With WrestleMania in the rear view, WWE looked to spice things up a bit with a two-day Superstar Shakeup®! This event, which was totally not a draft you guys, set the next six months of storylines in motion and created the blueprint from which both shows will operate. As with any shuffle, there were some good moves and some not so good. Here’s a quick guide to the best and worst moves of the WWE’s Superstar Shakeup, Presented by Season 2 of Chrisley Knows Best®!
To put this list together, we’re asking a few questions: “How does this move affect the superstar? How does the move affect the show?” and “What can we look forward to from this change?” We’ll be grouping all “package acts” together, whether that be tag teams or real-life-husband/wife couples; returning talents don’t count as trades (sorry, Tamina. It’s not like you would’ve ranked all that high anyway), and neither do NXT callups (even if they were the most exciting thing to happen to either brand in the past month). So given these arbitrary metrics, let’s start with the worst move of them all:
19) David Otunga to Raw
The absolute dirt worst move made during the entire shakeup, Otunga coming to Raw adds literally nothing to the flagship show. If anything, it makes “the A-show” weaker! The Harvard-educated lawyer is seemingly (and thankfully) retired from in-ring competition, sucks on commentary and can’t really act in backstage skits. It feels like the only reason he’s stayed with the company for so long is so the WWE can mention that he’s married to Jennifer Hudson from time to time.
What we can look forward to: The day he retires from the commentary desk as well as the ring.
18) Curt Hawkins to Raw
A lot of the storyline of the shakeup has been built around the idea that the General Managers of both brands were locked in tense negotiations to make the best trades possible. If that were the case, who the hell wanted Curt Hawkins? I know Raw’s a longer show and, thus, may need more jobbers for the midcard to crush, but given that they traded Jinder Mahal to Smackdown, they’re back to having just the one. Even comparing the two jobbers, Jinder definitely has more potential, which makes the guys that trounce him look that much better than anyone who gets in a competitive match with the dead on arrival Curt Hawkins.
What we can look forward to: His return to the independent scene, where Hawkins may be able to rehab his image.
17) Sin Cara to Smackdown
Speaking of ‘dead in the water,’ is there anyone people care less about on the main roster than Sin Cara? The guy appears in more crossfit photos on Instagram than he does televised matches, and while Hunico is the better of the two guys to play Sin Cara (though, as Mistico, his predecessor is a better wrestler) he’s just a fart in wind. He’s slow and clumsy for a luchador, and cuts a shitty promo whenever they do let him talk, making him a poor fit wherever he is going to be used. There was talk a while ago of him being a member of the cruiserweight division, but the WWE seems unwilling or unable to maintain any consistently booked Mexican stars nowadays, so he’s returned to his predestined role: getting beat by guys like Titus O’Neil on Main Event.
What we can look forward to: Dude getting mulched by Smackdown heels like Baron Corbin or Rusev whenever he actually make it on TV.
16) The Shining Stars to Smackdown
The parade of schlubs continues as Smackdown gets the worst tag team Raw had and has them beat the hell out of its top babyface team. Primo and Epico, who it should be noted weren’t wearing their branded ring gear and were never actually referred to as ‘The Shining Stars,’ could be a competent tag team…but they won’t be. Especially if they’re going to be heels on a brand that has only two face tandems. If they do ditch the whole “Puerto Rican timeshare salesmen” gimmick, that is a definite plus–though considering their previous roles as “bullfighters,” it may be too late for the Colon cousins to be more than the bottom rung of a tag division that also includes a team of “fashion police.”
What we can look forward to: The duo being renamed “Los Doctores” and becoming Puerto Rican plastic surgeons or something.
15) Slater and Rhyno to Raw
Slater and Rhyno are a lot like the Be Sharps: the pairing seemed witty at first, but gets less funny each time you see them. A comedy tag team where only one of the performers tells jokes, they’ve actually tried to break up this team on numerous occasions since their initial run as the first Smackdown Tag Team Champions, but for some reason seem unwilling to pull the plug for good. I imagine creative just doesn’t have a lot for these guys as solo stars, but then again, they don’t seem to have any idea how to handle them as a team either. On Raw, they won’t be anything more than a warm body for heel teams like The Revival or The Club. Look for them to fill that niche until they finally get split up and once again become a solo jobber and retired novelty act, respectively.
What we can look forward to: The day that Braun Strowman runs through both of them to call out someone more important.
