Each time WWE has split its roster into Raw and SmackDown exclusive talent, the move was made out of necessity. With the WWE Universe expanding to a degree that it’s larger than ever, the number of wrestlers employed by the company has likewise ballooned, and it’s simply easier to keep track of everybody and make sure the right people get screen time by separating them into smaller groups. Unfortunately, as with most things WWE these days, the McMahon family and their staff haven’t done the greatest job at divvying the talent up, leaving two lopsided and disjointed shows with more cons than pros.
There are plenty of solutions to WWE’s latest problem, but once again applying Occam’s razor, the simplest answer would be a mass talent exchange to make both shows even all at once. While Raw will always be the WWE flagship, that doesn’t mean it needs to be the “better” show, rather the more sports entertainment-style of the two, and SmackDown can then be a more traditional mat-based affair. Classifying the shows in this manner isn’t entirely original; its pretty obvious WWE is already trying to do so, they’ve just blown the landing when deciding where to send about half of their roster. Keep reading to learn about 8 wrestlers who should jump to Raw and 8 who should jump to SmackDown Live.
16 TO SMACKDOWN: 205 Live
Most wrestling fans were excited when WWE announced the cruiserweight division would be making a return and with it’s own special series at that. Unfortunately, the excitement tends to wear off every Monday night when the 205 Live crew have their requisite match on Raw, almost always assured to underwhelm on a massive level. The problem is that the fast paced cruiserweight style doesn’t fit in with Raw’s more story based WWE version of sports entertainment. It would be one thing if the writers simply let the cruiserweights do their own thing and look a little out of place, but instead it looks like the 205 Live superstars are being forced to work the heavyweight style whenever they appear on the main roster. Truth be told, the best solution here would be to keep the cruiserweights totally separate and always let them do their own thing. However, if WWE is set in their ways, the least they can do is let the smaller guys shine on SmackDown.
15 TO RAW: Baron Corbin
Given his character in NXT constantly complaining about indie geeks, it would have been completely reasonable for Baron Corbin to revolt and refuse to wrestle on SmackDown when he was drafted to the brand. What should go against everything he believes in has pretty much been glossed over, with Corbin doing his best to fit in with those indie geeks now that they’ve graduated to the main roster enough to blend in. Although he’s done a good enough job of it to stay relevant, Corbin would be much better served in an environment where storytelling was more important than in-ring work. At 6’8”, Corbin is also better suited for Raw due to the brand’s larger number of giants, making a far more suitable location for him and allowing the writers to focus on what he’s doing rather than wondering why he’s there.
14 TO SMACKDOWN: Seth Rollins
As a favorite student of Triple H, chances are The Architect will remain on the WWE flagship program for as long as the roster split continues. While it’s true he more than holds up his end on the microphone, Seth Rollins is more than talented enough in the ring that he could split the focus between his many facets as a performer. It would also benefit the fans by getting him away from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who are notorious for never letting their on screen enemies truly succeed, real life friends or not. With his some 9-month reign as WWE Champion, it would also track that Rollins might be more interesting in regaining that gold that chasing after the far less prestigious Universal Championship he has no particular attachment to. Of course, it’s all a moot point until he can stop injuring himself.
13 TO RAW: Kane
Conventional wisdom would probably say that after nearly 20 years of convoluted destruction, it might simply be time for The Devil’s Favorite Demon to hang up his mask for good. That said, WWE seem dead set on keeping Kane around pretty much forever, and Glenn Jacobs is adept enough at reinventing his character that he’ll probably be able to find a place on the card for years to come. Given his entire career thus far, it goes without saying that Kane’s career should continue on Raw, where his bizarre character history could bolster every story he gets involved in. Especially with his advanced age, the one thing Kane can’t do is wrestle a traditional mat based classic match, and that’s what fans are started to expect from SmackDown. The one big angle to feature Kane since the brand split made such a mess of the Wyatt Family situation fans still don’t care about WrestleMania, clearly showing just how destructive Kane really is in the wrong environment.
12 TO SMACKDOWN: Sami Zayn
Once proudly reigning as NXT Champion for several months and headlining that brand’s events for quite some time on top of that, Sami Zayn has almost felt generic(o) since getting called up to the main roster. Zayn didn’t have the best start, wrestling solid matches but typically losing whenever it counted, and things got even worse after the roster split when he became a glorified jobber for Braun Strowman. A losing streak wouldn’t work on either roster, and yet if it happened on SmackDown, at least Zayn’s caliber of opponent would have been higher, making for better matches than the squashes with Vince McMahon’s latest unremarkable hoss. He might even get to win a few matches, and on top of it all, the often lighter, goofier comedy elements on SmackDown would be more befitting his tendencies, as well.
