lashley. He's not a "monster" in the classic sense of the word, but he is a dominant figure inside any ring. Just ask Edgar Reyes, who's convinced that Lashley will become the new WWE Champion at this Sunday's Vengeance: Night of Champions.
"The guy is mad strong," Reyes explained. "He's going to dominate on Raw and take [WWE Champion John] Cena's title. He's got the power over just about anybody in WWE, plus I think that when Lashley loses it in the ring, there's no stopping him."
Over the past year, Lashley has indeed demonstrated on ECW, SmackDown and Raw just how unstoppable he can be. But the former ECW World Champion — who was stripped of his title after being drafted to Raw — now has a monster-sized task ahead of him: proving that he's a champion in any WWE brand. Regardless of whether he achieves that goal in the WWE Championship Challenge at Vengeance: Night of Champions, Lashley's Raw fury is a force that will be difficult for anyone to reckon with.
2) Experience matters. No one can just come in and assume the role of a five-star ring general like 16-time World Champion Ric Flair; believing otherwise means that you're simply not living on the same planet as the rest of us. But note that we said "no one." With a former World Heavyweight Champion like King Booker now in Raw's court, the brand has certainly made up for some of that "lost time" only the "Nature Boy" could provide.
"Booker's king because he keeps finding ways to win," said Garrett Clyde. "He was a five-time WCW Champion before he was World Heavyweight Champion, and he's still in his prime. It ain't 16 times like Flair, but it's got to count for something."
It certainly does, especially when you take into account another canvas connoisseur like William Regal, who began his wrestling career as a teenager competing in Blackpool carnivals. In addition to earning his own share of illustrious gold over the years — including the World Tag Team and Intercontinental Titles during his previous run on Raw — the gritty Brit was once a member of King Booker's Court on SmackDown. So don't be surprised if the two decide to again pool their seasoned services to conquer a Monday night kingdom.
"Flair can ‘style and profile' all he wants to on SmackDown. I'm just glad Sandman's coming over to cane-n-maim," said Matthew Logan, a Philadelphia native and self-professed "ECW original" who now resides in Virginia. When it comes to delivering Extreme brutality, Raw has certainly hit the jackpot with this former ECW World Champion. Sandman's irrepressible rage, channeled through years of beer and bamboo, could force Raw Superstars to start looking in arena stands for an unexpected Extreme presence.
3) Girl power. Losing the beauty and brawn of Divas like Torrie Wilson and Victoria is a genuine sour note for Raw — especially when you add in the tone-deaf talent of an aspiring singer like Jillian Hall. But get her riled up in the squared circle, and this vicious vocalist can belt out a chorus of pain and suffering. She has a frightening potential to be as deranged as Victoria, as past victimized Divas like Ashley can attest, and unless she miraculously makes the cut on American Idol someday, expect Jillian to seek fame and fortune with a Women's Title.
"Sharmell's too much of a diva to be a Diva," joked Carla Easton of Raw's new queen. "She's never seemed all that interested in the Women's Championship, and I don't think it's going to interest her now." WWE.com respectfully disagrees with our fan's assessment; the untold riches of any WWE gold holds mass appeal for any Superstar, Diva or ruling figure. Besides, Sharmell was a very hands-on queen who proved instrumental in King Booker's World Heavyweight Championship reign for much of 2006. Therefore, should she help him capture the WWE Championship on Raw, who's to say that she won't want a matching title that's worthy of her king?
4) The "It" Factor. Sending Eugene, Kenny Dykstra and Chris Masters to SmackDown hurt, as did learning that ECW had claimed Johnny Nitro in the Supplemental Draft. Nitro is already a multiple-time Intercontinental Champion, plus he, Eugene, Dykstra and Nitro have each been a co-holder of Tag Team gold. Masters, meanwhile, is a rough "Masterpiece" who's a (Master) lock to make a huge impression on the canvas. They all possess that certain "It" Factor — an abundance of talent, attitude and determination — which makes them Superstars on the meteoric rise, and it's Raw's loss to no longer list them among its ranks.
Thankfully, what could be deemed as a crippling blow to the brand is softened by the drafting of Daivari, Paul London & Brian Kendrick, and Mr. Kennedy. Daivari may not be the biggest Superstar on the Raw roster, but he established himself as one of the toughest within SmackDown's elite Cruiserweight division. Fueled by rage and resentment, there's no denying that the Arab-American Superstar has the potential to make serious waves around his new home, particularly with regards to the Intercontinental Championship.
"I'm stoked that London & Kendrick got drafted over to Raw together," said 14-year-old Mike Nettleton. "They're an awesome team. I was a bit young when The Hardys started making it big in WWE, but I've been following these guys ever since they started teaming up together. I think they're going to win the World Tag Team Titles very soon; and I hope Raw's in Raleigh again when they do it, because I want to see it live."
With an unprecedented 11-month reign as SmackDown's WWE Tag Team Champions, London & Kendrick have catapulted themselves among WWE's top tandems, and their brand of high-flying abandon will be a seamless fit on Raw. In fact, they're likely to make as much noise as Raw's newly drafted Superstar, Mr. Kennedy. Although he's still on the mend after injuring his right arm last May, the always-vocal Kennedy is chomping at the microphone to make his Monday night actions speak louder than words.
"I don't generally like big mouths, but [Kennedy] keeps things interesting," said Jim Bastille. "He really showed me something on Raw last month, when he put up his World Championship opportunity against Edge, despite being injured. I think he'll make sure everybody knows who he is when he comes back."
Success is the one true measure by which Kennedy or Raw's other new Draft selections will immortalize themselves in the world of sports-entertainment. But judging from what we've already seen from them, Raw's future is indeed a very promising one.