Battleground and the Draft: WWE's Squandered Opportunities

By Big Red Machine
From July 18, 2016

Tomorrow night will be the WWE draft. This is a huge, ground-shaking event that will have an effect on WWE for years to come. It has been hyped on TV for weeks, and has been hyped as a big, can't-miss event. And they're right. It's not a show you should miss, and we know this because, in typical, WWE fashion, they've been repeating that constantly. "Tune in to the WWE draft to see which show your favorite Superstars are draft to!" "Tune in to the WWE draft to see who gets drafted first!" And in typical WWE fashion, they have squandered a unique opportunity.

WWE has, in essence, built to this draft like sort of a mini-PPV. Instead of "here are some matches; care about them," WWE has said "here is a big announcement; care about it." The same way they usually set up their big PPV matches on the Raw after the PPV (and almost certainly have them announced by the next week's show) and then just spin their wheels for three weeks until the PPV, WWE came out of the gate here with this big announcement that there would be a draft and Smackdown would go live, and no other details, and since then they've been spinning their wheels with stuff like Shane and Steph bickering over who will get which show, or various GMs of the past sneaking into the building to try to "audition" for one of the management positions, or JBL talking about drafting strategy and wondering who will get picked first, all of which is, quite frankly, almost totally irrelevant to the most important aspect of the draft itself to me as a fan: "how will the draft affect my favorite WWE Superstars?"

While the non-wrestling characters have been busy spinning their wheels to hype the fact that the draft is happening, the wrestlers have been busy spinning their wheels in typical WWE fashion to promote the PPV taking place just five days after the draft. And yes, they are spinning their wheels. There are only so many times I can watch Becky and Nattie jump each other, or the Wyatts and the New Day talk at each other, or Sasha Banks punk out Dana Brooke. As a result, the draft is supposed to be this big, earth-shattering thing... but then the next time we see WWE live it will be at the Battleground PPV to which the draft is completely irrelevant.

The frustrating thing about this is that the solution to both of these problems should have been obvious... and just in case it wasn't, it was something I would hope that someone in WWE Creative would have been able to come up with because the answer is sitting there in WWE's archives. It seems pretty obvious to me that if you are planning on doing a WWE draft in 2016, you'd want to go back and watch the TV surrounding the original WWE draft back in 2002 to see, with the benefit of hindsight, what worked and what didn't. In that first draft, only the WWF World Tag Team Champions were allowed to be drafted as a unit. The Dudley Boyz, who were not the tag champs at the time, were split up. Three days later, on the March 28, 2002 Smackdown, Bubba and Devon were granted a shot at the WWF World Tag Team Titles. If they won, they would stay together. If they lost, their team of seven years would be split up; the brothers would be separated, and forced to become singles wrestlers for the first time since before their days in ECW. If the Dudleys lost, it would truly be the end of the world as they knew it.

Instead of thinking of the draft and Battleground as separate things, WWE's plans should have been geared towards tying the two together. Build storylines for Battleground and then use the draft to shake things up; to make sure that we know that the landscape after the PPV will drastically different and thus at Battleground these stories MUST come to an end. Battleground is our heroes' last stand.

Say you have a mega-over babyface on his way up the card like Cesaro and you have him chasing The Miz's Intercontinental Title. Schedule a title match for Battleground, but then, at the draft, have them get drafted to different shows. All of a sudden this match that you have been building to all month takes on a greater importance because it will absolutely definitively be Cesaro's last chance to win this title. (And, obvious importance of the title aside, just the finality of this match would be a refreshing change from the past few months of Charlotte vs. Nattie or Ziggler vs. Corbin going on and on and on).

WWE had so many wonderful opportunities presented to it to tell stories and push a PPV with a unique sense of urgency about it that only a roster split can allow: a last chance for a title, a tag team that must win the titles or else be separated forever, friends taking one last ride together before being separated by the cruel whims of fate. Stories that are full of emotion and which the audience can connect to. Instead, they went about business as usual, and as a result hurt both the draft and the upcoming PPV by nullifying the sense of change that this whole thing is intended to create.

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