Now more than ever, a WWE draft could solve many problems for the company.
Roman Reigns and his unified titles sit atop the list.
During a normal leadup to a WWE draft, the process of reshuffling the rosters would freshen up both Raw and SmackDown, giving fans new feuds top to bottom, possibly reorganizing factions and so much more.
But with some careful WWE storyline-isms, the problem that is Reigns holding both top men’s titles and main-event scenes hostage can reach an organic solution that solves things across the board.
First, the problem. The company has done well elevating mid-card titles such as the Intercontinental and U.S. belts with fast-risers like Gunther and Austin Theory, respectively. But the working idea was Reigns might drop the titles to Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania, which would then lead to a splitting of the titles (or creation of a new one), giving each weekly program’s main-event scene something more meaningful
Reigns retaining wasn’t the worst thing in the world, though, as he’ll get to march toward 1,000 days and other benefits. It’s problematic, though, in that one program remains without a top belt and Reigns is effectively a part-time champion at that. But WWE can now use the draft to effectively do the same title split that would have likely happened had Rhodes won.
And the storyline can be fun, too. Imagine if, on the night of the draft, SmackDown selects Reigns No. 1 overall. Then Raw follows up by drafting him with the No. 2 overall pick, or vice versa, citing the fact he’s got both championships.
Storyline shenanigans ensue, never mind the fun shocker of the moment. Paul Heyman battles the idea, etc. Maybe Reigns has to relinquish one of the titles, as the championship itself is the consolation prize for effectively wasting a draft pick and not getting the rights to Reigns.
Or maybe Reigns pulls double duty for a time despite the draft, which would make sense—get the biggest attraction in pro wrestling in front of both audiences weekly, right? This could be an avenue to his dropping one title to Rhodes at SummerSlam or something similar.
Of course, there’s a big asterisk next to all of this. WWE has to actually stick to its rules on the brand split. There can’t be any exceptions, like that terrible wild-card rule that nobody kept track of or understood. But if there’s a saving grace to this upcoming draft, it’s that the new Triple H-led creative has earned the trust to execute a draft and then actually follow up well.
But this sort of only-possible-in-pro-wrestling idea accomplishes so many things at once. If Reigns has to give up one of the titles, he still keeps one without a loss and keeps marching toward 1,000 days. He’ll still have things like a possible showdown with The Rock as a possibility, too. At the same time, the opposite brand would get to hold a tournament and then have an actual main-event scene again.
And if he doesn’t drop a title but ends up just losing it, that would avoid stretching out Rhodes’ redemption arc and the Bloodline saga until WrestleMania 40. He could take a loss, and it wouldn’t even have to be clean. Perhaps Bloodline storyline factors or even a Heyman betrayal help it happen.
The point is, the draft can be a vehicle to righting the wrong that was unifying the titles in the first place. Not only would it be entertaining to see the draft and split unfold, it wouldn’t damage Reigns in any way. Fans will have far fewer complaints about him holding a belt until ‘Mania 40 or even longer if it’s just one belt.
If Reigns holds both belts for at least another year, WWE runs the serious risk of spoiling Rhodes’ red-hot chase arc and even the still-popular Bloodline saga, including Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. That might come with the benefit of finally getting The Rock as a feud for Reigns, but the tradeoff isn’t great. If both the Bloodline and Rhodes fall flat while WWE stretches things for another year, there isn’t a single viable backup plan in place.
Splitting the titles is the right move, though most ideas of how to actually make it happen have been flops. Hidden fine print in contracts, managerial overreach, a challenger being dorkish enough to only challenge for one of Reigns’ titles—most ideas fall flat.