The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wrestling Inc. or its staff
Since the first brand split in 2002, the WWE Draft has been an on-and-off staple of WWE programming. Utilized to freshen-up rosters and create new storylines, the WWE Draft has birthed several historic shifts over the years. While Superstar Shake-ups and Wild Card Rules have soured fans on brand extension stability, this year’s WWE Draft has the potential to serve as a much-needed reset button for WWE programming.
Speaking of a reset button, that is exactly how I am treating this list. Some of the Superstars selected to move have recently begun storylines on their current brands, but for the sake of refreshing things, I am not factoring in their current angles. Without further adieu, here are my most-essential roster moves WWE should make at the 2020 Draft.
NXT – Triple H has played coy about how strong of a presence NXT will have at this year’s WWE Draft, but there’s reason to believe the black and yellow brand will be acquiring some new talent from it. Due to the uncertainty of NXT’s involvement, I have only selected three Superstars to move from the ThunderDome to the Capitol Wrestling Center.
Kevin Owens to NXT
Since his shock appearance in the main event of November’s NXT WarGames, fans have been clamouring for KO to return to his roots. Owens has seen plenty of main roster success, from a lengthy Universal Championship reign to white-hot feuds with Shane McMahon (in both 2017 and 2019), but there’s no denying Owens’s talents have not been strongly utilized as of late. Similar to how Finn Balor returned to Full Sail University last September, Owens making a long-anticipated comeback to the black and yellow brand could be just the spark he needs. While there is always fear that main roster talent being sent back to NXT could lead them to being lost in the shuffle, look at the current state of NXT. Balor is the NXT Champion. Breezango are the NXT Tag Team Champions. Owens would surely want to put over younger talent, but there’s definitely room for him to have success of his own. And who knows, maybe a certain renegade faction of former ROH stars could shock the system once more by bringing him into the fold.
Bo Dallas to NXT
A lot of people thought this was happening last Sunday. Even Ember Moon, who was revealed to be the returning former champion, acknowledged the Bo Dallas speculation on Twitter after NXT Takeover: 31. When people look at the stacked list of former NXT Champions, Bo Dallas seems to always be cast out as the black sheep among that master class. Despite boasting a 280-day reign with the prestigious title, his lackluster main roster run made many forget how good he can be. He received a little spotlight in 2017 as a member of the Miztourage, going on to become Raw Tag Team Champion with Curtis Axel, but has faded since then. Bringing Dallas back to NXT as a more serious version of his Bo-Lieve character would be just the career jumpstart he needs.
Gran Metalik to NXT
After moving the division to NXT, the Cruiserweight Division is the hottest it’s ever been since the original Cruiserweight Classic in 2016. While he was unsuccessful in becoming inaugural champion, Gran Metalik made it all the way to the finals of that tournament. It’s easy to forget his early success considering he has been relegated to being a member of undercard trio Lucha House Party. Metalik received some much-deserved spotlight earlier this year when he challenged AJ Styles for the Intercontinental Championship, and while he impressed in defeat, he faded to the background shortly after. Bringing Metalik to NXT is for one very enticing reason: a feud with Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar. The story writes itself. Escobar and Legado del Fantasma are on a Lucha Libre crusade, reinventing the fabled style in their image. Metalik returns to NXT to challenge Escobar, saying Escobar disrespected Lucha culture when he unmasked. He could even get personal, telling Escobar his father, El Fantasma, would be ashamed of his current path. The Cruiserweight Title has had red-hot feuds as of late, and with Isaiah “Swerve” Scott moving on soon, Escobar will need a new challenger.
Braun Strowman to Raw
We might as well make this one official. Strowman has been appearing on Raw as of late, competing on Raw Underground and feuding with Keith Lee. The Mountain Among Men needs a restart, and moving to Monday nights might just be the perfect avenue to reignite that 2017 “I’m not finished with you” fire. Strowman is best when he’s a rampaging monster, and after losing the Universal Championship to ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt, his shine has worn off a bit. Have him continue his heavyweight feud with Lee, hopefully rekindling some of his 2017 magic, and once he’s been built up enough, have him challenge Drew McIntyre. Rumors are swirling that the Scottish Psychopath will drop the WWE World Championship to Randy Orton soon, and if that’s the case, McIntyre will need a high-profile feud come Mania season. A battle of two of the most athletic big men in the business, on the grandest stage of them all? Sign me up.
Otis to Raw
Going forward with this list, you might begin to notice a pattern. I’ve always been of the belief that Raw and Smackdown need to have distinct feels: Raw as the gimmick-heavy show, Smackdown with the emphasis on athleticism. With those rules in place, Otis should move to Raw. He’s wildly entertaining and clearly a favorite in the front office, but his gimmick fits much better on Monday nights. The Workin’ Man is athletic sure, but his character has largely been associated with comedy since moving to the main roster. Is there a place for comedy on Smackdown? Sure, but guys like Matt Riddle and Big E (who’s comedic chops are outside the ring, not during matches) would fill that void fine. Another reason for the move is that ticking time-bomb he carriers around, the Money in the Bank contract. Despite the rumors about it, I don’t want Otis to drop the briefcase. I don’t see a reality where Otis would be booked to cash in on Roman, and while Drew seems unlikely as well, I think he’d have a much more realistic chance of a successful cash-in on Raw. Aside from all that, he’d be reunited with Mandy Rose, and who doesn’t want that?
