Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The 2016 TWB Draft

They bookended the first round of the TWB Draft
Photo Credit:
WWE recently announced that it will revive brand extension. RAW and Smackdown will become their own separate entities with unique rosters, tour schedules, and pay-per-view events. While not much else is known other than the start date for live, Tuesday night, brand-separate Smackdown, everyone and their mothers have jumped on the opportunity to mock draft their own WWE rosters. While that exercise is fun and while many rosters that fans have developed may end up being better than the ones WWE will decide for itself, here at The Wrestling Blog, I wanted to do something a bit different. So, for my attempt at a mock draft, I posed a hypothetical situation.

What if every wrestling company in the world suddenly went out of business and every single pro wrestler was made a free agent?

Using that premise, I scouted six intrepid drafters to head up their own companies and go forth into the world to draft from the available pool of men, women, and individuals outside the gender binary to stock their rosters. Those six people are, as follows:

Bill Bicknell: Professor by day, SOCIAL JUSTICE PALADIN BY NIGHT, Bill is one of the most vocal Chikarmy members on the Twitters.

Butch Rosser: Our own Best Coast Bias writer volunteered to add a bit of SoCal flair to the proceedings.

Jetta Rae: She's the editor of Harlot Magazine, the author of Fry Havoc, and way more fabulous than you could ever hope of being.

Brian Pickett: He's an e-sports enthusiast with a soft spot in his heart for Kane and making the jokes on Twitter Dot Com.

Erin Provolone: One of film Twitter's most thoughtful members, she has a deep fandom for the latent love between Sami Zayn and Cesaro.

Francis Adu, Jr.: He's one of the most knowledgeable sports guys on Twitter, and knows a thing or two about rice jollof.

Now that you (kinda) know the promoters, the time has arrived to see whom they picked. I drew the order of the first round at random, and then continued the draft in a serpentine manner through ten rounds. Three of the ten rounds had themes that you will discover when you get to them. Now, TIME TO COMMENCE:

Round 1
1. Bill: - Sasha Banks
2. Butch: - Kevin Owens
3. Jetta: - Kimber Lee
4. Brian: - Rusev
5. Erin: - Shinsuke Nakamura
6. Francis: - Bayley

TH's Take: While I didn't imagine any of the above going in the first round in my head, I can't argue with any of those choices. Perhaps it's my own systemic biases I need to overcome, but Sasha Banks in the number one spot fits perfectly given how she was the anchor of NXT last year, both on the road and on television. I was also surprised to see Lee go in the first round, but she's obviously one of the hottest names on the independent circuit; she wouldn't have won the Chikara Grand Championship or been requested to be in as many promotions as she's worked in the last few years. Other than that, with the exception of Nakamura, the first round has gone mostly on promise and potential rather than track record, which is probably how most drafts should go if planning for the future.

Round 2
1. Francis: - Cesaro
2. Erin: - Sami Zayn
3. Brian: - Asuka
4. Jetta: - Becky Lynch
5. Butch: - Brock Lesnar
6. Bill: - Pentagón, Jr.

TH's Take: Like round 1, most of the picks here were investments for the future. Like round 1, the fifth pick in the round was the only one based on past history and currency rather than potential. In addition to being established and at the peak or on the other side of his career, Lesnar is also very much a part time player. However, he's one that provides a good amount of oomph. The shame is that Zayn, Cesaro, and Owens are all in different promotions at this point, but if you're not taking those caliber guys in the first two rounds, then you'd better have plausible alternatives ready for them. The way cookies crumble can be cruel and unfair at times.

Round 3
1. Bill: - Kazuchika Okada
2. Butch: - John Cena
3. Jetta: - Nia Jax
4. Brian: - Will Ospreay
5. Erin: - Io Shirai
6. Francis: - Dalton Castle

TH's Take: The first two picks of this round were spent on guys whom I thought were locks to go in the first round, which speaks to the value that both Okada and Cena bring. Okada is still on the right side of 20 as well, so this is a fantastic pickup. Cena may be flirting with movies and past his nominal prime, but he still brings cache and hard work in the ring. Ospreay, Shirai, and Castle are all great and in Ospreay's case controversial picks, but Jax is the most interesting selection by far. She represents the ultimate "project" pick, like those African athletic freaks of nature who pick up football within three years of being drafted to the NFL. Her ceiling as a monster heel is stratospheric, but she needs seasoning. Luckily, she's showing signs of that in NXT right now.

