Wrestling With Lenny, Volume 8: The 2022 WOW Draft

Here we are again, my friends, and this is only the 8th time which I have been asked to analyze things. I’m personally going to let Jeff Esiason review Starrcade from last year (there is no plan for one this year) as there is a lot to unpack from this year’s historic and seismic draft.

First and foremost, the background of the draft this year. Megan Mouse entered the WOW Headquarters on a mission as the newly-appointed Chair and C.E.O. of BWM Inc.’s All Elite Wrestling. Just hours after releasing a handful of superstars from her ranks and officially accepting the new position alongside the revelation that the EWA was now defunct for the last time, Megan came in prepared to do some damage, and let’s just say that the damage was definitely felt, but not without feeling the pain herself a little.

Overall, out of the 100 total picks and a couple significant trades, it appears that AEW netted one women’s talent and a handful of men’s talent. Based on what we can tell from early reports of the announcement to come over the next 24 hours from Chairman Mickey regarding the HCW and our 6th Season schedule, the bulk of the HCW roster will be independent from the rest of the company with only about a dozen (or a few less) being dually contracted with the PWI. This is important to note because we still have no clue as to whom out of the classic HCW roster will be returning this fall. Furthermore, these mystery participants were absent from this year’s draft for reasons that included something about some forgotten grandfathered 20 year contract agreement with John Brown and Ted Brown extending back to the 4th Era’s HCW.

ANYWAYS, the drama leading up to this year’s draft was significant given the disappearance of Benny Mouse and Megan subsequent hostile takeover of her father’s company. Mickey announced earlier today in his extended diatribe against BWM Inc. that he was pursuing legal action via the SEC to remove Benny as a shareholder of Mmouse Enterprises. More details about this have come out since and have revealed that Mickey is citing that the shares actually explicitly involved “the UWA-North Division”, which has been defunct since 2003. Moreover, the UWA itself in every incarnation folded in 2011 upon the launching of PWI, but I digress.

For this year’s draft, Mickey insisted that the exemptions be increased from the 15 allotted last year (which was in addition to 4 champions a piece) to 20 exemptions a piece. After hesitating about this for a minute (because she wanted to approach this with a vision of a full reset), Megan agreed to this only because Mickey reluctantly agreed to allow each side to draft in 50 rounds. Like last year, a tag team was equal to one pick, and that included the exemptions.

For the PWI, the 20 exemptions were as follows:

  1. PWI and HCW Champion, Brandon Lee
  2. Women’s and Immunity Champion, Angelina Love
  3. Tag Team Champions, The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Roderick Strong)
  4. Women’s Tag Team Champions, Pretty Worthy (Maria & Allie)
  5. Ascendant Champion, Matt Taven
  6. Women’s Ascendant Champion, Mandy Rose
  7. Teo
  8. 2022 Premier Athlete, Attitude
  9. Beth Phoenix
  10. Harlem Turtles
  11. Scott Nash
  12. Dragonfly
  13. Alexa Bliss
  14. Slammer
  15. MJF
  16. Bray Wyatt
  17. F.R.E.D.
  18. Christian
  19. Shayna Baszler
  20. 2022 Premier Athlete, Naomi

There are no real surprises amongst these exemptions, but a few really rubbed Megan the wrong way, especially the exemption of the Fiend and MJF. MJF notably took a leave of absence for much of the 5th season and interrupted the introduction to Motivation IX. Word has it that Mickey was really high on MJF and wanted to ensure that he stuck around for a while. More on this later.

Teo and Attitude simply aren’t going anywhere. Alongside Bray, Dragonfly, FRED, Alexa, and Slammer, these stars might as well plan on retiring from all competition after a LONG career at Mmouse Enterprises, because protecting their contracts is priority number one. Going forward, it would take something incredibly shocking for this to ever change, and the same may be true of Beth Phoenix now.

Finally, Naomi was picked in this slot for two reasons: a) she is among our fastest-rising talents, and b) last year’s accidental oversight of not exempting Brandon Lee despite him winning the tournament left a bad taste in Mickey’s mouth and reportedly contributed to his betrayal at Motivation. Mickey wasn’t about to repeat that again.

Now, let’s look at AEW’s exemptions:

  1. Cody Rhodes
  2. The Last EWA Champion, Granddaddy Duxen
  3. Randy Orton
  4. The Last EWA Tag Champions, The Brothers Metal (Metalhead & Heavy Metal)
  5. The Last EWA X-Division Champion, Pac
  6. The Last EWA Knockouts Champion, Ronda Rousey
  7. Athena Starr
  8. Sasha Banks
  9. AJ Lee
  10. Charlotte Flair
  11. Armageddon
  12. Sammy Guevara
  13. Rey Mysterio
  14. Chyna
  15. Asuka
  16. Living Dead Girl
  17. AJ Styles
  18. Chris Jericho
  19. Goldust
  20. The Young Bucks

Chairwoman Megan Mouse is apparently hitting the reset button on everything in BWM Inc.: stripping everyone of their gold, and starting anew. Still, this fresh start requires some heavy hitters to get off the ground running, and Megan made damn sure to have a roster worthy of envy. It is well known that Mickey has had his eye on Cody since this era began with From Dusk Til Dawn in 2019, and that he would love to get his hands on AJ Lee, AJ Styles, Charlotte, Ronda Rousey, and Chris Jericho. There are definitely some more incredible stars in here that Mickey is interested in, but that’s why we do exemptions to begin with!

