Picks of the past
Monday night, Raw will play host to the first-ever tri-branded WWE Draft. For the fourth consecutive year and fifth time in six years, WWE Superstars will wait with anticipation as their name could be called to a new brand. EVERYONE is eligible, including announcers, referees and even General Managers, so there's sure to be at least one shocker in the selection process.
In the past, the WWE Draft has created many memorable moments. But of course, like any draft in professional sports, the Draft can create some seriously tense moments for those doing the selection…and those being selected. Who could ever forget Eric Bischoff's double-take when then-SmackDown General Manager Paul Heyman drafted Triple H away from Raw in 2004, or Heyman's immediate tantrum when he himself was selected by Raw GM Bischoff later that same night?
With memories of those moments and more in mind, let's take a turn off Draft Drive and onto Memory Lane.
2002 -- The Brand Extension
The first WWE Draft occurred in 2002 during the WWE Brand Extension. With WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon manning SmackDown and Ric Flair drafting for Raw, WWE was split into two entities for the first time. The entire roster was divided that night at Penn State University, and The Rock and Undertaker made history by becoming the first-ever draft selections of McMahon and Flair, respectively. In that draft, however, a few people were exempt. WWE Champion Triple H and Women's Champion Jazz were ineligible, as they would be able to defend their titles on both brands, and WWE Title challenger Chris Jericho and a contractually-invalid Stone Cold were also off the board.
2004 -- Shaking things up
Nearly two years later, with Mr. McMahon back in full control of WWE, he decided to shake things up by holding the first-ever Draft Lottery. So, on March 22 in Detroit, the WWE locker room gathered in anticipation as Raw GM Bischoff and SmackDown GM Heyman prepared to make six selections each throughout the night.
Among those selections were the aforementioned choices of Triple H and Heyman. Raw also got Edge and Shelton Benjamin, while SmackDown selected Rob Van Dam and current GM Theodore Long. The biggest fireworks happened with Triple H and Heyman, however. The Game was immediately traded back to Raw for The Dudley Boys and King Booker that night, while Heyman quit on the spot instead of heading to Raw to work for sworn enemy Bischoff.
Raw's first selection was also one that tugged at the heartstrings, as the World's Greatest Tag Team was split up when Benjamin was plucked from SmackDown. The image of Benjamin and Haas shaking hands in disbelief as Shelton joined his new brand is another "draft moment" many will never forget. Of course, three Intercontinental Title reigns later, it seems things worked out for Shelton, but the future is always uncertain.
2005 -- Stretching it out
In 2005, the Draft Lottery was done a little differently. Each brand received five selections, but instead of being made all in one night, Bischoff and now-GM Long's choices were made over a four-week period.
Unfortunately, Raw had the first selection, and struck a major blow to SmackDown by striking gold: WWE Champion John Cena. The roof was nearly blown off the arena in St. Louis when The Champ made his Raw arrival, and for the first time ever, both the WWE and World Heavyweight Champions were on the same brand. SmackDown countered, stealing former World Heavyweight Champions Chris Benoit and Randy Orton, but Raw got another surprise when Carlito was selected and claimed the Intercontinental gold in his first Raw match. Finally, after four weeks and nine selections, SmackDown paid back the flagship by plucking World Heavyweight Champion Batista away from Raw.
2006 -- Let's get extreme
In 2006, the Draft Lottery was not held; instead, Paul Heyman got to select one Superstar from both Raw and SmackDown to fill out the roster of the revived ECW brand. Heyman used his brilliant tactical mind and chose ECW Original Rob Van Dam (one of the backbones of ECW in the 1990s), who just weeks later went on to become the first man to simultaneously hold both the WWE and ECW Championships.
2007 -- What will the future hold?
This year, the Draft returns to where it began, the state of Pennsylvania. No one will be exempt this Monday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., meaning we could see another infamous draft moment take place.
The X-factor in 2007, however, is that the draft is tri-branded. In the past, Superstars knew which brand they would be going to once drafted, because there was only one other. Now, however, there will be double the nerves, anticipation and excitement as Superstars wait to see where they will fall.
Of course, then there are the "what if" scenarios. For instance, what would happen if brand-new World Tag Team Champions Cade & Murdoch were split up? What if SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long gets drafted to Raw or ECW? Better yet, what will the landscape look like if Bobby Lashley, Edge and John Cena all end up on the same brand?
WWE.com will look into some of these scenarios later in the week. Fellow staffers…you're on the clock.