Round 4 - TAG ROUND!! (The drafter may select any two wrestlers as long as they teamed together in any capacity on television or at a non-WWE house show.)
1. Francis: - Rush and La Sombra/Andrade "Cien" Almas (LOS INGOBERNABLES)
2. Erin: - Chad Gable and Jason Jordan (American Alpha)
3. Brian: - Matt and Nick Jackson (The Young Bucks)
4. Jetta: - Taya Valkyrie and Cherry Bomb (Team Canada from the most recent AAA Lucha World Cup)
5. Butch: - Ricochet and Rich Swann (Inner City Machine Guns)
6. Bill: - Big E and Kofi Kingston (New Day)

TH's Take: I was utterly shocked that the Bucks lasted until the third pick in this round, but both ingobernable wrestlers were sitting there, and American Alpha is the ideal team to pick high in a round like this. Getting big value on taking Ricochet and Swann using their PWG connections was a huge get here. Not surprising that New Day got snapped up here, but, spoiler for the next round, the fact that Xavier Woods was left behind is a bit surprising.

Round 5
1. Bill: - Heidi Lovelace
2. Butch: - Seth Rollins
3. Jetta: - Su Yung
4. Brian: - The Miz
5. Erin: - Zack Sabre, Jr.
6. Francis: - Meiko Satomura

TH's Take: This round had a veritable grab-bag of selections, the most notable being Rollins, whom I thought definitely would have gone in the first round given his popularity online. Admittedly, Rollins isn't my favorite, but he's also the most well-regarded guy to get a run at the top of WWE since Daniel Bryan with a lot more faith behind him. In that regard, getting him here is great value. Miz going here is another bang-for-buck pick, and the female selections in this round are all tremendous in their own rights, specifically, Satomura.

Round 6
1. Francis: - Roman Reigns
2. Erin: - Minoru Suzuki
3. Brian: - AJ Styles
4. Jetta: - Sexy Star
5. Butch: - Hideo Itami
6. Bill: - Ethan Carter III

TH's Take: I had Reigns with a first round grade, but obviously, his freefall wasn't surprising at all. What was more surprising was the guy taken right after him. No one questions MiSu's toughness, but at 47, he's one of the oldest guys taken so far. However, Suzuki feels like he can go another ten years, and he provides such a realistic, imposing villainous presence. He may not have been on the radar because of his ill-fated stint in Pro Wrestling NOAH, but trust me, Suzuki is still a threat. Speaking of freefalls, Carter marks the first selection of a current TNA wrestler whom people mostly know from TNA (Cherry Bomb also wrestl... okay, she valets for Maria Kanellis in TNA under the name Allie). TNA has great wrestlers on its roster, but man, that company doesn't do a good job of featuring them.

Round 7
1. Bill: - Emma
2. Butch: - Samoa Joe
3. Jetta: - Leva Bates/Blue Pants
4. Brian: - Mascarita Dorada/El Torito
5. Erin: - Kenny Omega
6. Francis: - Fred Yehi

TH's Take: The two picks that stand out to me here are Torito and Yehi. As Torito, the man known more commonly as Mascarita Dorada didn't get to show off his awesome range of talents. On a similar roster with Ospreay among others, he could show that minis can go with the big guys as well. Yehi is the newest member of Catch Point, but he was the first one taken here. I've been on the Yehi train for YEARS, and I'm so glad he's getting enough recognition that he's taken before names like Finn Bálor and Dean Ambrose, let alone Drew Gulak and TJP. Bates going to a promotion that has a "burlesque house" feel to it is more than appropriate as well. Great fit-in pick.

