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The Numbers Behind WWE’s Draft by Matt Corton

I play with stats for a good portion of my working day. To put it more professionally, I run analytics on data. It’s not a fantastically interesting job unless you’re a geek like me who likes seeing how you can represent things you know, or want to prove, by looking at numbers in different ways.

All I could think about after the first Tuesday Night SmackDown Live this week was numbers and how there just aren’t enough of them for WWE.

Now I want to warn you from the outset here, there’s a certain amount of ranting, whining, misery and doom and gloom going on in the article below. I’ve been trying to stay aboard the positivity train for so many weeks recently that I think my natural pessimistic Englishness has turned heel on me and forced me to throw myself off that train.

Why? Let’s look at some of those numbers.

For a long time we’ve been hearing about how stacked the WWE roster is (and it is, there’s no mistaking that, compared to what it used to be). Only I don’t think it looks stacked at all now it’s been split in two. I think it looks exactly how Stone Cold Steve Austin said it looked all those weeks ago, which is a bit thin.

Look at the draft with me for a minute.

There are fifteen easily identifiable singles wrestlers on SmackDown and twenty on Raw. Thirty-five.

That’s it.

Raw has six tag teams, SmackDown five. Raw seven women, SmackDown six.

That’s it.

Of the twenty singles wrestlers on Raw, four are, effectively, part time (Brock, Jericho, Henry and Show). That leaves sixteen full time singles wrestlers for Raw. You can probably count Kane as a part-timer for SmackDown and also lump Mojo and Zack into a tag team, leaving just twelve for them.

You know what though? That’s probably ok for SmackDown to start with. I’m not sure they’ll add more titles to that show beyond a women’s title and a tag title. The worry is that with only twelve wrestlers vying for the World title and InterContinental title, it’s going to get repetitive very quickly but I’m sure they’ll add more people to that roster soon enough.

But why is it ok for SmackDown and not Raw? Because SmackDown runs for just two hours. I just cannot see how Raw is going to fill three hours of TV, with around eight wrestling segments (it’s sometimes less if there’s multiple longer matches, but it’s at least six) and only sixteen full time singles wrestlers. With only six tag teams, you’re not likely to get more than one tag match per show and probably one women’s match per show, so if you re-run this last Monday’s Raw, you get six men’s singles wrestling matches. Now if they were all only singles matches, then that works ok – just about. Six singles matches, twelve wrestlers, four left over. Throw in a few fatal four-ways, tag matches with non-tag teams and people being out at ringside though and you get through that remaining ten pretty quickly.

It’s fine for a once a month show, but every week, for three hours? It’s not going to take long at all before we’re seeing the same things over and over and over again, particularly as not all of the guys are at the same level.

One solution is that Raw is going to add the Cruiserweights to swell out its numbers, which is fine. Great, even. That takes care of that belt and probably one segment of that show. But there aren’t nearly enough women on either show to keep a women’s division interesting for more than a few months and by that we’ll have seen all the match ups pretty quickly.

I’m sorry guys.

I really have been trying to stay aboard the positivity train as long as I can, but I don’t want to see the same few guys vying for titles like back when Cena and Orton swapped the belt between themselves. I stopped watching for a while then because I was so bored of seeing the same feuds over and over, or seeing feuds between guys who really didn’t work well together just because they had to fill up a spot on the PPVs, which stopped feeling special and just felt like (at that time) long episodes of Raw without the filler.

I suppose, though, that it’s down to what you want to see as a wrestling fan, isn’t it – and I think that maybe the problem isn’t the WWE’s roster at all, but me.

I think I’m a step behind the rest of you. All I can think of is that I don’t want to see the same thing again and again no matter how good it is and how great the matches are. I really want Owens vs. Zayn on Sunday to be the last time – and not just for a few months until they wrestle on Raw again – I want it to be the last time for years, partly because I don’t want to see it indefinitely, but more than that – I want the matches I watch to MATTER. If they end up fighting again in even six or eight months or getting involved in the backgrounds of each other’s next feuds, then what the hell was the point of it all?

It’s this writer’s humble opinion that in order to run a successful card, you need at least thirty singles wrestlers on each show just for the main title and secondary title. Then you need at least ten tag teams so you can have more than one feud going for tag teams at a time. Then you need at least eight, my preference ten women for a women’s division. Not thirty-five as they have now – you need sixty singles wrestlers, all told, per show.

Thing is – I think that’s a minimum. I don’t want to see the same feud twice in two years, let alone twice a year. I don’t want to see Ambrose vs. Owens again for years, for all I enjoyed the matches – it’s done now. I want to see things I haven’t seen before.

I realise this is just one wrestling fan’s opinion and the prevailing opinions seem to be going the other way – that as long as the shows and the matches are great then who cares about who’s wrestled who before? And I get that. It’s just for me, I was really excited when they beefed up the roster, because I could see all the DIFFERENT options they had of putting guys in different match ups and that has gone now. I also didn’t watch SmackDown so didn’t get as much repetition as some of you.

There are also other things I hear that I just plain don’t agree with. Take the suggestion that this gives wrestlers who wouldn’t otherwise get their mitts on a title a chance to get those mitts on a title. Really? Well, if Owens, Zayn, Cesaro and Balor get shots at the main title on Raw, then just who the heck is vying for the US title? Swagger, Dallas and Axel? Talented as those guys are, it’s hardly the promised land. And here’s where I probably differ from a lot of you again, because I really don’t want to see top tier talent going for secondary titles – not the way the secondary titles are currently portrayed anyway. They’d have to really, really mean something for that kind of constant movement from one belt to another to work and they just don’t. Them doing so is a long way down the line.

Then I wonder, am I taking this too far? Should I just sit back and enjoy what is going to be an exciting time and revel in the great matches we’ll no doubt be seeing?

Sorry, but no – I can’t.

I’ve said before on this site that if you just want good matches and nothing else, then just shove a bunch of wrestlers in the ring and let them have at it for no reason. Only we all know that wouldn’t work because you need the storylines because you need them to have a reason to want to fight, even if it’s just pride, the simplest story in the book, because otherwise it gets boring fast.

My big fear with the roster split is that we’ll get a situation similar to Carlito in the Elimination Chamber all over again – or Shelton Benjamin in a ladder match. Someone it’s great to watch but really, who has no chance of winning and one of the things I think WWE has done better in the past few months for the rounds of matches between Cesaro, Miz, Owens, Del Rio, Jericho et al is that you had two, sometimes more, possible winners. I just don’t think that with this few wrestlers on each roster you get that.

So I’ve ranted on for a good while and have I managed to find out what to fill Raw with? No, and it’s because I haven’t got a clue. More backstage or GM segments perhaps. Longer matches and longer feuds sounds good, but with fewer wrestlers to do that with you’re left with Corbin vs. Ziggler a million times again or Titus vs. Rusev again and again – feuds have to have more depth, storyline and character development for the longer feuds to work.

I know, I know, it’s a miserable read and I’m sorry. But that’s because I just can’t shake the feeling that there aren’t enough singles wrestlers to make this work for the rest of this year, then the one beyond and then the one beyond that without having to repeat feuds over and over again.

I’m giving SmackDown a free pass for now, because I still think there’s something up WWE’s sleeve there and at two hours, it’s do-able. But I’m throwing this open to you – what are they going to fill three hours of Raw with, making it different and interesting enough each week without going back to the same matches again and again?