11 TO RAW: The Ascension
Almost nothing about how WWE has booked The Ascension since calling them up from NXT has made any sort of practical sense. Konnor and Viktor were the NXT Tag Team Champions for a record-setting 364 days, only to become weird jokes upon arrival on the main roster, and they haven’t done much to shake that reputation since. Placing them on SmackDown has been the latest bizarre misstep WWE has made with the throwback tag team, with their Road Warriors based style being tailor made for hard-hitting power matches on Raw. SmackDown’s nature as the more mat based show also means they can throw together tag teams at random so long as the members are capable in the ring, which has been happening over on Raw due to a general lack of teams. Trading over the Ascension for two solo stars could boost SmackDown’s singles ranks, and hopefully Konnor and Viktor could finally live up to some of their potential in a more traditional WWE tag team division.
10 TO SMACKDOWN: The Club
From the second they split up, there were pros and cons in separating A.J. Styles from his friends Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows in The Club. The one big positive to removing A.J. from his New Japan buddies was letting The Phenomenal One have the spotlight all to himself. Gallows and Anderson likewise benefitted in this way, eventually winning the Raw Tag Team Championships, which they may not have done as A.J.’s lackeys. However, there’s no real reason both A.J. and The Club couldn’t have been successful on the same show, compounding their dominance on SmackDown and making The Club the most powerful group in the WWE Universe. There’s something to be said about them spreading their influence over both brands, but there’s too much to be gained from having them work together on a weekly basis, exponentially empowering all three in the process.
9 TO RAW: Randy Orton
Although fans have given perceived Randy Orton as bland and boring for the vast majority of his career, Vince McMahon and Triple H seem to love the guy to the extent we can expect The Viper to stick around in main events for a long time coming. Regardless of how crowds react to Orton, the executives clearly see him as one of the most important athletes on the roster, and that should have made him a lock for Raw. Orton has always exceled at psychological storylines, while his in-ring work is exactly what gave him such a negative reputation amongst critics, both qualities that make him more fitting for the red brand than the blue. It would also make sense that one of the most decorated superstars in WWE history would want to try his hand at adding the Universal Championship to his resume.
8 TO SMACKDOWN: Dana Brooke
Just for a second, forget everything we’ve said thus far about Raw being the sports entertainment show and SmackDown being the wrestling show. Thanks to the women’s revolution, the female half of the roster doesn’t quite fit into these distinctions, so we have to judge them accordingly. Rather than separating the sports entertainers from the wrestlers, for the female half of the roster, we have to split the well-rounded women who know what they’re doing to those in a nebulous state between NXT and actually being ready for prime time. Let’s face it, WWE just doesn’t have enough females on the roster to keep them apart in the first place, so the least they could do to keep it watchable is keep all the best talents together. Then the middling talents can do their best to keep up on SmackDown, and the point of all this is that’s where Dana Brooke belongs, not experienced enough for her current role, but good enough she doesn’t quite need a trip back down to NXT.
7 TO RAW: The Miz
On a character level, more than anyone else on SmackDown, The Miz should constantly be demanding management shift him over to the A-Show, possibly even using the logic that A stands for Awesome. Entering wrestling as a reality TV standout and becoming a movie star as his time in the WWE Universe rapidly increased his profile, The Miz is more of a media sensation than a traditional pro wrestler. He’s always been able to back it up in the ring just enough that he’s been able to hold his on own SmackDown, but anyone who calls himself the A-Lister should be on the top rated flagship program, not the historically lesser show. Despite all this, The Miz has been one of the few WWE superstars to voice his opinion that he feels perfectly suited where he is, largely because he thinks SmackDown has the more talented roster, reputation as the B-Show be damned.
