On Wednesday, the WWE made the bombshell announcement that SmackDown would be going live with a new Tuesday time slot and, more significantly, it would boast its own exclusive roster of wrestlers apart from RAW, thereby bringing back the brand split. This seemed like somewhat curious timing for such a move, given criticisms levied against WWE that the three-hour structure of RAW has exposed the lack of creative ideas currently facing the world's biggest pro wrestling company. Then again, maybe this is the right time for such a move.
The brand split will challenge WWE in ways that might be beneficial for the long-term well-being of the company. The newly created demand for more talent will force them to take a closer look, both internally and externally, at who can be best used to help draw in an audience. With TNA experiencing reported financial struggles and only receiving lukewarm support from Pop TV, WWE remains the biggest and most viable landing spot for a pro wrestler looking to make it big. Additionally, even though some of their recent call-ups have fizzled along the way to the main roster, NXT has still served as a lucrative breeding ground for new talent.
Now, it's simply about converting some of these areas of opportunity into main roster success. Not only does that mean adding talent through other channels, but it means tightening up the current product and making sure the right talent is in place to contribute within the current environment. That tightening can be a two-fold prospect: trimming some of the fat of ineffective current talent - something that has been in the works with recent roster cuts - and inserting fresh, new and capable talent into some of the vacant roles. Here are eight stars that have got to go and the eight rising young talents that could replace them:
15 Out: Sin Cara
If The Lucha Dragons were The Rockers, it's - and continues to be - painfully obvious that Kalisto is the Shawn Michaels of the team while Sin Cara is the Marty Jannetty. Of late, the team took a back seat to the US title-sparked singles push for Kalisto, but even that has been slowed now that Rusev dethroned the masked former champion. A high-flying tag team isn't a terrible idea to keep the popular Kalisto on WWE TV, but he would be better served as part of a pairing that fans actually care about.
14 In: Neville
But does it have to be another masked luchador? Sin Cara might have been the obvious compliment to Kalisto, but once you move past heritage and lucha tradition, you get the equally explosive NXT standout Neville. The master of the Red Arrow has not been seen on TV in months and remains criminally under-utilized on the main roster. He would be a thrilling fit alongside Kalisto, making for a dynamic team that would bring a fresh dose of athleticism and make people care in a way that the Dragons didn't. Once Neville returns from injury, we hope to see him shine.
13 Out: The Vaudevillains
Someone in the WWE clearly got a big kick out of the old tim gimmick of The Vaudevillains tandem of Aiden English and Simon Gotch. The duo debuted after WrestleMania 32 and were hot-shotted almost immediately into the tag team title picture, even winning a tournament to legitimize their place. The fans didn't buy it. Their entrances have been greeted with deafening silence and widespread indifference, and the team was nowhere to be found on the Monday Night RAW after they lost to New Day at the Extreme Rules PPV. Are The Vaudevillains already being de-pushed?
12 In: Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano
If that's the case, there are numerous alternate options available. WWE appears to have other plans for "The Club" team of Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, so it makes sense that their tag title run will be saved for further down the line. Instead, there's a plethora of tag team talent to choose from at the NXT level, with the recently formed team of Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano possibly being the most main roster-ready. While teams like American Alpha and The Revival are younger and may have more upside, Ciampa and Gargano are indie veterans with enough polish to make an impact right away.
11 Out: Tamina Snuka
WWE Women's Champion Charlotte has been booked as something of a cowardly heel champion, while beautiful vixens like Lana and Maryse have freely run their mouths without any form of evident retribution coming. While Lana and Maryse are aligned with their real-life male beaus, Charlotte now has Dana Brooke as a pseudo-enforcer. It's the type of role that Tamina Snuka seemed ideally suited for, one that she has actually played alongside Naomi in an act that doesn't appear primed to return to WWE TV any time soon.
10 In: Nia Jax
If Snuka no longer fits the bill as an enforcer-type character, it might be time for another physically imposing Samoan to step in. Nia Jax is on the rise in NXT, moving into the title picture to challenge Asuka at the next Takeover special. It's unlikely, however, that the NXT booking team will consider taking the belt off of their new, dominant champion yet and Jax looks poised, polished and ready for a main roster run.
9 Out: Sheamus
It's not entirely clear what's missing when it comes to the presentation of Sheamus, but something just isn't there for him. Sure, he was somewhat refreshed when he came back from injury with new facial hair and a heel persona last year, but even after some time within the main event scene and as part of The League of Nations, it's obvious that fans are once again unmoved by The Celtic Warrior. Sheamus remains a credible physical threat with a unique look who can hold his own on the mic and is a close friend of Triple H, so he isn't likely to lose his roster spot, but there's bound to be room for another ass-kicking heel who can battle main event babyfaces.
