2021 WWE Draft

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2021 WWE Draft
General information
SportProfessional wrestling
Date(s)October 1–4, 2021
Location
Overview
LeagueWWE
TeamsRaw
SmackDown
NXT (outgoing only)
← 2020
2023 →

The 2021 WWE Draft was the 16th WWE Draft produced by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE between their Raw and SmackDown brand divisions. The two-night event began with the October 1 episode of Friday Night SmackDown (in Baltimore, Maryland). It concluded with the October 4 episode of Monday Night Raw (in Nashville, Tennessee), with SmackDown airing on Fox and Raw on the USA Network. Unlike previous drafts, in which results took effect immediately, the results of the 2021 draft went into effect in the October 22 episode of SmackDown.

Production[edit]

Background[edit]

The WWE Draft is an annual process used by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE while a brand extension, or brand split, is in effect. The original brand extension occurred from 2002 to 2011, while the second and current brand split began in 2016. During a brand extension, the company divides its roster into brands where the wrestlers exclusively perform for each brand's respective television show, and the draft is used to refresh the rosters of the brand divisions, typically between the Raw and SmackDown brands. The 2021 draft was WWE's 16th draft and was officially announced during the September 13 episode of Raw. It was scheduled to occur during the October 1 and October 4 episodes of SmackDown and Raw, respectively, with SmackDown airing on Fox and Raw on the USA Network.[1]

2021 draft rules[edit]

The rules of the 2021 draft were revealed by WWE correspondent Megan Morant on Twitter during the day before the first night of the draft on October 1. Over 60 wrestlers (including tag teams) were eligible to be drafted across the two nights, with half being eligible the first night and the other half eligible the second night; however, no draft pools were revealed for which wrestlers were eligible for each night. Tag teams were counted as one pick unless Fox or USA Network officials (who were promoted as draft decision makers)[a] specifically only wanted one member of the team. Wrestlers from NXT were also eligible to be drafted to either Raw or SmackDown, while any non-NXT wrestlers who were not drafted became (kayfabe) free agents and could sign with the brand of their choice. Unlike previous drafts, in which results took effect immediately, results of the 2021 draft did not become effective until the October 22 episode of SmackDown, the night after the Crown Jewel pay-per-view and livestreaming event.[2][3][4]

Selections[edit]

Night 1: SmackDown (October 1)[edit]

There were four rounds of draft picks during night 1 of the 2021 draft. Unlike previous drafts in which Raw received three picks and SmackDown only received two, both brands had two picks each round. WWE officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville announced the draft picks.[5]

Rnd. Pick # Wrestler(s) Pre-draft brand Post-draft brand Role Brand pick #
1 1 Roman Reigns
with Paul Heyman
SmackDown SmackDown Male wrestler and manager
Universal Champion (Reigns)
1
1 2 Big E Raw Raw Male wrestler
WWE Champion
1
1 3 Charlotte Flair Raw SmackDown Female wrestler
Raw Women's Champion
2
1 4 Bianca Belair SmackDown Raw Female wrestler 2
2 5 Drew McIntyre Raw SmackDown Male wrestler 3
2 6 RK-Bro
(Randy Orton and Riddle)
Raw SmackDown Male tag team
Raw Tag Team Champions
3
2 7 The New Day
(Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods)
Raw SmackDown Male tag team 4
2 8 Edge SmackDown[b] Raw Male wrestler
Hall of Famer
4
3 9 Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss SmackDown[c] SmackDown Male tag team 5
3 10 Nikki A. S. H. and Rhea Ripley Raw Raw Female tag team
Women's Tag Team Champions
5
3 11 Hit Row
(Isaiah "Swerve" Scott, Ashante "Thee" Adonis, Top Dolla, and B-Fab)
NXT SmackDown Intergender stable 6
3 12 Keith "Bearcat" Lee Raw Raw Male wrestler 6
4 13 Naomi Raw SmackDown Female wrestler 7
4 14 Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio SmackDown Raw Male tag team 7
4 15 Jeff Hardy Raw SmackDown Male wrestler 8
4 16 Austin Theory NXT Raw Male wrestler 8
Notes
  1. One stable was split up as a result of the first night: Austin Theory was drafted to Raw while his Way stablemates, Johnny Gargano, Dexter Lumis, Candice LeRae, and Indi Hartwell, remained on NXT.

