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Projecting the 2005 Draft Lottery
April 6, 2005

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com


First off: WrestleLine.com does not do April Fool's gags anymore. We haven't since 2000.
I dunno... I consider myself a guy with a very healthy sense of humor, but April Fools always struck me as a bit lowbrow. In my own mind, I rate April Fools gags right up there with whoopie cushions and fake doggie doo-doo. I appreciate that some people enjoy it, but it doesn't do much for me!

Just after I joined WrestleLine.com,

WrestleLine drew plenty of ire for April Fool's gags. There was the "Bret Hart resigns from WCW/coming to WrestleMania" prank, and the "Wrestling Jesus" debacle (which was an April Fools joke in concept, if not in chronological placement on the calendar). By the time I was in a position of semi-power at WrestleLine, I took it upon myself to end the tradition. I felt like a party-pooper since more than one WL writer wanted it to continue, but I also recognized that the April Fool's gag was generally bad for the web site.

I always thought people would look back on WrestleLine.com's fake April Fools stories as a black eye on the web site as opposed to an enjoyable tradition. If I thought the jokes were riotously funny, I'd have reconsidered. But since they didn't make me laugh and they gave the rest of the world reason No. 2,403 to diss our web site, I figured there'd be no harm in canning the tradition. It stays canned in 2005. I'm sure some of you disagree with that, and that's cool. If April Fools is your thing, go for it.

And don't take this as Denny killing off a harmless tradition this year. Because I actually killed it in 2001. And yes, I do have a very good sense of humor... but in my opinion, April Fools just isn't funny, more often than not.

But from one group of fools to another... this is WWE's weekend, baby!

WrestleMania time, and I think there MIGHT be an angle to the PPV that HASN'T been covered by some other schlep on some other highly important wrestling web site. I prefer not to take my chances, though, since my own preview is coming tomorrow to this very web site (or if you're reading this on OO, THAT OTHER web site, where my stuff sometimes gets top-story placement!). WrestleMania XXI reached the saturation point for net coverage about four days ago, so rather than blow my wad in this space, I'll save it for the proper review. Instead, let's look to the post-Mania future for a bit.

It seems WWE will be doing another Raw/Smackdown draft after WrestleMania. WWE really doesn't have a "season," but post-Mania is about as close as they come to starting fresh. Sometimes people like JBL get new gimmicks. Sometimes the Shelton Benjamins of the world get singles pushes after spending a year in tag team hell. Every show on television needs an occasional shakeup to keep things interesting, and WWE usually does their shakeup in April.

Last year, WWE staged a mini-draft to allow talent to switch brands, with the explanation that Eric Bischoff had drafted a few Smackdown stars to his Raw brand, or Paul Heyman had drafted Raw wrestlers to Smackdown. That's in the plans again this year, only it'll be Teddy Long representing the blue show. Holla, as the kids say.

Staleness abounds on Raw and Smackdown right now. Last year there were only a select few rounds in the draft. We don't know yet whether the draft will go three, five, or even 10 rounds this year. But we know it's scheduled to happen. With that in mind, I can think of a few talents who might be the best prospects for a change of scenery via the draft.


Simon Dean - This gimmick was never any good, and I think once WWE realized how stupid it was - and realized the fans weren't buying it - they reacted by burying Simon Dean. That only solves half the problem, though. They were right to demote him, but they should have taken the extra step of getting rid of the gimmick. At least make it a little less stupid. In relegating Simon Dean to "jobber to the stars" status, they've allowed him to keep the gimmick everyone hated in the first place. Now, not only are they stuck with a retarded character, but they're working to establish that the man BEHIND the character can't win a match, either!

At this point, even if WWE let Mike Bucci use his real name and drop the gimmick, he's too damaged on the Raw brand to quickly recover. Bucci needs to switch to Smackdown AND lose the Simon Dean shtick, and start totally fresh. As a worker, Bucci is worth a lot more to WWE than they're allowing him to show as "Simon Dean." If he's lucky, the ECW PPV in June will be such a success that WWE lets him bring back the Nova gimmick. It wasn't much, but it was a lot better than the purple-wearing fitness guru bullshit he's stuck with now.

Gene Snitsky - I think the Snitskinator is due for a little change of scenery. Also, I think the Undertaker will be in need of another big, ugly guy to bury after WrestleMania. Moving Snitsky to Smackdown meets both needs. Snitsky started strong on Raw, and has only recently started to tread water in the midcard. Smackdown might be able to get some entertaining storylines out of him. Especially if Heidenreich stays put. The only times I've ever been entertained by Heidenreich was when he interacted with Snitsky. Why not give that angle some legs by putting them on the same show? If it works, might as well go with it. They've got nothing to lose.

The Hurricane - This guy has needed a change for like two years now. The last remotely important thing The Hurricane did was his hilarious give-and-take with the Rock, which seems like it was forty years ago. Smackdown's got the cruiserweight division, for Christ's sake! The Hurricane is a case where the wrestler/performer himself is just fine; it's the creative direction of the character that sucks.

