WWE.com officially announced Wednesday morning that, starting July 19, Smackdown will be broadcast live on Tuesday evening with a unique roster and storylines - in other words, the brand extension is returning! From 2002 to 2011, Raw and Smackdown each had separate rosters and champions, and though the premise wore thin in the end, WWE is now a totally different company with a much more talented roster. This decision will not only make Smackdown important again, but it could provide a career boost to several of WWE's undercard stars.
With that in mind, why not indulge in a bit of fantasy booking? This brand extension can be a huge success if done properly, but that will take careful planning and an eye toward the future. Each roster will need to be properly balanced, featuring a mix of veterans and up-and-comers for the right blend of star power and new era excitement. With that in mind, here are the top 20 draft picks for the upcoming WWE brand split:
Before we start, a few background items and rules the company would do well to follow:
1. Only the U.S. and Intercontinental Titles will be brand-exclusive - the WWE, WWE Tag Team, and Women's Champions will be able to go back and forth between brands as long as they're reigning champs. Those titleholders will still be eligible for drafting, though, as they'll need a place to end up when they lose their belts.
2. As such, no new championships will be added.
3. Shane McMahon will control Raw (which will get the first draft pick), while Stephanie will control Smackdown.
4. All tag teams will be drafted as units, as well as the Balor Club stable.
5. Each side will select 10 superstars, with the rest of the split to be announced on WWE.com later.
6. As per the demands of Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar will not be eligible for the draft; he will negotiate his own contract when he returns.
7. No trades or substitutions.
20. Raw - WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns may be the reigning and defending WWE World Heavyweight Champion, but he's got to lose the title at some point (well, probably). With that in mind, it makes sense for WWE's flagship show to choose the number one man in the company to use as the centerpiece of the brand.
Shane McMahon - who won a coin toss to get the right to make the first selection - will open up the draft show by explaining that now that he's finally gotten sole control of Raw, it's his responsibility to make the show as big as it can possibly be. With that in mind, and knowing it may not be the most popular decision he could make, he's using his pick to grab Reigns.
If back-to-back WrestleMania main events didn't do it, this decision will prove once and for all that Reigns is the top man in WWE. For his fans, that'll cement how bright the future is for "The Guy." For his detractors, there's also good news - once he loses the belt, Smackdown will become a Reigns-free sanctuary.