Don’t call it a draft, it’s been here for years. Now that Wrestlemania season has come and gone, WWE is reconfiguring its landscape, creating the next year’s worth of feuds and fights inside the squared circle with the annual Superstar Shake-Up. In real life, this is an opportunity for new matches and pair-ups, freshening the rosters to create drama, intrigue, and exciting matches for the year to come. Straight-up kayfabe, this is a chance for the General Managers to show how well they can stack their rosters to compete with the opposing brand. Let’s lay out the big gets and which GM made the better deals.
Monday Night Raw’s Top 3 Acquisitions
1. Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn: Thanks to some shenanigans by Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon, Owens and Zayn were signed to Raw contracts one week after they fought each other to a draw for the chance at a contract. Kurt Angle, perhaps neglecting his duty to strengthen the roster’s on-air potential, decided to not give either the contract. Zayn and Owens can fit anywhere on the roster and, with Owens being a former Universal Champion, could get back to the top of the Red brand.
2. Drew McIntyre: Continuing the trend of superstars NOT gained from SmackDown Live, former Intercontinental and NXT Champion Drew McIntyre appeared back on the main roster for the first time in almost four years to join Dolph Ziggler, an actual blue brand get, in feuding with Titus Worldwide, hitting a sick Claymore/Zig Zag combo to the athletic Apollo Crews. Whether they remain in singles competition or decide to go for the tag team gold once things are settled in Saudi Arabia remains to be seen, but the Sinister Scotsman has a bright future on Raw.
3. Chad Gable: Whether the former SmackDown Tag Team Champion reunites with his former American Alpha partner and discount Shelton Benjamin Jason Jordan or goes off on his own, the Olympian can make an immediate impact on Raw with his explosive speed and raw strength.
SmackDown Live’s Top 3 Acquisitions
1. Asuka: After losing her first match at WrestleMania in the almost three years she has been in WWE/NXT, Asuka came to the blue show in search of new competition. With Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Naomi available, Asuka has some real opponents with which to test her skills. Having not yet won a championship on the main roster, the big blue belt could be in her sights. If I were Carmella, I would be very, very worried.
2. Samoa Joe: Speaking of champions who should be worried, the Samoan Submission Machine made his presence known much to the detriment of Sin Cara. Joe is fighting in Saudi Arabia for the Intercontinental Championship and against potential Universal Champion Roman Reigns at Backlash. After he collects those titles, he might just come for AJ Styles and the WWE Championship, assuming that Shinsuke Nakamura doesn’t get in his way. This is a huge get for SmackDown Live GM Paige and should shake every Superstar to their core.
3. Jeff Hardy: With Shelton Benjamin back on his own, he demanded real competition (sense a theme?) and boy, did he get it. The newly crowned United States Champion, Jeff Hardy, arrived on the blue brand, bringing not only his unique look and skill, but also the gravitas that comes with such a long career. Interrupting Randy Orton might not have been the best idea, but Hardy can hold his own with the Viper. With the Intercontinental Championship around the waist of Seth Rollins and the US Title around Hardy’s, these titles are both poised to be defended in spectacular matches for the foreseeable future.
Monday Night Raw’s Bottom 3 Picks
1. Zack Ryder: Be honest. What has Zack Ryder done since his Intercontinental Championship win two years ago? The one that lasted a single day? Tagged with perpetual bro Mojo Rawley and then lost a mediocre feud with the same guy whose claim to fame is his famous football buddy. Long Island Iced Z’s best bet might be reuniting with his former Edgehead partner, Curt Hawkins. Maybe together they can break their collective losing streaks.
2. (Tie) Natalya and the Riott Squad: Raw gained very little from SmackDown Live in terms of the women’s division. Natalya is a stalwart of the division, but isn’t the most spectacular Superstar in the world. The Riott Squad is still very young and has a lot of growing to do before they belong in the ranks of Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, NXT call-up Ember Moon, and Champion Nia Jax.
3. Jinder Mahal: Kurt Angle is responsible for bringing over exactly one former WWE Champion in the Shake-Up. Meanwhile, he lost three, not even fighting to keep The Miz. Jinder lost the United States title in a potentially unfair match and then Kurt just allowed it to be traded away to SmackDown. If Stephanie McMahon didn’t have reason to doubt his abilities before, she sure does now.
Smackdown Live’s Bottom 3 Picks
3. R-Truth: I’m not sure I have anything to say about Truth here. I honestly wasn’t sure if he was still actively on the roster.
2. Absolution (?): While it makes perfect sense that SmackDown GM Paige would trade for her former Absolution stablemates Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, I’m not sure what they add to the women’s division that SmackDown doesn’t already have. Deville might surprise everybody with her in-your-face fighting style, but they have a long ladder to climb to reach Charlotte, Becky and Asuka.
1. Big Cass: To be perfectly honest, Cass is like a poor man’s Drew McIntyre and a complete waste of a trade for SmackDown. Paige really didn’t win this one. That being said, her worst pick could beat nearly all of Kurt Angle’s picks, so she’s still doing well.
Raw Trade Grade: C-
Raw lost much, much more than they gained. The best superstars Kurt Angle got on his brand were either brought in from NXT (McIntyre, Ember Moon, Authors of Pain) or signed under his nose by his boss (Owens/Zayn). If I were Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, or Roman Reigns, I’d feel quite comfortable on top of the red show for the foreseeable future.
Smackdown Trade Grade: A
Paige really was born into this business. She traded for two former tag team champion teams, three former WWE Champions, Asuka, Samoa Joe, and still managed to get Sanity and Andrade “Cien” Almas from NXT. SmackDown Live is stacked with potential dream matches, especially with AJ Styles, Nakamura, and Daniel freaking Bryan on the roster.