14) Apollo Crews to Raw
From one failed experiment to another, Apollo Crews goes to Monday nights with zero momentum and little hope that this change in scenery will lead to a shift in the way he’s booked. It’s a real shame, as Crews’ athleticism and exciting move set made him a major name on the indies prior to signing with the WWE. Unfortunately, he was rushed out of NXT before he could establish a character of his own and has been reduced to “jacked, flippy guy who smiles all the time.” I wouldn’t anticipate that changing on the crowded as hell Raw roster, where he’s going to be little more than a stepping stone for mid-level heels.
What we can look forward to: Him getting called back down to NXT where he can go back to being Uhaa Nation again.
13) Kalisto to Raw
This is the first move we’ve discussed thus far with some potential for good. On Smackdown Kalisto’s role was to get beat up by bigger superstars, on Raw… well, he’ll probably just do that again. That being said, there’s always the chance that creative actually makes the smart call and moves him to the cruiserweight division. Now, granted, 205 Live is a bit of a dumpster fire with only a handful of compelling performers and terrible booking, but–real talk–it’s where Kalisto belongs. Hopefully he can break the WWE’s poor track record with luchadors not named Rey Mysterio, and actually make something of himself in the company.
What we can look forward to: Kalisto selling a roaring five-arm from Austin Aries.
12) Byron Saxton to Smackdown
Recently, a lot has been been made of outgoing Smackdown announcer Mauro Ranallo’s battles with depression; more specifically, how co-anchor JBL’s backstage bullying may have fed into that fight. As such, placing Byron Saxton, a walking punching bag with a bit of an Urkel complex, at the announce table next to a guy known for taking shots is questionable. His potentially troubling interactions with Bradshaw aside, Saxton taking over for the charisma-less David Otunga can only be seen as an upgrade. He’s not exactly great on the mic, and is a bit lacking in the charisma department himself, but Byron is infinitely better than his sweater-vested counterpart so this has to be seen as a mostly good move.
What we can look forward to: The day he snaps and slaps JBL to set up another terrible “announcer vs. announcer” match.
11) Miz and Maryse to Raw
This was the first trade actually revealed on TV, and it’s the one that has me the most worried. Over the past several months, The Miz has gone from afterthought to main event and it has everything to do with who he’s been allowed to be on Smackdown Live and (maybe even more so) the Talking Smack after show. On the blue brand, Miz has been able to step out of the mid-card mold he’s been stuck in since he joined the WWE and seem like something more than just the faux hollywood douchebag character he’s been for the past several years. While at least some of that credit belongs to his wife Maryse, who has added a lot to the act, the real key to Miz’s success has been his worked-shoot promos against his biggest critic (and Smackdown GM) Daniel Bryan. Moving Miz to a show without Bryan potentially removes some of the fire that finally helped him move past the stigma of his Reality TV pedigree. That doesn’t even mention the fact that the Mizannin family has been in a well-received feud with John Cena and his new fiance Nikki Bella, both of whom are part timers…I mean, on Smackdown. Add to this the fact that Miz not only ate a Dirty Deeds from Dean Ambrose on his first night on Raw, but ate a loss to perennial also-ran Sami Zayn later in the evening, and there’s plenty of cause for concern.
What we can look forward to: Miz finding a way to stay relevant against a more crowded backdrop…and just getting run over by Roman Reigns whenever “The Big Dog” needs a quick win.
10) Jinder Mahal to Smackdown
Jinder “totally not on steroids” Mahal has been little more than a jobber since he returned to the company a few months back, but few guys at his level have ever stepped up their game quite as much as “the man who comes in peace.” Not only is dude now as ripped as a Masters of the Universe figure, he’s varied up his offense too–which is to say, he’s now actually landing offense in his matches. A move to the smaller of the two brands could actually provide the often-overlooked Mahal with the opportunity to appear in actual storylines, as the Smackdown creative team (while far from perfect) has proven that they are willing to do more with less. I mean, odds are he’ll remain a scrub at the bottom of the card, but if there’s someone who could move from the bottom to…like the lower part of the middle, it’s my man, Jinder.
What we can look forward to: I’m willing to bet that once his nonsense with Mojo Rawley is finished, he’ll get into a pretty dope feud with Tye Dillinger that’ll make both guys look strong.
