The WWE draft is a process used by professional wrestling promotion WWE 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 WWE draft lottery (2004–2005) 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. After that, WWE terminated the brand split and promotion of interbrand competition from 2011 to 2016.
On May 25, 2016, due to SmackDown moving to Tuesdays and to a live broadcast starting July 19, necessitating a brand extension, WWE announced that the draft would be returning. It would later be announced that the 2016 WWE draft would take place on July 19 during SmackDown's first live broadcast, which was also the first time that the draft took place on SmackDown. The 2017 draft was labeled the Superstar Shake-up as instead of a traditional draft, the general managers of Raw and SmackDown could trade and make deals between their respective talent.
During the 2002 draft, Undisputed WWE Champion Triple H and Women's Champion Jazz 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. The first half of the draft was televised live on TNN for two hours, as part of the WWF's flagship program, Raw. The second half was conducted over the Internet on WWF's official website, WWF.com. There were thirty draft picks, with sixty superstars drafted overall by co-owners of the WWF, onto their respective brands, Raw and SmackDown. The remaining superstars were divided randomly in a draft lottery, with each brand receiving a grand total of thirty superstars.
A draft did not occur in 2003, with the second official draft occurring in 2004. The draft took place live for two hours on WWE's flagship television program, Raw on Spike TV. Post-draft trades were announced on WWE's official website, WWE.com, until midnight on March 22, 2004. There were twelve draft picks, with nineteen superstars overall switching between the promotion's two brands: Raw and SmackDown. During the draft lottery, the General manager of Raw, Eric Bischoff, and the General manager of SmackDown!, Paul Heyman, stood on opposite ends of the stage on the Raw set, where they drafted six superstars randomly via two machines. At the conclusion of the draft, the two GMs would then be allowed to trade anyone on the roster until Midnight EST, which was later extended until Tuesday night after Heyman resigned. Every WWE employee was eligible to be drafted, including injured superstars, commentators, champions, and general managers.
During the 2005 draft, WWE Champion John Cena was drafted 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 World Heavyweight Champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown, bringing the title with him. There were ten draft picks and an eleven-person trade conducted between the promotion's two brands: Raw and SmackDown, where twenty-two superstars were drafted and traded overall. The draft took place on WWE's two-hour television programs, Raw, which aired on Spike TV, and SmackDown!, which aired on UPN. Post-draft trades were announced on WWE's official website, WWE.com. The draft picks were announced each Monday on Raw and each Thursday on SmackDown! from June 6 to June 30. Each draftee was drafted at random. Every Superstar and Diva from Raw and SmackDown! was eligible to be drafted, including announcers, commentators, and general managers.
Addition of ECW
There was no Raw and SmackDown draft in 2006, however, ECW became a third brand. The draft featured ECW representative Paul Heyman receiving two total draft picks from the existing SmackDown and Raw rosters for the newly created ECW brand.
During the 2007 draft, ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley was stripped of the title after being drafted to Raw. The first half of the draft was televised live for three hours on World Wrestling Entertainment's flagship program, Raw on USA Network. The second half of the draft, or the "supplemental draft", was conducted over WWE's website, WWE.com, for four hours on June 17, 2007 as draft picks were announced at twenty-minute intervals. There were twenty-three draft picks, with twenty-seven wrestlers drafted overall, between the promotion's three brands: Raw, SmackDown, and ECW. For the televised half of the draft, each brand's draft pick was determined by nine matches, one being a battle royal for two draft picks, where wrestlers from their respective brands wrestled to earn a draft pick. The supplemental draft, however, was conducted randomly, with each brand receiving random draft selections. Raw and SmackDown! received five random draft picks, while ECW received three random draft picks. The televised draft picks were randomly selected by a computer that was shown on the Raw titantron. Every WWE wrestler from Raw, SmackDown!, and ECW was eligible to be drafted.
During the 2008 draft, Matt Hardy was drafted to ECW with his United States Championship, Triple H was drafted to SmackDown with his WWE Championship, and Kane was drafted to Raw with his ECW Championship. The draft took place live for three hours on Raw. Every WWE employee, diva, announcer, commentator and general manager were eligible to be drafted. Similar to the 2007 WWE Draft, wrestlers from each brand competed in matches to win a random draft pick for their brand. Draft picks were kayfabe selected at random via a computer that was shown on the Raw titantron. Like the previous year, a supplemental draft took place on June 25, where draft selections were randomly conducted.
During the 2009 draft, Unified WWE Tag Team Champions The Colóns (Carlito and Primo), Divas Champion Maryse, United States Champion MVP, and WWE Champion Triple H were drafted to Raw, while Women's Champion Melina and Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio were drafted to SmackDown. The draft took place over two days: the first day was televised live for three hours on April 13; the second part, the "supplemental draft", was held on April 13. The first day was broadcast on WWE's program Raw, and the supplemental draft was available on the Internet, at WWE's official website. The televised portion was held in Atlanta, Georgia at Philips Arena. The 2009 WWE draft marked the third time that the Raw, SmackDown, and ECW brands were featured in the draft; wrestlers, general managers and commentators were all eligible to be drafted from the company's roster. For the televised half, matches determined which brand received a random draft selection. During the supplemental draft, brand and employee selections were made at random. Overall, 36 draft selections were made, the most since the original draft in 2002 (which featured 57 selections). Twelve selections were made on television; six were made by Raw, five by SmackDown, and one by ECW. All of the draftees were wrestlers: 28 males (10 drafted on television) and 8 females (2 drafted on television).
Disbanding of ECW
Before the 2010 draft, the ECW brand was disbanded, and therefore the draft was one again only Raw and SmackDown. During the draft, Unified WWE Tag Team Champions The Hart Dynasty (Tyson Kidd and David Hart Smith) were drafted to Raw. The draft took place over two days: the first day was televised live for three hours on April 26, and the second part, the "supplemental draft", was held on April 27. The first day was broadcast on WWE's Monday night program Raw, and the supplemental draft was available on WWE's official website. The televised portion was held at Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia.
During the 2011 draft, United States Champion Sheamus was drafted to SmackDown. The draft aired live on Raw, for two hours in Raleigh, North Carolina from the RBC Center. As a standard for previous drafts, most on-air personnel were eligible to be drafted. A continuation of the draft took place on WWE's official website at 12:00pm Eastern time on the following afternoon. SmackDown received 16 additional members to its roster while Raw received 13. For the first time in draft history, two of the draft picks consisted of the same wrestler (John Cena) being selected to SmackDown with the first pick and back to Raw with the last televised pick.
With the end of the first brand extension in August 2011, no drafts were held until the brand extension was brought back in 2016.
During the 2016 draft, SmackDown drafted WWE Champion Dean Ambrose and Intercontinental Champion The Miz (along with his wife Maryse), while Raw drafted Women's Champion Charlotte, United States Champion Rusev (along with his wife Lana), and WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day.
During the 2017 WWE Superstar Shake-up, Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose and the championship moved to Raw, while United States Champion Kevin Owens and the championship moved to SmackDown. On the April 3 episode of Raw, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced that on the April 10 and April 11 episodes of Raw and SmackDown Live, respectively, "it's time to shake things up around here", effectively announcing the 2017 draft, or what was labeled the "Superstar Shake-up". Instead of a traditional draft, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle and SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan had the "opportunity to make trades, deals and other moves that they [felt] fit".
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