The WWE draft, (formerly known as the WWE draft lottery) was a process used by professional wrestling promotion WWE (formerly WWF) to provide new brand competition and to refresh its rosters. The draft was first used during the brand extension of 2002, though it was officially incepted and used in 2004. Since the inception of the process, it has been referred to as the "draft lottery" (2004–05) and later simplified to the "draft" (2007–2011). Starting in 2005, the draft took place during the month of June; it was held in April between 2009 and 2011. The latter year saw the final draft occur as a part of the brand extension, as WWE announced the termination of the brand split and promotion of interbrand competition from 2011 onwards.
|After acquiring World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), the WWF split its roster into two distinctive wrestling brands, Raw and SmackDown!. WWF CEO Linda McMahon announced that WWF co-owners Ric Flair and Vince McMahon would draft superstars to Raw and SmackDown! respectively. The Rock was acquired by SmackDown! as the first overall pick, and The Undertaker was acquired by Raw as its first pick in the draft. Stone Cold Steve Austin was allowed to choose which show he wanted to be on.|
|To remain active with the WrestleMania XX tagline of "Where it all begins again", WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced a draft lottery, as he stated it was time for a "new WWE" and "it's time to shake things up again". Each general manager received six picks.|
|Unlike previous draft lotteries which occurred on one night, this draft lottery took place over the month of June. Each general manager received five random picks. During the draft, SmackDown! was left without a world champion after Raw drafted John Cena, who at the time held the WWE Championship. SmackDown! announced plans to create their own world championship, but abandoned them when they acquired Batista from Raw, who at the time held the World Heavyweight Championship.|
|2006||ECW||As part of the launch of the ECW brand, WWE allowed ECW representative Paul Heyman to draft one superstar from each of the Raw and SmackDown! brands.|
|Was the first ever tri-branded draft lottery, where all three of WWE's brands took part in the draft. Unlike previous drafts where the general managers were able to randomly select their draftee, matches took place between representatives of each brand and the winner received a draft pick. The draft was announced by Shane McMahon on May 28, and took place on June 11 on a special three-hour episode of Raw.|
|Was the second consecutive draft where draft picks were determined by matches. During the draft, three championships switched brands due to the champions switching brands. The draft was announced by Vince McMahon on May 26, and took place on June 23 on a special three-hour episode of Raw.|
|On February 11, 2009, WWE announced via their website that the 2009 draft would take place on the April 13, 2009 edition of WWE Raw. The draft consisted of tri-branded matches with the winner of the match's brand earning a pick. A total of 12 wrestlers were drafted on television. A supplemental draft was announced for April 15, in which a total of 24 wrestlers were drafted.|
|The Richmond Coliseum confirmed that it would serve as the venue for the 2010 WWE draft, which was held live during an episode of Raw on April 26, 2010. The draft consisted of interpromotional matches with the winner of the match's brand earning a pick. A total of 8 wrestlers were drafted on television. A supplemental draft was announced for April 27, in which a total of 13 wrestlers were drafted. It was also the first draft without ECW after its cancellation.|
|On April 18, WWE, USA Network, and the RBC Center confirmed the 2011 draft to take place on April 25 from Raleigh, North Carolina. The draft consisted of interpromotional matches with the winner of the match's brand earning a pick. A total of 8 superstars were drafted on television. 22 more drafts happened the following day, as WWE.com updated the site with every pick. This was the final draft occurring under the brand extension of 2002.|
Impact on championships
Whether a champion keeps their championship after being drafted is unpredictable:
- During the 2002 draft, the Undisputed WWE Champion and the Women's Champion were ineligible to be drafted as, at the time, their respective services were deemed available to both brands. The rest of the champions, however, were eligible to be drafted to either brand's roster. Initially, the Intercontinental Championship and WWE European Championship became exclusive to Raw, while the Tag Team Championship, WWE Hardcore Championship, and Cruiserweight Championship became exclusive to SmackDown. However, as time went on, the Tag Team and Hardcore Championships would become exclusive to Raw while the Undisputed WWE Championship became exclusive to SmackDown when then-champion Brock Lesnar signed only to appear for that brand. It was renamed the WWE Championship as Eric Bischoff created the World Heavyweight Championship for Raw.
- During the 2005 draft, the WWE Champion John Cena was drafted from SmackDown! to Raw and kept his championship. General Manager Theodore Long announced that a new SmackDown! Championship was to be created but the idea was abandoned when the World Heavyweight Champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown! from Raw, bringing the title with him.
- During the 2007 draft, the ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley was stripped of the title after being drafted to Raw.
- During the 2008 draft, Matt Hardy was drafted to ECW with his WWE United States Championship, Triple H was drafted to SmackDown with his WWE Championship, and Kane was drafted to Raw with his ECW Championship.
- During the 2009 draft, WWE Unified Tag Team Champions The Colóns (Carlito and Primo), WWE Divas Champion Maryse, WWE United States Champion MVP and WWE Champion Triple H were drafted to Raw, while WWE Women's Champion Melina and WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio were drafted to SmackDown.
- During the 2011 draft, WWE United States Champion Sheamus was drafted to SmackDown.
- With the end of the extension and no need for two world championships, COO Triple H set up a unification match between then WWE Champion Randy Orton and World Heavyweight Champion John Cena at the 2013 TLC event. Orton won the match and became the first WWE World Heavyweight Champion, thus deactivating the World Heavyweight Championship.
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- "Caldwell, James (2011-04-18). "WWE News: Big News – WWE Draft scheduled for next Monday on Raw according to USA Network executive". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2011-04-18.