In 2002, WWE introduced the concept of brand separation. The split was introduced in 2002 to allow the two brands of Monday Night RAW & SmackDown to compete against one another. The split also brought in draft picks where wrestlers were selected for each brand. It was usually held after WrestleMania, which is in April.
The draft system was used until 2011, when the company decided to perform the entire roster on both RAW & SmackDown. WWE brought the brand split back in 2016 and many elite superstars were the top draft picks on each brand. Here are the top five No. 1 draft picks from WWE history. The 2023 draft is just around the corner.
5. The Rock to SmackDown (2002)
No one was sure what to expect in the first pick. The Rock made the most sense as the first draft pick of SmackDown. After all, The Rock coined the name for the brand. The Rock was one of the most popular stars at the time.
The Rock, however, was busy in Hollywood as he just began his acting career. He was a regular on the blue label, but mostly in a part-time capacity. The Great One was a spectacular sight to behold whenever he appeared. He won the WWE World Championship, took it to SmackDown and lost it to Brock Lesnar just a few weeks later.
4. Becky Lynch, RAW (2019)
Becky Lynch is one of WWE’s most popular superstars. She defeated Ronda and Charlotte in WrestleMania 34 to win the Women’s Championships. She was RAW’s first overall pick after her record-breaking win. In 2021, she would be the first pick on night two of WWE Draft.
3. John Cena RAW 2005
The 2005 draft choice was one of the most notable and for good reason. John Cena had just won the WWE Championship by defeating JBL at WrestleMania 21. Fans were wondering where The Cenation Leader was going to end up.
Cena’s selection as the first draft pick of RAW was a surprise to many. Cena’s move to RAW was logical, as he had achieved everything on SmackDown. He became the face of WWE and continued to appear on RAW almost a decade.
2. Seth Rollins returns to RAW (2016).
WWE brought the draft back in 2016, and the choice of Seth Rollins as the No.1 selection for RAW was the best. The brand split is remembered for many reasons. For example, RAW was managed by Stephanie McMahon, Mick Foley and Shane McMahon, while SmackDown Live was managed by Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon, and Shane McMahon.
Rollins had been booked at the time to fight Dean Ambrose in the WWE Championship. He lost the match, and came to RAW with nothing. Seth Rollins rose to the top of the babyfaces when Triple H snubbed Rollins during the Universal Championship match. Later, he would be involved in some the most memorable storylines of RAW’s history. This further cemented the red brand as superior.
1. Roman Reigns at SmackDown (2021)
Fans finally got the 2020 they had been begging for for years. Reigns has finally changed his ways and since he became The Tribal chief, he’s had great success. Reigns was not the first draft pick until 2021.
Roman Reigns, with his Bloodline faction, has been dominating SmackDown since 2021. He’s been a part of many great storylines, and is the Undisputed WWE Champion as well as the longest-reigning Universal Champion.