I've been promoting the LoPR Fantasy Draft recently, and it finally went down earlier today on the LoPR Livestream page. Kyle, Jeff, CoLD, De and myself had a blast putting together new promotions from scratch. Whenever I've promoted the event, I promised that I would include a post-show column, going over all of the finalized rosters, so.. uhh.. this is that post-show column.
I'm going to post the rosters of each person's promotion, and include a bit of a review as to why each person went in the direction they did. Obviously, I'll be able to put more detail into the review of my own picks, but the other guys gave me an idea of the direction they'd want to take their companies in, so I can speak on it a little bit.
First and foremost, the draft order, randomized live on-air, was as follows..
Before anyone says anything, I didn't rig anything to get the first pick. I wasn't even the one controlling the random generator. Kyle was responsible for that. Also, this wasn't a "serpentine" draft. For those unaware, a "serpentine" draft would see the round end and then "snake" its way back around the other way for the following round, and so on and so forth. In a "serpentine" draft, De would end the first round and get the top pick in the second round, while I would get the final pick of the second round and begin the third round, etc. Because we would all have different directions we're going in, we figured there wouldn't be the normal issue of "the person with the top pick has a huge advantage over the person with the last pick" for each round. The first 32 picks are the male workers, and can be split up between singles and tag teams as we see fit, but the 32 isn't a flexible number. For example, if you put together a dozen tag teams in an attempt to market your promotion as having the best tag division in wrestling history, that's fine and all, but then you'd only have eight singles workers in the entire company. Picks 33 through 37 are the female workers, and the final picks are the announce team that we'd have calling our shows. For the announcers, they could be the traditional play-by-play or color guys like Michael Cole, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, etc, or the entire team could consist of wrestlers, with the only catch being it can't be anyone that has already been drafted. So, if you draft Bully Ray, for example, you can't make him a color commentator for you, but someone like a JBL could be eligible for the color commentator job because he'll still be available at the end, as he isn't an active wrestler, so he can't be drafted to wrestle for your promotion.
Also, before you begin judging, know that your judging criteria is simply based on which promotion you think would be the best. Which you would rather watch on television. Which you would rather spend money on, whether it's to order pay-per-views, buy merchandise, attend live events, etc. We'll be keeping track of our rosters in a regular "fantasy sports" fashion throughout the year, watching to see who gets pushed, who gets de-pushed, who wins titles, who died, who gets released, etc, but your "job" is to just look at the roster, top-to-bottom, and pick who you think did the best job.
If you'd like to actually take a listen to the draft itself, as it played out, we've posted it on YouTube. Plenty of foul language and angry LoPR members as picks were sniped, forcing us to make the occasional scramble to pick someone else. Here's the YouTube version of the draft (entertaining stuff, really)..
Alright, since I had the first pick, I'll start things off with my roster. Let's get it poppin..
1. John Cena - Not only should it come as no surprise that I picked Cena first, but it should be him in this spot for anyone else if they were picking here. If you're going to put a wrestling promotion together from scratch, you could do a whole lot worse than starting it off with the biggest (full-time) name in the business today. If you're still someone that believes Cena can't wrestle, then I really don't know what to tell you. He'll draw, he'll provide a big name to build the company around, and he can actually get in the ring and bust his ass when the time is right. Works for me.
2. The Rock - Surprise, surprise. I haven't exactly had the most positive things to say about The Rock's performances on the mic since he returned, but there's one thing that I'll never be able to take away from the guy.. he's still The Rock. That means he's still an absolute megastar. That means he can still hold live crowds in the palm of his hand, no matter what he's saying. That means he can still make me a lot of money if I have him as a top star in my wrestling promotion. Isn't that what it's all about?
2.79 Samoa Joe - Another pick that really shouldn't be much of a surprise if you know me at all. Through all of the ridiculous booking that he's dealt with in the last few years.. he has continued to show that he can still "go" in the ring. Even when he seemed to put on some extra weight, it didn't exactly do much to slow him down or to take from his in-ring work. In an entirely new work environment, I think he could really shine, and even recapture the magic of 2005, when he debuted in TNA and actually took the wrestling world by storm.
