This week, Jordan Chaffiotte, Ben Guest, and Wes Keefer will be giving their opinions on WWE's Superstar Shake-Up! With 10 swaps between red and blue brands, things will definitely be different for WWE superstars. Big names such as Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Charlotte joined Tuesday nights, while Alexa Bliss, Dean Ambrose, and Bray Wyatt will be seen on Mondays. What did our writers think about this shakeup? Let's take a look.
Question 1: Last week, AJ Styles moving to Raw and Sami Zayn moving to SmackDown Live were both locks. Only one of those turned out to be true. What’s your reaction?
CHAFFIOTTE: Not too long ago, it seemed like AJ desperately needed to come over to Raw, and it felt like they were setting up all the pieces through his match with Shane at WrestleMania. Then, he turned face and gave an impassioned promo about how SmackDown Live is the house that AJ Styles built and I said don't touch that dial, WWE...don't you dare do it. Luckily, it appears they had a change of heart from the original plan and AJ is staying. That totally legitimizes SmackDown Live and gives him the opportunity to feud with Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Rusev. AJ will continue to dominate Tuesday nights, as he should.
Likewise, Sami Zayn's path seemed to end in one place: SmackDown Live. Then, Kurt Angle happened. Sami's erratic ramblings paired with Kurt's facial expressions were a match made in heaven. He was starting to slip from sweet to annoying, something that has really done a number on Bayley's stock, but Kurt pulls him back up because he clearly finds it kind of obnoxious but also endearing. He rolls his eyes at first glance but five seconds later, Sami's pulled him back in and he (as well as all the rest of us) just want to see him succeed. I'll admit I was a little heartbroken that they split these two up after two measly weeks of showing me what I'm missing. Of course, I understand the decision of Sami to SmackDown and think he will have more opportunity to shine there. Additionally, once it became clear that Kevin Owens was going, Sami needed to follow. Destined to do this forever means always. Calling it now, for the World Heavyweight Championship, that's WrestleMania within the next few years.
KEEFER: This could be a win for both of these men. AJ Styles stays on the "show he built" and it will be a mainstay in the world title picture. Luckily for him, he was many new feuds he can choose from with the new arrivals from Raw: Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Rusev. Whether or not Styles actually wins the title in the near future, he will definitely be one of the show's biggest talents moving forward. To be honest, Raw is a little crowded at the top of the roster with Ambrose, Wyatt, Lesnar, Miz, Balor, Strowman, Reigns, Rollins, and Samoa Joe. Having AJ in that mix is not a good thing for anyone on Raw.
Luckily for Sami, he was able to jump to a less crowded main event picture. He will be able to become relevant again on SmackDown and can showcase the show with matches against AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. He can even continue his long-lasting rivalry with Kevin Owens and could even compete for the US title. I hope WWE does not drop the ball on any of the new roster members for both shows, as they have before with prior drafts.
GUEST: I was really hesitant about AJ Styles moving to Raw and thought that having him stuck behind Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar could damage him and result in a boring midcard title feud, but with him staying on SmackDown there is a lot of potential for him to continue in the main event and hold the WWE Championship for a long time. The only positive I could see for him going to Raw would be that he could have helped elevate the midcard title in the absence of Brock Lesnar, feuding with Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro and Sheamus, but there seems to be more potential on SmackDown for him, so I’m glad they kept him there.
I’m extremely happy we have Sami Zayn on SmackDown. I couldn't see him holding a title on Raw, especially now with the Universal Championship gone for half the year, guys who are normally the main event, will be taking Zayn's chances at the Intercontinental title. I can see Zayn getting a run with the US Championship and maybe even main eventing a pay-per-view for SmackDown, so it's difficult to say this wasn't the right move.
Question 2: What was the best acquisition of the Superstar Shakeup on each brand?