6 TO SMACKDOWN: Fínn Balor
There can be no denying that Fínn Balor had one of the fastest and most impressive jumps from NXT to the main roster anyone has yet to experience. In a manner of months, he went from being the longest reigning NXT Champion in history to becoming the first ever Universal Champion. The feat was made no less remarkable by the fact he was injured in the course of winning the belt, though it does open up the opportunity that he could make a return on either Raw or SmackDown when doctors clear him to do so. Therefore, Balor is perhaps the most likely of any superstar on this list to actually make a jump, and WWE should seriously consider bringing him over to the blue side. While the Demon King might be a character deserving of the sports entertainment banner, Fínn’s true bread and butter will always be his in-ring performances, which could be even better with SmackDown’s superior talent roster.
5 TO RAW: Becky Lynch
As far as the women of WWE are concerned, no one came out of the roster split worse than the Lass Kicker, Becky Lynch. The only member of NXT’s soon-to-be legendary Four Horsewomen to get separated from her sisters, Lynch was left with a number of new potential opponents when she was set out on her own, albeit none up to her caliber. There’s plenty of argument about who the best worker is between Lynch, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Bayley, not to mention several other females in NXT and on the Raw roster. Alexa Bliss coming into her own has finally given Lynch a competitor on her level, although this only further proves that SmackDown should be able letting the mid-range women work our their characters while the ready-made talents stick to Raw.
4 TO SMACKDOWN: Cesaro
The very same night as the roster split, Cesaro himself complained to WWE.com that he should have been drafted to SmackDown. Cesaro pretty much knew everything this list has been reinforcing from the minute the rosters were split, not only feeling his technical style better suited him for working Tuesdays, but going so far with the notion as to argue he deserved to be one of Shane McMahon’s top 10 picks for the brand. Unfortunately for Cesaro, Shane isn’t the only member of the McMahon family who ignores Cesaro’s talents, as Vince has been mistreating the Swiss Sensation for some time now, regardless of what show he happens to be appearing on. The sad reality is that Cesaro may not have much luck truly succeeding in either brand thanks to his employers not understanding what they have. Even so, he would have a better shot at suddenly proving it one day with the right opponents, all of whom he would find on SmackDown.
3 TO RAW: Mickie James
Notwithstanding everything we’ve said thus far about both the men’s and women’s rosters on both Raw and SmackDown, the impulse WWE had in putting Mickie James on SmackDown upon her return to the main roster is one that made sense. The blue brand has been notoriously lacking in established female talent from the start of the roster split. If the company isn’t going to take our suggestion to use it as a middle ground for NXT graduates not quite ready for Raw, bringing in some former Women’s Champions could definitely bolster the ranks enough to make the division competitive. The one person who doesn’t get any favors from the arrangement, though, is Mickie herself, who has next to nothing to gain from working with unprepared talent far beneath her level. Over on Raw, James could both add some gravitas to her feuds while also working with talent who actually deserve the boost.
2 TO SMACKDOWN: Samoa Joe
While plenty of fans probably thought Samoa Joe would be one of those rare talents who never made it to the WWE Universe, he wasted no time whatsoever in proving he belonged by attacking the NXT Champion in his debut. Joe’s philosophy of going big or going home continued during his call up to the main roster, when he made his Raw debut attacking Seth Rollins as an agent of Triple H. These destructive antics no doubt make Joe worthy of the Raw brand, his character speaking volumes without ever actually having to say a word. However, for as monstrous as Joe is capable of being, his chaos is uniquely suited to the wrestling ring in that he’s a technician in a class all his own. It looks impressive no matter who Joe is metaphorically gonna kill, yet how flashy the manner in which he chooses to do so is will ultimately define his legacy. On Raw, there he’ll destroy in seconds with no frills, taking away potential for unforgettable matches.
1 TO RAW: John Cena
Can anyone explain what the so-called Face of WWE is doing on SmackDown, except to attempt and offset the roster imbalance through his sheer force of star power alone? The strategy makes sense on one level, albeit with the downside of making practically everyone else on the show look small time in comparison whenever they square off. Not to sound too much like JBL here, but whether the crowd loves him or hates him, they’re going to give Cena the loudest reaction of the night, a designation that should be on the highest rated and most important brand the company has to offer. On top of that, for as talented as Cena is in the ring, his style is textbook sports entertainment, not to mention the even bigger flaw colloquially known on the Internet as Cena Wins, LOL. Drinking the WWE Kool-Aid, it’s acceptable to have a predictable winner going in, because sports entertainment is about the overall story. For a back and forth traditional wrestling match to have no drama kills the whole thing, and for that reason more than any other Cena needs to get away from SmackDown and give the brand room to matter.