Round 8 - TAG ROUND!!
1. Francis: - Enzo Amore and Big Cass
2. Erin: - Tyler Breeze and Fandango (Breezango/Fabreeze)
3. Brian: - Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson (The Revival)
4. Jetta: - Sara del Rey and Courtney Rush/Rosemary (The Queens of Winning)
5. Butch: - Drew Gulak and Chuck Taylor (Gentleman's Club)
6. Bill: - Amasis and Ophidian (The Osirian Portal)

TH's Take: In another shocker, I'm flabbergasted that Amore and Cass lasted until the second tag round, given how much inspiration they provide with normies and geeks alike. Picking del Rey may be a tricky gambit, but with all the wrestling companies shook up and new blood coming in to select them, perhaps she might be tempted to come out of retirement for better pay or benefits. Either way, whether as a wrestler or a trainer, SDR is a fine pick, and hey she brought along Rush with her. The Breezango/Fabreeze pick might look silly to outsiders who only watch WWE, but in the hands of a booker who will treat them with respect, their talents could make them one of the preeminent tag teams of the era.

Round 9
1. Bill: - Fénix
2. Butch: - Finn Bálor
3. Jetta: - Naomi
4. Brian: - Trent?/Barretta
5. Erin: - Ember Moon (the former Athena)
6. Francis: - Darius Lockhart

TH's Take: First, while I cannot disagree with any of the picks made so far, I am astonished at the list of names that DIDN'T get picked, which include, in no particular order: Tetsuya Naito, Dean Ambrose, Charlotte, Madison Eagles, Jay Lethal, the Briscoe Brothers, Nicole Matthews, the Usos, Xavier Woods, Timothy Thatcher, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Eddie Kingston, Hallowicked, Aja Kong, Triple H, Drew Galloway, Bobby Lashley, Matanza, Mil Muertes, Ivelisse Velez, Sami Callihan, Marty Scurll, Nicole Savoy, Shayna Baszler, the Dudley Boys, The Club, Manami Toyota, and Johnny Mundo. That list of names is only partial, which goes to show how varied and wide the world of wrestling is. Furthermore, that names like Fénix and Bálor were available in round 9 speaks to that variety. Overall, each drafter picked their own widely diverse and interesting roster, all of which I want to see in action in real life. And that's BEFORE adding in their wild card pick in the next round. Oh, did I say wild card? C'MON DOWN...

Round 10 - FREE FOR ALL ROUND!! (That is to say, the drafters have the opportunity to select anyone in the world, whether they are a wrestler or not. That person's rights will belong to that wrestling company as a steady celebrity host/wrestler/announcer/writer/producer/whatever.)
1. Francis: - Beyonce
2. Erin: - Werner Herzog
3. Brian: - Hideo Kojima
4. Jetta: - Laverne Cox
5. Butch: - Dario Cueto
6. Bill: - Ron Funches

TH's Take: I was definitely expecting names like Shaquille O'Neal or others who have guested with WWE or the like in the past. The fact that each drafter, with the exception of Butch, thought outside the box shows how bold and intrepid this drafting class was. That's also not to shit on Butch's choice either; Dario Cueto is a no-brainer in a non-wrestling role. Regardless of whether it was a safe pick or not, Cueto is one guy that would have been on my radar in any round. But the other choices were out of leftfield, in a good way. I'm not sure how much Beyonce likes wrestling, but she's definitely a showman to the last. Herzog and Kojima both bring quirkiness in direction (from their respective fields of work), and both use lenses that wrestling hasn't really come close to being magnified through. Cox is charismatic enough to play Dr. Frank N. Furter in the Rocky Horror remake, so she's definitely a wrestling personality at heart, and Funches loves the darn thing already.

And of course, what would any draft be without the actual drafters weighing in, starting with the one who drafted first...

