With WrestleMania 33 now in the books and the WWE looking for new and fresh matchups to occupy a ton of weekly television time, the best way to keep things interesting was to move the players in the game. Typically, a shake-up of this magnitude would be left for a draft that would have taken place on an episode of Raw and only once per year. Instead of waiting, Raw and SmackDown Live will see new faces right away.
This is probably a smart move by the promotion to ensure fans don't grow stale with the product. It will add potentially new original content to the WWE Network, it will create new rivalries and storylines, set up new feuds and it will give life to characters who have grown stale over the past few months. After all, you can only ask fans to watch the same matches for so long.
Who switched brands would be the main topic of conversation this week in the WWE. What titles switched shows would also be of significant importance. If the company made the right changes, each respective show has a huge chance to get significantly more interesting. The wrong moves could be detrimental to the program and the careers of the WWE Superstars on the move.
Were the changes positive or negative? Did the WWE set up new storylines the fans could get behind? Or, did Vince McMahon and company squander an opportunity to make massive improvements? Keep reading to see how we ranked the shake-up moves the WWE got right and the moves the WWE got completely wrong.
20 Got Right: The Miz and Maryse Join Raw
Easily the most entertaining segments of SmackDown Live have been those involving The Miz and Maryse. From week to week, their antics have been must-see television and to move them to Raw and the WWE's flagship program only makes sense. On Raw, The Miz can showcase his stuff as arguably the hottest current WWE Superstar on the roster.
As Intercontinental Champion, The Miz made the title feel relevant. He doesn't necessarily need a title to feel important, but on the red brand, The Miz can go after the U.S. Title, the Intercontinental Title or perhaps the WWE has plans to move The Miz into the main event scene and chase the Universal Title. Since he has no Cena on SmackDown Live to actually make fun of any longer, keeping him on the blue brand wasn't necessary.
19 Got Wrong: Dean Ambrose Feuds With The Miz
The idea behind the Superstar Shake-Up was to bring new and fresh matchups to the forefront. Instead, the WWE decided to bring us a feud that could have just as easily happened on SmackDown Live. Both The Miz and Dean Ambrose have been right under each other's noses on SmackDown Live so why bring the same possible opportunity to Raw?
The Miz is so hot that he literally could have feuded with anyone upon his arrival. It would have been an entertaining pairing facing The Miz against a broom (his videos on SmackDown Live are a testament to that). Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose doesn't get along with anyone but needs his character to be slightly reinvented. Why not give these guys two new opportunities and make sure both come away from them with momentum? Having these two WWE Superstars feud virtually guarantees one has to put the other over and slows their progression before it has a chance to really get going.
18 Got Right: TJ Perkins' Apparent Heel Turn
It's not so much to say that TJ Perkins was losing steam, it's that no one cared one way or another about a very gifted Cruiserweight. Since winning the Cruiserweight Classic, Perkins became so irrelevant that a heel turn was inevitable. His high-skill moves weren't being revered and the cocky attitude that he was once known for as a babyface was earning him boos from the crowd.
With three very interesting character possibilities, keeping Neville, Austin Aries and Perkins on Raw, then giving them a storyline fans can sink their teeth into will make watching these segments much more tolerable. Furthermore, some five-star matches added to a triangle of lies and deception will potentially add some intrigue to a Cruiserweight Division that badly needed a boost. If Perkins is, in fact, going full heel, he'll be much more capable of getting the fans to hate him when he dabs or fixes his hair and that could be a good start to kickstarting a resurgence to his WWE tenure.
17 Got Wrong: Apollo Crews Stays in the WWE
Apollo Crews is a heck of an athlete. That said, it's becoming ever apparent he's not ready for a run in the big leagues yet. Called up way too early from NXT after last year's WrestleMania 32 spectacular, Crews has gone on to a very lackluster year, winning in matches that meant absolutely nothing, losing in matches that hurt his development and ultimately having no clear character depth to get fans interested beyond the amazing things he can do in the ring.
Simply put, Crews needs to go back to NXT. That could have been played up on SmackDown Live as a demotion angle that didn't sit too well with Crews who thinks he's been underutilized. It happens in all sports when professionals struggle. There is no reason that sending Crews back to NXT couldn't have created a Crews that was extra motivated, destroying NXT talent on his way back to the WWE when he was ready.
