Night 1 of the 2023 WWE draft is officially in the books. It’s just a sample serving of what’s to come on Monday, but there was plenty to be excited about.
Sure, there were some questionable results, like moving the reigning Raw women’s champion, Bianca Belair, to SmackDown. Most fans also expected Cody Rhodes to join the blue brand and eventually continue his feud with Roman Reigns.
Instead, The American Nightmare stayed on the company’s flagship series and out of the hunt for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship for now. Nevertheless, there were some great surprises, such as AJ Styles’ return to the house that he built.
The Phenomenal One was a fixture on the brand from 2016 to 2019. It will be interesting to see if he challenges The Tribal Chief to regain his spot as the face that runs the place.
Was his arrival enough to give SmackDown the edge after the first night of this year’s WWE draft?
Rebuilding Raw’s Main Event Scene
Straight away, Raw made moves to bolster its new world title picture. Smackdown unsurprisingly drafted the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, which means the “A show” will be the home of the world heavyweight championship.
Seth Rollins immediately emerged as the favorite to win the vacant prize at Night of Champions on May 27. However, the flagship brand also picked up an intriguing crop of superstars that could eventually go toe-to-toe with the inaugural flagbearer.
Drew McIntyre is a former WWE champion and a top-tier performer who can compete in upcoming programs. The Scottish Psychopath also spoke about his hopes that the company would split its main titles soon and “get a title in front of live fans” during an interview with Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
So, it makes perfect sense to allow him to fight for the new mantle soon. Ever since his return, Shinsuke Nakamura has also shown interest in becoming a world champion, but Gunther is the most eye-catching selection.
The Ring General has been the most dominant and captivating performer to hold the Intercontinental championship in recent memory. Nevertheless, WWE is clearly positioning him as a future contender for one of its main titles, and moving him to Raw removes the pressure of eventually facing The Tribal Chief.
Some fans may have been skeptical about the introduction of the world heavyweight championship. Nonetheless, these draft picks will set up some excellent matchups later this year.
SmackDown’s New Women’s Division
Heading into last night’s festivities, the blue brand’s women’s division instantly stood out as the aspect of WWE’s weekly programming that needed the most help. SmackDown quickly addressed this problem, selecting Belair as its second pick.
It’s unclear what this means for the Raw women’s championship, but The EST of WWE adds some much-need star power to her new home. The acquisition could also pave the way for her to participate in a highly-anticipated feud with Rhea Ripley.
The Eradicator will need some new opponents soon, and this is the most noteworthy rivalry available. At this rate, Damage CTRL may not be long for this world, but Bayley, Dakota Kai, Iyo Sky are great additions to the brand as singles competitors.
Raw may have acquired the current NXT women’s champion, Indi Hartwell, but SmackDown added an established tag team in Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn. The women’s tag division could use some fresh faces, and the two will fit the bill.
Even more, Fyre could be an appealing matchup for Ripley as well. The longest-reigning NXT UK Women’s Champion has so much potential, and SmackDown could give her a chance to grow into a bigger star.