wrestling / Columns

Cook’s Superstar Shakeup Analysis

April 13, 2017 | Posted by Steve Cook

The WWE Superstars have been shaken up. Raw General Manager Kurt Angle & SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan followed the order from Chairman Vince McMahon to make trades and other moves to improve their brands. Did they succeed? Well, that’s why I’m here, so I can tell you if they did.

I must say I was a little disappointed with the presentation, though I do see the value in having the Superstars randomly show up as surprises throughout Monday & Tuesday night. I was hoping to see Kurt & Daniel negotiate trades, as it would have been interesting to see who exactly got traded for who. Remember how mad Sami Zayn got when Mick Foley told him that Bryan offered Eva Marie for his services? I would have liked to see more of that. Also, I would have been able to analyze each trade and tell you who won. Instead, we shall go down the list of people moving brands and speculate on what their future might hold.

Going from SmackDown to Raw

The Miz & Maryse: Miz & Maryse leaving SmackDown for Raw makes sense on a couple of levels. From a kayfabe perspective, you had to know that Daniel Bryan would have done anything possible to get rid of them. He would have given them to Kurt Angle & Raw for nothing if that’s what it took. They’ve also had a pretty great year and since they’ve already done it all on Team Blue it’s time to take things over to Team Red and see what they can do there. As long as he keeps doing what he’s been doing, he’ll be fine.

The one downside of the move is that we never got to see Shinsuke Nakamura beat the crap out of him. Maybe that’s a good thing for Miz.

Dean Ambrose: I was pretty sure Ambrose would stay on SmackDown, if for no other reason because Renee Young is still over there. But Renee pops up on Raw sometimes too because she can do that kind of thing. I think it’s interesting that all three members of the Shield are on Raw now and on the same side of the fence, so hopefully we’ll see them do some things together in the future. Once Roman Reigns recovers from Braun Strowman murdering him, of course. Speaking of Braun, I could see Dean throwing himself at him in a revenge for his buddy type feud and getting massacred as result, so that should be fun!

Bray Wyatt: This one came as a surprise to me since Bray had been a focal point of SmackDown recently and is in the middle of the WWE Championship scene. He still has a title shot coming to him at Payback, so who know if any drama will come from that. If nothing else it’s a nice move to get a WWE Championship defense on the show since the Universal Champion won’t be there. One wonders if that played into the reasoning here, and if they might find a way to get the Orton/Wyatt issue over a major championship on both shows to cover up Brock Lesnar’s absence. There was a brief period of time there on SmackDown where he had found his groove, but he’s kind of gotten away from it recently.

The good news for Bray is that he should be able to find some more fresh competition on Raw. They teased Finn Balor on Monday night, perhaps Seth Rollins or maybe even a re-visit of his issues with Brock Lesnar from a couple of years ago might be in the cards for Wyatt now that he’s on Raw. I just feel sorry for Erick Rowan, what’s he going to do on SmackDown without his leader? If you tell me “feud with Randy Orton” I will laugh and laugh and laugh. And then cry.

Alexa Bliss: Alexa had a great year on SmackDown and did everything she could possibly do there, so now is the perfect time for her to transition over to Raw. She got a great response on Monday night and came off like a star, so I don’t expect there to be any bumps in the road for Little Miss Bliss. I think her personality makes her a perfect opponent for Bayley. The brief interaction between Alexa & Nia Jax makes me wonder if they might form an alliance, which I think would be a great thing for both women. Alexa could use the backup, and Nia could continue to learn her craft in a tag team/enforcer setting.

Mickie James: Mickie has been solid in her return to WWE and going to Raw to work with the young girls there will be appreciated. Natalya can serve that role on SmackDown, so it’s a good idea to spread out the veteran presence. If Sasha Banks turns against Bayley at some point, I have to think that Bayley would be overjoyed to be BFFs with one of the ladies she watched on television growing up.

Curt Hawkins: Curt had one of the least impressive debuts in the history of Raw.

I don’t see things getting much better for him, quite honestly.

Kalisto: Now here’s a guy I expect to thrive due to a change in scenery. Kalisto hasn’t had much to do on SmackDown Live…well, ever since the original Draft to be honest. He got beat up by Baron Corbin & Dolph Ziggler. Woohoo? Moving to Raw is just what the doctor ordered for him, especially with the Cruiserweight Division making their home there. He’ll fit right in with the rest of that crew.

Apollo Crews: Crews came to SmackDown with a world of potential and on the first episode of the brand split era he won a battle royal to get into a six-pack match for a WWE title shot at SummerSlam. That was the highlight of his SmackDown career by a pretty wide margin, as he accomplished pretty much nothing after that. If Crews is going to be a player in WWE, now is the time for him to make it happen. Raw has three hours, so he should be able to get on the show on a regular basis. He’ll need to step his game up in the ring & on the microphone to live up to the hype he was given upon his arrival.

Heath Slater & Rhyno: Heath & Rhyno were a big part of SmackDown early on, but eventually ran out of things to do and haven’t been seen on a regular basis for quite some time. They’ll be pretty far down the pecking order on Raw too, but tag team wrestling gets more time there so they should have more appearances on TV if nothing else.