4. Rey Mysterio - I forgot to mention that, in this fantasy scenario, all of the names are to be drafted as if they were healthy and could get in the ring to wrestle today. In reality, we know that Mysterio is still injured and has no precise timetable for his return. Here, though, he's healthy and will be contributing to my promotion as the most well-known high-flier in wrestling. Over the last few years, he's (arguably) been as solid in the ring as he's been throughout his entire illustrious career. The added bonuses that he brings to the table make this selection a no-brainer.. he's insanely popular with children, he moves merchandise, and he's an international name that could help promote the company in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries.
5. Antonio Cesaro - You know, I have to admit something.. I actually like this name more than "Claudio Castagnoli", so I'd run with it (don't even start with "copyrighted material", blah blah blah). I've praised this man's work in previous columns, so even if you've never seen him work, you've heard me talk about him. He's got everything required to become a huge star in wrestling, except for the fact that English isn't his first language, but with every passing year he spends in America, the better his English gets, so that isn't a big problem anymore. He's one of the top rising stars in wrestling, and with his background of working numerous styles, he can really get in the ring with just about anyone and deliver quality work.
6. Kevin Steen - Another "indy darling". Just by looking at him, you wouldn't think Steen is anything special. He doesn't exactly possess the greatest physique in the world, and he's been known to have some issues with acne. However, there might not be a better independent worker alive today when it comes to being able to get a reaction from fans. He works incredibly well as a total asshole heel, but he's also working well as a CM Punk-like face, where he has his own version of "pipe bombs" when he gets on the mic. He would bring unpredictability to my product, which is always nice.
7. & 8. Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin - My first tag team selection, but because I'm fancy, I'd go with their indy name of Murder City Machine Guns, instead of their "tame-for-television" Motor City Machine Guns name. They're popular, they're athletic, they're insane with their aerial and tag team moves, and they spend a lot of money on hair care products. I think they make a fantastic beginning to my tag team division.
9. Matt Morgan - Yet another pick that shouldn't be a surprise. If you look at my roster to this point, I have the charismatic workers, the brawlers, and the high-fliers, but one thing I was missing was a "monster". With Matt Morgan, I take care of that portion of my roster. He's still young enough that I could get several years out of him as a member of my promotion, but he's also fast and athletic enough to really stand out. He isn't your typical, lumbering, bumbling, stumbling seven-foot wrestler. That separates him from the other, more "popular" names that share his stature, so I scooped him up.
10. & 11. Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino - Originally, I drafted Doi as a singles wrestler, but when my next selection came up, and Yoshino was still on the board, I decided to draft him and put them back together as a tag team. They've been incredibly successful, winning a total of seven tag or trios title reigns together. Not only do they work well together, but they have really nice chemistry with the other tag team in my promotion. Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin VS Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino was one of my absolute favorite matches of 2008, and remains one of my favorite matches in TNA history. That was the absolute definition of "total non-stop action", as all four men went absolutely ballistic for what probably wasn't any more than a five or six-minute match. Let's just say I wouldn't restrict them to five or six minutes in my promotion.
12. Bobby Roode - I was pretty surprised that Roode was still available here, so I gladly added him to my roster. Getting a solid upper-midcard/main event talent here made me happy. Roode is really coming into his own as a heel recently, and is becoming quite the heat magnet. The majority of my roster to this point is either strong face workers or people that really handle both sides well, but Roode clearly does his best work as a heel, and I'd like to keep it that way. A very solid addition here.
13. AJ Styles - Let's just say I was surprised yet again. A three-time NWA World Champion. A four-time NWA Tag Team Champion. A two-time TNA Legends/Global/Television Champion. A one-time TNA World Champion. A one-time TNA Tag Team Champion. A six-time TNA X-Division Champion. A one-time Ring Of Honor Pure Champion. A one-time Ring Of Honor Tag Team Champion. That's the career of someone that "should" be drafted in a much higher round than this. He isn't exactly a great mic worker, but it hasn't really cost him to this point, so why start punishing him now?
14. Takeshi Morishima - It legitimately stuns me that we didn't hear word about WWE or TNA making a run at this guy. Sure, he isn't exactly an English-speaking talent, but at 6'3" and 290 pounds, he's an absolute beast of an in-ring performer. He just destroys his opponents. Making it even more amazing is the fact that Morishima's baby face and long hair makes him appear to be an overgrown 12-year-old Japanese girl. He's a "big man" worker that works a different style as the usual "big man" worker that American wrestling fans are used to, and he goes well with what I'm trying to do.
15. Mark Henry - To go along with Matt Morgan and Takeshi Morishima, I think Mark Henry makes for a great addition to the "big man" portion of my roster. He's certainly getting up there in age, but as I've said on numerous occasions, he's improved by leaps and bounds in the last year or so, which is a time in someone's career that you really don't expect them to make any sort of improvements, let alone drastic ones. In real life, he's having all sorts of injury problems, but in this fantasy scenario, as I've mentioned, he'd be completely healthy and ready to find someone to get their ass kicked, someone else to get their wig split, and others to join his Hall Of Pain.
16. Doug Williams - I decided to branch out for more international talent. I have someone who is from Switzerland, a few guys from Japan, someone from Mexico, and even a Canadian. Now, adding a Brit to my roster means that I can be covered when I travel to any of the major wrestling-crazy countries that usually have shows heading there. I didn't just add Williams because he's a Brit, though. He's an incredible ring technician, and damn, he has one of the coolest finishing moves in all of wrestling with the Chaos Theory. He also stands out to this point, because he brings an in-ring style that nobody else that I've drafted really brings.
17. Naomichi Marufuji - More Japanese talent. Quite the international flavor on this roster. Marufuji is one of the more accomplished junior heavyweight workers in Japan right now. He's the only person to win Junior Heavyweight Titles in all three of the major Japanese promotions, and was the first Grand Slam Champion in the history of legendary Pro Wrestling NOAH. He's on the smaller side, yes, at 5'9" and 200 pounds, but he brings enough technical ability and stiff striking that he can run with bigger workers.
18. Jack Swagger - People tend to get things twisted when it comes to Swagger. The first thing you think of now when you think of the guy is either the fact that he's not much more than a jobber, or the fact that he's the "third wheel" in Vickie Guerrero's mini-stable. They tend to forget that Swagger is one of the better pure wrestlers on the WWE roster, and also brings freakish strength to the table. That's the type of worker I was looking forward to grabbing here, because that type of strength makes for fun matches against smaller workers, but it allows him to remain impressive against the bigger workers, as well.
19. Davey Richards - I know, I know.. some of you are really scratching your head here, because you know I haven't had a whole lot of nice things to say in regards to Davey Richards. However, most of those not-so-nice things have to do with Ring Of Honor, the way they book Davey, and the way they treat him. Obviously, if I'm running my own promotion, I wouldn't be booking him the way RoH does, if I have such a huge problem with it. I know this sets things up for jokes or bad comments, but as far as the in-ring work alone, he remains the closest thing we've seen to Chris Benoit since Benoit himself. If the booking of him doesn't consist of a group of people that have a ridiculous hard-on for the guy, everything should be fine. He'll have some really entertaining matches with the guys already on my roster.
20. Chavo Guerrero - I needed another veteran presence on my roster, and at this point, Chavo Guerrero just seemed like a nice fit. The phrase "nothing personal, it's just business" comes to mind here. Like Davey Richards, you haven't seen me say a whole lot of positive things about Chavo over the last year, but I know that he'd perform well for my promotion. Another international talent, and one that carries a legendary last name, making it easier to use him for promotion in Mexico. Another solid well-rounded worker. It just made sense here.
21. Evan Bourne - Hey, remember him? Again, I must point out that real life injuries don't matter in this scenario for your grading, so you have to make it like he's completely healthy and is ready to return to the ring any day now. He's always been really over, and obviously brings an exciting high-flying style, but he would certainly have to be one of those wrestlers that just performs in the ring, but doesn't cut promos. I want no part of putting Bourne on the mic, and would make sure he never had a chance to speak in my promotion.
22. Ryusuke Taguchi - Hey, look, it's more international talent. Another one of the top junior heavyweight workers in Japan, Taguchi is a little different than a lot of his fellow countrymen because he brings more charisma and near-silliness to the table. That makes him stand out, and obviously, that's the type of thing that I really appreciate as I'm building my roster. If I wanted to, I could even team Taguchi with Naomichi Marufuji to bolster my tag ranks, but for now, I'll keep them as singles workers.
23. Christopher Daniels - I think I got another steal here. Daniels is another world-class worker that has had his image ruined because of poor TNA booking. He's been nothing more than a joke in TNA for a long time, but eh, this wouldn't be TNA, so Daniels would have a chance to shine again. He's a veteran that could work well with my Japanese talent because of all the time Daniels has spent working in Japan and learning the language. I just have to make sure I have plenty of solid veterans around, even if they aren't going to be pushed to the moon.
24. & 25. Young Bucks - Can I be honest again? I'm not a Young Bucks fan. Not at all. Not in the slightest. Even though I'm not a fan, I do understand that people get excited for their matches and their in-ring work. Throw them into a tag team scene that is largely dominated by young, fast, high-fliers, and they could really put on some entertaining spotfests. If they help to make me some money, I could certainly learn to like them. A little bit. Not too much, but a little bit. That's enough.
26. Drew McIntyre - First things first.. and forget copyrights.. McIntyre not only would get to keep his amazing entrance music in my promotion, but he'd go back to the complete entrance that he hasn't had a chance to use in WWE for a long, long time. While I don't think McIntyre is a super duper amazing in-ring performer or anything, I think he's very solid, and at the age of 26, he's still young and can (and probably will) improve his skills as time goes on. I'd bring him in as a lower-midcard/midcard talent and see about grooming him for a bigger spot in the future.
27. David Hart Smith - I like this guy, but I think he's better off as a member of a tag team. Let's see.. a British worker that I like, but would probably be better served as a tag team worker. Hmm.. it only makes sense that I place David Hart Smith and Doug Williams in a tag team, finally giving me a real team that isn't a duo of "spot" guys. I think the combination of Williams' technical ability and Smith's power could make for a really fun combination, especially when matched up with a team like the Murder City Machine Guns or Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino.
28. Kenn Doane - I get to say this again.. hey, remember him? At one point, he looked like the next huge main event star-in-the-making on the WWE roster. He had everything going for him, and it just never worked out. He remains a freakishly athletic worker, and I really like the heel charisma that he's built up on the independent scene since leaving WWE. Like McIntyre, Doane is 26 years old. Like McIntyre, I think I could bring Doane in as something of a lower-midcard/midcard worker, with an eye on trying to groom him for bigger and better things in the future.
29. Roderick Strong - Best case scenario? He gives me another solid midcard talent that will make people "ooh" and "aah" with his hard-hitting action. He's still terrible on the mic, so I don't think I could really push him beyond the midcard. Worst case scenario? I just throw him into a tag team with Davey Richards, and it just adds to what I feel is an already-nice tag division. Either scenario works for me.
30. Sean Waltman - Remember what I said earlier about wanting a bunch of veterans around? Yeah.. well.. Waltman fits that bill. He's always been at least a serviceable worker, but now that he seems to be trying to get his personal life in a better place, he brings added value to any wrestling promotion that has young talent. He can be a good worker in the ring, and a good leader in the locker room. Again.. works for me.
31. Leakee - I go from the veteran talent to young talent. Leakee is a part of the legendary Anoa'i family tree, but he has less than two years of in-ring experience, so he's still learning things, but with an impressive natural set of skills and a physique that is similar to The Rock, many are already predicting big things for him. He's certainly the next big Samoan wrestling star, and it would be great to bring him along in a promotion like this, filled with all sorts of people he could learn from, and also with family on the roster to make him feel comfortable.
32. Trent Barreta - With my final male roster member, I went with someone who is fun to watch in the ring, but is also one of the best bumpers and sellers in wrestling today. Because of that, he's used in an enhancement role more than anything else, but you know what? I don't have a problem with that, and I'd have him in that role here, as well. He could help make some of my guys look like a million bucks, in an attempt to make me a million bucks several times over. Thanks, Trent.
33. Beth Phoenix - With my first female selection, I went with someone I feel has the best combination of marketability, drawing power, and physical abilities. She's someone that you can build a Divas/Knockouts/Women's division around, and that's certainly what I'm doing here.
34. Mercedes Martinez - Mercedes Martinez is, perhaps, the most dominant female wrestler that the independent scene has witnessed in years. At the beginning of the month, she lost the Women Superstars Uncensored Title to Jessicka Havok. What's the big deal, you ask? It brought a 1,092-day title reign to an end. That's three days short of a full three-year title reign. Insanity. She's just someone that you can put in the ring with any woman, and she'll run through them like it's nothing special.
35. MsChif - I went with MsChif in this spot because she brings something different to the division than Beth or Mercedes do. She isn't the physical specimen that they are (which is actually kind of funny, as they're all about the same size), but she's still one of the most accomplished women in all of wrestling over the last few years. I have no problems with someone like that being on my roster.
36. Cheerleader Melissa - Four female workers picked, four female workers that are approximately the same height and weight. I didn't plan that, and it certainly just happened and unfolded the way it did, but I don't know if I should be concerned about it or not. For the time being, I'll just run with it, though. It should be fine, I would think.
37. Gail Kim - Hey, it's a woman with a different physique. Huzzah! This pick is more about Gail Kim being a draw as a female worker than it is about her in-ring abilities. I stick up for her in-ring skills more than most, so I'm not saying she's awful, but after taking three consecutive indy names for this division, I figured I'd go with the best remaining combination of drawing power and in-ring abilities.
38. Jim Ross - Is anyone surprised? I've said, on numerous occasions, that there isn't anyone in the world of wrestling announcing that can put over the workers in the ring better than Jim Ross, and that's exactly why I chose him. I want someone that is going to focus on the product itself, helping to sell the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and everything else I'm trying to put out.
39. Paul Heyman - With Jim Ross already in the mix, I thought this one would just make sense. Obviously, Ross is better known for teaming up with Jerry Lawler on commentary, but I really liked his pairing with Paul Heyman. They had really nice chemistry together, and their styles played off of each other very well. Heyman is another person that excel in putting things over, which is nice.
40. Dusty Rhodes - I had a lot of options here, but I figured I'd go with some comedy. Ross and Heyman would handle the majority of the work during my shows, and Dusty could chime in with his never-ending string of "Dustyisms" to provide the comic relief. I think that provides a nice mix for my announce team, and I'm proud of my picks here. I'm proud of my entire roster, from top-to-bottom.
Next up, it's time for Kyle's roster..
1. Dolph Ziggler 2. Austin Aries 2.846 Chris Jericho 4. Eddie Kingston 5. Tyler Black 6. & 7. The Briscoes 8. & 9. & 10. The Spectral Envoy (UltraMantis Black, Hallowicked & Frightmare) 11. & 12. Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas 13. Mr Anderson 14. Giant Bernard 15. Luke Gallows 16. Super Dragon 17. Tommaso Ciampa 18. The Undertaker 19. Averno 20. Kane 21. Kofi Kingston 22. Tyson Kidd 23. Rob Van Dam 24. Shawn Daivari 25. Tajiri 26. Zack Ryder 27. Triple H 28. & 29. Tyler Reks & Curt Hawkins 30. R-Truth 31. Ezekiel Jackson 32. David Otunga 33. Kharma 34. Portia Perez 35. Tara 36. Madison Eagles 37. Mickie James 38. Josh Matthews 39. JBL 40. Nigel McGuinness
Kyle describes his promotion as something that follows the "WWE style", with various sizes of his workers and a much better tag division. He certainly went after tag teams harder than the rest of us did, which should help his promotion to stand out in that regard.
Next up is Jeff's roster..
1. Daniel Bryan 2. Chris Hero 2.919 Bully Ray 4. El Generico 5. Dean Ambrose 6. Johnny Gargano 7. Christian 8. Joey Ryan 9. CIMA 10. Ricochet 11. & 12. Kenny King & Rhett Titus 13. Fit Finlay 14. Colt Cabana 15. & 16. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan 17. Chessman 18. Prince Devitt 19. Chuck Taylor 20. & 21. The Usos 22. L.A. Park 23. & 24. Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora 25. Shinsuke Nakamura 26. Michael Elgin 27. Jay Lethal 28. Ophidian 29. Hiroki Goto 30. & 31. & 32. The Colony (Green Ant, Fire Ant & Soldier Ant) 33. Sara Del Rey 34. Layla 35. Manami Toyota 36. Winter 37. Hamada 38. Excalibur 39. Mick Foley 40. Archibald Peck
I don't know about you, but it seems pretty clear that Jeff tried to model his promotion around CHIKARA, a company that focuses more on fun, gimmicks and characters for a broad range of fans to enjoy. Not only did he sign several CHIKARA workers, but he also went after workers that would fit in the CHIKARA vibe of things. Like Kyle's roster, this provides Jeff a way to stand out.
Next up is CoLD's roster..
1. CM Punk 2. Sheamus 2.662 Wade Barrett 4. Low Ki 5. Akira Tozawa 6. MVP 7. Chris Masters 8. Shingo 9. Brodie Lee 10. Uhaa Nation 11. PAC 12. Sami Callihan 13. Daisuke Sekimoto 14. Yamato 15. BxB Hulk 16. Adam Cole 17. Willie Mack 18. Cyber Kong 19. Jimmy Jacobs 20. & 21. Atsushi Kotoge & Daisuke Harada 22. Briley Pierce 23. Delirious 24. B-Boy 25. Kenny Omega 26. Kota Ibushi 27. Richie Steamboat 28. TJ Perkins 29. Necro Butcher 30. Arik Cannon 31. & 32. Kobald & Kodama 33. Kana 34. Candace LaRae 35. Paige 36. Christina Von Eerie 37. Saturyne 38. Bryce Remsberg 39. Matt Striker 40. Stevie Ray
Clearly, CoLD went with a promotion that is heavily-influenced on the Japanese style, with hardcore and stiff workers sprinkled throughout. There's no doubt that he'll have the hardest-hitting promotion, and that's what makes his roster stand out.
Lastly, we have De's roster..
1. Jeff Hardy 2. Randy Orton 2.718 Kurt Angle 4. James Storm 5. Alberto Del Rio 6. Cody Rhodes 7. Hiroshi Tanahashi 8. The Miz 9. Go Shiozaki 10. Sin Cara 11. Big Show 12. Santino 13. Brodus Clay 14. Carlito 15. Magnus 16. William Regal 17. Primo 18. Husky Harris 19. John Morrison 20. KENTA 21. Homicide 22. Eric Young 23. Justin Gabriel 24. Sting 25. Ted DiBiase 26. Percy Watson 27. Scott Steiner 28. Brian Kendrick 29. Super Crazy 30. Petey Williams 31. Abyss 32. Cliff Compton 33. Natalya 34. LuFisto 35. Madison Rayne 36. AJ Lee 37. Melina 38. Michael Cole 39. Road Dogg 40. Ric Flair
De's roster is clearly more focused on "names" than anything else, focusing more on WWE and TNA workers than anyone else's roster did. That's where his promotion stands out, giving us all something relatively unique and different.
Now it's up to you, ReaderLand. Remember, your voting is based solely on who you think has the better roster, right here on day one, not who you think will have the roster that features the most title winners in the next 12 months, etc. Obviously, who you think is "better" is based solely on your personal preference and nothing else. Maybe you'll vote for Kyle because Rob Van Dam is your all-time favorite wrestler and you appreciate that Kyle gave RVD a chance. Maybe you'll vote for CoLD because you really enjoy the Puroresu style. Top-to-bottom, look at everyone's roster and pick who you think has the promotion that is the best and that you'd prefer to watch.
Writer's Note: Only a few days left to vote on the Sweet Sixteen of Hustle Madness. Things are starting to look very interesting right now, but none of the matches are really over yet. Click the following link to go and vote if you haven't already done so..