"On behalf of WWE SmackDown, I, Vince McMahon, choose … The Rock!"
With those words, the first-ever WWE Draft was underway. Raw and SmackDown were on their way to becoming separate brands, and WWE ventured into completely uncharted territory. The official launch of the WWE Brand Extension -- March 25, 2002 -- was an unlucky night for some, but still so momentous that it ranks as No. 12 among WWE.com's Greatest Moments in Raw History.
Following WrestleMania X8, the WWE Board of Directors chose to split Raw and SmackDown into separate entities, giving Mr. McMahon control of SmackDown and Ric Flair control of Raw. SmackDown won a coin toss to earn the No. 1 selection, and every WWE Superstar -- with the exception of a select few who were exempt -- would end up in their permanent home by the end of the night. Each brand had 10 selections to make live on Raw, with a lottery being held later in the night to determine the remainder of the draft.
In front of a capacity crowd at Penn State University, Mr. McMahon strode to the podium and uttered the opening quote, touching off a night of controversy, surprises and good old one-upsmanship. Friendships were strained, teams were split up, and our fans were left aghast at some of the choices.
The Rock wasn't happy, nor was Ric Flair's No. 1 Raw choice, Undertaker -- a man who had just brutally destroyed Flair at WrestleMania X8 nine days earlier. Nearly two hours later, following 20 draft picks and a night filled with chaos, Triple H capped off draft night, winning a Triple Threat Match to retain the WWE Championship and remain eligible to appear on both Raw and SmackDown.
Over the years, more draft lotteries have been held, Superstars have switched brands -- some multiple times -- and WWE has even added a third brand. However, March 25, 2002 will always be the night that WWE was divided, and one of the biggest moments in Raw history.