9) Mickie James to Raw
The veteran presence of the women’s division being moved to Raw is…fine, I guess? She seemed to be building a feud with Alexa Bliss, but was otherwise precisely where I’d imagine she’ll stay on the Raw card: a well-established name that can eat a pin without getting buried. And hey, Bliss is now on Raw too, so she can keep her one storyline going while helping guide newer talents like Nia Jax and Dana Brooke to better matches. Hah, I’m just kidding, no one wants to see Dana Brooke back in the ring.
What we can look forward to: James doing the job for a new generation of female superstars who could stand to learn something from a veteran of her stature.
8) Dean Ambrose to Raw
Two champions changed teams this week, and Ambrose’s was the one that fewer people are going to care about. After a lackluster run with the WWE Championship and a mediocre WrestleMania pre-show match with Baron Corbin, Dean has been just kind of fluttering around on Smackdown. You’d think, then, that a move to Raw would be a good thing–and it very well still could be. Then you see his first day back on the A-show sees him mix it up with two guys he’s already had lengthy feuds with before. In fact, looking down the Raw roster, there’s only a handful of guys he hasn’t faced like 40 times before, and while seeing him face off with Finn Balor could be interesting, is it really enough? No, the positive side of Ambrose coming to Raw is the potential reunion of The Shield that it sets up. All three members will now be on the same brand, and should Triple H ever return to setup his hotly anticipated evolution-style faction, it’s a natural reason for everyone’s favorite 3-man SWAT team to reunite if for only one night.
What we can look forward to: a lot of good, but forgettable matches against the best Raw’s midcard can throw at him. Also he’ll drop the title to Samoa Joe.
7) Bray Wyatt to Raw
Much like the move of the Miz and Maryse, there’s a good reason to be concerned about the Eater of Worlds ending up on Monday nights. Wyatt is currently wrapping up an underwhelming feud with Randy Orton that he’ll almost certainly lose, and his first course of action has been to call out the recently returned Finn Balor–another feud there’s no chance that he’ll win. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited as anyone about the potential pageantry that the meeting between Wyatt and the Demon King could bring on, but with the Raw Roster having top faces like Finn, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, there’s not a lot of room for Bray to get over. On the plus side, there’s a healthy midcard he can work through (particularly if they break up Sheasaro), and the potential for him to either hook back up with former acolyte Braun Strowman (which would be bad for Braun) or bring his real-life brother, Bo Dallas, into the fold (which would be great for Bo). Better yet, if Matt Hardy is able to settle his lawsuit with Impact Wrestling, we may get to see the Broken universe take on the Wyatt family. Either way, the writing team has a chance to actually make something of Bray Wyatt…unfortunately it is the Raw writing team, and they’ve never known what to do with him.
What we can look forward to: The potential for a real Final Deletion-style vignette fight featuring Bray and…let’s say, Sheamus.
6) The New Day to Smackdown
Despite all the shifts in “Mountain Dew presents Superstar Shakeup®,” it’s hard to argue that the Smackdown tag division didn’t get the shaft. With only two credible teams on the show (American Alpha and the Usos), they needed some new blood to help bring a little heat to Tuesday nights, and while bringing the New Day to the blue brand won’t solve all of their problems, it’s not a bad place to start. Not only does the New Day have great chemistry with the Usos, but putting them both on the show with writers that know how to best incorporate their particular style of comedy should make for some great TV. It’s unfortunate that they have to cut their feud with the Revival short, but the fact that Kofi’s getting surgery and Woods and E only appeared via pre-taped vignette suggests that the New Day is going to take some time off before they debut on the blue brand, which is good. Their act was in real danger of growing stale, and some time away to sell the beating they took from the Top Guys may just get people excited to see the longest reigning tag team champs of all time again.
What we can look forward to: The vast improvement to Woods’ stellar UpUpDownDown YouTube channel that will come from him again sharing a locker room with the Usos and Tyler Breeze.
5) Rusev to Smackdown
Though the announcement was relegated to a graphic package in the middle of the show, the move of Handsome Rusev (and his wife Lana) has a lot of potential to shakeup the midcard of Smackdown Live. When booked properly, Rusev is a compelling monster capable of putting on great matches against any number of Superstars. He’s also an amazing talker, whether he’s trying to be menacing (as in his beef with John Cena) or funny (Big Bartholomew was a high point on Southpaw Regional Wrestling), meaning he could come into the midcard or the main event whenever he returns from injury. Not so much a move as a return, Lana also appears to be heading to the blue brand with a new gimmick. Not sure that the whole “ballroom dancer” schtick will work any better with women than it has for Fandango, but it’s growth and suggests that she’ll be her own character instead of just Rusev’s wife.