David Otunga: David’s stint on commentary has received mixed reviews, to put it nicely. Working with Michael Cole should help him step his game up,

Overall Thoughts: Raw got quite a few people that had done really good things on SmackDown this year, and many people were wondering after Monday night’s show what the heck SmackDown was going to do to replace them. Miz, Ambrose & Wyatt were all main event talent on Team Blue. Bliss was the star of SD’s Women’s Division. A lot of good additions here, but I think Raw still has to be disappointed for one main reason…everybody was expecting them to take AJ Styles from SmackDown and they didn’t make the deal. That was the one name that SD Live couldn’t afford to lose and would have put Raw over the top. Dave Meltzer says that Bray Wyatt was chosen to move instead, and with all due respect to the Eater of Worlds, I think Raw loses out big time on that exchange…unless the WWE Championship scenario plays out the way I speculated.

Going from Raw to Smackdown

Kevin Owens: The freshly-trimmed United States Champion was the first man to appear on SD Live Tuesday night, and he definitely came off like a man to be despised and taken seriously. Owens was the main man on Raw for a lot of 2016, and with WWE Champion Randy Orton off in the Bray Wyatt universe it looks like the US title scene is going to be the place to be. Heck, AJ Styles is going to be challenging for the strap soon enough, that pretty much cements it as the main thing to watch on SmackDown Live. I expect Owens to do very well on Team Blue, as long as he doesn’t annoy Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan too much. (He probably will.)

It should be noted that Bryan said that whoever is the US Champion after Owens’ title defense against Chris Jericho at Payback will be the man making the move to SmackDown permanently. I feel comfortable saying that man will be Kevin Owens.

Sami Zayn: Wherever Owens goes, Sami Zayn can’t be too far behind, right? Those two are destined to be on the same show fighting against each other forever, and I’m ok with that. Sami’s story for a lot of 2016 was the fact that he would have probably been a better fit on SmackDown Live than Raw, so this is the time for him to prove that theory right. I think he will. Surely he & Owens will cross paths, but I’m hoping for matches with Zayn and guys like AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, maybe a rematch with Shinsuke Nakamura somewhere down the road. I can see him feuding with Baron Corbin too, as Corbin does really well in matches with smaller opposition and Zayn is the best underdog in pro wrestling right now.

The Shining Stars: I’ve never been all that high on Primo or Epico, but their debut on Tuesday night attacking American Alpha was good news for everybody involved. They came off like legitimate contenders instead of the jokes they have been on Raw, and Jordan & Gable finally have somebody to have a personal issue with.

Jinder Mahal: I’ve been seeing people hop on the Jinder bandwagon lately. He’s gotten into the best-looking shape of his life, he’s stiffing the heck out of people and apparently that’s the recipe to success for him. If nothing else, moving to SD allows him to continue his feud with Mojo Rawley & Rob Gronkowski, which is the most entertainment I’ve ever gotten out of him. So yay for that. A change of scenery should help him get taken more seriously, and he certainly sounded motivated on Talking Smack. So we’ll see how the re-invention goes.

Tamina Snuka: Tamina hasn’t been on television in quite some time, and I’m not even sure that her introduction on Tuesday night had any more purpose than being a swerve to make people think for a minute that Charlotte wasn’t coming out. If she’s healthy and ready to go she can be a good powerhouse in the division, a credible heel to put over other talent. She won’t be much more, but people like that are good to have around.

Charlotte Flair: Just as Alexa had done everything there was to do on SmackDown, Charlotte had done everything there was to do on Raw. She’s wrestled Sasha Banks & Bayley more than enough times, and after that match with Nia Jax on Monday night I think she’ll be happy she’s not sticking around for more of that. Charlotte is the top talent of any Women’s Division she’s in, and she’ll raise the game of Naomi, Becky Lynch and the other women she will battle on SmackDown.

Sin Cara: The reverse of the Kalisto move! Cara didn’t make all that many appearances in the Cruiserweight Division though, so maybe he’s bulking up a little bit to get back into heavyweight contention. I don’t see him doing a whole lot.

Rusev & Lana: HANDSOME RUSEV! RAVISHING LANA! I felt that Rusev was one of the most underutilized talents on Raw. He was stuck in horrible feud after horrible feud, but did the best he could with what he had to work with. Once he returns from injury, I feel he’ll thrive on a show with writers that will better understand his character and how to use him. I can see him contending for either the WWE or US Championship in pretty short order.

The New Day: We’ve been waiting for this move for awhile, as New Day ran out of things to do on Raw after finally losing the Tag Team Titles. They’d wrestled everybody there and the Hardys officially supplanted them as the top tag team faces on the roster at WrestleMania, so it was time for them to move on. Once Kofi Kingston recovers from his ankle injury it’ll be interesting to see how he, Xavier Woods & Big E do in a new environment. Will they keep doing what they were doing on Raw, just against different opponents? Will they take a new outlook on things, turning heel & getting back to their roots? Or will they split up & feud with each other? I can see any of these scenarios coming to pass, and any of them would be better than the nothing they have been doing so far in 2017.

Byron Saxton: Poor Byron got nothing but abuse from Michael Cole & Corey Graves, and now they’re sending him to work with JBL? Good luck, pal.

Overall Thoughts: SD did a good job here. Owens & Zayn will be main event level players. Charlotte is the best woman on the main roster. New Day & Rusev are over acts that should do well in a new environment. Even lower level pickups like Mahal & the Shining Stars have some upside if utilized properly. Add in the recent call-ups Shinsuke Nakamura & Tye Dillinger, and SmackDown feels really fresh right now.

All in all, I like the look of the new rosters. Both Raw & SmackDown have changed things up and have enough things going on to keep people interested for the next few months. New issues will arise that will lead up to SummerSlam, and the WWE train will keep humming along. The Superstar Shakeup might have lacked in presentation, but it sure didn’t lack in impact.

I guess the one major disappointment is that they didn’t use this as an excuse to get rid of JBL…but that’s probably another topic for another time.