Bill: I wanted a promotion, which I've named Sunset Strip Wrestling, with something of a Hollywood vibe, a little flashy and high-class but with a bit of grit and grime as well. My biggest nab was right at first. I was 100% certain that Sasha Banks was going within the first round, and I knew I couldn't delay in grabbing her. I was getting a lot of shade on Twitter because of that pick (hi, Jetta!). With ten picks, I couldn't really duplicate the global feel that I wanted, but I grabbed the Japanese star that most embodied that mindset (Okada) and a few lucha stars to provide the flash (Fénix) and the attitude (Pentagón). ECIII, Sasha Banks, and Emma all fit within a certain high life profile. I can see them cooperating as a top heel stable. The two tag picks fall squarely in "screw it, I think these guys would be fun here" territory. Nabbing The New Day early was a coup. I was genuinely surprised to see a lot of teams go before them. With ten picks, I couldn't really find a place for Xavier Woods, but the pair should work fine, and I can always pair them with Funches if they need a dorky third who can complete the dynamic (and come on, you really want to see some Big E/Ron Funches interactions). The Portal and Heidi Lovelace were my sentimental "CHIKARA is super great" picks. I can see Lovelace playing a hard-nosed working-class character, while the Portal can provide a bit of levity while simultaneously having great matches with pretty much anyone (I didn't know until this moment that I needed Pentagón vs. Ophidian in my life, but there it is). I'm not sure I'm 100% satisfied with Funches as my celebrity pick, but he's rubbing elbows with plenty of people in LA now and could do pretty much anything. Most importantly, I think he'd enjoy himself.

Looking over the draft as a whole, I'm surprised at who didn't go. Naito and Tanahashi are both still out there and would've made a great pick for Sunset Strip Wrestling. Lots of women went (half the first round!), but WWE Women's Champion Charlotte remains undrafted. Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho of all people didn't get picked. I had consulted with a few other people while making my picks, and we consistently found that people that we wanted were not getting drafted just because so many options were available. We bandied about picking Dean Ambrose even though he absolutely wouldn't have fit at all.

In the end, when putting this together, there were probably a few people I wouldn't mind pilfering. We'd tossed around Dario Cueto as a last pick (though I wasn't 100% set), and Nakamura, The Miz, and Samoa Joe would've both worked in different ways (although I like the fact that Big E is the only "powerhouse" wrestler in the promotion--he's going to feel pretty special here). On the whole, though, between other people raiding bigger stars and my own sometimes unusual preferences, I'm pretty happy with the group I put together. Even with nine "wrestler" picks, it's a promotion with a lot of flavor, and I'm already starting to put the sides together in my head--which I think makes it a success.

Butch: Picking second out of six, the butchcorp Wrestling organization was founded on one simple principle, have Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn continually fight to the death for the next decade and a half. When that option was thwarted by an outright strumpet (STRUMPET I TELL YOU), we decided to go another way, find the best possible options and snatch them up. This Earth-239 is a world in which Kevin Owens interrupts Paul Heyman by backhanding him down and then by backhanding Brock Lesnar as well to start a three-segment brawl all over the arena. This is a world in which Drew Gulak is offended by John Cena's very existence and strives to make this a better butchcorp Wrestling organization for us all, even if we don't deserve it. It's a world in which our late picks were Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Hideo Itami, and Finn Bálor, guys who can play either side of the fence and put on appointment TV while doing so. And it'd all happen under the perpetually amused, scheming eyes of perhaps the best non-wrestling wrestling character of the 21st century, the Proprietor himself, Dario Cueto. (Side note: there may be a show where Heyman and Cueto go to the bar and a series of segments ensues. Why not?)

Jetta: SKIN TIGHT was founded by an undisclosed cadre of feminist businesswomen, represented at press functions by promoter Jetta Rae, who claims the organization aims to help bring wrestling back to its roots as a carnival attraction, offering women the opportunity to practice their art removed from misogynist sports culture. "Now that Hulk Hogan has successfully sued and bankrupted the internet, we need to get back in touch with older business models, touring and selling tapes." When asked about her drafting strategy, "It's about creating a sustainable balance. We have picks with demonstrated chemistry, we have veterans who can give guidance; we have athletes and characters." On Sasha Banks, "Yes, absolutely she was our number one pick, but the fact she was snatched first of anyone gives me a lot of hope about the future of our sport." In addition to a tourney to determine a Queen and Tag Team Champions, SKIN TIGHT is offering a $5,000 bounty to whomever on their roster is the subject of a rant from Jim Cornette first.