16 Got Right: Dean Ambrose Brings Intercontinental Title To Raw
To say Dean Ambrose was losing steam would be putting it mildly. After capturing the respect and attention of almost every WWE fan as part of the dominant faction The Shield, Ambrose has been on the losing end of a slow decline into irrelevance. He's definitely given no credibility to the Intercontinental Title on Smackdown Live.
Moving Ambrose and the title to Raw gives him a chance to reignite his career. He got off on the right foot with his segment against The Miz and Maryse. It was simple, effective and a bit more of the old Ambrose fans grew to know and love. It also opens the door to a possible Sheild reunion, whether for just one segment or for a more permanent time period. Teasing Sheild reunions could create a lot of options for angles the fans might enjoy.
15 Got It Wrong: Bray Wyatt Starts Feud With Finn Balor
The good news is, it's great to see that Bray Wyatt is being moved to Raw and a home that will introduce a new environment to wreak havoc and terrorize WWE Superstars. There was a ton of potential to do that much on SmackDown Live, but the WWE blew it.
The bad news is that bringing Wyatt to Raw the way the WWE seems to be doing so means two things. First, the outcome of the Wyatt "House of Horrors" match seems to be inevitable. How can Wyatt bring the WWE Championship to Raw while the Universal Title is around the waist of Brock Lesnar? Second, making Finn Balor Wyatt's first opponent spells disaster for the "Eater of Worlds". Balor will not lose in his first major feud after returning from injury. It would stunt his momentum. Because the WWE already views Wyatt as a character that can put guys over without hurting his status, that means more of Wyatt — possibly the WWE's next great villain — losing matches he should be winning to begin his legacy.
14 Got Right: Kalisto Moves to the Cruiserweight Brand
It never made sense to have Kalisto on SmackDown Live when the Cruiserweight Division was on Raw. It was one of the stranger decisions the WWE made at the last roster draft. Kalisto never got off on the right foot once he arrived on SmackDown Live and his momentum came to a dead stop. Correcting that mistake is a good step in the right direction to get more fans interested in the amazing things Kalisto can do in the ring.
At one point, Kalisto was one of the more popular WWE Superstars on the roster. He was the U.S. Champion, was known for must-see moments and only a badly timed injury hurt his chances to continue as a fan favorite. Coming over to the brand that has the Cruiserweights means adding another bonafide star to the show and giving his fellow Cruiserweight competitors a new opponent and fresh matches. The Cruiserweight Division needed a shot in the arm and this might have been it.
13 Got Wrong: Curt Hawkins Joins Raw, Gets KO'd
Moving Curt Hawkins to Raw proves only one thing —the WWE is going to use a lot of the Superstar Shake-Up to send jobbers from one show to another and still keep them as jobbers. Ever worse is the apparent decision to try and make the WWE Universe believe Hawkins' move means anything to the show.
Hawkins lacked any sort of character on SmackDown Live and within a matter of mere seconds, The Big Show — a largely irrelevant character on the back-nine of his career — laid him out with one punch. It was one of the more pointless moments on Raw with no need to waste time televising it.
I'm not suggesting for a second that Hawkins come to Raw and all of a sudden start getting a push equal to that of a main event talent, but that he was used as an attempted comedy squash just goes to show the WWE has no plans for him and things will be much of the same on a show that has far too much pointless storytelling already.
12 Got Right: Shuffling the Women's Division
The group of women competing on Raw should have made those matches and the division a highlight of the brand. Instead, SmackDown Live had the much stronger division and more watchable moments for female competition. Bringing some of that energy to Raw will help the show move forward.
Alexa Bliss will be a big star on Raw and Mickie James will add some veteran presence. Moving out Charlotte will be a loss for Raw, but a much bigger gain for SmackDown Live and as such was the right move to make.
That Nia Jaxx is going to be front and center in this re-cast group of women is also the right move. She was a throw-in at WrestleMania 33 but deserved better. It looks like the WWE is going full-force on her push to a championship.
