It's a rough job, but someone's gotta do it. Please see Positive Counterpoints 1, regarding World Wrestling Entertainment's rebranding and language restrictions.
Monday, April 25 saw the 2011 WWE Draft take place and so far, the response has been largely negative. Normally, as the ultimate optimist, this would be the spot where I say, "but I didn't see it that way!"
No, I saw it as pretty negative, too. I was actually on board most of the way until John Cena got re-drafted back to Raw after the most shocking part of the night, Cena getting drafted to Smackdown, occurred at the very beginning of the night.
Thing is, the events that occurred may not be all bad. In an attempt to see some semblance of a silver lining, here are some positive counterpoints to the wave of negativity sweeping the IWC...
How does the Draft work?
Well, first off, the WWE Draft tends to occur on an episode of Monday Night Raw, typically a short time after WrestleMania. In the past, it's involved a three hour show, however, this year, with a huge name like Edge retiring suddenly due to spinal and neck injuries, the most common story is that WWE made a panicked choice to not only hold the Draft, but to make it earlier than conceptually planned to happen.
On the Draft episode of Raw, we are treated to seeing some of the most important draft moves, even if they're not quite in order of importance. Then, usually during that week (or in this case the very next day), there's what they call a Supplemental Draft, where less important moves and picks are made before the next episode of Smackdown is taped and airs.
By around 5 pm today, Sheamus, Alex Riley, Ted Jr., Natalya, Yoshi, Regal, Alicia, Khali (w/Ranjin), Bryan, Tamina and the Usos (Jimmy and Jey at different times, mind you) have moved to Smackdown. Moving to Raw are Tyler Reks, Kofi, Beth, McIntyre, Swagger, Masters, Hawkins, Kelly and JTG.
So before Smackdown even tapes tonight, we're seeing a ton of people move to different shows. That's one thing that's really bugged me. We've had a bunch of draft episodes, people know about the Supplemental Draft and yet people still insisted on blowing up the Internet reacting just to Monday's drafts.
The WWE Draft isn't just a one night event. It's basically Draft Week.
We have to remember that the Draft is causing one very important thing to happen and that's exactly what Vince McMahon said. It's causing a shake-up.
Is that shake-up resulting from the characters changing shows? Somewhat, but not entirely.
With so many people changing shows, getting new starts and taking in new scenery, it's hard to keep track of every single person.
Around the time of the Draft, there's always a few moments where someone gets drafted, one of the GMs doesn't like what went down and a trade is made. Even though we didn't see the Raw GM appear at WrestleMania like we wanted and he didn't appear for the Draft episode, there has to be a heightened desire to bring him out.
Not only that, but with all the hooplah about how crummy the draft went, as well as the draft itself, new people will be introduced in the bedlam. So far, I've only seen one mention of the Kharma promo that aired during the Draft episode. Reports on this website's articles have pointed to Triple H moving to more of a backstage role of talent signing and character development, not to mention his desire to completely overhaul the FCW situation.
Still, there are at least a few talents in that developmental property that can't be in any danger of losing their jobs. So we may end up seeing them debut very soon, too.
Point is, we're only about 24 hours removed from the Draft and already we're seeing a new WWE coming together. We've yet to see even one episode of the new situation, so I'm shocked at how accurate criticisms can be made of it. Look back at recent weeks or recent months and tell me there hasn't been at least one thing you didn't expect to happen.
WWE TV is in serious chaos right now, which means only one thing–a return to an environment where, say it loud and say it proud, "anything can happen in WWE!"
So, once again, John Cena is at the center of all the talk. He gets drafted to Smackdown at the top of the show, only to get "randomly" drafted back to Raw at the end of the show. Sounds just too concepty to be real, doesn't it?
Let's look at the negative first. Again, Cena is deemed the most important character to deal with on the whole collective roster. Again, WWE has shot itself in the foot, wasting draft picks that could have looked far more important on the actual Draft episode, but also pulling a swerve that brought about a tease for something huge and showing how little WWE is willing to commit to such a change.
Now, let's look at the potential positive. Take a peek backward to recent PPV history.
Did Cena help Barrett at Survivor Series in order to free himself of Nexus? No.
Did Cena beat Barrett at TLC? Yes.
Did Cena win the Royal Rumble? No.
Did Cena win the Elimination Chamber? Yes.
Did Cena win the title at Wrestlemania 27? No.
Those are only five PPV outcomes and three of them show Cena not coming out on top, like many so expertly thought he would. Cena's invincibility is slowly weakening. He's not reduced to Superstars and he's not enhancement talent like others have become. Then again, he's not quite as infallible as he once was.
At Extreme Rules, he's not only facing the same man who kept him at bay to a double countout at Wrestlemania but he's also facing one of the top contenders for the belt in John Morrison.
Sure, we can all be cynics and say that Morrison is just there to get pinned, just like R-Truth was there just to get pinned. Does Morrison stand a terrific chance of taking the title home? Perhaps not. But to immediately assume Cena's winning the title yet again, simply because of his past record being sparkling?