What we can look forward to: Rusev running through bottom-rung faces and becoming the mountain that Tye Dillinger will have to climb to prove himself.
4) Alexa Bliss to Raw
If there has been one pleasant surprise coming out of the draft last year, it’s been the emergence of Alexa Bliss as one of the best performers on the women’s roster. From a fairly forgettable run in NXT to two-time Smackdown Women’s Champion, it’s been a revelatory year for Little Miss Bliss. Though she’s still a little raw in the ring, she’s probably the best promo among the women on either brand, and a competent enough performer between the ropes to put on a good show with talented competition like Bayley and Sasha Banks. It looks like she’ll be wrapping up her beef with Mickie James first, but if Bayley is still champ when that feud is wrapped up, expect Alexa to find herself in title scene sooner than later. She won’t win it, as Sasha/Bayley is inevitable and it needs to be for the championship, but keeping her in the title picture will help her grow as a performer and separate her further from her unfortunate “cheerleader” days in NXT. It’s just unfortunate that the Raw women’s division will remain a place where too many performers need to be protected, so Alexa’s wins will mostly come from James, Dana Brooke and then an endless parade of jobbers.
What we can look forward to: Alexa being the “smart” heel on a show that already has a “strong” heel (Nia Jax), a “crafty” heel (Emma) and a “shit-talking” heel (Sasha).
3) Sami Zayn to Smackdown
Fans have been asking for this move for so long that part of me is afraid that the bloom may be off the rose. Still, putting Sami on Smackdown is the best thing they could do for the Underdog from the Underground, as it instantly moves him into top babyface conversation. Realistically, he’ll probably continue to be the punching bag of big name heels like Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin, but he’ll probably be doing so in the main event, filling in for Dean Ambrose as the workhorse babyface at the top of the card. Now like Dean Ambrose, he’ll be playing second fiddle to Randy Orton and AJ Styles (third fiddle? Is that a thing?), but considering Sami was seldom used on the uber-crowded Raw, this is a considerable step up for the former El Generico. Expect Zayn to skank his way into the hearts of the younger fans and have stellar outings against some of the best talent on the Smackdown Roster.
What we can look forward to: Sami will stick around the US title scene and maybe get a program with the next heel to hold the WWE championship, which he won’t win.
2) Kevin Owens to Smackdown
This was one of the most easily telegraphed moves of the whole Superstar Shakeup® presented by Milton Bradley’s Karate Fighters, but it is one of the best. Kevin Owens is an amazing talent who is fantastic in the ring and on the mic, and effectively carried Monday Night Raw during its relatively dull past few months. Unfortunately he was trapped on a brand that had not only the shaved silverback that is Brock Lesnar, but Vince McMahon’s golden boy Roman Reigns. As a result, even when he was the Universal Champion, he was never booked to be THE guy on the show. That can all change on Smackdown, particularly with his first feud on the blue brand looking to be against the Phenomenal AJ Styles. This move will let Owens be the top heel on the show, and considering that his blood rival Sami Zayn is also noq on Tuesday nights, he’ll have the chance to brutally destroy a competitor or two over the next few months.
What we can look forward to: at some point this year, Owens will be in a program for the WWE Championship, and has a good chance to win it.
1) Charlotte Flair to Smackdown
Going into the Shakeup, there were two big trades that were predicted, and the better of the two swaps actually happened when Smackdown lost Alexa Bliss, but traded up for the queen, Charlotte Flair. Though she’s not my favorite, it’s hard to argue that she isn’t the best female performer on the main roster (and maybe top 5 in the company overall). She can talk, she can go in the ring, and any match she is in is instantly a big deal. There was some concern that she may be coming with Sasha Banks in tow, and I’m glad that’s not the case. Charlotte being on Smackdown opens a world of new rivalries that we haven’t seen before (well except Becky Lynch, but given the talent of those two and how long it’s been since they last faced off, I don’t mind), and she lends instant credibility to anyone that she steps in the ring with. Maybe even Carmella. Still, Charlotte is a great addition to the Smackdown roster and it won’t be long before she’s in the championship picture on the blue brand.
What we can look forward to: great matches with Becky, Naomi and Natalya and a championship run for the queen.