A draft is more often than not an exciting event in WWE. Despite recent disappointments, draft-day has seen a number of truly shocking moments.
Moreover, a wrestler being drafted from one brand to another can either make their career or break it. Despite the occasional flop *cough* Bobby Lashley *cough* a number of successful careers have emerged following drafts to the red or blue brand.
Unsurprisingly, it is often WWE’s second brand SmackDown where wrestlers achieved their success following a draft; however, a number of RAW drafts have been successful over the years as well.
With that being said, here are 10 of the most successful draft picks in WWE history.
Special mention goes to The Usos who, despite not making the list, reinvented themselves on SmackDown Live and became a cornerstone to the SmackDown tag division.
When you think of Edge, you think of him standing at the top of SmackDown as the World Heavyweight Champion. However, his early WWE career did not suggest this would be Edge’s career trajectory.
Now, Edge was successful at the start of his WWE career being one half of the team Edge & Christian. The duo won multiple Tag Team titles as a duo.
Yet, it was not until Edge was drafted to SmackDown when his career took-off. Edge became a legitimate main event player for the blue brand.
He won the World Heavyweight Championship 7 times, compared to his 4 WWE Championship reigns. Edge is far more synonymous with SmackDown as it is the brand he has seen the most success on.
Thanks to his draft to SmackDown early on in his career, Edge sealed himself Hall Of Fame status and secured his SmackDown legacy.
On the topic of Edge…
In 2010, Christian was drafted from RAW to SmackDown in a move that definitely marked a turning point in Captain Charisma’s career.
Up until this point, Christian had not really reached the same heights his former partner Edge had reached in WWE. Christian had only found World Championship success in TNA. Despite being the face of the soon to be cancelled ECW revival in 2009, he had not lived up to his potential.
After failing to win the Intercontinental Championship and the Money In The Bank contract, Christian picked up an injury in September 2010. After 4 months out, he returned to the blue brand and began teaming with his old partner Edge. This lead to him being by Edge’s side at WrestleMania 27.
Following this, Edge had to retire. This is where Christian’s career finally took off. Christian managed to pick up his first world title at Extreme Rules following Edge vacating the World Heavyweight Title.
Christian then went on to an excellent feud with Randy Orton where he lost, then won back then lost the belt again to The Viper.
Although Christian’s WWE career has not been the most decorated, he is always described as being underrated. His 2010 draft to SmackDown meant he at least got the world title run he deserved.
In 2016, WWE announced the return of the brand split and everyone wondered who would be the unlucky last pick. Unfortunately that title falls to Carmella. She was the 59th draftee and SmackDown’s 26th and final pick.
And yet… on 10th April, 2018… Carmella won the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship.
After Carmella won the first ever Women’s Money In The Bank match, she cashed-in her contract 8 months later to end Charlotte Flair’s 100+ day reign. Moreover, Carmella’s subsequent reign was a relatively lengthy one, lasting a total of 130 days.
During her reign, she not only beat Charlotte Flair in their rematch, but she also defeated Asuka along the way – two hugely credible contenders.
Admittedly, Carmella has not become a superstar like the likes of Flair and Lynch have become. However, the fact Carmella won a championship after being the last pick back in 2016 is a monumental achievement for the Princess of Staten Island.
7. Dean Ambrose
Early in his WWE career, Ambrose seemed to be positioned as breakout star from The Shield faction. This was unfortunately not entirely the case.
With Reigns being the true pet-project of Vince McMahon and Rollins being aligned with The Authority, Ambrose was the last of the three to win a World Title in the company.
However, when he won the Money In The Bank in 2016 and went on to cash in that same night, he solidified himself in WWE’s main event.
Soon after this win, Dean was drafted to SmackDown Live where he remained atop of the blue brands roster for 84 days.
His feud with AJ Styles made SmackDown Live the must-watch WWE show, being far superior to anything RAW was producing at the time. We can only thank Dean Ambrose’s position at the top of the card for SmackDown’s success during this period.
6. Alexa Bliss
Now this entry is a true success story to come from a draft as a new star in the women’s division was born.
Alexa Bliss was drafted as SmackDown Live’s 20th pick following the 2016 brand split. Despite her late pick, Alexa Bliss revolutionized her character and her performance to become SmackDown’s #1 female wrestler.
Roughly five months after the brand split and Alexa’s call-up to the main roster, Bliss picked up the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship from Becky Lynch and embarked on her first reign as champion.
Her first reign lasted 70 days until she lost it to Naomi at Elimination Chamber. After Naomi vacated the belt due to injury, Bliss re-won the belt for her second title in the space of 7 months on the main roster.
Since then, she has been drafted to RAW and picked up the RAW Women’s Championship three times. Recently, Bliss has had a run with the Women’s Tag Team Championships with Nikki Cross. Without a doubt, Bliss grabbed those metaphorical brass rings since her call-up and is still a mainstay to this day.
