The WWE has been on fire as of late, WrestleMania was arguably the best in the past 5 years, and the two nights following them gave us a look at some fresh rivalries and also the arrival of NXT stars like The Revival, Tye Dillinger and Shinsuke Nakamura, as well as the return of Finn Balor. Yet it was the following week that has made all the headlines. Vince McMahon announced that there would be a “Superstar Shake-up,” which involved stars switching shows, and the rumour mill went into overdrive. On RAW we saw the switch of The Miz, Dean Ambrose, Mickie James, Alexa Bliss, Bray Wyatt and more, and the following night it was announced that Rusev, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Charlotte, The New Day and more were now making their living on Tuesday nights.
This is all very exciting, as these performers have immense potential on their new shows, but it’s not all about their talent. The booking and opportunities are very different on the two WWE shows, and we may see the divide in quality widen following this shake up. So who is going to succeed on their new brand, and who is going to fall flat on their face?
22. SmackDown to RAW: David Otunga
Where, oh where to begin with this one? WWE have become notorious for presenting us with bland, boring commentators over the past decade, but David Otunga is the worst case. Not only does Otunga not add anything to the product with three men in the booth (his effect doesn’t change between the three- and four- man booths), but sometimes he actively takes away from the quality of the programming. Sure, Michael Cole, JBL and Corey Graves may not be perfect, but they bring intrigue and excitement to the product, whereas Otunga fails to bring any excitement to the in-ring product. The WWE would be much better going back to the two-man booths, and while it may be fun to see Graves poke fun at Otunga the way he did Byron Saxton, bringing in Otunga will just make the RAW product worse.
21. RAW to SmackDown: Jinder Mahal
When the latest brand split was announced, fans and media outlets alike were buzzing at the prospect of some performers we could see return, from the Hardy Boyz to Shelton Benjamin to Drew McIntyre, but one that fans couldn’t care less about is former 3MB member Jinder Mahal. Despite coming back looking more ripped than anyone on the entire WWE roster, Mahal once again slotted into the foreign bad guy jobber role on RAW, and you’d be forgiven if that’s all you thought he is going to be on SmackDown. That does not seem to be the case, as Mahal just won the chance to face Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. Although at some point it was thought that he was too far gone to save, Mahal is getting some opportunities to prove himself in the upcoming year.
20. SmackDown to RAW: Curt Hawkins
The wrestling world has spoken at lengths about how disappointing the latest brand split was (the lack of returns or genuine surprises, not the months following it), and one of the reasons was due to lack of star power or shock factor, and instead of getting big names, heel/face turns or split-ups, we got the likes of Jinder Mahal and a reinvented version of Curt Hawkins. The problem is, after Hawkins split from Zack Ryder as a part of the Edge-heads, no one really cared about him, so when fans saw him return with his strange new gimmick, they just weren’t invested in it. He now exists only as a jobber heel to take the loss to up-and-coming stars in showcase bouts, as he won’t be winning a match on Monday Night RAW anytime soon.
19. RAW to SmackDown: Rusev
When the Bulgarian Brute debuted from NXT three years ago, he looked like an absolute monster, and although he was forced into the “foreign monster” schtick that WWE always looks to use, he succeeded in the role. With his real life partner Lana by his side, he also reigned as a dominant United States Champion. He then ran into John Cena, and after being defeated at WrestleMania 31, his wife was delegated to being slut-shamed on TV, and that hurt both of them, as Rusev has been used as nothing but cannon fodder for the popular babyfaces since. He is now on SmackDown, and after the way we saw them book monsters like Baron Corbin in 2016, the future looks incredibly bright for Rusev. He may begin to get the chances he deserves, whether his wife is by his side or not.
18. SmackDown to RAW: Apollo Crews
When the WWE began signing independent stars to bolster their NXT roster, they brought in big names like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and Hideo Itami. One that went under the radar was Apollo Crews, and when he debuted, fans were completely in awe of his physique and athleticism, and it impressed the boss enough that he was promoted to the main roster very early on in his WWE career. That was a big mistake, as Crews has a lack of charisma and personality that is now very obvious, and he has been wasting away on SmackDown for the better part of the last 12 months. It’s too late to save him, and if the company are intent on having him on RAW rather than sending him back to NXT, it’s not going to work out for either party.
