Two unique weekly WWE shows is less than a week away!
The term has been thrown around since the night after WrestleMania this year, but Tuesday marks the official dawning of the new era in WWE. For the first time since 2002, a WWE roster as a whole will be split into two separate rosters for two separate shows.
During the course of the first brand split, we saw different variations of a draft – each show picking random Ping-Pong balls for picks from the other show, a five-week long draft with one draft pick every week, inter-brand matches for picks, etc. Only once have we had an entire roster draft though.
So, in order to get an understanding of what is in our future, let’s take a look back at the past! It was Raw episode #461 in March of 2002 where SmackDown owner Vince McMahon and Raw owner Ric Flair made the 10 choices that would change the industry.
To start, I realize that not everyone reading this was watching back in those days, so here is a quick rundown of events that led to this roster split …
- In March of 2001, Vince McMahon purchased rival company WCW thus ending the heralded “Monday Night Wars”
- Over the summer/fall of that year, it was announced that (on the show) Shane McMahon had bought WCW out from under his father’s nose and Stephanie McMahon had purchased the recently folded ECW. The two organizations would try to take out WWE in what was called “The Invasion”
- To make the purchases, Shane and Stephanie sold their WWE stock to a “consortium”
- At the 2001 Survivor Series, the WWE won the “Winner Take All” match which eliminated WCW and ECW
- The next night on Raw, it was announced that the consortium that Shane and Stephanie sold their stock to was WCW mainstay Ric Flair, making him a 50/50 partner with Vince McMahon (which gave us one of the most epic McMahon facial expressions of all time!)
- Over the course of the next few months, Flair and McMahon couldn’t co-exist, leading then WWE CEO Linda McMahon to rule that the two would be separated and a draft would be held to split the rosters between the two shows.
Caught up? Well alright then! So let’s fire up the WWE Network and watch some 2002 Raw!
We start the show with the aforementioned Linda McMahon with a quick introduction with all of the superstars looking on in the locker room. Highlights from here are that 20 picks will be made on the show and a lottery will be held afterwards for the remaining superstars. A triple threat match for the Undisputed WWE Championship will be on Raw with Triple H vs Chris Jericho vs Stephanie McMahon (not enough time to go into that one if you didn’t know the history) so they would be ineligible to be drafted and Stone Cold Steve Austin has a clause in his contract that says he can’t be drafted and can select his own show as a free agent…because…why not?
JR and The King welcome us to Penn State University for the historic episode of Raw which includes the one podium that will be used for each selection. Nowadays, both Raw and SmackDown have their OWN podium – ah the evolution of the podium.
The action kicks off with Tazz vs Mr. Perfect. A couple immediate reminders as the two come down to the ring here – so glad the Perfect had a short return run with WWE before his passing less than a year later. Also, a quick reminder of how WWE squandered what could have been an epic in-ring star in Tazz. Ah well, he went to commentary and did pretty well for himself.
It doesn’t take long for Tazz to lock in the Tazzmision and pick up a quick victory.
We then go to Ric Flair’s War Room where Arn Anderson lets Flair know that McMahon will have the first pick. From there, we look into McMahon’s War Room…which is McMahon sitting at a desk with a bunch of folders presumably with superstar information. Being an avid fan of the NFL Draft, I’m not sure that WWE quite got the concept of a “War Room.”
McMahon takes the podium to a chorus of boos to make his first pick – THE ROCK. With Austin off of the books, was there any doubt who it would be? Apparently McMahons folders didn’t include inside information that Rock would be ending his full-time commitments with WWE months later. Not a very well-thought-out pick Vince.
Flair makes his way to the stage to make his first pick for Raw, and surprisingly it’s his WrestleMania opponent just a few weeks before, THE UNDERTAKER. Taker would end up heading to SmackDown a few months later and would become the face of that show for years. So, basically, both show swung and missed with their first pick.
Back in McMahon’s War Room…yeah, I can’t call them War Rooms anymore…back in McMahon’s office, Kurt Angle storms in to explain that Vince hurt his feelings by not picking him first. Man I miss Angle!
Our next match is ready with Edge and Diamond Dallas Page vs Christian and Booker T. Edge had arguably the best theme song when he retired, but before that song, he came out to Rob Zombie. I really don’t know of anyone that had a better theme song career! Oh, Booker T and Christian win…so that happened.
We go back to McMahon’s office where Angle is going over all of his accolades, pleading his case for McMahon to pick him. While McMahon is worried that Flair will take the nWo next, McMahon gives in and takes KURT ANGLE second.
