Mocking the draft
NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling Columnist
There's no doubt about it: unless we're talking about the military, drafts are popular. The NFL is considering moving its draft to primetime. The NBA captured the attention of sports fans just to announce the order of its upcoming draft. And once again, the WWE is turning to a draft to jump-start a stale product.
Setting aside the fact that this would be a perfect opportunity (again) to put an end to the brand split, holding another draft is a great idea. It's as good or better than any idea the writers are likely to come up with to shake things up, and it would be hard to argue that the WWE could use a shot in the arm right now.
Fans also love to speculate about drafts. Along with the obvious debates about who's going to end up where, the upcoming WWE Draft Special has plenty of other questions that need answers. Will the federation adopt the time-honored tradition of using ping pong balls to determine the draft order? Do the Great Khali and his "interpreter" come as a package deal? Will Smackdown or ECW get the bigger shaft? Who the heck will be making picks for ECW anyway?
And where there are drafts, so-called draft pundits invariably follow in their wake. [The SLAM! Wrestling staff weighs in on Wednesday.] Many wrestling writers are probably more qualified than I am to predict exactly what you can expect to happen, but I have one thing they don't have: SLAM! Wrestling's reliable crystal ball (patent pending, as always).
So in my bid to become wrestling's version of Mel Kiper Jr., here's my mock draft for the first five rounds on June 11:
BEFORE THE DRAFT
Vince McMahon gathers together The Coach (representing Raw), Theodore Long (representing Smackdown) and Joey Styles (sadly, one of the few remaining links to the original ECW). The ping pong balls are drawn, and in a turn of events that stuns absolutely no one, Raw gets the first pick. In a mild surprise, ECW gets the second pick, with Smackdown bringing up the rear.
Before the draft gets underway, Vince announces that the Great Khali will not be available to be drafted as he needs to be free to terrorize the viewers of all three shows.
Raw: The Champ stays here as Coach goes with John Cena. Though Coachman admits that the ongoing problems getting a consistent crowd reaction for Cena have been frustrating, he assures everyone he has a plan for dealing with that issue. Pressed further, Coach admits that the merchandising dollars the champ brings in were just too great to pass up.
ECW: Instead of drafting a wrestler with his first pick, Styles selects a barbed wire baseball bat, reasoning that it is truer to the spirit of the original ECW than almost anyone left on the roster. The WWE marketing department immediately launches plans for a three-disc DVD set of the barbed wire baseball bat's greatest moments.
Smackdown: Spurning all active participants, Long takes The Rock, then goes to visit spiritual leaders from many different religions to pray that he makes a return to wrestling.
Raw: Coach drafts all of the male WWE fans between ages 18 and 34, then trades them to ECW for the barbed wire baseball bat. Draft experts see this move as a win-win, as ECW finally gets back some of the fans who have abandoned it and Cena should get unanimous cheers with nothing but kids and females left in the Raw audience.
ECW: Reluctantly, Styles takes ECW Champion Bobby Lashley in order to keep the belt on his own show. Before making the pick, Joey makes Vince sign a contract stating that he will not ever challenge for the ECW title again.
Smackdown: In order to appeal to the demographic group that is actually home watching TV on Friday nights, Long goes with the great Ric Flair, the oldest superstar still competing on a regular basis.
Raw: Right before Coach is about to make his third pick, Triple H drops by with a reminder that he is contractually obligated to appear on the WWE's flagship show. The Game quickly gets added to the Raw roster.
ECW: Hoping that he can capitalize on a common bond to lure an exciting performer away from TNA, Joey Styles uses his third pick on A.J. Styles. A.J. is flattered but chooses to remain with his current promotion, stating that he'd rather be on a show that airs on the same channel as UFC than one that airs on the same channel as Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Smackdown: Long reaches down south to select Dr. James Andrews, the noted surgeon. Teddy brushes off criticism that his roster is light on talent so far by boasting that at least his injured stars will be able to return to action sooner than those on the other shows.
Raw: On a tip from Vince, Coach drafts a little-known prospect named Bruce Banner. Here's his scouting report: "Gigantic size, great strength and a freakish look when angered. Not great on the stick but better than Khali!"
ECW: Still desperate for something to rekindle the hardcore spirit of ECW, Styles picks Mick Foley. The move pays off as Mick promises to bring back his Cactus Jack persona as soon as he writes another book to plug.
Smackdown: In the spirit of Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com, here's an actual possible pick thrown in just for variety: Long drafts C.M. Punk.
Raw: Thanking the lucky stars that he's still on the board, Coach takes Batista. Vince can't contain his giddy excitement over a possible Batista-Khali feud.
ECW: Styles takes Val Venis and announces that he'll be allowed to return to his old porn star gimmick. Stunned observers admit that they had forgotten the Big Valbowski was still on the roster and eligible to be drafted.
Smackdown: Long wraps up the fifth round by selecting Anaheim Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger, commenting that he's shown "good promise" in this year's NHL playoffs.
There's no guarantee that this is exactly how the draft will unfold, but remember, the crystal ball never lies.
On a more serious note, my last column about the WWE's unending fascination with really large performers got a lot of reader response. [May 21: Size does matter] Here are a couple of the better ones, with my comments in bold in a section I like to call...
CALL AND RESPONSE
The term "giant" and size of wrestlers have long been drawing points for pro rasslin'. Consider Don Leo Jonathan, not a huge man by today's standards, being billed as "The Mormon Giant." Mammoth wrestlers such as Haystacks Calhoun and Happy Humphrey (ostensibly 650 and 725 pounds, respectively) could command good dollar and drew crowds of people who weren't wrestling fans just to pay a few bucks to gawk at them. Lest we forget, even Ted Turner fell prey to the "giant" theory, having brought in Paul Wight (Big Show) after his first huge man went awry--Jorge Gonzales, the 7-foot-6 Argentinian giant basketball player who couldn't make it in the NBA after being a third-round pick in the 1988 draft.
Even the size of slightly smaller (yet still tall) men was played upon--remember the Twin Towers (Sid Vicious and Undertaker/Spivey)?? Chris Taylor??
If you can't draw them in with rasslin', you can draw them in to gawk...
Fort Worth, Texas
No doubt, the WWE is simply falling back on something that has worked for years when it pushes the likes of Khali. The real question is whether the fascination with large men is something that is constant no matter what the decade, or if it has run its course like many other aspects of wrestling have over the years.
And even if you get them in to gawk, as you so correctly put it, what then? There might be a segment of the viewing public who sees Khali and thinks, "That guy is huge! I wonder what he's going to do next?" I just can't see anyone wanting to come back for seconds after they've seen him "wrestle."
You forgot Sid Vicious. When I think of the Great Khali, I think Sid Vicious Version II. They both got huge pushes and second chances, not because of their spectacular in-ring wrestling abilities and mic work, but because of their size. The only difference is Sid Vicious won the WWE Championship -- twice. Perhaps history will repeat itself.
That's not a bad comparison as far as why both men got their pushes, but I think you're actually doing Sid a disservice by comparing him to Khali. I can't believe I actually just typed that!
Here's hoping that history does not actually repeat itself. Now that Cena has defeated Khali twice and the draft is coming up, I pray that feud -- and Khali's chance at a title -- is behind us.
Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998, and his column, Walkin' That Aisle with Nick Tylwalk, appears most Mondays. Comments, compliments and complaints can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to see a response to your question or comment in a future column, please include your full name and hometown in your e-mail.