Now, let’s get on to the draft itself. The rules were set and the coin was flipped. For the third straight year, BWM Inc. won the toss and issued their first pick:

Nyla Rose was sent to AEW on this first round, and that was no real surprise. Rob Amick let Nyla go last time around and was royally reamed by Benny afterwards. This reversal of that fate certainly sent a message that it was back to the old way of doing business as in drafts past.

Then Mickey picked Paige, bringing her back to the PWI after losing her early last year. Paige never had a chance to showcase her talent in the EWA’s lost season and they will undoubtedly be kicking themselves over that for the next year, at least. Expect Paige to be featured prominently this season, as the PWI rules automatically place top draft picks in the top ranks of the company (not above the exemptions of course).

The second round saw Vader sent to AEW and Ember Moon sent to PWI. Mickey was not playing around with the women’s division and was reportedly willing to thin out the undeniably bloated men’s roster if it meant strengthening the incredibly stacked women’s division further. Vader had a decent showing in the PWI this season, having been MJF’s lackey and feuding with Masked Phenom, but sending him home to BWM Inc. could be beneficial for everyone. Ember, though, is a major hit for AEW’s fledgling Knockouts Division. She was the sole women’s Money in the Bank winner (actually the only holder of that briefcase) and will add a great deal to her new home.

In the third round, AEW had a seemingly huge grab with House of Black Leader Aleister Black until PWI nabbed the blockbuster pick of Seth Rollins! Not a lot is known about Seth, except that he, Moxley, and Roman used to call themselves “The Shield” in the Independent Circuit. Mickey badly wanted Seth last go around and wasn’t content with letting him go now.

The fourth round is where the clap-backs began, though, as AEW picked the Tribal Chief Roman Reigns, but this monstrous pick-up was then rebutted with a massive pick by PWI via CM Punk! Punk gained much fame in his HCW days and was elevated on a pedestal by EWA’s management team, but the EWA’s failure to deliver on its potential really hurt their vision for CM Punk.

PWI didn’t have much time to relish in this accomplishment, however, because AEW sent shockwaves that couldn’t be duplicated for the rest of the draft when they picked Brock Lesnar up from the PWI’s Ascendant Class. Mickey’s office was left in a state of shock for what felt like an hour as they struggled to respond. Mickey frantically demanded answers as to how this was permitted to happen, firing a dozen aides on the spot. PWI’s response was to pick Becky Lynch, sending her back to the PWI after a year on the EWA roster. This was a solid blow to the Knockouts Division, but far from the punch that AEW sent to Mickey with Brock.

AEW then grabbed Natalya, who had been heavily featured as a top tier talent very consistently in her year with PWI. PWI responded by drafting Krusader, bringing the legend officially out of retirement.

We then entered the si-saw phase:

AEW picked Masked Phenom, PWI grabbed Finn Balor, AEW grabbed Samoa Joe, and PWI got Bayley. Each of these were good picks, and kept the flow of talent going both ways. Masked Phenom returned after a decade out of the action as part of the resurrection of Bray Wyatt. Finn Balor was teased to fans throughout EWA’s first season of the era only to finally appear at No Boundaries in 2020. Samoa Joe had a strong showing since debuting on the main stage in PWI, including feuds with Tazz and Roman Reigns, but he stagnated and was cast aside. Bayley was featured only a couple times by the EWA back in 2019 and 2020, but she has been sought after by Mickey since the beginning.

Jon Moxley was picked next by Megan Mouse as her agenda became very clear: getting the forgotten stars of PWI. That led Mickey to react by grabbing Rhyno, who he wanted to get earlier, but held off until now out of fear of allowing unanswered picks from the women’s division. Rhyno is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in the industry, so this pick was nothing to laugh at.

Neither was the next pick, which happened to represent the tenth round, as AEW took the young tag team of Proud & Powerful from the Ascendant Class of PWI. PWI then picked Sabu, bringing in the first HCW Champion of the Fourth Era, an appropriate choice in and of itself.

It was at this moment that AEW blinked when they became the first to choose to save their own roster by picking the Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan). Mickey decided to do the same by then keeping Sean Olson, despite Mr. Olson being injured.