17. RAW to SmackDown: Lana
This one is a head-scratcher. Although we’ve seen the fans take to Lana in recent times, she has always served as the mouth piece for her husband Rusev. And if the vignettes that aired announcing hers and Rusev’s arrival on SmackDown are any indication, they will be coming to Tuesday nights as completely separate entities. Sure, she has the crowd behind her with her personality and pure sex appeal, but when she is forced to engage in a one-on- one rivalry with her limited wrestling skills, it may not work out the way the company hopes. They always have the Rusev partnership to fall back on if it doesn’t work out, but as far as a solo run within the division, it won’t work, not within the next year anyway.
16. SmackDown to RAW: Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose is an interesting case for the WWE, as his comedic moments are very hit-and-miss, and we don’t see the serious, ass kicking side of him enough. But the fans are very high on him, and this has led him to stay in the upper midcard on SmackDown for most of the previous year. He brings with him the Intercontinental title, and with the main event scene ahead of him stacked with the likes of Lesnar, Strowman, Reigns, Joe, Balor and Rollins, it’s unlikely he will rise above that anytime soon. Like The Miz did in 2016, he should focus his energy on elevating the IC title, and if he does that successfully (like I think he will), he could be in for a main event run in late 2017/early 2018.
15. RAW to SmackDown: Sin Cara
The many forms of Sin Cara have had a very interesting run in the WWE, going from prized acquisition from Mexico to a botching expert during a brief and horrid run, but with the former Hunico under the mask, the character found success in NXT with Kalisto as one half of the Lucha Dragons. After the duo came to the main roster, they were fairly underutilized, and when the brand split came, the duo were split up, and neither has experienced any solo success. This move to the blue brand won’t do anything to help that though, as the character is basically useless at this point, and the fans just aren’t interested. Expect to see him as nothing more than a jobber for SmackDown Live, that is, if they even want to retain his services.
14. SmackDown to RAW: Mickie James
Mickie James is one of the greatest female performers to ever step foot inside a WWE ring, and it made perfect sense for the company to bring her back in the midst of the golden age for women’s wrestling, and it’s safe to say, fans definitely didn’t forget her. She arrived to help Alexa Bliss, and although she hasn’t had a huge, marquee on-on-one match yet, she’s definitely still got it, and now she occupies the same roster as the likes of Bayley, Sasha Banks and the aforementioned Bliss, who are all right in their prime. She’s in the midst of a great story with Bliss, and once that is over, she will no doubt tell some great stories and be the backbone of this roster.
13. RAW to SmackDown: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens just took his character to a whole new level in the lead-up to WrestleMania, as he turned on his friend Chris Jericho, and he won the United States title from said former best friend. But now he finds himself in a new environment, U.S. title in hand. He was followed by best friend-turned-enemy Sami Zayn, and while we may see the continuation of what seems like a never-ending rivalry, there are plenty of fresh options for the “New Face of America” on SmackDown, and that will result in nothing but great feuds and even better matches. Whether you like him or not, you can’t help but enjoy him, and with The Miz gone from Talking Smack, Owens can replace him and be just as much in Daniel Bryan’s face. No matter what way you look at it, KO’s stock will be rising in the upcoming year.
12. SmackDown to RAW: Kalisto
When the Cruiserweight Division was announced, fans were very excited, but for anyone that missed the Cruiserweight Classic, you probably didn’t know who anyone in the 205-pound division was, and that’s because the company left out guys like Kalisto and Neville. That’s all changed, however, as Neville is now the reigning champion, and after a poor reign as U.S. Champion and a quiet year on SmackDown, the lucha sensation Kalisto is on RAW and ready to compete with the best high fliers in the WWE. His character needs serious work, but if he is given free reign to fly like he can and did on the independent scene, he may take over the entire Cruiserweight Division. Although I think he will be successful in bringing star power to the Cruiserweight Division, it’s not without nerves, as the company has been know to stuff up sure things before.