8 In: Samoa Joe
Enter Samoa Joe, who has been absolutely revitalized in NXT as a vicious physical force. Indeed, it is only a matter of time before Joe gets unleashed on the main roster, inspiring fantasy bookers to already envision him against fellow Samoan Roman Reigns, real-life friend John Cena and long-time nemesis AJ Styles. Once Joe is built up as a brute force, he should be able to attain serious credibility from hardcore and casual fans alike, which can then help boost the face wrestlers that ultimately manage to overcome him. You can see why a roster split makes sense when thinking of wrestlers like Joe that will thrive under this system.
7 Out: Erick Rowan
Recent injuries to Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper have exposed a clear Achilles' Heel within the current makeup of The Wyatt Family: they have two strong members and two afterthoughts. While the raw Braun Strowman could still develop complimentary skills to go along with his fearsome size, it doesn't seem like Erick Rowan will never quite get over as more than the other guy in The Wyatt Family. It didn't work for a brief face turn and he hasn't been trusted to carry The Family torch (or lantern) with his more established stablemates on the shelf.
6 In: Baron Corbin
As of right now, Baron Corbin has been characterized as a lone wolf, with no friends or allies to lean on. In a purely kayfabe sense, this is a mistake. Corbin has a good look, an original finisher and an interesting, aggressive style, but he is significantly under-developed on the mic. If he were to join The Wyatt's, he would hardly look out of place while also being able to hide some of his limitations behind the charismatic presence of the leader, Bray. Additionally, he would help revitalize a group that has grown stagnant and will need to return with a bang once their injured members return.
6. Out: Big Show
There are two kinds of heat when it comes to wrestling fans. There is the type driven by fans that are inspired to boo the heel and wish to see them get their comeuppance, which is what bookers and wrestlers aspire to. Then, there is what is known in the industry as "X-Pac Heat," where a wrestler is booed because fans are tired of the character and don't want to see them on their TV screen. Once an impressive spectacle, Big Show has been over-exposed and poorly booked, so he now generates X-Pac Heat, being greeted with "Please Retire" chants from fans.
5 In: Big Cass
As much as WWE may want to try the "Andre" camera shot on other wrestlers to accentuate their height, they simply don't have another big man in the system with the physical attributes of the 7'0", 450lb Big Show. They do, however, have Big Cass, a billed seven-footer who has already gotten over with WWE crowds in a big way. While there's no sense in giving up on his tag team partnership with Enzo Amore any time soon, it's clear that Colin Cassidy is a singles star on the verge of a breakout who could enjoy a lengthy WWE tenure.
4 Out: The Shining Stars
You could almost hear the groans last month when the first vignette ran to introduce the latest repackaging of "The Shining Stars," Primo and Epico Colon. The third generation Colons seem to have been gifted nine lives in WWE, surviving failed pushes as Primo and Epico alongside Rosa Mendes and as Los Matadores alongside mascot El Torito. Now, as a cloying heel tandem extolling the virtues of Puerto Rico, it's hard to see much reason for optimism in this latest incarnation. Unless Carlito returns to align with his relatives, maybe it's time to cut the bait on this group.
3 In: The Young Bucks
If the WWE really wanted to shake things up through a newly introduced tag team, how about looking at what might be the hottest act in North American indie wrestling? The Young Bucks tandem of Nick and Matt Jackson carry a pre-existing cult following and the type of dynamic personalities that WWE covets. The duo, who remain young enough to have a meaningful run and have openly considered WWE in the past, could be seamlessly inserted into storylines thanks to being Bullet Club members. Shawn Michaels might have something to say about their signature "superkick parties," though.
2 Out: Kane
Even in the ever-changing world of the WWE, where wrestlers are constantly being repackaged and redirected, flipping between heel and face, few have been presented through as bipolar a lens as Kane. Introduced as an unstoppable monster and the brother of The Undertaker, WWE has gone back and forth on that characterization, turning him into a break dancer, professional mediation seeker and corporate lackey along the way. While knowledgeable WWE fans respect the dedication of Kane portrayer Glenn Jacobs, they simply can no longer buy Kane as any type of formidable threat. It doesn't help that Jacobs is nearing 50 years of age.
1 In: Finn Balor
There remains room for one Demon in WWE, even if it might no longer be the Devil's favorite one. Outside of possibly Shinsuke Nakamura, there is no NXT arrival more hotly anticipated than that of Finn Balor. Balor may not seem like a suitable fill-in for Kane, given that he gives up more than a foot in height and 130 pounds in weight, but his demon persona and stunning ring entrance would offer a mystical aura that will be lacking once Kane and The Undertaker ride off into the sunset.
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