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  March 25, 2002



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

The great divide

By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling

The WWF 'draft' will commence this Monday live on Raw and it looks to be quite intersting. We already know a few things - one...that the WWF men's and women's champions are exempt from the draft, so, depending on when exactly the draft commences, Triple H and Jazz are not subject to drafting. We also know that the nWo will be drafted as one unit. We do not know, however, if the same applies to tag teams and other groups, including the champs.

With that in mind, let's take a look at just how the draft may break down.

The first Raw

Vince McMahon has the first pick in the draft, and it's a pretty much wide-open field. The likeliest scenario, however, is that he will take Hulk Hogan. Having Hogan on the network show makes the most sense, because his popularity, at least at the moment, is the highest in the WWF.

The cream of the crop

There is no question that after McMahon takes Hulk, he will bank on the nWo not being drafted by Flair. If Flair does take the nWo, then expect McMahon to take someone like Austin, thus strong-handing Flair into taking the Rock to fight off the nWo all by himself. The more likely scenario, however, is for Flair to take Rocky, which makes better business sense due to his high popularity to keep Raw as a must-see show. At this point, expect Vince to take the nWo, in an effort to end Hulkamania. Flair, in turn would likely leave Austin open for McMahon to draft (for obvious storyline reasons) and snag Chris Jericho.

The champions

Inevitably, the Intercontinental and European champions will end up on either side of the field. I'd sooner see RVD on Smackdown!, because of the longer matches. Also, if the above scenario pans out, then Smackdown! is in more need of capable wrestlers. Expect RVD to be drafted by McMahon.

That leaves William Regal on Raw. Regal can conceivably become a top heel and a program with the likes of Kane could make the fans truly despise Regal again. Immediately, however, I expect him to feud with either Matt Hardy or one of the Acolytes, depending on which team is split up.

As for the Hardcore champ Maven, in all likelihood he will go one way, and WCW Cruiserweight champ Tajiri will go the other. Maven will likely go to Raw, while Tajiri will already have a built-in unification match with WWF Light-Heavyweight champ X-Pac, likely to be decided quite quickly.

The Canadians

Don't think for a second that the WWF isn't thinking this one out. Any time the WWF goes to Canada, fans come out in droves to see their hometown boys. Most popular amongst the Crazy Canucks right now are Chris Jericho and Edge, so expect them to go on opposite sides. Since we have Jericho slated for Raw, expect Edge to go to Smackdown!.

It's also likely that Christian will end up on Edge's side. Fans are craving a re-joining of the Canadian Blondes, and I'd expect them to get back together somewhere down the road. Put Test on this trio's side, to have the added heel. This leaves Lance Storm and Val Venis to go along with Jericho, and given the lack of heels on Raw thus far, that should be where this group goes.

The upper-mid card

Now that we've established that Edge will be going to Smackdown!, expect Kurt Angle to go there as well to continue their seemingly growing feud. Angle is a definite high-note on the wrestling side of things, and would also be a great opportunity down the road to feud with RVD. On the other side, expect Undertaker to go to Raw, if only to continue the feud with Flair. Since Flair will likely not wrestle again (aside form possibly Backlash), he'll need a wrestler capable of taking on Undertaker on his behalf. None suits this role better, than former Horseman Chris Benoit, who will be back in the WWF just in time to give Flair a win at Backlash, and have a good feud going into King of the Ring.

The Divas

With Matt Hardy heading over to Raw to feud with Regal over the forced separation form Lita, expect the female 'extremist' to head over to Smackdown!. As a result, Trish will inevitably go to Raw, to balance out the popularity Lita has. I'd also expect Ivory to go to Smackdown!, because she will get more heat if fans can make the association between her on WWF TV and Tough Enough II, which airs on Thursdays in the states.

Also expect Torrie Wilson to go to Smackdown! (with Tajiri), and Stacy Kiebler to go to Raw. Molly and Jaqueline can go either way, but I'd expect to see Molly on Smackdown! and Jaqqueline on Raw. With one Diva spot open on Raw, look for Victoria to make her debut soon. She was part of WWF Axxess and was included in the WrestleMania program.

Tag Teams

The big split here will be the Hardyz, and with Matt headed to Raw, expect to see Jeff on Smackdown!. We could also see a split between Farooq and Bradshaw, which has been teased in the passed. Bradshaw has demonstrated that he can make it on his own, and inevitablty Faarooq will retire soon. Expect Bradshaw on Raw and Faarooq on Smackdown!.

I think it would be entertaining to see The Dudleyz go to Raw, and Billy and Chuck go to Smackdown!. Let Billy and Chuck have some fun, thinking that they are safe from the major tag teams for a while, that is, until Edge and Christian decide to have another kick at the can and challenge them for the titles, likely at KOTR.

So here's how the draft shapes up thus far:

Raw (Flair)

  • Rock
  • Chris Jericho
  • Undertaker
  • Chris Benoit
  • Lance Storm
  • Val Venis
  • William Regal
  • Kane
  • Tajiri
  • Matt Hardy
  • Trish Stratus
  • Jaqueline
  • Victoria
  • Bradshaw
  • Dudleyz
Smackdown! (McMahon)

  • Hulk Hogan
  • nWo
  • Steve Austin
  • Edge
  • Christian
  • Test
  • Rob Van Dam
  • Tajiri
  • Lita
  • Torrie Wilson
  • Ivory
  • Molly
  • Jeff Hardy
  • Bradshaw
  • Billy and Chuck
The rest of the talent pool can pretty much go either way, but look for the following:

  • The word on the street (which of course the WWF will not confirm) is that Smackdown! will have a concentration on cruiserweights. Expect Hurricane Helms to go this way, as well as a returning Billy Kidman. Expect D'Lo Brown to go this way as well, and for Randy Orton to make his debut soon.

  • The Raw roster will likley be filled out by some of the bigger guys, including Brock Lesnar, The Big Show, and a returning Mark Henry. Throw Spike on this side, if for no other reason that to have as a play-toy for Lesnar.

  • As far as announcers go, expect J.R. to stay on Raw, but it wouldn't shock me to see Lawler head to Smackdown!. In terms of storylines, it was Vince who brought Lawler back to the WWF, so expect him to bring Lawler along with him, to team up with Michael Cole.

  • That leaves J.R. without an announcing partner. Two names immediately come to mind: Paul Heyman and Tazz. Heyman will already be on Raw with Lesnar, so the fit is there. Tazz is a far more entertaining option, however, given his past run-ins with Ross.




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