11 Got Wrong: Didn't Bring Carmella To Raw
Amidst the influx of women who found themselves all of a sudden on the Raw brand, nowhere to be found was Carmella, the one female wrestler who has a connection that makes sense to the Raw show and the WWE Universe. Not bringing her aboard makes little to no sense.
Formerly an important piece of the Enzo and Big Cass and Carmella trio, Carmella fit right in but was inexplicably separated upon their debut on Raw. Perhaps left to get more in-ring training, Carmella was left on NXT then later drafted to the SmackDown Live brand. The Superstar Shake-Up would have been the perfect time to reunite the group. Instead, the WWE moved Mickie James and Alexa Bliss over to Raw when Carmella would have created storylines much more interesting to the WWE Universe.
10 Got Right: Kevin Owens Joins SmackDown Live
It seemed inevitable that with the Intercontinental title heading to Raw, the U. S. Championship would be heading to SmackDown Live. Kevin Owens left Raw with the title, thus his appearance on the blue brand was not terribly surprising. That doesn't mean it isn't good news.
Kevin Owens is the type of performer who needs fresh matchups. He's capable of putting on five-star performances with almost anyone and moving him to SmackDown Live gives him a new crop of WWE Superstars to work with. The idea of Owens versus AJ Styles or Owens versus Shinsuke Nakamura has to make fans salivate. SmackDown Live is seen as the more wrestling friendly show. Kevin Owens addition makes this even truer and his persona will add some much-needed storytelling to a show that needed the boost. You could tell already by first appearance on Talking Smack that he'll fit right in.
9 Got Wrong: Splitting Lana and Rusev
Rusev and Lana have not been the dominant heel duo they once were in the WWE for a long time. In fact, it's hard to deny that their time on Raw wasn't wasted with silly humour and segments that did the opposite of building their characters. That doesn't mean that a new start and reverting back to their anti-American crusade wouldn't have worked on SmackDown Live. It might have brought some heat back to both the show and the duo.
Instead, we got the introduction of these two arriving on SmackDown Live separately. The WWE deliberately chose not to mention them together.
Lana looks nothing like her old character but instead resembles a female chair dancing reincarnation of Fandango. She seems to have taken the spotlight from the duo and considering her limited in-ring ability, this could be a bad move. Splitting them up just doesn't make sense. Perhaps the WWE has a plan, but it doesn't look like it and that's a shame.
8 Got Right: Epico and Primo Arrive (Not The Shining Stars)
It's not so much that these two will help the tag team division on SmackDown Live (they will a little), but it's more that the WWE seems to be abandoning one of the most horrible character creations ever. Whoever thought a couple Puerto Rican time-share salesmen would help these guys get over in the WWE was way out to lunch and the gimmick of The Shining Stars was a terrible idea.
Epico and Primo moving to SmackDown Live, with a new look and a meaner attitude doesn't all of a sudden make them must-see television, but it's a dramatic improvement. The lack of reference to their former gimmicks is a good sign too. If they completely forget they ever were their former annoying characters on Raw, their team could flourish on the blue brand where a premium is placed on wrestling and these two guys can go.
7 Got Wrong: AJ Styles Temporarily Demoted Internally
Perhaps AJ Styles' chase toward the U.S. Championship is temporary, but one would have thought that Styles was headed toward another shot at the WWE Title. He deserves at least that much as the man who claims himself to be the on the show he himself built. Styles winning the U.S Title No. 1 contenders match means he'll be on a direct collision course with Kevin Owens.
That feud and the matchups that spring from it will be fantastic. In that respect, it's hard to complain. But, Owens needs to come off a strong with his debut on SmackDown Live and Styles need to trend upward, winning matches until he's cemented as the top performer on SmackDown Live. This feud is going to make it extremely hard to accomplish both of those goals. The WWE might have been better served to keep Style heel and go after Randy Orton.
6 Got Right: Charlotte Joins SmackDown Live
With the female talent that showed up on Raw Monday night, SmackDown Live's Women's Division was in trouble. At one time the strength of their brand, few top female performers remained. Charlotte's introduction immediately changes that. She's among the most dominant of the WWE's female talents and will immediately add credibility to Tuesday nights.
