The show starts with both RAW and Smackdown Commissioners and GMs at their podiums on the ramp. The announcers go over the draft rules, with RAW getting three picks to Smackdown’s two. The crowd is starting their “Yes” chants as Stephanie tells them no one panders better than Mick Foley. Stephanie has Mick state their 1st pick but cuts him off to state it is Seth Rollins, even adding that he will be the new WWE Champion by the end of the night. We are shown a brief video package of Rollins and would get one after each superstar that got drafted. Shane then mocks Rollins as “crossfit Jesus” as their first pick for Smackdown is Dean Ambrose. RAW’s next pick is Charlotte as they want to focus on the Womens Division, while Stephanie yells out a “wooo!” Stephanie made comments after every pick and it was incredibly grating. Smackdown’s 2nd pick is AJ Styles. Mick notes their next pick will come from NXT and that is Finn Balor. After that, John Cena comes out for his scheduled match.
John Cena w/ Enzo & Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows w/ Karl Anderson & AJ Styles
Gallows beats on Cena as we get a commercial but also get to see the match take place on the upper left half of the screen. Gallows continues to beat on Cena through a Popeye’s, Target, and Starbucks commercial. The commercials end as Gallows gets two off of a slam. Big Cass & Enzo help rally the crowd behind Cena as he comes back with a flying tackle. Gallows catches Cena with a super kick as Enzo dances on the apron as Cass joins while they stare down Anderson and AJ, wearing a Smackdown shirt, before heading into the ring. The Club charges as they get backdropped to the floor then Cena catches Gallows with the AA for the win (5:26) *1/2.
Thoughts: The match was fine for what it was as it gives Cena, Enzo, and Big Cass some momentum heading into Battleground.
Up next, a Champions vs. Challengers match with Miz & Rusev vs. Zack Ryder & Darren Young
Back from the break, we are back to more picks. RAW starts off again as Mick shows Shane he is not a puppet as he drafts Roman Reigns to RAW as Lawler acts like this is a controversial selection. The crowd booed. Shane stumbles all over his lines to say that he is drafting John Cena. Stephanie comes back to say that RAW has drafted Brock Lesnar. Smackdown then picks Randy Orton. RAW’s next pick is made as Mick gives Stephanie a drum roll as she picks the New Day.
Rusev w/ Lana & The Miz w/ Maryse vs. Darren Young & Zack Ryder
Young lands a few shots on Rusev but is quickly sent back to the corner. Miz tags as Young slams him down and tags Ryder, who gets two with a splash. Rusev distracts Ryder as he was on the middle rope, allowing Miz to yank him off as Miz is now in control. Ryder comes back with a jawbreaker but Miz is able to stop the tag and hits a neckbreaker for two as the crowd chants for Backlund. Rusev tags and beats on Ryder as he screams that he will never take his title. Ryder floats over on a suplex and hits a neckbreaker as both men are down. Young tags to virtually no crowd reaction as he runs wild on Miz. Young then hits the Gut Check but Rusev breaks up the pin then hits a Gutwrench Suplex. Ryder hits Miz with the Rough Ryder then pullsthe ropes down on Rusev and hits a missle drpkock from the apron. Young then gets the rders for the crosface chicken wing and hits that ast he crowd goes nuts and Young gets the win (4:05) *1/2.
Thoughts: Again, fine for what it was as Young actually gets a clean win en route to his title match. Ryder also gets to be on the winning side as he faces Rusev at Battleground for the U.S. Title.
Tonight, Sasha Banks will face Dana Brooke & Charlotte in a handicapped match. Also, Xavier Woods will face off against Bray Wyatt.
Bray Wyatt w/ Wyatt Family vs. Xavier Woods w/ New Day
Bray hangs upside down in the corner as Xavier continues to look uncomfortable around Bray, who is playing up on his fear. Bray is on his knees and extends his arms as Xavier slowly approaches while Bray stands. Bray places his hand on Xavier’s shoulder but Xavier throws a punch. Bray knocks down Xavier then beats him down in the corner. Bray continues to destroy Xavier as the Cole breaks the news of the Wyatt Family being drafted separately tonight. Bray plants Xavier with an uranage then crushes him with a senton. Bray watches Xavier crawl to the corner and follows but Xavier fights back. Xavier his a high knee that knocks Bray down but Xavier gets freaked out by the spider walk as Bray hits the Sister Abigail for the win (4:45) *1/2.