At least on Smackdown, Hurricane's got a remote possibility of winning a match here and there against men his size. Hell, let Mike Bucci return to the Nova gimmick, and make Hurricane & Nova a superhero tag team called NovaCane. It's not like putting these guys on Smackdown would interrupt any blockbuster ideas the Raw brand has for those guys.

Val Venis - This is a tough one, because I'm not convinced that Val Venis would be any less stale on Smackdown than he is on Raw. I really don't know what to do with Sean Morley, but I know he's more talented than a lot of the guys being used better than he. I guess moving him to Smackdown would be arbitrary and wouldn't necessarily solve his real problem, but it might be a start.

Steven Richards - Richards is another guy that WWE seems to really like, but they haven't found the right angle for him yet. They try every now and then, but nothing seems to stick. Maybe on Smackdown, he could be paired up with Kidman, Spike Dudley or somebody else as a heel faction. Richards usually thrives with comedy, so it might just be a matter of the right storyline to give him a good spot on the show.

Edge - There's usually one blockbuster with every draft, and I'd have to go with Edge as the major Raw-to-Smackdown move this year. He's been built up reasonably well on Raw, to the point where he could be introduced to Smackdown as an immediate heel title contender to John Cena. Plus, if there really is a need to move Edge and Matt Hardy to opposite brands, I'd be more comfortable sending Edge packing than Matt Hardy.

Maven - Raw nearly had a good thing going with Maven when they turned him heel, and even let him have some microphone time and an IC title mini-feud with Shelton Benjamin. I don't think Maven is quite there yet in terms of his wrestling ability, but I do think he's coming along. Since Raw has already shunted him back down the card and into meaningless tag team matches with Simon Dean as his partner (kiss of death right there), I don't think it would be any big loss to Raw if they were to give Maven to the blue show, and see what they can make of him.

Tyson Tomko - Tomko sticks out like a sore thumb as Christian's friend on Raw. Plus, Christian works a different style than Tomko, so I'm not sure you can really say he's learning much from Christian, in the way that Batista learned from being paired up with Triple H and Ric Flair. Now that Luther Reigns has gained a little bit of independence as his own viable character on Smackdown, maybe Tyson Tomko would be best served as a menacing friend to Luther... or better yet, as Luther's enemy. Also, like with Gene Snitsky, perhaps Tyson Tomko could find a renewed purpose in a program with the Undertaker. Taker's getting older. Maybe it's time for the Dead Man to mentor a new protégé?


Carlito Caribbean Cool - Carlito was one of the freshest faces of the 2004 newcomers, but fate stalled his progress when he got injured right away. Now that he's able to wrestle again, he's lost a lot of his momentum from the big debut winning the U.S. Title from John Cena. Smackdown tried to keep him "over" by keeping him on TV in various skits the entire time he healed, and it did keep Carlito fresh on the brain. But it also gave Carlito the stigma of a comedy sideshow, which he can hopefully shake off soon. Perhaps a move to Raw would give him a shot at another huge debut like the one he had on Smackdown months ago.

Big Show - If getting Edge from Raw is Smackdown's blockbuster draft move, I think Raw should get The Big Show from Smackdown for their own huge acquisition. The timing couldn't be more perfect. Smackdown currently has nothing for Big Show, as the feuds with JBL and Kurt Angle have blown over and they were stuck bringing in Akebono just to get Big Show on the WrestleMania card. If Show went to Raw, he could fill many immediate needs, especially if he turned heel. Big Show was one of Brock Lesnar's best opponents as a heel, so maybe he could be a quality opponent for a babyface Batista. Raw will be in need of main event heels (NOT named Triple H), too, especially if Edge goes to Smackdown. Big Show to Raw as a heel seems like a great fit, given the current picture.

Charlie Haas - Shelton Benjamin's jump to Raw last year was a great move for Shelton, but it was not without a casualty. Charlie Haas is an excellent wrestler, but since his former tag team partner went to Raw, he's struggled in worthless tag teams with Rico and Hardcore Holly, and was the victim of one of the year's worst storylines with the Dawn Marie-Haas-Miss Jackie love triangle that ended with Haas ditching both women. Haas could find a lot of work on Raw. He could have solid programs with guys like Christian, Matt Hardy, and of course Shelton. Perhaps Charlie turns heel and challenges his former partner for the IC Title? I've said it with other examples, and I'll say it again here... it's better than what they're currently doing.

You'll notice I had several ideas for Raw guys to go to Smackdown, but only three men leaving Smackdown for Raw. I realize that whatever trades occur in the draft will probably be an equal number. I just felt like there were far more strong candidates for a roster change on Raw than there were on Smackdown. I'm sure there probably won't be enough trades to fulfill all of these ideas.

But dammit, if my ideas can help just one superstar suck a little less in 2005, then I've done my job as a fan. Otherwise, it's the men listed above who'll be doing the job for the next year.


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