Her introduction to SmackDown Live wasn't all good though. It felt completely rushed and considering Shane McMahon labeled her as possibly the biggest acquisition for the brand, fans never got to see or hear a word from her upon her arrival. It's hard to tell now which direction Charlotte will go. Is she a heel going after someone like Naomi? Or, is she a face having hinted toward that kind of turn on Raw?
5 Got Wrong: No Direction For The Wyatts?
If there is one thing that is more confusing than ever, it's the status of The Wyatt Family. Fans have gotten accustomed to the idea that the group was trending toward a slow breakup, but as soon as one member gets some time as a single's competitor, they wind up back together. Are they together? Are they apart? Is the WWE planning on taking each former member and actually doing something with them?
Erik Rowan worked an underwhelming match with Randy Orton. Bray Wyatt appeared only to speak with Orton on the big screen, but Wyatt is now on Raw. Rowan is still on SmackDown. What becomes of him? Luke Harper was not a part of the show. What's happening with his character?
The WWE is missing a golden opportunity to develop some consistency one way or another with these characters.
4 Got Right: SmackDown Live Keeps Shinsuke Nakamura
There is often a habit within the WWE of putting all their eggs in one basket. If they were tempted, McMahon and company did a good job of holding back and not completely raiding SmackDown Live of its best talent simply to prop up Raw. In previous year's, they may have done so.
Instead, what could be SmackDown Live's biggest future asset is staying put and Shinsuke Nakamura is still going to be front and center on Tuesday nights. He'll have an opportunity to feud with some of the WWE Superstars who will give him the best possible matches and that starts with Dolph Ziggler who confronted him on the program. Nakamura will need good workers who can also talk and carry the premise of a storyline for a while. Ziggler fits that description to a tee. From there, he can move onto a rematch with Zayn, matches with Kevin Owens and eventually a potential match of the year with AJ Styles.
3 Got Wrong: Jinder Mahal Still Has Job
Much like how we feel about Curt Hawkins move to Raw, Jinder Mahal's move to SmackDown Live wreaks of the WWE not knowing what to do with some of their talents. In this case, the right move to make would have been to immediately release Mahal. Mahal will be the same boring, underwhelming character on SmackDown Live that he was on Raw, this time he'll do it on Tuesdays instead of Mondays. He'll also do it after a stiff forearm on Monday looks to have put the returning Finn Balor out of action.
If the WWE insisted on keeping a performer who was a surprise to return in the first place and garners absolutely no fan reaction, the least they could have done was put some steam behind changing his character and bragging about how tough he is by putting Balor potentially on the shelf. He could have earned some incredible heat from that. Instead, this feels like a missed opportunity. Now, on his first day of his new job, he lost cleanly to a WWE Superstar nobody cares much about.
2 Got Right: SmackDown Live Gets The New Day
The New Day joining SmackDown Live wasn't a big surprise. There were a few rumoured names headed in certain directions in the days leading up to the Superstar Shake-Up and one of those names was that of the longest reigning World Tag Team Champions. Was it a bit surprising that they didn't phyiscally show up on SmackDown Live to celebrate? Yep. That would have been a huge opportunity to show that SmackDown Live had acquired a huge name from Raw.
SmackDown Live was having issues with its tag division and The New Day will help. In fact, it could be argued, if SmackDown Live can get their heads wrapped around pushing the teams they do have, adding The New Day could put them at an advantage over Raw. After all, The New Day are still one of the hottest acts in the WWE.
1 Got Wrong: SmackDown Live Potentially Loses Some Of Its Identity
One of the things that separated SmackDown Live from Raw was not the matches, the production or the storytelling. It was their mantra. Known as the underdog show, SmackDown Live was going to be the "land of opportunity" — or at least that's how general manager Daniel Bryan often described it. Now, it appears the blue brand is trying to keep that motto by slamming it home on "Talking Smack" but their acquisitions were more about getting the best and former greats instead of the most underutilized.
The only Superstar that came to SmackDown Live that appears to still fit that identity is Sami Zayn. Zayn is known as the "underdog from the underground" and that could serve him well on SmackDown Live. Zayn has the potential to save the ability to call SmackDown Live the land of opportunity. If the blue brand doesn't focus a ton of its attention to helping Zayn, it will feel like a total waste.