When the brand split was brought back in 2016, the excitement of the WWE Draft returned into fans hearts as both Raw and SmackDown LIVE would have separate rosters for the first time since really 2011. And while some fans may not be fans of the multiple championships and difficulty behind keeping two rosters apart, the opportunity arises for certain stars who may not have the same opportunities if it is just one big roster. And in that, we are going to go all the way back to the first ever WWE Draft Lottery in 2002 and work our way through all the way to last year’s Superstar Shake-Up, taking a look at the beneficiaries of the split and how those beneficiaries took advantage of their new homes ahead of this week’s Shake-Up.
Brock Lesnar- To RAW
Believe it or not, all the way back in 2002, Brock Lesnar was on television on a weekly basis when he debuted on March 18th, 2002. It would be the following week when “The Next Big Thing” would officially be drafted to Raw as a part of the Draft at pick 16. He would go on to win the King of the Ring tournament, defeating the likes of Bubba Ray Dudley, Booker T, Test, and RVD to win the whole thing. The Beast that so many know of now could not have been built without his eventual victory over The Rock at SummerSlam that same year where he would become the new WWE Undisputed Champion and a true main event player in such a short time. The brand split allowed the company to build new stars, and that is exactly what they did here.
The SmackDown Six
While it didn’t truly take shape until a few months after the Brand Split Draft in 2002, the forever remembered “SmackDown Six” may have benefited the best by the split. It allowed the group of Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Chavo Guerrero, and Chris Benoit to have a series of matches in the second half of 2002 that would really leave a mark. SmackDown became the heavily based in-ring show with these six men, as they would have matches with each other week after week and steal the show, leaving a real mark on the business. The brainchild of Paul Heyman, who at the time was the lead writer of SmackDown as they were on the verge of being canceled when he came into power. He made Benoit and Eddie stars following this opportunity, trading Chris Jericho for the two in order to make his show a completely different outlet from Raw. The six, specifically Benoit and Eddie, saw much success in their future after this in 2002, as five of the six here would eventually win world championships in the company, proving that this draft period gave these men a chance to become stars.
Shelton Benjamin- To RAW
Shelton Benjamin would be the first pick for Raw when the Draft would return in 2004, as it would lead to his real rise as a top mid-carder on the brand and in the company. His combination of unmatched athleticism and size would lead to automatic success for Benjamin, as he would the Intercontinental Championship at the Taboo Tuesday event in October of 2004, becoming a fan favorite by getting voted into the match and ultimately winning the championship. He would go on to dazzle in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match a few months later which is where the people who hadn’t believed before in Benjamin believed now. The draft allowed a star like Benjamin to become an important part of the respective Raw brand.
John Cena- To RAW
The 2005 Draft may be the most notable draft of all time that isn’t the original in 2002 or the most recent that restarted the brand split in 2016. And that is simply because of the first draft pick, where John Cena, the reigning WWE Champion, would be drafted to Raw and become the official face of the company for over a decade. He would be almost exclusively on Raw for the next 11 years as the centerpiece of the WWE. While he may not have needed to switch brands to benefit, it was clear that this move would alter the company forever. Cena would defend the WWE Championship at the next two WrestleMania’s after this switch to Raw, facing Triple H at 22 and Shawn Michaels at 23. A beneficiary of simply becoming the face of the company and their flagship show.
Batista- To SmackDown
As the world champion of SmackDown would be switched to Raw, the last pick would be answered with the World Heavyweight Champion in Batista heading over to SmackDown. “The Animal” would call SmackDown is home for years once switching, trading the championship with the likes of Undertaker and Edge the years following. As he was already uber popular, and his popularity would help bring viewers to SmackDown as the company’s number two guy. He would lose out on ever losing that World Championship as an injury would derail him to vacate, but once he came back, he made sure that title would be his and SmackDown would remain his as well.