Night 1 supplemental picks (October 1–2)[edit]

These picks were announced on October 1 via WWE's social media accounts and on the October 2 episode of Talking Smack.[6]

Wrestler(s) Pre-draft brand Post-draft brand Role
Akira Tozawa Raw Raw Male wrestler
Aliyah NXT SmackDown Female wrestler
Alpha Academy
(Chad Gable and Otis)
SmackDown Raw Male tag team
Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez SmackDown Raw Male tag team
Doudrop Raw Raw Female wrestler
Drake Maverick[d] NXT Raw Male wrestler
Drew Gulak Raw SmackDown Male wrestler
John Morrison Raw Raw Male wrestler
Mace Raw SmackDown Male wrestler
Mansoor Raw SmackDown Male wrestler
Mustafa Ali Raw SmackDown Male wrestler
Nia Jax Raw Raw Female wrestler
R-Truth Raw Raw Male wrestler
Reggie Raw Raw Male wrestler
24/7 Champion
T-Bar Raw Raw Male wrestler
Toni Storm SmackDown SmackDown Female wrestler
Zelina Vega SmackDown Raw Female wrestler
Notes
  1. One tag team was split up as a result of the supplemental draft: Mace was drafted to SmackDown while his tag team partner T-Bar remained on Raw.

Night 2: Raw (October 4)[edit]

There were six rounds of draft picks during night 2 of the 2021 draft. Like the first night, both brands had two picks each round. WWE officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville again announced the draft picks.[7]

Rnd. Pick # Wrestler(s) Pre-draft brand Post-draft brand Role Brand pick #
1 1 Becky Lynch SmackDown Raw Female wrestler
SmackDown Women's Champion
1
1 2 The Usos
(Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso)
SmackDown SmackDown Male tag team
SmackDown Tag Team Champions
1
1 3 The Hurt Business
(Bobby Lashley with MVP)[e]
Raw Raw Male wrestler and manager 2
1 4 Sasha Banks SmackDown SmackDown Female wrestler 2
2 5 Seth Rollins SmackDown Raw Male wrestler 3
2 6 King Nakamura and Rick Boogs SmackDown[f] SmackDown Male tag team
Intercontinental Champion (Nakamura)
3
2 7 Damian Priest Raw Raw Male wrestler
United States Champion
4
2 8 Sheamus Raw SmackDown Male wrestler 4
3 9 AJ Styles and Omos Raw Raw Male tag team 5
3 10 Shayna Baszler Raw SmackDown Female Wrestler
3 11 Kevin Owens SmackDown Raw Male wrestler 6
3 12 Xia Li NXT SmackDown Female wrestler 6
4 13 The Street Profits
(Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford)
SmackDown Raw Male tag team 7
4 14 The Viking Raiders
(Erik and Ivar)
Raw SmackDown Male tag team 7
4 15 Finn Bálor SmackDown Raw Male wrestler 8
4 16 Ricochet Raw SmackDown Male wrestler 8
5 17 Karrion Kross Raw Raw Male wrestler 9
5 18 Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo Raw SmackDown Male tag team 9
5 19 Alexa Bliss Raw Raw Female wrestler 10
5 20 Cesaro SmackDown SmackDown Male wrestler 10
6 21 Carmella SmackDown Raw Female wrestler 11
6 22 Ridge Holland NXT SmackDown Male wrestler 11
6 23 Gable Steveson Free agent Raw Male wrestler 12
6 24 Sami Zayn SmackDown SmackDown Male wrestler 12
Notes
  1. One stable was split up as a result of the second night: Xia Li was drafted to SmackDown while her Tian Sha stablemates, Boa and Mei Ying, remained on NXT.
  2. One tag team was split up as a result of the second night: Ridge Holland was drafted to SmackDown while his tag team partner Pete Dunne remained on NXT.

Night 2 supplemental picks (October 4)[edit]

These picks were announced on the October 4 episode of Raw Talk.