Brian: Very much like many wrestling promotions in history I spent no time planning or considering the future with my draft. Looking at it now I guess my plan was to have Asuka and Rusev kick each other and Torito and Ospreay flip with each other. There will be other matches I suppose, but those two seem like the only ones I need. With the Miz I too will have a film division that doesn't really make money that has to be some kind of tax dodge. In my attempt to cause marketplace confusion my promotion is called World Championship Wrestling Wrestling Entertainment. WCWWE. I really should have drafted David Otunga to help with the inevitable lawsuit.

Erin: Provolone Pro Wrestling selected... wrestlers Provolone likes! All right, really, there wasn't much rhyme or reason to who I picked besides that. I did prioritize people I thought would be picked up more quickly. But I think I managed to get a group with varying kinds of appeal! (Note that lucha libre remains a massive blind spot for me*.) I have a technician, an ace, a King, one of our great babyfaces, one of our most entertaining heels, the Man with the Worst Personality in the World, a star (er... moon?) on the rise, a team of Legit Wrestlers, and of course, FABREEZE. As for the free-for-all pick, I instantly thought of Herzog because of his "you must not look away from WrestleMania" comments. Since he could pull double duty as a great, weird onscreen authority type of person, and offscreen making video packages, he stayed there.

*Yes, including Lucha Underground. I'm still not convinced that the El Rey Network isn't a myth. Don't start with iTunes, because I have a Chromebook.

Francis: As the founder and promoter of Incredibly Well-Coifed Wrestling (IWCW), I picked my sports entertainers in terms of not only charisma and drawing potential, but with a preference to those who can add diversity of hairstyles to my brand. Sure, picking Bayley first was the easy choice if one just considered she's the best babyface in the world at this very moment. But she's also the best babyface in the world at this very moment with a side ponytail. Even in the kooky realm of pro wrestling, a side ponytail is a rare item and especially as not a beacon for jeers and roasts, but as a true detail to character. Of course, I'd then follow Bayley with the 2nd round jump-off into the brolic arms of Cesaro, not only my pick for the best dance partner in the ring in the world but also has grown an immaculately trimmed beard to contrast his immaculately shaved scalp. Third round required my peacock mating call with the great Dalton Castle whose feathered follicles simultaneously engage in breezy, effortless movement while also preening for attention, a description also apt for Mr. Castle's grappling skill.

The first tag team round couldn't go by without my selection of Rush and La Sombra with Rush's Jheri Curl and La Sombra's sweeping pompadour emitting LOS INGOBERNABLES' old-school brashness and cool. To be frank, the selections of Meiko Satomura and Roman Reigns really were just because they're two of the ten best wrestlers in the world, although Reigns' curls are definitely swoon-worthy even if he could use a towel. Fred Yehi in Round 7 gave me representation for the slightly off-beat individuals who will speak, shape their hair, and, in Yehi's case, wrestle almost completely on whim. Unpredictability is always a nice card to keep in hand. Enzo Amore probably could offer more juice to the unpredictability factor, although his style is more consistent flamboyance with his now-expected blond frosted mohawks with leopard-print sides. The consistency never tires though. Probably because his partner Big Cass's workman approach balances out Enzo's human strobe light so well. With Round 9 came my investment of the future in Darius Lockhart, a solid but unassuming looking black wrestler at first glance who quickly shows his natural knack to own the eyeballs of all capable with his perfect reactions to his surroundings. Lockhart makes a perfect representative for the natural hair of black folks.

But of course, while Lockhart is doing the naps proud, some extra blackness never hurts so Beyonce made for a clear and indisputable stellar final pick with her not only owning a wealth of various hairstyles at her whim or being one of the five most powerful black women in human history, but Beyonce also being a freakish athlete who can probably work a full broadway in a perpetual sprint. Elite stamina, balance, and footwork matched with her mic skills would make her a great candidate to be IWCW's Ric Flair. She wouldn't even need someone else to sing her entrance music. The money prints itself and the hair curls itself. My work here is done.


And that concludes the TWB Draft for 2016. Hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn't, well, at least you know it's not coming to fruition...

...OR IS IT? *cue ominous music*