11. RAW to SmackDown: Byron Saxton
This one is basically a carbon copy of the David Otunga entry, as Byron Saxton is a bland babyface with no unique, entertaining qualities that make him worth listening too. As I mentioned before, the WWE would be much better off just letting JBL and Tom Phillips call the action, as we could delve deeper into them as commentators, but it just feels too crowded with Saxton there as well. Although the SmackDown product is too good to ruin at this point, Byron will go close to doing so. I’m a bit more optimistic about the potential with Saxton, as he could become a positive if he is allowed to be himself a bit more, but with Vince McMahon overseeing the product as always, that’s highly unlikely.
10. SmackDown to RAW: Rhyno
Fans are fond of the ECW days, as it is one of the best promotions in the history of professional wrestling. Performers that were active during those days often get a huge nostalgia pop upon their return, but once that wears off, they often fail to deliver in the modern world of wrestling. For a brief time, the Man Beast Rhyno proved the exception to that rule, as he teamed up with Heath Slater to become the first-ever SmackDown Live Tag Team Champions. Since they lost the belts, however, Rhyno’s done nothing of note to show that he can be successful in 2017. With no character beyond said nostalgia, expect him to get lost in the shuffle on RAW, and either get released or sent down to be a trainer and help with NXT by the end of 2017.
9. RAW to SmackDown: Charlotte
The women’s division on RAW has been carried all year by Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bayley, and it was obvious that one of them needed a change. After losing Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, the SmackDown women’s roster now has its marquee star that they can hitch their wagon to for the next year. Charlotte has been quite possibly the best heel on the RAW roster all year, but she has an ability to play a likeable babyface, as she may need to make that switch to better the roster. With Becky Lynch, Naomi, Tamina and Carmella, The Queen has some very fresh and interesting match ups ahead of her, and if she keeps up the good work she’s been doing ever since she arrived on the main roster, she may be in contention for WWE Superstar of the Year.
8. SmackDown to RAW: Heath Slater
The main point of the brand split (from my perspective anyway) was to give extra screen time and opportunity to those being underutilized the way the roster was set up, and in terms of taking advantage of that extra time, there is no one who did it better than Heath Slater. He ran with the idea of being undrafted and having to fight for a contract, and when he eventually did succeed for his kids, it was one of the best feel-good moments in recent memory. Unfortunately, that was short-lived, and he hasn’t been seen much lately, and if the pattern of poor booking for the RAW midcard continues, then don’t expect to see the One Man Band succeed on television anytime soon.
7. RAW to SmackDown: The New Day
It’s no secret that SmackDown Live has been the much better show over the previous 8 months since the brand split, but their one glaring weakness has been the tag team division. With the entertaining heel Usos and American Alpha at the top, it has potential, so bringing in such an entertaining, character-based team like The New Day is the perfect move. Sure, they may not be the best in the ring, but the combination of Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston can get it done, and with the spotlight always on them (as their merch is always a top seller), it will in turn bring the other, amazing teams on Smackdown into the spotlight. It’s hard to imagine that the trio will be out of the title picture for very long, and although the division may need to add more help (perhaps #DIY?), the New Day will help in a huge way.
6. SmackDown to RAW: Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt is one of the most unique and innovative characters in wrestling today, but since his debut back in 2013, he has been booked incredibly inconsistently. This resulted in his insults becoming very hollow, and no one being threatened by his “threatening” words. He then moved to SmackDown, and he commanded the control of Randy Orton, and his Family won the SmackDown Tag Team Champions, en route to Wyatt winning the WWE Championship for the first time. Unfortunately, he only held the title for a month, and he was then sent to Monday Night RAW, where he is lined up for a feud with the Demon King, Finn Balo. This will be an intriguing feud, but fans all know who’s coming out on top. With the way the booking is on RAW, fans don’t expect too much from him, and the character that became engaging and threatening on SmackDown will be reduced to what he has been the last few years.