Wrestler(s) Pre-draft brand Post-draft brand Role
Dana Brooke Raw Raw Female wrestler
The Dirty Dawgs
(Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode)
SmackDown Raw Male tag team
The Hurt Business
(Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin)
Raw Raw Male tag team
Jaxson Ryker Raw Raw Male wrestler
Jinder Mahal and Shanky Raw SmackDown Male tag team
Liv Morgan SmackDown Raw Female wrestler
Mia Yim Raw Raw Female wrestler
The Miz Raw Raw Male wrestler
Natalya SmackDown SmackDown Female wrestler
Shotzi SmackDown SmackDown Female wrestler
Tamina SmackDown Raw Female wrestler
Tegan Nox SmackDown Raw Female wrestler
Veer Raw Raw Male wrestler
Notes
  1. One stable was split up as a result of the supplemental draft: Veer stayed on Raw while his stablemates, Jinder Mahal and Shanky, were drafted to SmackDown.
  2. Two tag teams were split up as a result of the supplemental draft: Tegan Nox was drafted to Raw while her tag team partner Shotzi stayed on SmackDown, and Tamina was drafted to Raw while her tag team partner Natalya stayed on SmackDown.

Free agents[edit]

Within WWE storyline, a "free agent" referred to a contracted wrestler who had not been assigned to one of the company's five brands at the time—Raw, SmackDown, NXT, NXT UK, or 205 Live (the latter two were subdivisions of NXT). Several wrestlers were made free agents due to injury, inactivity, or simply not being drafted despite being an active member of the rosters. Wrestlers who became free agents could (kayfabe) sign with the brand of their choosing. The chart is organized by date.

Wrestler(s) Pre-draft brand Reason for not being drafted
(if any)
Subsequent status Date Notes
Brock Lesnar Raw[g] Contractual provision Free agent October 1, 2021 During night 1 of the draft, Lesnar announced that he was a free agent (implying it was due to a deal arranged by Paul Heyman), thus is eligible to appear on any brand.[8]
Lucha House Party
(Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado)
Raw Were not drafted on either night Released November 4, 2021 Last appeared on the September 13, 2021, episode of Main Event. On November 4, both Dorado and Metalik were released from their WWE contracts.
Eva Marie Raw Was not drafted on either night Released November 4, 2021 Last appeared on the September 27, 2021, episode of Raw. On November 4, Marie was released from her WWE contract.
Shane Thorne SmackDown Was not drafted on either night Released November 18, 2021 Last wrestled a dark match on the September 24, 2021, episode of SmackDown. On November 18, Thorne was released from his WWE contract.
Maryse Raw Was not drafted on either night Raw November 29, 2021 Last appeared on the April 12, 2021, episode of Raw. Returned alongside her husband, The Miz, who was also returning after participating in Dancing with the Stars.
Ronda Rousey Free agent Inactive due to maternity leave SmackDown January 29, 2022 Last appeared at WrestleMania 35 in April 2019. Rousey made a surprise return at the Royal Rumble in the women's Royal Rumble match, winning it from the number 28 entry.
Elias Raw Was not drafted on either night Raw April 4, 2022 Last appeared in a pre-taped vignette on the August 23, 2021 episode of Raw. Returned with a new gimmick, that of Elias' younger brother, Ezekiel , but returned as Elias in October 2022.
Lacey Evans Raw Inactive due to maternity leave SmackDown April 8, 2022 Last appeared on the February 15, 2021, episode of Raw. Returned in a pre-taped vignette on SmackDown.
Asuka Raw Inactive due to a hand injury Raw April 25, 2022 Last appeared at Money in the Bank. Returned and interrupted Becky Lynch, who was also making her return.
Titus O'Neil Raw Was not drafted on either night WWE Global Ambassador July 18, 2022 Last appeared at WrestleMania 37 on April 10, 2021. Returned on the July 18, 2022, episode of Raw and announced he was a WWE Global Ambassador.
Bayley SmackDown Inactive due to torn ACL Raw July 30, 2022 Last appeared on the June 25, 2021, episode of SmackDown. Returned at the 2022 SummerSlam and aligned with Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky (making their main roster debuts) to from a stable called Damage Control. They confronted Raw Women's Champion Bianca Belair after she had successfully retained her title against Becky Lynch.

Aftermath[edit]

During the draft, Raw drafted SmackDown Women's Champion Becky Lynch while SmackDown drafted Raw Women's Champion Charlotte Flair. Neither lost their respective championship before the October 22 episode of SmackDown, the night that the draft results went into effect. The day of the show, WWE announced that Flair and Lynch would exchange titles to keep the championships on their respective brands while going off script.[9] In turn, Lynch became the Raw Women's Champion while Flair became the SmackDown Women's Champion.[10]

Also during the draft, SmackDown drafted NXT North American Champion Isaiah "Swerve" Scott as part of his stable, Hit Row. Swerve claimed he would be taking the title to SmackDown, however, on the October 12 episode of NXT 2.0, Swerve lost the championship to Carmelo Hayes, thus keeping the North American Championship on NXT before the draft results went into effect on October 22.[11]

