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
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
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
10 In: Nia Jax
9 Out: Sheamus
8 In: Samoa Joe
7 Out: Erick Rowan
6 In: Baron Corbin
5 In: Big Cass
4 Out: The Shining Stars
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
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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