After a disappointing NXT career, Alexa Bliss has become a genuine star in the women’s division despite all the odds. Her success stems from her original draft to SmackDown Live. Therefore she must be considered one of the greatest success stories to come from a WWE draft.
5. CM Punk
Up until 2008, CM Punk was just a glimmer of hope during the disappointing revival of ECW. During this years draft though, Punk was RAW’s second pick which looked like an inspired move for the then Money In The Bank holder.
His first act on RAW was to cash-in his Money In The Bank contract on Edge to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. That reign that lasted 69 days in total. He also became WWE’s 19th Triple Crown Champion whilst on RAW.
However, in 2009, Punk was transferred over to SmackDown, again being the Money In The Bank holder at the time. After a brief feud with Umaga, Punk cashed-in his contract on Jeff Hardy to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the second time.
Following this, Punk entered a superb feud with Hardy. This ultimately led to Jeff leaving WWE following a cage match with Punk.
It was on SmackDown where CM Punk solidified himself as a major player within WWE. Despite the brand system falling out the window by 2011, CM Punk rose to super-stardom following his infamous pipe-bomb promo on WWE and John Cena.
Without his initial push on RAW following his first draft from ECW, CM Punk may never have seen his career reach the heights of his legendary Money In The Bank performance. Against John Cena in 2011, their match achieved 5-stars from Dave Meltzer. Punk has maintained his cult-like status ever since.
4. Braun Strowman
In an interesting turn in 2016, Braun Strowman was separated from his Wyatt Family allies. They were transferred to SmackDown Live and he was drafted to RAW. This became the start of his mega-push into the main event.
After losing significant weight and shaving the sides of his head, Braun now looked the part. This set him up for a solo run on the red brand.
In subsequent weeks, Braun’s stock grew after winning squash match after squash match against the likes of Sin Cara.
Braun’s notoriety increased after he defeated Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing match in January, 2017. His momentum continued as he then used this to leverage himself into a Universal Title shot.
Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful on that night and has been unsuccessful in each pursuit of the top title ever since. He has had heavily praised feuds with the likes of Roman Reigns along his journey to the top. However, he has never managed to capture the big one.
Despite this, Braun’s meteoric rise from Wyatt Family afterthought to ‘The Monster Among Men’ makes him worthy of a place on this list.
3. AJ Styles
AJ Styles made his debut in WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble in a shocking move for the man who had dominated TNA and NJPW for years.
However, Styles could not capitalize on the momentum he gained from his astonishing debut. He lost to Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 32. However, all was not lost.
Less than a year after his debut, AJ Styles became SmackDown Live’s 4th round pick in the 2016 Draft. The rest is history.
AJ Styles quickly made SmackDown Live “The house that AJ Styles built!” Styles was consistently in various title pictures on the blue brand, capturing the WWE Championship twice.
Moreover, his second reign was monumental as he remained champion for 371 days, becoming one of the longest reigns in the modern era.
Styles now resides on RAW with The O.C. as one of RAW’s top picks. Without his SmackDown Live success, who knows whether AJ would have succeeded in the land of Sports Entertainment.
2. John Cena
This draft may not have made a career as Cena was already the WWE Champion, but the “single biggest acquisition” in the brands history cannot be left off of a list about WWE’s Drafts.
When Bischoff announced John Cena as the #1 Draft Pick in 2005, the landscape of RAW changed forever. The WWE Championship was now the top title on the red brand, and Cena became the face of WWE’s biggest show.
The Champ was well and truly here. Cena ran RAW for years and years following this move, quickly becoming the lead figurehead of the company.
Moreover, Cena earned colossal amounts mainstream exposure ever since 2005 and is now a genuine household name. He is the most successful wrestler to have made the mainstream crossover since The Rock and Austin. Arguably, it all stems from his 2005 draft to Monday Night RAW.
Batista’s draft to SmackDown in 2005 was as shocking as they come. In the same draft that gave us the aforementioned Cena to RAW announcement, Batista made the switch to SmackDown. He was ultimately able to cement his legacy as a WWE Hall Of Famer.
On the 30th June, Teddy Long announced a Six-Man Elimination Match to announce SmackDown’s top champion, which was won by JBL. Whilst on his knees after his triumph, Long strides down with a bag containing the ‘SmackDown Championship’.
However, it was all a ruse. Long unveiled JBL had actually just become the #1 Contender to the real World Heavyweight Champion – Batista!
Now, Batista’s career was clearly not floundering at this point as he had just performed in the main event of WrestleMania 21. However, he was far more synonymous with the blue brand throughout the years.
Not only did he become a 4 time World Heavyweight Champion, but he also was awarded Feud Of The Year in 2007 by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter for his rivalry with The Undertaker.
Batista today is a household name after featuring in various Marvel films. The question is, would any of his fame been achieved without that original draft to SmackDown which allowed Batista to become a superstar.