With the twelfth round, AEW grabbed former PWI World and Immunity Champion, Kurt Angle. PWI brought Rhea Ripley back to its ranks after she was taken by EWA last year.

AEW kept the Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) as PWI decided to take Kevin Owens back. AEW then grabbed the Samoan Connection (Yokozuna and Umaga, former EWA and PWI Tag Champions) and Mickey decided to protect Karrion Kross.

On the 15th go, AEW kept Ruby Riott as the PWI responded by taking Kofi Kingston. AEW slapped back with Britt Baker, but PWI nailed a gut punch by getting Lita!

What happened from the 17th Round through to the 50th was this (in order):

AEW: Madison Rayne, Nikki Cross, Nia Jax, American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan), The Allure (Velvet Sky and Amber Gallows), Daniel Bryan, Taya Valkyrie, Kalisto, The Natural Disasters (Earthquake and Typhoon), Bane, Candice LeRae, The Elite (Miz and John Morrison), Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal), Kairi Sane, Buddy Murphy, Braun Strowman, Ricochet, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Andrade, The Outsiders (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall), Mystico, Victoria, Gran Metallik, Sarah Logan, Rusev, Abyss, Sherri Martel, Legion of Maniacs (Vulcan and Spider), Ted Dibiase Junior, Io Shirai, Lex Luger, Sonya Deville, and The IIconics (Peyton Royce and Billie Kay)

PWI: Gail Kim, Bianca Belair, Trish Stratus, The Bella Twins (Nikki and Brie Bella), Dakota Kai, Raven & Big Show, Ted Brown, Blade, Jesse Hash, Kaitlyn, Johnny Gargano, Drew McIntyre, Lacey Evans, Bobby Lashley, Mark Henry, Big E, Dolph Ziggler, The Duct Tape Men (Uno and Dos), The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson), Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford), The Hollys (Hardcore and Crash Holly), The Usos (Jimmy and Jey), Liv Morgan, The Rock, Rob Van Dam, Sheamus, Ghostrider, Luna Vachon, Maniac, Edge, Alundra Blayze, R-Truth, The Terminator, and Phobe

A few notes about this stretch of back and forth picks. Firstly, Gail Kim being picked at number 17 for PWI was a genuine shock to all, and a successful gamble on Mickey’s part. She went over in a big way against Alexa Bliss, giving Alexa her first lost at Motivation after four matches. Mickey seemed to think that Megan would overlook the most sought-after woman in industry history. Gail would have been a major blow and AEW missed it. Even so, AEW made a major impression by taking a number of PWI’s tag teams, causing the division to dwindle a bit, but the PWI offset those significant losses with some decent gains, namely with the Hollys and Duct Tape Men. Mickey also successfully negotiated (winning the day via a rock-paper-scissors battle) an exception which allowed him to both keep Brie Bella and gain her sister Nikki in the same pick. He then later deflected an attempt by Megan (using the same game) to unite Johnny Gargano and Candice Lerae for a single pick.

The PWI Women’s Division may have netted an additional talent, but it also lost two tag teams. This was massive considering that the division was already under ten teams. The Men’s Division may actually end up with about the same number of teams when all is said and done.

AEW also brought Randy Savage back to BWM Inc. for the first time this era as PWI brought legends Krusader, Terminator, Ghostrider, and Phobe into the fold. AEW primarily targeted the younger stars, though, as they ransacked the often overlooked Ascendant Class of PWI.

Towards the end of the draft, PWI capped off its picking of major legends by picking the Rock, but they sent the last major shockwave with round 25 in picking Jesse Hash, who was exempt just last year.

After Phobe served as the 100th pick, going to PWI, both companies initiated a handful of significant trades. For starters, there was a blockbuster trade which made histiry itself. MJF was traded by PWI to AEW in exchange for the Young Bucks (a team Mickey has desired to contract since 2019) and Granddaddy Duxen (who has notoriously been targeted by Mickey since the end of the Second Era in 2002). This was the first time that exempted stars have EVER been traded. Following that, Mickey used the leverage of having Johnny Gargano to get Io Shirai back from Megan.

Overall, Megan and BWM Inc. netted one female talent and two male talents over Mickey and Mmouse Enterprises. This is actually the first time that Mmouse Enterprises has not netted more stars in at least one division of this era’s drafts. We just need to stay tuned for what’s to come between now and next year.

In summary, though, this was another strong year for PWI, but AEW is getting off to a great start, especially with their attack on PWI’s Tag Division and the incredibly shocking pick-up of Brock Lesnar. PWI managed to secure some great trades, but it will take time to see who actually benefits from this entire night.

Let’s get ready, because this could be a lot of fun!

Published by Daniel Crawford

I'm a single father of two, one of four children of a single mother (who passed at the age of 49), an activist, an aspiring public servant, an author, a podcast host, and an average member of the working class.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: