Welcome to a special Superstar Shakeup edition of the weekly Rundown. With the Shakeup dominating WWE programming this week, we’re going to break down the key trades which took place between Raw and Smackdown, and more importantly, the storylines they set up for the future. By the end, we’ll determine which brand reigned supreme and ended up with the stronger roster.
With WrestleMania officially in the past, the Shakeup is a great way to create fresh matchups and give each roster that “new season” feel. With Raw being the longer, three hour show, we have to keep in mind that they need more talent overall to flesh out their time slot. Let’s take a look at which wrestlers will make an impact on their new show, and which ones will struggle to survive.
– Jinder Mahal
– Sami Zayn
– Kevin Owens
– Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan)
– Dolph Ziggler
– Drew McIntyre
– Baron Corbin
– Mojo Rawley
– Zack Ryder
– Mike Kanellis
– Bobby Roode
– Chad Gable
– The Ascension
Natalya has long been considered one of the top technical workers in the company. She has been amazing at helping young talent along, beginning with Charlotte down in NXT, and continuing up until now with Ronda Rousey. With Nattie on Raw, and her friendship with Rousey immediately brought to the forefront, it is very likely we see these two team up for a short period of time, before Nattie inevitably turns on her ally. Think back to Natalya’s friendship and history with Beth Phoenix. Considering Ronda has been training with Nattie for much of her time at the Performance Center, this will be a great feud to help her get comfortable in the ring. Not to mention the story telling should be highly entertaining, especially when the inevitable turn happens.
An upset win over former Raw champions The Bar got Tyler Breeze and Fandango off to a great start in their new home. A funny gimmick which never fully got the push they deserved, Breezango now find themselves in a Raw tag team division devoid of The Bar and the Club. Remaining teams like Titus Worldwide and Slater & Rhyno have been handled so poorly it’s become hard to take any of them seriously. It appears Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt are on their way to claiming the vacant tag titles, and with only the Revival and the Authors of Pain posing as legitimate challengers, Breezango could find themselves in the title picture in no time.
For one reason or another, whether it be backstage politics or just bad timing, Baron Corbin was never able to really get going with any of the pushes he’s been given. For the first time, timing may actually be on Corbin’s side, as the Lone Wolf finds himself on a Raw roster loaded with babyfaces but severely lacking in heels. With the departure of the Miz, Samoa Joe, Big Cass, and Brock Lesnar soon to make his way to the UFC, the door is open for Corbin to step up as a top heel on the Red brand. While it may be too early to put Corbin in the main event, a feud for the IC title with Seth Rollins would not only be a fresh matchup but would be very entertaining as well.
Mahal was given a substantial push for the better part of 2017, but never truly caught on with fans as the foreign heel. On his first night on Raw, Mahal lost his United States championship to Jeff Hardy, proving that he will not be nearly as much of a priority on Raw as he was on Smackdown. Mahal is in serious danger of plummeting down the midcard unless he can do something to get the audience’s attention quick.
The Riott Squad
The Riott trio never fully got going on Smackdown. After attacking then champion Charlotte but coming up short, the stable never seemed to show much direction or give any reasoning for why the three of them were together. They just didn’t click the way say, Absolution did. The Squad now find themselves in a crowded women’s division which will be focused on devoting time to new WWE Women’s champion Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss, WWE’s biggest signing Ronda Rousey, and of course the burgeoning feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley, not to mention NXT comeup Ember Moon. Without legitimate direction, the Riott Squad is destined to tread water until they sink.
A handful of wrestlers, notably Mojo Rawley, Zack Ryder, Mike Kanellis, and the Ascension were moved from Smackdown to Raw. It’s hard to imagine any of these guys making any kind of impact on Monday nights, if they’re even able to get any TV time at all. These guys are essentially the “player to be named later” in professional trades, guys no one really gives a shit about and likely end up getting cut.
While many may still remember McIntyre’s days as a member of 3MB, his transformation into a main event player was never more apparent than when he stepped out on Raw alongside Dolph Ziggler. The crowd erupted as the Scotsman made quick work dispatching Titus Worldwide, chants of “McIntyre” echoing through the arena. The WWE universe has not forgotten the former NXT champion following his injury. Playing the role of Ziggler’s enforcer, look for WWE to make McIntyre look as dominant as ever, although he may be stuck working in the midcard.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Zayn and Owens are two of the most talented workers in the company. The “Yup” Men spent a majority of the past year paired up in a long term feud with Smackdown authority figures Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, culminating in a match at Wrestlemania. A move to Raw allows them to wash their hands of that seemingly never ending feud and start fresh. The only problem is, as long as Owens and Zayn are paired up, their best friend/bitter rival shtick will never feel fresh. Their best bet will be to split up, maybe have both men with their eyes set on Intercontinental gold, leading to matches with Seth Rollins. Until Owens and Zayn get over the buddy buddy act, they’ll have trouble finding their footing on Raw.
Since arriving on Smackdown from NXT, Roode had been a fixture in the US title picture. His entrance and gimmick alone got the Glorious One over with audiences almost instantly. Now, swimming in a sea of babyfaces like Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman, Roode will have to do more to stand out amongst his peers. A heel turn could be exactly what Roode needs to get him into the mix, but until that happens, he’s in trouble of falling to the back of the line on the Raw midcard.
– The Miz
– Jeff Hardy
– Absolution (Sonya DeVille and Mandy Rose)
– Samoa Joe
– Big Cass
– Gallows and Anderson
– The Bar
– Andrade Cien Almas
It was on the Smackdown aftershow “Talking Smack” that The Miz delivered one of the best promos of his career, running down Daniel Bryan and claiming his stake as one of the top worker’s in the company. With Daniel Bryan’s recent return to in-ring competition, a match between Bryan and the Miz is one fans have been salivating for for a long time. Not to mention the fact the Miz has grown into one of the most natural heels on the roster, he is a substantial improvement over former Smackdown midcard heel Jinder Mahal.
Currently embroiled in a feud with Roman Reigns, Joe has proven time and again he can work a program with just about anybody in the company. On Smackdown Live, bouts with AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Daniel Bryan are just a few of the matches that fans can look forward to. Joe has the most to gain out of any of the superstars involved in this years Shakeup. A potential spot as the top heel on Smackdown awaits Joe, and he 100% has the ability to grab the brass ring when presented with the opportunity.
The ladies of Absolution joined their former leader Paige by moving to Smackdown. After making their presence felt on Raw for the past several months, expect Absolution to make an even bigger statement on Smackdown. Sonya and Mandy will have a whole host of babyfaces to attack, including Charlotte, Becky, Naomi and now Asuka. Throw in the fact that Absolution could also cross paths with the IIconics, and they may just put the whole division on notice. And with Paige as the General Manager of Smackdown, they have quite the ace in their back pocket.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. After dropping their tag titles to Braun Strowman and Nicholas at Wrestlemania 34, Sheamus and Cesaro have been sent on their way over to the blue brand where they join a stacked roster featuring the New Day, the Uso’s, the Bludgeon Brothers, and the ever popular duo of Rusev and Aiden English. That doesn’t even include other new acquisitions like the Club and Sanity. While the Bar would pose a strong threat to the Bludgeon Brothers, the more likely scenario sees the duo falling short of another title run and ultimately breaking up.
Hardy snatched the United States championship from Jinder Mahal upon the Maharaja’s arrival to Monday Night Raw, before promptly bringing the title back to Smackdown Live the following evening. Hardy is a proven worker and entertainer, a veteran of the game and master of his craft. While it’s unfortunate that he was split from Matt Hardy (no Brother Nero?), it will be fun watching him in upcoming feuds against the likes of Randy Orton, Rusev, and the Miz.
This is a bit of a tricky one. Asuka is arguably the best female wrestler in all of WWE, but with her undefeated streak no longer intact, her stock definitely takes a slight hit. The fact that her English is still not the best makes it a little difficult for her to connect with fans. It may be even more difficult considering Smackdown fans are already trying to get on board with Shinsuke Nakamura who’s English is minimal as well. Like Nakamura, a heel turn could be the next move for Asuka to take her character to the next level. Until that happens, she will need to find ways to stand out among Charlotte Flair, Absolution, and newly crowned SD Women’s champion Carmella.
All in all, the Shakeup looks promising, more benefitial than detrimental to the respective brands of Raw and Smackdown. While rumors were running rampant of AJ Styles going to Raw or Seth Rollins coming to Smackdown, most of the high profile names stayed put.
While Raw picked up a few welcome additions, its hard to see any of their new acquisitions moving ahead of already established stars like Rollins, Reigns, Strowman, Lashley, Balor, Jax, Bliss and Rousey. Guys like Roode, Mahal and Corbin will need to do everything they can to get over as heels.
As for Smackdown, their acquisitions are poised to immediately move right into the marquee slots on the show. The Miz and Jeff Hardy will very likely be at the top of the midcard, presiding over the United States Championship. Samoa Joe has all the makings of a main event caliber heel, working with familar faces in Styles, Nakamura and Bryan. Not to mention that the Women’s division added Asuka and Absolution in exchange for Natalya and the Riott Squad. Lastly, the Smackdown tag team division added The Bar and The Club, both former Raw tag team champions, in exchange for Breezango and Ascension, somehow managing to hold on to New Day, The Brothers Uce, and the Bludgeon Brothers.
At the end of the day, Smackdown comes out as the huge winner here, acquiring main event caliber talent in the form of the Miz, Samoa Joe, Asuka and Absolution, while only really surrendering midcarders like Mahal, Roode and the Riott Squad. Smackdown’s new additions promise to provide fans with better matchups, better storylines, and ultimately, a better product. Thanks for reading, and make sure to tune in next week for the Wednesday Afternoon Rundown.