These days, I don't find it to be so dependable.
Put on top of that, the night after Extreme Rules is Rock's birthday celebration. Rock's celebrating and Cena shows up with the title? Every appearance Rock has made with Cena in the same ring has shown Cena looking to be the weaker one. Wouldn't holding the belt make Cena look stronger?
As far as the draft goes, if there's a silver lining to Cena getting double drafted and not going anywhere, it's drawing even more people to see through WWE's treatment of the man.
He's put up on a pedestal as a hero, shoved down our throats as a good guy, but even young kids who love the guy and are loyal Cenation Soldiers get teased with something different? Eventually, enough will start to wonder why he hasn't changed, why WWE hasn't gone in any different directions with him and start to feel that the idea of Cena always winning isn't a definite in the universe any longer.
It's a slow process, weakening their top guy. But it seems to be moving in the right direction. Did the tortoise beat the hare in the race? You bet.
Even though the many drafts going on while I typed this make it look like the Smackdown and Raw rosters are basically just exchanging 75 percent of each other to the opposite time slot, we should keep in mind how often we say the words "so-and-so should move to [fill in show], they'd get a brand new start and be in line for a title shot perhaps."
That very thing is happening to the better part of both rosters. At first, I looked at guys like McIntyre, Kelly and Regal changing shows and thought how unimportant it is. But after thinking about it, I've realized that practically everyone has a great chance at being reintroduced and getting a new start with fresh rivalries, alliances and situations.
New combinations of people meet up on Raw or Smackdown and we could see rivalries start now that last all the way into next year. 2010 saw both Nexus and Corre spring up, two groups that may not have made impacts as big as NWO or DX, but still sent shockwaves through the existing WWE landscape at the time.
Maybe those groups were flops at heart. Maybe they weren't kept looking strong enough to be taken seriously. Maybe Creative wasn't very dedicated to giving them enough wins to look marketable. Doesn't matter.
What matters is that Nexus and Corre were important risks for WWE to take. They represent a lasting desire and interest behind the scenes to try and group people. Nexus started the bidding with a massive stable that simply involved Season One NXT rookies.
As time wore on, the group lost members, kicked out Darren Young, booted Wade Barrett, brought in CM Punk and Mason Ryan and lost some more members, leading to what we have now. Wade, Justin and Heath hopped over to Smackdown and brought on board a returning Ezekiel Jackson.
Like I said, WWE is trying new things. Is it working terrifically? No. But remember, part of that is due to those stables being primarily comprised of NXT rookies, with the exceptions being Mason, Zeke and Punk.
You take a bunch of guys who move to Raw who have been on WWE TV for a solid three or four years or more and group them up? You're bound to get a much better response than just clumping a pack of rookies together.
I mean, Chris Masters may seem like nothing more than a Superstars jobber to most of you, but the guy's only 28. He's got a great look, lots of power, decent technical skill and strong mic skills. He can last in this business longer than even most characters we see as far bigger stars.
To not use him after the draft would be a dire mistake.
While many of us are aware of the fact that WWE's Draft isn't 100 percent "random," many of us regularly acknowledge how Raw is considered the A-show, while Smackdown is considered the B-show.
Before the Draft aired, people were stating emphatically that Randy Orton needed to go to Smackdown to add star power to the blue brand, but truthfully, couldn't he have been headed there because he wasn't really making much of an impact on Raw?
Ask yourself, how much has he really accomplished in 2010? What had he really done?
He ended his feud with Legacy fairly decisively and feuded with Swagger and Edge a bit. Then he began building a real head of steam and nurturing his vicious, destructive attitude as the Viper, really getting people on his side and drawing all the Austin comparisons, leading him to take the WWE Championship off Sheamus at Night of Champions.
He lost the title to The Miz due to a MITB contract, he feuded with Miz pretty unsuccessfully and quickly segued into a feud with CM Punk and Nexus which, even though Orton ran roughshod over Nexus pretty invincibly, hasn't done anything to make Nexus, Punk or Orton look any more interesting or add any amount of intrigue to the situation.
Conversely, guys like Chris Masters, Drew McIntyre and Jack Swagger have a great amount of potential, but were going nowhere on the show with lesser ratings. On Raw, they can be entered into more high-profile feuds and get far more exposure.
WWE may call it random and, in essence, may just use the Draft episode as a reason to move their superstars around "seemingly" arbitrarily, but with there being a clear priority of which show is more respected than the other, we should definitely take note of who moves where.
Yes, everyone likes putting Cena and Orton in the same boat as the company's top stars. But if those same people express how much more powerful Raw is than Smackdown, you can't ignore what it means for Orton to be on the B-show and Cena to be on the A-show.
Cena's character may be pretty overdone by now, but at least he gets crowds reacting. I hate that fans in attendance are split so 50-50 on WWE's top guy, but again, at least he gets crowds reacting. Some people enjoy chanting "Randy." Everyone else is fairly complacent.