Flair then comes out to make his next pick…guess who! Yep, he takes the nWo. At that point, the nWo was comprised of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac. Who could have seen that coming??? (we need a sarcasm font)
Angle then puts an idea into McMahon’s head to take a guy that has been out for nearly the last year and is ready to come back. So with his next pick, McMahon selects … um … well … it’s something like is-cray enoit-bay. (see what I did there?)
So, now that all future murderers of woman and children are officially off the board, we go to Flair’s office where the nWo is letting Flair know that they are going to destroy his show. They do this with X-Pac as the figure head…that’s pretty much where the nWo was at that point. Flair then makes his next pick – KANE. The Big Red Monster was an absolute stud in 2002. It was probably the most over that he had been in his career – even more than when he practiced dentistry.
Trish Stratus vs Ivory is next up…then the match ended…we move on.
McMahon then makes his next pick – HULK HOGAN! Hulk Hogan was the sixth pick made. Hulk Hogan … SIXTH. Yep!
Flair then comes to the podium for his next pick– Intercontinental Champion ROB VAN DAM. McMahon is upset in his office, saying that he wanted RVD and more importantly the Intercontinental Championship on SmackDown. Angle suggests making a title match with him and Van Dam so he can bring the title to SmackDown, which will happen later.
Hogan and Rock are backstage talking about being drafted to the same show. But before they leave, Hogan suggests leaving the Raw crowd with a handicap match against all three members of the nWo.
Since he missed out on the Intercontinental Championship, McMahon makes the decision to take the Tag Team Champions, BILLY AND CHUCK. Could you imagine of Billy and Chuck were a thing in this day and age? Soooooooo many protesters…
The previously mentioned handicap match is next. Bad part about the Network is not having rights to certain theme songs. It makes more of an impact for Hogan to come down to Jimmy Hendrix than it does whatever generic song WWE created to dub over it. As for the match, Kane comes down to stop the three on two attack causing Rock and Hogan to get DQ’d. Seeing Kane and Kevin Nash go at it kind of makes me smile … its Diesel vs Fake Diesel!
McMahon barges into Flair’s office for a face-to-face confrontation between the owners leading to an impromptu lightning round of picks! Flair starts off by taking BOOKER T. McMahon reciprocates by taking the man that beat Booker T at WrestleMania, EDGE. Flair then takes BIG SHOW which leads McMahon to take RIKISHI.
Back to the ring we go with Jeff Hardy taking on Billy. Hardy comes away with the win. Fingers are tightly crossed that we will see The Charismatic Enigma will be coming back for this year’s draft!
Flair is up and, in hopes of getting the one of the most dominant teams in history to Raw, takes BUBBA RAY DUDLEY. McMahon quickly dashes those plans by taking D-VON DUDLEY. We have our first tag team split…and are soon thereafter give Reverend D-Von…let’s just reflect on that for a minute.
Rikishi vs William Regal is next up. The match is…WAIT A MINUTE! Who is this HUGE rookie that is hitting the ring just destroying Rikishi? Why, it’s the man that McMahon makes his next pick – which brings Flair out to remind McMahon that it’s his pick so HE will take this dominant rookie for Raw.
The rookies name? BRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOCKKKKKKKKKK LLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEESNARRRRRRRRR! Again though, Lesnar would become exclusive to SmackDown after winning the WWE Undisputed Championship at SummerSlam. Flair is not getting a good grade in this draft!
Lightning Round part 2! McMahon responds by taking MARK HENRY. Flair then takes European Champion WILLIAM REGAL. This leads McMahon to take the Hardcore Champion MAVEN.
Last pick time! Flair ends the night’s selections by taking LITA.
Angle vs Rob Van Dam is next. A solid match between the two – absolutely no surprise there. Angle is disqualified for attacking the ref but still goes after RVD with the Angle lock. This brings out Edge who is looking to make his name on the SmackDown roster by taking out one of the show’s top stars.
The triple threat title match ends the show with Triple H pinning Stephanie, which apparently meant that she had to leave WWE forever. “Forever” being an interpretive term in the wrestling world as she would take over the reins of SmackDown just a few months later.
That was how the first draft went down. What is in store this year? The possibilities are endless, and it all starts in six days!
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE 2002 DRAFT? HOW WILL THIS YEAR’S SHOW COMPARE? FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @FROM_THETOPROPE AND LET US KNOW!