The 2006 Draft was a unique case as this was considered the brand extension draft, as there would be just two choices for Paul Heyman’s returning ECW as the third brand of WWE. He would select Money in the Bank holder Rob Van Dam from Monday Night Raw and Kurt Angle from Friday Night SmackDown. Angle would become the wrestling machine, while RVD would become the first co-ECW/WWE Champion when he would defeat John Cena at the One Night Stand PPV in June of 2006. The new talents of ECW would be the real winners of the new show, as the likes of CM Punk got their very first chance because of that brand.
The Great Khali- To SmackDown
The draft would take a different look in 2007, as competitors would duke it out to earn draft picks from the three brands. In the first match, SmackDown’s champion Edge would defeat Raw’s champion, John Cena, to earn the first random draft pick of the night, and with that pick, The Great Khali would head to SmackDown. Doing so, he remained the monster they he had been on Raw and even became the World Heavyweight Champion when Edge would go down with injury and vacate the championship.
The Miz- To ECW
The Miz would be a part of the supplemental draft that would be held on WWE.com, being sent to ECW in the process. However, it is on ECW that he would become friends with John Morrison and they would become the WWE Tag Team Champions in the process. This would be The Miz’s real first shot at becoming a champion in the company.
Johnny Nitro- To ECW
Nitro, much like The Miz, would head to ECW in the supplemental draft and even become ECW Champion at Vengeance: Night of Champions. He would then change his name to John Morrison, and eventually, become tag team champions with The Miz in the months later. A change and removal from the team of MNM would lead to a true change in Morrison and show he is a true star, as we see today as he is the reigning IMPACT World Champion as Johnny Impact.
CM Punk- To RAW
As the Money in the Bank holder, CM Punk was already promised a world championship match in his future. And when he was finally taken off of ECW to head to Monday Night Raw, it became clear the career of CM Punk was heading in the right direction. Punk would cash in just a week leader, as he would become the World Heavyweight Champion for the first time in his career, and it would show that being the champion of Monday Night Raw would prove to make his career an incredible journey that people still talk about to this day.
Jeff Hardy- To SmackDown
Being placed on SmackDown back in 2008 would finally give Jeff Hardy his opportunity to rise to the top of the WWE, as he would become the centerpiece of the show has the story building to his eventual WWE Championship victory in late 2008 would be the crowning moment of a long road to him winning his first world championship. Hardy would be the hottest babyface in the business at this time, making SmackDown must watch TV and his popularity only continuing to grow. It would be this run on top that would truly top off the career of the “Charismatic Enigma” that so many fans love to this day.
CM Punk- To SmackDown
Back to back years saw CM Punk changing his allegiance, this time heading to SmackDown which would lead to his ultimate feud with Jeff Hardy for much of the summer of 2009. Punk would once again successfully cash-in his Money in the Bank contract to become World Heavyweight Champion, which allowed him to become the antagonizing counterpart to the fan favorite, Jeff Hardy. Punk would benefit from this change even more than the change to Raw the year prior, ultimately being in the main event scene of SmackDown for the rest of 2009.
Ezekiel Jackson- To ECW
Some may forget about “Big Zeke”, but Ezekiel Jackson debuted in the WWE as the bodyguard of The Brian Kendrick in the middle of 2008. However, when the 2008 Draft came around, Zeke was separated from Kendrick, allowing him to finally pursue his own career in ECW. Jackson became an unbeatable powerhouse on the brand, even becoming the final ECW Champion of all time by defeating Christian. While Zeke’s career in the WWE wasn’t a long one, this move for him was big as he was able to win a world championship in the process.
Cody Rhodes- To SmackDown
As the brand split became less and less enforced, some stars still flourished because of a change in brand. Following the split of Legacy, Cody Rhodes was drafted to Friday Night SmackDown and would finally kick off his singles career. He would introduce the incredibly entertaining persona of “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, that came with him steering in a mirror and look at his own face, while becoming the fan’s least favorite star on Friday Nights. The “Dashing” and “Undashing” personas of Rhodes would give him the confidence to be the top star that he is today, and moving to SmackDown allowed that to happen all the way back in 2010.
