Tonight on the first edition of SmackDown Live is the much-anticipated WWE draft, in which WWE’s superstars will be separated into the Raw and SmackDown brands. This is the ninth WWE draft since the inaugural brand split in 2002, and the first time since then that the roster will be split after being whole. It is the first draft since 2011, when after the WWE ended the original brand split to create a single unified roster. SmackDown Live begins tonight July 19th at 8 pm EST on USA Network; SmackDown had previously been shown on tape delay on Thursday nights.
The Raw and SmackDown brands have Stephanie McMahon and Shane McMahon, respectively, as commissioners. Last night on WWE Raw, Stephanie announced that iconic WWE Hall-of-Famer Mick Foley will be Raw’s general manager. Shane then announced that beloved former WWE champion Daniel Bryan, who was forced to retire in February due to concussion concerns, will be SmackDown’s general manager.
WWE has announced the following rules for the draft:
- Raw has the first overall pick
- Since SmackDown Live is a two-hour show and Raw is three hours, for every two picks SmackDown Live receives, Raw will receive three picks
- Tag teams count as one pick unless a Commissioner/General Manager specifically only wants one member of the team
- Six draft picks will be made off the NXT roster
Much remains up in the air, including whether there will a main champion for each show or still one WWE Champion. Stephanie announced that the cruiserweight division will return, which raises the question as to whether each brand will have their own cruiserweight, women’s and tag team champions or if those titles will be exclusive to a single brand. It also remains unclear if all the picks will be announced on SmackDown Live tonight or if the draft will be continued after, either on the subscription-required WWE Network or on the company’s social media channels.
The last rule, that six draft picks will be made off the NXT roster, is especially invigorating for wrestling fans. NXT is the WWE’s developmental WWE network show that also features renowned stars who have wrestled around the world like Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Some of the most coveted WWE superstars are sure to include WWE champion Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, John Cena, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Bray Wyatt and Brock Lesnar. It will also be fascinating to see what happens to WWE’s women stars such as Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, and to tag teams like The New Day, Enzo & Cass, and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson.
Tonight’s SmackDown will also feature a WWE Championship match between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, a rematch of last night’s Monday Night Raw main event that ended in a controversial draw. WWE’s Battleground Pay-Per-View this Sunday will be headlined by a championship match between the three former members of the group The Shield: Ambrose, Rollins and the currently suspended Roman Reigns.
It will be fascinating to see how the draft turns out, with the WWE heavily promoting its new Tuesday show but also wanting to keep its ratings up for its flagship WWE Monday Night Raw. With Shane and Stephanie at the helm, the two shows are playing up the rivalries between the two shows. The draft always has some explosive moments, like here when the Undertaker became enraged after he was drafted to Raw.