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5 Big Takeaways from WWE Smackdown - April 28, 2023: The Draft Begins


Well, the NFL Draft may have kicked off on Thursday, but WWE was not to be outdone. What has been billed as 'the biggest draft of all time' by Triple H got underway during this week's episode of Friday Night Smackdown.

Needless to say, the WWE Universe has been anticipating this night since the game let us know we were going to have another crazy, mix-'em-up. The talent selection process would start with what has evolved into the promotion's flagship show over the last few years. It was certainly a night to remember, after a few weeks of a WrestleMania hangover. Infusing life into the storylines is the goal, and the initial evening definitely did its job of getting the ball rolling.

The Blue Brand had a big night. There were a few surprise names thrown into the mix, and the in-ring action in this episode was top-notch. It was a fun show and a fast watch, which is always nice to cap off a week of twists and turns. Here are five things that really stood out about the latest presentation of WWE Smackdown:

#1 - The Number One overall pick was a clearcut choice

Ironically, while the NFL Draft takes place in Kansas City over the weekend, a former gridiron star was selected as the number-one name in sports entertainment. While he's a long way from crushing opponents on the defensive line at Georgia Tech, Roman Reigns he's done quite nicely sacking the competition in WWE.

Roman Reigns is exactly what he says he is: The Head of Table, and not just by a nickname only. His historical title run has been not only impressive but it's also turned around the fortunes of a once-stagnant WWE Universe. He was the steadying wave that a rudderless ship so desperately needed.

Adding a little spice to the mix is the fact that Roman was drafted along with the Wise Man, Paul Heyman, and his cousin, Solo Sikoa. Noticeably, that still left 40% of the members of his faction - The Usos - waiting to learn their final destination.

Still firmly entrenched in the middle of the best storyline we've seen in years, Reigns isn't going anywhere. The Bloodline still has a lot of mileage left, and with The Tribal Chief as the focal point, it could stretch out all the way to WrestleMania 40. In the meantime, The Big Dog will still be roaming around Smackdown. Whenever he pleases, of course.

#2 - The World (Championship) belongs to RAW

With Reigns being drafted to Friday nights, Cody Rhodes was not surprisingly the first pick for RAW, as he's arguably second in line behind Roman in the eyes of the fans. Without a doubt, the promotion will make him the face of The Red Brand going forward. Rightfully so, as he's taken the company by storm since jumping ship from AEW in 2022.

Triple H made a handful of selections before leaving the stage. That left the scoreboard looking with some gigantic names on it, early in the show. Immediately, he divided the two most popular and consistent stars in the male and female divisions, respectively:

Smackdown: Roman Reigns, Bianca Belair

RAW: Cody Rhodes, Becky Lynch

The odds are that Cody Rhodes is going to be the first-ever grappler to hold the new title belt, but more will become clear once the draft is finally over. Some have chuckled at that championship, saying it's more of a consolation prize for all the wrestlers who can't beat Roman.

Those jokes and jeers will continue if The American Nightmare wins the inaugural World Championship, considering his 'Mania loss to The Tribal Chief. But the right competitor could make the World Championship very prestigious if booked properly. Cody is the kind of guy who fits that bill.

#3 - The Stars of the Past came out to shine for the 2023 WWE Draft

WWE Hall of Famers Rob Van Dam and Michael P.S. Hayes came out to announce another batch of draftees, including names like Edge, Matt Riddle, and the Intercontinental Champion, Gunther. RVD got a fantastic ovation from the Gulf Coast crowd, and it's clear that The Whole F***in' Show is still beloved.

Another pair of the enshrined, JBL and Teddy Long made some picks to help fatten up both the red and blue rosters. Funny how Bradshaw was reviled by fans for so many years (and a lot of was justified), he has mellowed a lot as he's gotten older. At the same time, the WWE Universe has softened its stance toward him, as well.

That's actually a great thing to witness because he really had an unlikely rise to the top that should be celebrated, along with being one of the more astute guys to have ever stepped into the squared circle.

What more can you say about Teddy Long? As was noted during the broadcast, this man must swim in the Fountain of Youth. And lucky for us, too. Because it's both a pleasure and a treasure when the original Playa comes through.

Teddy has been hanging out with us for about 40 years now, but he's still got some sweet moves left.

