2018 Superstar Shakeup Breakdown
Jinder Mahal and Sunil Singh
The positive I can take away from this is that there’s no way Jinder will ever be able to stink up the main belt of RAW given the rest of the roster. Also, that he’s no longer holding the US Title. He’ll be a decent intimidating midcarder for guys to beat around, but I don’t want him as prominent on RAW as he’s been on Smackdown.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
I love these two wherever they go, and being separated from their eternal nemesis Shane McMahon is going to be a breath of fresh air. They’ll obviously quickly become a pain in Angle’s neck, and may even get lackeys in the now-former Miztourage. I’m content to be along for the ride with Kevin and Sami, and all they really needed was a shakeup.
The Riott Squad
While Mandy Rose for Liv Morgan and Sonya DeVille for Sarah Logan aren’t the most earth-shattering trades, I like Ruby Riott on RAW. She’s a believable title contender – in fact, she’s believable really no matter what they give her. I can see her quickly becoming a fixture heel in the RAW women’s division.
The Fashion Police
I love Breeze and Fandango no matter where they go, but the biggest takeaway for me is the new possibility of matches (and especially segments) against Zayn and Owens.
Natalya, for me, hits just the right heel spot: I actually actively do not like her wrestling or her character or her promos, but I also don’t necessarily want to change the channel if she’s wrestling someone I care about. I will concede that a well-placed “YAAAAAY” like at Wrestlemania will make me laugh my ass off. I would say she could make a good Bayley opponent but I can’t imagine that storyline making Bayley look good since it’s the RAW writers’ greatest phobia unless Sasha is there.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre
I’m not confident that anybody can put together a compelling long-term Dolph Ziggler storyline anymore, but getting involved with new call-up Drew McIntyre is something. I’m confident that McIntyre can make whatever they give him work, but if he gets too tangled up in Dolph Ziggler Welcoming Committee syndrome, it could be hard to pick momentum back up.
…Okay. He plays a good jerk.
…Alright. I like Zack Ryder enough.
If there’s any act that didn’t age well out of old-school NXT, it’s The Ascension. I think they’ll need a lot of rehab to be anything but jobbers, but maybe they don’t have to be.
Corbin can be really entertaining when he’s used right and absolutely nightmarish when he’s used wrong, and he’s been in both positions during his two-year tenure on Smackdown. Some new opponents and new writers could be interesting. I really want to see him vs. a face Rollins, even if he loses. (If it’s for the IC title, probably for the best.)
Given that Roode kind of floundered on Smackdown even in a title feud, I’m excited to see what a new creative team can bring him. I know his theme is an automatic pop. I know. But if you need to keep him face, at least give him some more interesting material. (Or just turn him heel.)
I love Mike and Maria’s obnoxious PDA act. I love it. It’s so perfectly hateable that my excitement for Mike is mostly predicated on when his wife will return. It’s also good to keep him and Miz on different brands; while Maryse isn’t part of the act anymore, it still helps him stand out.
I’ve always been interested in what Gable could do in singles, despite mostly loving him when American Alpha were faces. Having him on the same show as Angle and especially Jordan should be a breath of fresh air. Plus, there will be no shortage of new competitors to ask “Why are they in the match, though?”
Maybe one of the best trades of the shakeup for one reason: Daniel Bryan’s eventually gonna kick his head in. Their intense feud began back when Bryan wasn’t cleared, then paused when Miz was on RAW, but having to return to a locker room where Bryan is in a position to exact revenge will make for great TV.
Also, honestly, The Miz rules. I hate him so much.
I initially thought the US Title was moving to RAW, but it turns out its holder was moving to Smackdown. I like the idea of keeping Jeff out of the Broken Hardy stuff as long as Matt’s with Bray. A return directly into a singles title run is great for Jeff, especially with plenty of new opponents.
While he’ll still brutalize Reigns at Backlash, that’s clearly going to be their last interaction for a while. We finally have Samoa Joseph himself on Smackdown, immediately putting everone on notice. Joe, Styles, and (spoiler?) Eric Young? Minus Bobby Roode, Smackdown is turning into a TNA showcase in the best way. Joe’s gonna kill everybody.
Smackdown’s tag division made out like bandits in the shakeup, largely with the acquisition of RAW’s best tag team of the last year. It kind of ruins the stakes of the Tag Team Eliminator, but them getting their titles back felt unlikely anyway. There are plenty of singles and tag opponents for them on Smackdown, and I look forward to the bloody murder that will be their inevitable fight against the Bludgeon Brothers.
Mandy Rose and Sonya DeVille have actually shown a lot of improvement since their call-up, and Paige as a general manager is a great win-win. I can see a lot of clashes with the Iconic Duo and maybe some more maulings by Asuka, but I’m not sure about title prospects just yet.
This was inevitable since her match with Charlotte, but it’s still cool to see her confirmed. It’s hard to say anything new about how good Asuka is, but Asuka is so good, and new opponents will be fun.
I’m not the biggest fan of Cass, but I’ve only ever seen him in the context of a mediocre Enzo feud and the waking nightmare that was his Big Show match. I’ll give him a chance, especially if Smackown is committing to him so much that he closes the show on his return, but I’m curious about how far heel Cass can go.
I’m sad to see the good brothers separated from Balor, but I’m definitely happy to see them in such a crazy stacked tag division. Matches against The Usos, Bludgeon Brothers, Sanity? Wonderful. And just imagine how many people they can call nerds.
He’s not an earth-shattering addition or anything, but he’s genuinely good at comedy, which is rare. He also thinks he’s on RAW. Classic Truth.
Andrade Cien Almas (w/ Zelina Vega)
In my personal favorite news of the shakeup, Almas and Zelina Vega are ready to consume Smackdown in a rain of corner knees and huricanranas. After his awesome (if a bit short) NXT title run, it’s going to be strange seeing Almas without a championship around his waist. I hope that changes relatively quickly; in fact, I’d want it to be a good feud, but having him win the US Title off Jeff Hardy would be a quick legitimization.
The cherry on top of Smackdown’s tag team acquisition is the impending arrival of Sanity. It could be faction warfare on the blue brand, or Eric Young and his merry team of weird sweaty anarchists could just run roughshod over everybody. Not to mention Nikki Cross throwing herself at the entire women’s division. Dain and Wolfe vs. Bludgeon Brothers. Young vs. Joe. Nikki vs. Asuka round 2. Hell yeah.
At last year’s shakeup, Smackdown got absolutely annihilated by RAW. The writers didn’t help, but the limited roster definitely contributed to a rocky year for the blue brand. This year, at least roster-wise, righted the ship. It’s not that Smackdown’s roster is now better than RAW’s, but the wrestlers are now much more equal. I’d call that an overall Smackdown victory for the shakeup.
Plus, y’know, Joe, Almas, and Sanity. They help.
-Bobby Murphy (@RobertJMurph)
Also read: “Rowdy Ronda Rousey: The Star of Wrestlemania 34”
Image courtesy WWE.com