March 25, 2002, Bryce Jordan Center – Pennsylvania | TV Rating: 5.4
The Draft: You could cover hundreds of thousands of words talking about the Raw & Smackdown “split” over the past twenty years. Sometimes it’s been stuck too rigidly. Oftentimes it’s been a blur and quietly forgotten to some extent when times have needed. But this is where it all started. Due to Linda McMahon and the board of directors, Vince is in control of SD and Ric Flair gets to control Raw. Welcome, to the first-ever WWE Draft! (AKA WWF Draft Lottery 2002)
Of course, there are the usual WWE illogical twists to it. Austin has it in his contract he can’t be drafted apparently though quite how a contract that can’t have been signed when a draft was even a possibility covers him not being able to be drafted is never really explained. From out of nowhere the nWo can be drafted as a unit. Vince is desperate to get Brock Lesnar but picks D-Von Dudley ahead of him just so he can split the Dudleys up. After previously drafting an injured Chris Benoit…
For posterity here are the first ten picks for each side (Vince’s Smackdown Went First);
- The Rock
- Kurt Angle
- Chris Benoit
- Hulk Hogan
- Billy & Chuck(y)
- D-Von Dudley
- Mark Henry
MONDAY NIGHT RAW
- The Undertaker
- The nWo
- Rob Van Dam
- Booker T
- Big Show
- Bubba Ray Dudley
- Brock Lesnar
- William Regal
The Good: See above for the Draft. Sure, it doesn’t always make sense and two people picking a roster isn’t exactly tailor-made for exciting TV. But historically it’s a pretty big thing and worth a watch just for that reason.
The Bad: Again we are ripping through anything that might be of interest for the nWo although with Hogan and Rock going to SD and the Order staying on Raw at least you could be generous and say there’s a reason for this hot-shotting. It’s a poor match which ends in a DQ when Kane runs in to even up the odds.
Triple H Vs Stephanie Vs Jericho is as awful as it sounds. There is no drama because not even I am foolish enough to ACTUALLY think they’d put the belt on Steph (though you wouldn’t be surprised if they did) nor that Jericho has any chance. Of course, her loss here means she is banished from the WWE forever. Ohhhhhh kaaaaay. Still, even a few months of shows without her screeching presence will be a blessing.
- Taz and Mr Perfect last all two minutes. Curt looks quite good considering his age and previous injuries and possibly could have been a good hand to have around to teach others “on the job”. A plane ride put paid to that of course.
- Another week another Mania singles matches put into a tag as Edge & Diamond Dallas Page clash with Booker T & Christian. Its two minutes long so what are you going to do?
- Trish Stratus and Ivory isn’t very good but they try.
- Jeff Hardy and Billy Gunn get less than two minutes and do nothing with it either. Still at least they get a match. William Regal (European Champion don’t forget) and Rikishi are attacked by Brock Lesnar.
- Rob Van Dam and Kurt Angle get almost THREE minutes, which seems like an age tonight, but alas there’s not much they can do AND we get a lame DQ finish.
Overall: Wrestling wise a poor, poor show. And to be honest, although I like the pageantry of the NFL draft etc it’s a hard sell to say a WWE draft is a “must-see”. It’s not as if we have much emotional investment in two brands of the same company and who gets what wrestler. Especially in hindsight given the twenty years of “brand supremacy” we’ve seen. But still, it’s an interesting watch from a historical point of view. The WWE would never better the 5.4 TV rating for Raw that this got after this… The WWE Draft would go on for many many more years, including one in 2021.