Alberto Del Rio- To RAW
Alberto Del Rio’s eventual switch to Monday Night Raw in the final draft of the original brand split would finally allow him to grow to greatness. Never a favorite of the WWE Universe, Del Rio was able to become a cog in the Cena-Punk rivalry in late 2011 when he would cash in his Money in the Bank contract to become the WWE Champion. Del Rio also holds the pleasure of being the one to lose the championship to CM Punk for his eventual 434-day reign as champion. Del Rio was always marked for greatness before the switch, but it allowed him to become a world champion after failing to do so on SmackDown.
Daniel Bryan- To SmackDown
Without the move to SmackDown, the “YES Movement” would have never come to fruition. Daniel Bryan was moved to SmackDown which would allow him to become a main part of the show while Raw had all the heaviest hitters. He would win the Money in the Bank that same year, allowing him to eventually become the World Heavyweight Champion. The run would lead to his unforgettable championship loss at WrestleMania 28 and his eventual rise to stardom in the months after. Without a move to SmackDown, he wouldn’t have made it to this moment being held back on Raw.
AJ Styles- To SmackDownLIVE
As the brand split returned to the WWE in 2016, it became clear that many stars would become new stars for the company because of it. And while Finn Balor was able to win the Universal Championship immediately, an injury hurts his cause here. However, for SmackDown LIVE, they got “The Phenomenal One” AJ Styles. And ever since then, Styles has been at the top of SmackDown LIVE as the leader of the clubhouse. From winning the WWE Championship for the first time at Backlash, to his year long run as champion in 2018, the brand split became the perfect opening for Styles to be a megastar in the company. Remember, SmackDown LIVE is the house that AJ Styles built after all.
Alexa Bliss- To RAW
On a special after the draft on the WWE Network, the rest of the stars following the 30 draft picks on Raw would be dealt out. And SmackDown LIVE would draft Alexa Bliss from NXT. This would allow Bliss to become a player immediately as SmackDown has a lesser women’s division than Raw, but still very capable. Bliss would become the second SmackDown Women’s Champion just months later by beating Becky Lynch, truly kicking off her WWE career at a rapid pace. She is now a five-time women’s champion to prove that this draft did wonders for her career.
2017 Superstar Shake-Up
Jinder Mahal- To SmackDownLIVE
WWE would move forward in the brand split by creating the Superstar Shake-Up, which would be the night where stars would be traded and surprise you by just their music hitting. And for Jinder Mahal, he may be the biggest beneficiary on the entire list. Mahal went to SmackDown LIVE where he would in short time become the number one contender for the WWE Championship, and eventually would shock the world, winning that exact championship by defeating Randy Orton. “The Modern Day Maharaja” would rule over SmackDown LIVE for much of 2017 as its champion, proving that the Shake-Up could do exactly that, changing history completely.
2018 Superstar Shake-Up
Drew McIntyre- To RAW
Just last year, Drew McIntyre redebuted on the main roster as the friend of Dolph Ziggler. Doing so, the “Scottish Psychopath” laid his trail of bodies on his way of becoming one of the most dominant forces not just on Raw, but the entire company. From his rivalry with Seth Rollins, to his destruction of The Shield as a whole, McIntyre proved that he was a lot different this time around than his first run in the company. He would even become the Raw Tag Team Champion along with Ziggler in this time, but without a singles title run, he still inserted himself as the true dominant force of the WWE.
Samoa Joe- To SmackDownLIVE
Samoa Joe would become a member of the SmackDown roster after leaving an impact on Raw in 2017. Joe would become one of the major players on the SmackDown LIVE roster. He would enter the WWE Championship picture just in time for SummerSlam, entering an incredible feud with the champion AJ Styles. He would capture his first main roster championship as well as he would win the United States Championship on SmackDown LIVE at the beginning of this year. The warpath of Joe is just beginning however, as tonight may give him a new home once again.
These are the biggest success stories of every draft in the history of the WWE. And tomorrow’s Shake-Up is sure to give us some more names for us to say sometime this year. Who will make the move tonight? We will certainly see.
Make sure to check back for the Raw Rundown as every single move for the Raw brand will be discussed!