In November, vignettes began airing to hype Veer's post-draft appearance on Raw. His ring name was changed to Veer Mahaan.[12] He finally debuted in April 2022, but in October, he was moved to NXT.[13]

On November 4, 2021, WWE released several wrestlers due to budget cuts. Mia Yim, Hit Row's B-Fab, Nia Jax, Karrion Kross, and Keith Lee were among those who were released, without a single appearance post-draft. Among those not drafted who were released included Eva Marie and Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado). Several NXT wrestlers were also released, including Franky Monet, Oney Lorcan, Ember Moon, Jeet Rama, Katrina Cortez, Trey Baxter, Zayda Ramier, Jessi Kamea, Harry Smith, and Kross' real-life fiancé, Scarlett, who served as Kross' on-screen manager when Kross was still in NXT and she was expected to eventually join Kross on Raw.[14] On November 18, the remainder of Hit Row, John Morrison, Tegan Nox, Shane Thorne, Drake Maverick, and Jaxson Ryker were also released.[15] Not long after, Jeff Hardy would be released on December 9 after being sent home from a live event tour and refusing rehab. [16] On December 29, Toni Storm requested and was immediately granted a release from her contract. [17] On February 24, 2022, it was reported that Cesaro and WWE had failed to agree on new contract terms and that he had quietly left WWE when his contract expired, ending his 11-year tenure in the company.[18]

At WrestleMania 38 in April 2022, SmackDown's Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeated Raw's WWE Champion Brock Lesnar to win both championships, thus allowing Reigns to appear on both brands as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion,[19] then in May 2022, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso) defeated Raw Tag Team Champions RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle) to win both championships, thus allowing The Usos to appear on both brands as the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions.[20] By proxy, this allowed other members of The Bloodline stable (Sami Zayn, Solo Sikoa, who was promoted from NXT to SmackDown in September, and the group's manager Paul Heyman) to appear on both brands. This subsequently increased cross-brand rivalries, with other wrestlers, like Kevin Owens, appearing on both shows, making brand division increasingly unclear.

Also in April 2022, Mustafa Ali was moved back to Raw,[21] then in June, Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez were moved to NXT.[22] Azeez returned to his previous ring name of Dabba-Kato after he turned on Crews at NXT Vengeance Day in February 2023.[23] In March 2022, Pete Dunne was promoted to SmackDown from NXT and repackaged under the nickname Butch. At Money in the Bank in July, Liv Morgan won the women's Money in the Bank ladder match, and later that same night, she cashed in the contract and won the SmackDown Women's Championship, subsequently transferring her to SmackDown.[24] Later in October, Rey Mysterio was transferred to the SmackDown brand, and in turn, Happy Corbin, who returned to his Baron Corbin name, was moved to Raw.[25] Also in October, Zelina Vega was moved back to SmackDown to be the manager of Legado Del Fantasma (Santos Escobar, Joaquin Wilde, and Cruz Del Toro), who were promoted to SmackDown from NXT.[26] After taking time off in mid-2022, Reggie returned on NXT under a new gimmick and ring name of Scrypts. Shortly after, T-Bar returned to NXT as Dijak. Upon his return from an injury in January 2023, Rick Boogs was transferred to the Raw brand. Doudrop also returned to her previous name Piper Niven, which she used in NXT UK.[27] The Judgment Day (Finn Bálor, Damian Priest, Dominik Mysterio, and Rhea Ripley), a stable formed on Raw after WrestleMania 38, began appearing on SmackDown after Ripley won the 2023 women's Royal Rumble match and chose to challenge for the SmackDown Women's Championship, which she subsequently won at WrestleMania 39.[28]

After Triple H took over creative control of WWE in July 2022, several released wrestlers who were part of the 2021 draft were rehired. These included Mia Yim returning on Raw (aligning with the recently-reunited O.C. stable in their feud with The Judgment Day), and Hit Row (Ashante Adonis, Top Dolla, and B-Fab), Tegan Nox, and Karrion Kross and his real-life fiancé, Scarlett, returning on SmackDown.[29] Nia Jax made a one-night return at the 2023 Royal Rumble, where she was the #30 entrant in the women's Royal Rumble match, being eliminated by all other women in the ring.[30]