Thoughts: I liked this segment as it continued the mind games Bray has been playing on Xavier, who has done a great job at playing his character as he is almost in a trance when seeing Bray and looks disheveled.
Kane vs. Kevin Owens is supposed to take place next. Owens yells at Shane & Bryan on the ramp as Stephanie laughs then he yells at Foley for not drafting him. Sami Zayn runs out and brawls with Owens on the ramp. It spills into the ring where Owens plants Zayn with a super kick and beats him up. Kane grabs Zayn by the throat as Owens laughs so Kane grabs Owens by his throat and hits a double chokeslam. This was completely unnecessary and why they had Kane, an older vet that barely gets any crowd reaction anymore, take out two guys who are feuding as they head into a PPV match is beyond me.
Stephanie then announces Sami Zayn as her next pick of RAW. Shane then selects Bray Wyatt as his next pick as Stephanie is glad they took him as she finds Bray weird. Foley reminds the Smackdown guys there are women here as he picks Sasha Banks next. Bryan calls Foley’s out for his obsession with the women wrestlers then picks Becky Lynch next. Mick then said he had to change plans and went into his bag and pulled out some paper to announce that he picked Chris Jericho.
We are shown a clip of Dean Ambrose from the WWE Network Draft Center and how he looks good in blue and will walk out of Battleground as the WWE Champion.
Dana Brooke & Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks
Mauro said Banks will have to be “Boston Strong” in this match tonight. Sasha lands on the apron and kicks Dana then flies off the apron to hit Charlotte with a double knee smash. Dana then attacks her from behind and rolls her inside to land some mounted punches. Dana works a surfboard but Sasha breaks out and hits a clothesline. Sasha then knocks Charlotte off of the apron and works a sloppy sequence with Dana, who makes a blind tag before getting put in the Banks Statement as Charlotte breaks that up and hits the Natural Selection for the win (2:18) 1/2*.
Thoughts: They worked fast here but it was not smooth as Dana and Sasha continue to show a lack of chemistry when together in the ring. The intrigue as to who will be Sasha’s partner did not grow here.
Next, we are back to the draft. Foley takes Rusev with Lana as Stephanie keeps repeating “Crush” with her horrendous Lana impression. Bryan then says he hates doing this but needs the IC Champ and takes Miz with Maryse. Stephanie announces Kevin Owens as her next pick as Cole loves the pick. Smackdown then makes Baron Corbin their next pick as Cole thinks its an interesting pick and a future WWE Champion. Well, if he is going to be a future champion, then how is the pick interesting? Seems like a sensible choice more than anything else. Mick then makes Enzo & Big Cass their next pick as Stephanie says you can’t teach that.
Chris Jericho vs Cesaro
Cesaro beats on Jericho to start. He flies out with a senton from the apron then hits a running uppercut. Back inside, Jericho hits an enziguiri before working a chinlock. They work a pinfall reversal sequence then Cesaro boots Jercho from the apron. Cesaro heads up top and gets cut off as Jericho takes him off with a hurricarana for two. Cesaro fights back with uppercuts but runs into a boot in the corner. Jericho tries a Lionsault but Cesaro gets up and takes him off the middle rope with a Russian Leg Sweep. Cesaro hits the swing and tries for the Neutralizer but Jericho escapes. Cesaro then attempts a springboard uppercut but Jericho hits him with a Codebreaker in midair for the win (4:52) *3/4.
Thoughts: Decent match but Cesaro has been losing an awful lot over the past month. I guess whatever push they had going for him is ending soon unless the losing streak is part of an upcoming push. Back from break, we see Becky Lynch and Nattie have a pull-apart brawl at ringside. Several officials break it up as Becky heads up to the back with Nattie left lying on the ground.
RAW drafts Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, breaking up The Club. Bryan tells us Smackdown is the land of opportunity as they draft the top tag team in NXT, American Alpha. RAW drafts Big Show next. Shane then talks about their next pick and how they always give everything they have and put on a phenomenal performance as he proceeds to draft Dolph Ziggler, with Cole noting how Ziggler was looking for a fresh start. Stephanie then says she is taking a woman who is like no other and takes Nia Jax as Cole and Lawler act shocked.