Orton is a very talented wrestler and his character has a lot of room to deepen, but that character as it stands really isn't accomplishing anything of note. Allowing him to blockade a huge chunk of Raw just because he's talented is particularly unfair to other guys who, if given something of a free hand to make bigger impacts, can potentially improve the quality of WWE's most prized program.
Maybe it wasn't necessarily punishment for Orton to go to Smackdown, but for him to be considered one of the top stars in the company by the majority of us and accomplishing so little says a lot about where he is.
It's the age old question...is it better to serve in Heaven or rule in Hell?
I'm not saying that Raw or Smackdown is necessarily good or bad in the big scheme of things. I'm just saying that certain guys needed a different environment for different reasons. Per articles all over this site, Sin Cara was speculated to be a Raw guy upon his debut. However, understandably so, he seems to be suffering from nerves and his flashy entrance of leaping from the floor over the top rope isn't going quite as well as hoped.
By the Draft making Smackdown Sin Cara's official home, he'll be put under less immediate stress and can perform much better as a result. Also, a little creative editing is allowed between Tuesday tapings and Friday airings to cut or modify anything particularly damaging to his image.
But what about guys like DiBiase and Tyson? They're not suffering in that kind of way, they've just lost tons of matches and looked foolish.
Look at it like title divisions. When you rise to the top too fast and it's proven that you can't hack it, you reach a little lower to something more within your grasp. Sheamus was largely a paper WWE Champion and after he lost the title, he got on a pretty significant losing streak. Barring this Monday's loss to Kofi Kingston, he's doing fairly well as the United States Champion and slowly regaining credibility.
As pointed out earlier, Alex Riley's been drafted to Smackdown, thus taking him out from under Miz's wing. He's been lucky to ride Miz's coattails for as long as he has, but now that he's on Smackdown on his own, he can carve out his own niche as a star on a show where there's guys he may actually be able to beat.
Meanwhile, Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins have been putting on great matches, but have been largely ignored on Superstars. They're talented enough and have been working hard enough. Maybe such talents can add something new and fresh to the bigger stage.
All in all, when examining the pros and cons of "who landed where," we should take into account their individual situation. What do they stand to gain moving from one show to the next? What kind of environment are they entering into?
Finally and it's a bit of a long shot, but with all I'm hearing about how Smackdown lost out in the Draft, is there any chance that there might be an attempt to make it a lot more clear that Raw is the better, flashier, more theatric show and Smackdown is, for lack of a better description, the lower-quality program?
I'm not trying to say that that great talents like Sheamus, the Usos, A-Ry and Bryan are necessarily lower quality, because I love all those guys. I'm just pointing out another thing that has been mentioned quite a lot when comparing the two shows. Raw is more about theatrics and drama, while Smackdown is more about wrestling and competition.
WWE just rebranded itself and in essence removed the word "wrestling" from their repertoire because they want to be known as more of an entertainment company. Monday Night Raw has grown into a spectacle of entertainment, thus, more entertaining folks are needed there.
In the past, for people like me who like both shows, that separation is much less noticeable. Looking at who's gone where after the Draft and Supplemental Draft, it's much easier to see where the competition is going to be and where the big personalities are going to be.
McIntyre, Swagger, Kofi, JTG, Tyler Reks, Cena, Miz, Truth, Morrison–all of them are either big, loud, brash, powerful or in-your-face. Bryan and the Usos are extremely talented competitors that will likely raise the bar on Smackdown's level of in-ring quality, but may lower Smackdown's level of theatrics.
Tyler has a monumental presence, a devastating finisher and a unique look. JTG and Hawkins are incredibly animated. And The Masterpiece? Need I say more?
Then again, Smackdown is getting an incredibly talented Diva in Natalya, an exceptional cruiserweight high-flyer in Yoshi Tatsu and the son of a Legend in DiBiase.
In a way, WWE is furthering the separation here. Raw will end up becoming even more entertaining than it was, while Smackdown's competition will end up being second to none.
To all those who want the brand extension to end? Watch in coming weeks. You'll want it around for years to come.
I'm not trying to take a potentially disastrous situation and turn it into a damn bed of roses.
Believe me, I fully acknowledge how many times I've predicted incredible twists and turns the past year I've been writing for this site and how many of those predictions turned into sour grapes on my part because WWE was too chicken-noodle-soup to pull the trigger on a potential money-making opportunity.
Also, I recognize that I've used the word "potential" in this article approximately a thousand bloody times.
In writing these positive counterpoints, I'm simply trying to see past the gut reactions to what greatness could be lying underneath. I love being part of the IWC, but I hate how often articles and commentaries are written based solely on what people feel immediately after something happens.
As if a gut reaction could ever be the most profound thing to write about. As if a gut reaction could be the thing you'd want the world to judge the product on.
Obviously, not every one of you who writes for sites like this are guilty. But to those who do it–knock it off and start processing these things before just saying how awful it is and thinking you're doing the internet a grand service.
Ask my fiancee, she'll tell you. I cursed my head off last night watching John Cena get redrafted to Raw. Not even 24 hours later? I'm starting to see what good could come of it all.
Put your feelings through a filter and see all sides before judging something. It can really help things look clearer.