CHAFFIOTTE: Surprisingly, Alexa Bliss might just be the strongest competitor that Raw acquired this week. I know, I know, Alexa Bliss this, Alexa Bliss that. SmackDown Live was the right place for her when she first was called up, she really stood out from the crowd there and although her title reigns weren't amazing, they were good. She's ready to play with the big girls, as evident by her segment with Sasha, Bayley, and Nia last Monday. SmackDown's roster is deeper, but Raw's mountain is higher, and she will have to really claw for it this time. Or, she might just sic Nia Jax on everyone to get ahead, which would be incredibly fun. Alexa is miles ahead on the mic, her in-ring work is good, and she's clearly a harder worker with a fast learning curve. At the same time, she's green, inexperienced, and tiny. That makes her the perfect person to slide into the top-heavy women's division and add depth. Eating pins won't hold her back, but she also has nowhere to go but up.
The combination of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn was probably SmackDown's best get, though it feels a little like they didn’t get as many big name stars as Raw did. Kevin Owens is, without a doubt, one of the biggest to come out of this generation. His charisma is contagious, I've seen him get crowds on his side without really even trying, and he is such a fun bad guy. Sami Zayn may not be remembered as the greatest, but he plays his role so well. There are stories of Kevin Steen acting as El’ Generico's agent back in the day, pushing him into the picture when the promotion may not have wanted it that way. We have another massive Kevin/Sami feud on the horizon, and like I said earlier, it's WrestleMania worthy.I worry about exhausting the feud like they did on Raw, where it's painfully obvious that these two can put on a good match in their sleep, there seems to be a lot to do on SmackDown. Their paths may cross in the meantime, but this change will likely allow them to lay low and build up to it until the year that Sami wins the Royal Rumble and comes for Kevin's world title.
KEEFER: Everyone is showering Alexa Bliss with all of the love after her move to Raw, but Charlotte moving to SmackDown was the biggest move for the Women's division overall. Charlotte has been the top woman in WWE since she first made her main roster debut. She was starting to get a little lost on Raw's roster, so the new territory is a good thing for her. She can have a second round with Becky Lynch and can even boost Naomi with a championship feud. The Queen is here and she is ready to conquer SmackDown next.
The best addition for Raw is a hard toss-up. On one hand, Alexa Bliss ended her run on SmackDown with a very hot streak and she should continue that momentum on Raw and with a championship match in the near future. She has taken quite a turn for the better and has proved that she can finally tough it out on the mic and in the ring with the top females of the company. On the other hand, there are more top stars to compete with than she was used to on SmackDown and there is always the slight chance that she can get lost in the mix. As tempting as it is, my top addition for Raw was the underrated superstar The Miz. He will be greatly missed on the blue brand, but his stock has skyrocketed since he recent work with his John Cena/Nikki Bella feud. He cemented himself as one of the next top heels for the company and he should find his way into the Universal Championship picture. Call me crazy, but I think The Miz vs Lesnar would be a great match, even if he doesn't win.
GUEST: I'll spare all the talk about how good Alexa Bliss has been since the brand split, but she is definitely the best acquisition for Raw. The only other contenders could be Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose and I can only see both of those guys as jobbers to the likes of Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Whereas Alexa Bliss could have a good feud with Bayley or Sasha Banks and could be a transitional champion between the two, if they keep Sasha face.
For SmackDown it's a different story, because they have got two guys who can solidify both the midcard and main event in Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens and two women who could add a lot to that division in Tamina and Charlotte. Zayn could have a good US Championship reign and KO should get his hands on the WWE Championship before the end of the year. As for Charlotte and Tamina, Charlotte will probably hold the SmackDown Women's championship for a while and although I don’t see Tamina being much of a threat, she is a solid talent who will be able to pose a considerable challenge to any of the women and I think she might be losing a lot of number one contender matches whilst Charlotte is champion.
Question 3: Who will benefit most from their move? What was a missed opportunity?