The Miz and John Morrison to Raw
The Street Profits need new challengers. It’s as simple as that. Between the Viking Raiders and Angel Garza/Andrade, it’s been months since the Profits had fresh matchups. Getting some wins over a decorated veteran tag team like The Miz and John Morrison could give Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins a rub similar to how the Dudley Boyz put over the New Day in Fall 2015. After that feud concludes, split up the Dirt Sheet duo. Elevate Miz to the main event status he’s deserved to be in since that Talking Smack promo in 2016. Push Morrison as a singles star. Between their tag feuds and singles potential, Miz and Morrison on Monday nights have the chance to stay fresh for months to come.
Sheamus to Raw
I’ve moved around certain guys with one specific feud in mind, and Sheamus is no different. WWE Champion Drew McIntyre has had his fair share of personal matches during his run with the title (see Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater), and a feud with noted friend Sheamus could be magic. While their paths have not often crossed in storyline, the Celtic Warrior and the Scottish Psychopath are mates outside the ring. Their relationship dates back to 2005, where Sheamus and McIntyre faced off in the independent promotion Irish Whip Wrestling. On WWE 24’s documentary on McIntyre, The Chosen One revealed he and the Celtic Warrior squared off against each other in their WWE tryout match. Their history writes a perfect story. In a potential feud, Sheamus would to taunt McIntyre’s late success. Despite being touted as Vince’s golden boy, it took McIntyre over a decade (and a pink slip) to win a WWE world title, while Sheamus won his first WWE Championship months after debuting on the main roster. And if that wasn’t enough wishful thinking on my own, McIntyre himself seems to be keen on a feud with his Irish acquaintance.
Naomi to Raw
#NaomiDeservesBetter. Despite getting spotlighted for a brief moment after that hashtag trended worldwide, Naomi has once again fallen to the wayside of storylines on Smackdown. Much of that is due to an unexpected surgery, from which Naomi is still recovering. Even if she was being positioned for a title feud with Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley before her surgery, the Golden Role Model seems preoccupied with former friend Sasha Banks for the foreseeable future. Bringing Naomi from the blue brand over to Raw would be a welcomed restart for the athletic Superstar. A feud with Raw Women’s Champion Asuka would be a fresh match-up that could elevate Naomi to the main event status so many WWE fans see her worthy of.
Ricochet to Smackdown
Remember what I said earlier about Raw being home to the gimmicks, while Smackdown emphasizes athleticism? There is no better way to make that statement than by moving the One and Only to Friday nights. Aside from a brief United States Title reign, Ricochet has not seen the main roster success so many WWE fans anticipated him to have. After losing decisively to Brock Lesnar early this year, Ricochet has been wildly underutilized on the red brand. Move him to Smackdown, and put him in mid-card feuds with the likes of Sami Zayn and AJ Styles. Ricochet’s in-ring style is unlike any other, and his matches should feel like must-see television. Draft him to Smackdown with an early round pick to emphasize how much the blue brand wants him, but don’t debut him immediately. Tease that Fox audience with vignettes of his unique style. Stress that ‘One and Only’ monicker. Ricochet has the potential to be a major player for years to come, and Smackdown feels like the perfect home for the former Prince Puma.
Apollo Crews to Smackdown
Apollo Crews seemed to finally be getting that singles push this past summer. After a short stint in NXT, Crews was called up to the main roster in 2016, but wasn’t able to really find his footing until earlier this year. He beat Andrade for the United States Championship, but was wrapped-up in a never-ending feud with The Hurt Business shortly after. At the time of this writing, Apollo has faced some variation of The Hurt Business for 13 straight weeks on Raw. The former Uhaa Nation is long-overdue for a change of scenery. Mid-card feuds with Big E, Cesaro, and beyond could revive that summer shine Apollo had months ago.
Peyton Royce to Smackdown
If WWE is serious about pushing Peyton Royce as a singles star, she needs to be separated from former tag partner Billie Kay. As great as the IIconics were, they need to be on different brands if they are to make any individual progress as singles competitors. Billie Kay has popped up in Peyton Royce’s corner recently on Raw, and while it’s great to see her support her Aussie acquaintance, Peyton needs to roll solo if she is going to have success as a singles wrestler. Put her on Smackdown and have her feud with the likes of Carmella, Nikki Cross, and eventually work her up to being in a title feud with whoever the Smackdown Women’s Champion is by then.
Johnny Gargano to Smackdown
I know this might rub some people the wrong way, but Johnny Gargano needs to get called up to the main roster. Sure, he is Mr. NXT, competing at a record 20 NXT Takeover events, but it is abundantly clear he’s running out of things to do on Wednesday nights. Since his decisive conclusion to his three-year long feud with Tomasso Ciampa, Gargano has unsuccessfully challenged for the NXT North American Title on three straight NXT Takeover events (loss vs Keith Lee at In Your House, loss in the vacant ladder match at XXX, loss vs Damian Priest at 31). Putting Gargano on Smackdown, the athleticism-centric show, would be the best place for Johnny Wrestling to lend his talents. Have him chase the Intercontinental Championship for months. Put him over at Mania. Try to rekindle that 2018 NXT babyface magic by slowly elevating him to main event status. Moving NXT stars to the main roster has always been risky, but if done right, it could be the breath of fresh air Gargano has needed for a while.
Candice LeRae to Smackdown
If Gargano’s moving to Friday nights, it’s fitting that his wife will follow. After unsuccessfully challenging for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT Takeover 31, LeRae feels a bit directionless. Between the newly black-and-yellow Ember Moon and Toni Storm, NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai has plenty of challengers for the next few months. Bring LeRae to Smackdown as a singles star, and slowly build her up in the women’s mid-card. Have her interact with Gargano backstage every now and then, but I think she’d be much better fit as a solo act in the ring.
Are there any roster moves I didn’t make that you’d like to see? Sound off in the comments below.