A draft was not held in 2022, and with multiple wrestlers appearing on both shows almost weekly, some sources believed that the brand split was coming to an end.[31] Additionally, both of NXT's sub-brands, 205 Live and NXT UK, ceased operations in February and September, respectively, with most of those wrestlers moving over to NXT. However, in April 2023, Triple H announced the 2023 draft to bring back a definitive roster division between Raw and SmackDown.[32]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Although WWE claims the draft picks are conducted by officials of the Fox and USA networks, the results are predetermined by WWE as the draft is a storyline.
  2. ^ Despite being listed as a free agent on WWE.com, Edge was referred to as a SmackDown wrestler during the Draft broadcast.
  3. ^ Despite being listed as a member of the Raw roster on WWE.com, Madcap Moss was referred to as a SmackDown wrestler during the Draft broadcast.
  4. ^ While listed as a member of the NXT roster on WWE.com at the time of the draft, Drake Maverick had been appearing on the Raw program since September 6, 2021.
  5. ^ MVP was not announced to have been drafted along with Bobby Lashley on the broadcast, but was officially confirmed on WWE's social media platforms to have been drafted with Lashley.
  6. ^ Despite being listed as a free agent on WWE.com, Rick Boogs was referred to as a SmackDown wrestler during the Draft broadcast.
  7. ^ While listed as a member of the Raw roster on WWE.com at the time of the Draft, Brock Lesnar had been appearing exclusively on the SmackDown program without having officially joined that brand after returning at SummerSlam in August 2021.

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Lambert, Jeremy (October 1, 2021). "WWE Releases Rules For 2021 WWE Draft". Fightful. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  4. ^ WWE.com Staff (October 1, 2021). "See all the results from the 2021 Draft". WWE. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  5. ^ Powell, Jason (October 1, 2021). "10/1 WWE Friday Night Smackdown results: Powell's review of the first night of the WWE Draft, Belair vs. Sasha Banks, Edge returns, fallout from Extreme Rules". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  6. ^ Guzzo, Gisberto (October 2, 2021). "Toni Storm, Apollo Crews, Zelina Vega, And More Selected In 2021 WWE Draft". Fightful. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  7. ^ Powell, Jason (October 4, 2021). "10/4 WWE Raw Results: Powell's live review of the WWE Draft night two, Goldberg returns, the build to WWE Crown Jewel continues". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  8. ^ Lambert, Jeremy (October 1, 2021). "Brock Lesnar Will Not Be Drafted, Announces He Is A 'Free Agent'". Fightful. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
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  10. ^ Powell, Jason (October 22, 2021). "10/22 WWE Friday Night Smackdown results: Powell's review of Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair swapping title belts, the coronation of Xavier Woods as King of the Ring". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  11. ^ Moore, John (October 12, 2021). "10/12 NXT 2.0 results: Moore's review of Isaiah Scott vs. Santos Escobar for the North American Championship, Tommaso Ciampa vs. Joe Gacy, Kyle O'Reilly and Von Wagner vs. Pete Dunne and Ridge Holland, Ivy Nile's in-ring debut". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
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  17. ^ "WWE releases Toni Storm days after 'SmackDown' title match". 29 December 2021.
  18. ^ "SURPRISING WWE DEPARTURE AFTER FAILURE TO COME TO TERMS ON NEW DEAL". PW Insider. 24 February 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
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  20. ^ Barnett, Jake (May 20, 2022). "5/20 WWE Friday Night Smackdown results: Barnett's review of Smackdown Tag Team Champions Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso vs. Raw Tag Team Champions "RK-Bro" Randy Orton and Riddle in a unification match, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn, Xavier Woods vs. Butch". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  21. ^ Jenkins, M (April 26, 2022). "Mustafa Ali Returns During WWE RAW This Week". Ringside News. Retrieved April 28, 2022.
  22. ^ Johnson, Mike (June 8, 2022). "APOLLO CREWS' WWE STATUS GOING FORWARD, FUTURE FOR ANOTHER RAW STAR REVEALED". PWInsider.com. Retrieved June 25, 2022.
  23. ^ Bajpai, Anutosh (February 4, 2023). "Watch: Raw Underground Star Makes Surprise Return At NXT Vengeance Day". SEScoops. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
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  26. ^ Powell, Jason (October 7, 2022). "10/07 WWE Friday Night Smackdown results: Powell's review of the season premiere, Gunther vs. Sheamus for the Intercontinental Championship, Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Logan Paul meet face to face, Solo Sikoa vs. Ricochet". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
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