As the former Smackdown General Manager grooved onto the stage, it was like Flashback Friday at Magic City... and the drinks are half off. All the while the WWE Universe made sure to stand up and HOLLA.

Later, we saw a couple of those DX bad boys, Shawn Michaels and Road Dogg, come to the podium to break it down. There was no need to ask the crowd: "Are You Ready?" They made it clear by their reaction that they, indeed, were.

When HBK was introduced, it was pointed out that he's the man with the plan for NXT now. It's his baby. That's why he was a bit befuddled to learn that he was losing all of his female champions, all at the same time.

In an unprecedented move, the NXT Women's Tag Team Champions - Isla Dawn and Alba Fyre - were chosen by Smackdown. Then right after that, RAW would select NXT Women's Champion Indi Hartwell!

It was a titleholder talent raid, in real-time. The fact that an iconic figure in WWE lore was caught in the middle only added to it all. It illustrated the 2023 Draft for what it should be: a link between the promotion's past, present, and future.

Often, those who deputize themselves as the 'true historians' will mock the legacy of WWE. They will discount its storylines and even many of its wrestlers. But on a night like this, you come to realize that they didn't break the business. They broke the mold. And there's no denying the promotion or their influence on pop culture and entertainment. That was on display Friday Night. Nearly all of the company's former stars achieved a status where they can go away, but never be truly forgotten.

All of the WWE Hall of Famers received their proper deference from an audience that grew up watching them. And if that's not the very definition of history? Then what is?

#4 - AJ Styles and The O.C. are back in full force

It's going to be quite interesting to see what this fighting foursome does on Friday Nights. Other than Michin, the members of the group are greybeards. So it's possible that this little reboot might be WWE wanting to get some more mileage out of them. Then again, with whispers that AJ Styles might be slimming down his schedule over the next few years, it's also likely he encourages this run on The Blue Brand.

As every wrestling fan knows, there's a lot of talent there. Michael Cole made sure to highlight in his commentary that they're all well-traveled, decorated former champions. So there's a good chance that we might see them grab a handful of gold as a group.

Despite the aforementioned 'experience' of the men in the faction, they wear it well. Nobody here has lost a step, and AJ Styles is an ageless wonder. If anything, these guys should be considered grizzled young vets. They have been around long enough to gain wisdom, but are still young enough to give it hell in the ring.

After a lightning-quick beatdown of the Viking Raiders, The Phenomenal One grabbed the microphone and said they were just getting started. It was an impressive segment with the group standing tall. They might be primed for a summer angle with another major faction (maybe, The Bloodline?) over the summer.

#5 - Jimmy, Jey, Kevin, and Sami

This Bloodline angle has been so successful... for so long? It's got layers on top of layers now. And that's a hell of a compliment to give to a wrestling storyline in 2023, where the levels of originality and creativity often resemble that of a junior-high stage production. It's not just the writing and the performance, this angle has had lasting power because it has grown organically.

So many important pieces of the puzzle (like the unlikely rise of Sami Zayn) had to fall into place for it to keep going. And lucky for both WWE and their fans, it's all fallen that way.

The palace intrigue continued this week, as the Usos had another opportunity to avenge their tag team title loss at WrestleMania 39. Once again, they dedicated this bout to The Tribal Chief, vowing to defeat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in his honor.

Of course, Zayn has been trying to get through to Jey, but now he's also imploring Jimmy to see the light as well. Even with KO telling him it's too risky to try and de-program them.

Reigns' cousins have remained steadfast in their loyalty to The Head of the Table. This, despite all signs that he's been setting them up for the ol' short haircut. Paul Heyman even alluded to it in the locker room. Win, and return to the Island of Relevance on Smackdown. Lose? And be drafted to the Ocean of Obscurity over on RAW.

Once again, Heyman's words were ominous. But for the fans? His intentions were obvious.

As a great battle between the two teams started to break down, Solo Sikoa slowly made his way to the ring. His intentions weren't clear, however. Matt Riddle quickly intercepted him, cutting him off as Sami and KO got the win.

The show closed with the WWE Tag Team Champions standing tall and absorbing the cheers of the audience. Naturally, it left the Usos stunned and confused.

It left the rest of us wondering what comes next. So once again? The Bloodline just keeps us coming back for more.





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