CHAFFIOTTE: Charlotte may have the golden ticket here, as she has the opportunity now to dominate yet another women's division. She has been consistently at the top of the Raw division, without the bumps in the road that Sasha Banks encountered. Before that, she spent most of her time post-BFFs dominating the NXT division too. Now it’s time for her to dominate SmackDown. Their deeper roster might do her well, giving her a breadth of competitors. Coming off of a history-making feud of the year that unfortunately people just got bored of, she needs variety, she needs to be able to fight everyone, and still come out on top. Naomi is a great foil for her, she won her first championship off of Natalya, and Becky is her real-life best friend with a long history. She will thrive with the ability to run up and down the division and prove that she is, in fact, the greatest superstar of all time.
I wasn't all that excited about Dean going to Raw. First of all, from a storytelling perspective, it totally telegraphed Kevin Owens going to SmackDown from the first segment of Raw, which just sucked out a whole bunch of drama. Dean's issue is not the landscape on SmackDown. He's relegated to a jokey character which discredits him as a champion. This week he had it right for a few minutes before taking the shtick too far. Ambrose should be the guy that knows exactly how to get under your skin, and a lot of these guys take themselves too seriously, their pride is their undoing. For those opponents, screwing around, pretending he actually thinks Miz is John Cena, that works. It just can’t be a static strategy. He needs to be the guy who will do whatever it takes to throw you off your game. "Your life changes when I am your enemy" is possibly one of the best catch phrases, but it needs to be true. Right now, it's not, and moving to Raw isn't going to fix that. His writing needs a change, not his scenery.
KEEFER: The SmackDown tag team division will benefit greatly from all the new moves. The division will come a long way from being left off the WrestleMania card in a championship match to besting Raw. The New Day alone is an obvious boost for the division. They might have cooled off recently, but now they will face fresh teams and can climb their way back into champion-status. A more surprising team that will benefit is The Shining Stars. Primo and Epico interfered in a tag team title match and attacked American Alpha after the match. They may be the heel team that this brand needs. They have the abilities and skills and SmackDown has fewer superstar teams to compete with.
The entire main event roster on Raw got screwed over and I feel most people would agree with me. The roster shakeup was supposed to be a great way to have fresh feuds and to better balance the two brands. Instead, they took three former world champions from SD (Miz, Wyatt, Ambrose) and they were replaced with top stars who are more midcard level than main event right now (Zayn, Owens, Rusev). To top it off, Raw has an overloaded roster at the top level and it will be a disaster to try to showcase them all on a weekly basis. There are just three hours to try to fit Lesnar, Miz, Wyatt, Ambrose, Reigns, Rollins, Strowman, Balor, and Samoa Joe on the show as well as The Hardy Boyz, Alexa Bliss, the tag team division, and the high profile women's division. So many stars, so little air time.
GUEST: Weirdly, I think The Shining Stars have a lot to gain from this. The way the interfered in the title feud on SmackDown suggests they might get a small push, even if they don't win the titles which is already much more than they've had since they were repackaged a year ago. Although I understand the point for Charlotte and Kevin Owens, they will just be getting back to the top, which isn't really gaining, it's just being in the same position somewhere else. Sami Zayn and Rusev are the other names I think are worth mentioning. Both guys could get into the main event at some point, which was looking impossible on Raw and both should have US title runs.
Am I allowed to say everyone who went to Raw? Considering that SmackDown is full of great talents in Randy Orton, John Cena, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Rusev, Baron Corbin, The New Day, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, American Alpha, The Usos, Naomi and many more, there is place for all of them. Whereas Raw has more big names and less space. Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Cesaro and Sheamus, The Hardy Boyz, The Club and Nia Jax don't leave much room for the likes of Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and The Miz to make too much impact. I think the big problem is that Brock Lesnar is holding the main belt hostage and even though I actually agree with giving Brock the belt, it does hurt a few of the other guys, hopefully they make enough good feuds to make up for the lack of Universal Championship
If I had to pick one person who has lost out the most, it would be The Miz. He was on the hottest run of his career and he'll probably be wasted now. On SmackDown, he could have won the WWE Championship at some point. Now, I doubt he'll get near the Intercontinental Championship. One extra point I would like to make surrounding this, is that Raw's women could main event a few pay-per-views without the Universal title around, so this could be a big positive for Raw’s women and finally let them feel as important as the women on SmackDown have been.
Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!