We get a clip of Tom Phillips interviewing Seth Rollins from the WWE Draft Center as he promises to walk out of Smackdown live as the Champion as he wonders about the state of Roman Reigns and will have a celebration on RAW after Battleground.
Back to the podium for more draft picks. Stephanie takes the returning Neville to RAW as the announcers hype up his agility. Smackdown counters with the first female graduate of the Hart Family Dungeon, Natalya. Mick talks about how the finest moment in his career took place right here in Worcester, MA then proceeds to take Cesaro next. Shane then promises to “add fire” to Smackdown with his next pick and takes Alberto Del Rio. Next, Mick Foley takes the Celtic Warrior, Sheamus, with the final televised pick of the WWE Draft with the rest of the draft being shown on the WWE Network when Smackdown goes off the air.
WWE World Title Match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (c)
Stephanie makes the belt motion sign to Rollins as he heads down to the ring. Rollins attacks Ambrose before during the introductions and beats on him outside the ring as we head to break. The bell rings when we come back as Rollins stomps Ambrose in the corner. Rollins stays in control and gets two off of a backbreaker. He works a side headlock on the mat as the announcers talk about Roman Reigns and his state of mind heading into Battleground. Ambrose fights out then chops Rollins on the outside. Rollins sends Ambrose into the barricade and charges but ends up getting backdropped over the timekeeper’s area. Ambrose misses a railrunner then gets tossed inside where Rollins gets two off of a springboard knee smash as we head to break. The action returns with Rollins still in control. He then gets caught with a clothesline as both men are down. They get up and slug it out for a bit as Ambrose gets two with a neckbreaker. Rollins boots Ambrose in midair and hits him with a buckle bomb but misses a frog splash as Ambrose rolls him up for two. Rollins backs Ambrose into the corner then cheap shots him as the ref stepped in between them. Ambrose blocks a Pedigree with a backdrop that sent Rollins to the floor. Ambrose then flies out with a tope before climbing up top and hitting a clothesline. Back inside, Rollins hits a superplex and rolls through for a Falcon Arrow but Ambrose floats over and hits Rollins with the Dirty Deeds for the win (12:17) ***1/4. After the match, Shane and Bryan head into the ring with a blue Smackdown shirt for Dean as he puts than on and raises the belt while the crowd does the “Yes” chant with Bryan. The crowd celebrates with Ambrose as Cole plugs the draft continuing on the WWE Network.
Thoughts: Good match but given last night’s finish, why would you even do this match and finish to begin with?
Final Thoughts: Overall, this was not a good show. In fact, I thought it was terrible for the most part. They did hype a few things for Battleground but did some headscratching booking like having Owens & Zayn getting chokeslammed by Kane in a segment that never should have made it to air.
The draft itself, while it added things like a ticker and video packages, ended with Smackdown clearly defined as the “B” show. In all the weeks leading up to the draft, we kept hearing about how Smackdown was going to be new and hip and let stars break through the glass ceiling, something Shane said last night as he wanted to give newer talent a fair shot. When you look at the results, the roster Smackdown drafted did not reflect that in the slightest. Besides American Alpha and Baron Corbin, what young stars did they really draft here? I came away from this in thinking that Corbin will get a huge heel push on Smackdown. And with the tag team division as it is on Smackdown, how over can Alpha get? You need another team for them to wrestle and right now you have the likes of Breezango, Vaudevillains, and the Ascension who are not even close to being seen as legitimate teams in the eyes of the fans. You can’t get over by only wrestling losers.
Also, regarding the draft, I found Stephanie to be even more grating than usual as she would not stop talking after each and every pick and the impressions she was using were cringeworthy in every sense of the word.
RAW has a lot of talent but unfortunately, there is a log jam of talented guys in the midcard, meaning most of them will stay lost in the shuffle. It looks like we will get more of guys like Owens, Zayn, Cesaro, and Jericho wrestling themselves for the time being. I thought those four guys should needed to be split up in the worst way. Add that and the lack of fresh talent on Smackdown, how are you supposed to create new stars? I really hope they are allowed to trade talent because as constructed, the rosters were poorly built. Sure, the USA Network was the force behind Smackdown going live and wanted Cena on that show and the WWE did not have a strong enough roster for the split to occur but what they did tonight does not give me hope. Maybe they can prove me wrong but the brand split failed before with talent that was more over than what they have now.