5. RAW to SmackDown: Sami Zayn
Fans have been begging for the underutilized Sami Zayn to make the jump to SmackDown Live ever since the latest brand split began, and this past Tuesday it finally happened, with the Underdog from the Underground following his longtime bitter rival Kevin Owens to the blue brand. With the GM and commissioner behind him, as well as the fantastic SmackDown booking team, Zayn looks primed and ready to show the promise that fans know he has, and there are many amazing matchups awaiting him on Tuesday nights. From AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura to even Dolph Ziggler, Zayn could make a rivalry with any of these men incredibly entertaining, and his rise to the main event could be an organic storyline similar to the rise of Daniel Bryan. He may not be World Champion by WrestleMania 34, but I guarantee you that no one will have a better resume in 2017 and have more amazing matches than the Heart and Soul of NXT, Sami Zayn.
4. SmackDown to RAW: Alexa Bliss
When the brand split happened a year ago, it looked like the RAW brand ended up with the better women’s division. A year later, the SmackDown women’s roster is one of the brightest spots in the WWE, and a lot of that credit has to go to Alexa Bliss. The Harley Quinn cosplayer was highly doubted, as she had yet to show off her full array of skills on NXT, and with her diminutive size, she was heavily overlooked early on. After Becky Lynch won the first SmackDown Women’s title, she found her best foe in Bliss, and as the rivalry went on, Alexa got better on the microphone and in the ring, to the point where she is arguably the best women’s wrestler in the company. She arrived on RAW this past Monday night and talked circles around both Sasha Banks and Bayley, and with those two and her ongoing drama with Mickie James and Nia Jax all at the top of the card, this could a very fun year for fans of Alexa Bliss.
3. RAW to SmackDown: The Shining Stars
The WWE has seemed intent on making a great tag team out of Primo and Epico, as they have been reinvented as Los Matadores and now the Shining Stars. Unfortunately, in the shuffle of the three-hour Monday Night RAW, the writing team just didn’t have enough time to develop them into interesting characters. Their moments on television actively took away from the entertainment value of the program, and their treatment made them into a complete joke, to the point where the duo don’t seem like a threat to anyone on the roster, let alone anyone in the SmackDown Tag Team Division, weak as it originally was. If the WWE can get their checkbook out and bring back Carlito to mentor the duo on screen, they might have a viable team to help deepen the blue brand’s tag team division, but until that point, the team won’t thrive.
2. SmackDown to RAW: The Miz & Maryse
Alongside AJ Styles, The Miz was the MVP of SmackDown Live in the first year following the brand split, and although this will mean we no longer get to see the incredibly entertaining Miz-Daniel Bryan rivalry, this might be the best thing for The Miz’s career. We know he was headed for the main event on SmackDown, but if he can continue to draw the unparalleled level of heat that he has for the past year, then he may just be the best thing on the RAW roster in the upcoming year. His main event push may not happen now with such a crowded scene on RAW, but if he can continue to elevate the Intercontinental title scene the way he has over the last year, then he will be a feature player on the red brand.
1. RAW to SmackDown: Tamina
This one technically isn’t a RAW-to-SmackDown transfer, as Tamina has been out for over a year, but when the blue brand lost Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, they needed to bring in some performers to deepen the roster, and that came in the form of second-generation performer Tamina. Sure, she won’t star over the likes of Becky Lynch and Charlotte, and she won’t ever be a 5-star performer, but as a bruising heel, Tamina can tell a great story in the ring, and brings legitimacy to the SmackDown Live women’s division. With her presence on the roster, Charlotte may need a face turn (after her arrival on SmackDown Live was greeted with cheers, it seems organic anyway) to avoid too many heels on the roster. Still, thinking of Tamina battling The Queen in a hard hitting battle, or her beating up on the likes of Naomi and Becky Lynch could suggest she may be a real diamond in the rough for the blue brand.
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