On Monday Night Raw, Vince McMahon announced that there would be a “Superstar Shake-Up” happening next week, leaving the particular details a bit vague. In general, it can be surmised that Raw and SmackDown will have some kind of miniature draft of sorts, possibly with trades being discussed or maybe even the return of the “randomized” lottery concept.
Since we aren’t positive what exactly is in store for us about how this will work, let alone what WWE’s plans are in regards to it, we’re left to speculate what might go down with relative blind eyes, but that’s part of the fun.
As such, here is a breakdown of some of the ideas I have in mind of what I think we might see as well as a few ideas of what I’m personally hoping for, even if it isn’t necessarily in WWE’s plans.
The Safe Superstars
Unless there is a stipulation stating that some crossover between the brands is allowed for Payback and Backlash, we can assume there are a couple of people already set to stay where they currently are.
Considering the circumstances, the entire cruiserweight division is either going to shift to SmackDown or more than likely just stay on Raw. Individual stars won’t be shuffled around.
Brock Lesnar is going nowhere unless Randy Orton gets traded to Raw as his replacement and WWE is willing to replace the red strap on the Universal Championship with a blue one.
Since Lesnar won’t be around on Raw to defend his title for the bulk of the year, current United States champion Kevin Owens will definitely be sticking on the brand, as will his opponent for Payback, Chris Jericho. Of course, Jericho will be leaving soon after Payback, so this is more of a temporary thing, but in theory, it prevents him from being moved over to SmackDown during this current shift. When he makes his return later in the year or in 2018, he could very well pop up on the blue brand.
Normally, I would say that there was a chance Owens and the United States title are switched with Dean Ambrose and the Intercontinental Championship, but since the Owens/Jericho match is already set for Payback and not up in the air where it could happen at Backlash, I think this negates a title swap. Because of this, it’s very unlikely we’ll see Dean Ambrose or Baron Corbin traded over to Raw, as those two are feuding and SmackDown can’t afford to get rid of the Intercontinental Championship with no replacement midcard belt.
Keeping with that trend, The Hardy Boyz and The Usos are the tag team champions of their brands and both women’s champions should be sticking where they’re at, too.
The newest additions to the main roster who were called up from NXT should be safe as well, meaning The Revival will probably stay on Raw and both Tye Dillinger and Shinsuke Nakamura will stay on SmackDown.
Finally, Braun Strowman alluded to having a future match with Roman Reigns, so unless both of them are traded over to SmackDown (which is highly unlikely) or that crossover between brands is allowed, you can expect to see that match as the main event of Payback, since we know Brock Lesnar isn’t going to show up (ugh).
List of Safe Superstars = the cruiserweights, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Baron Corbin, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Bayley, Naomi, Dash Wilder, Scott Dawson, Tye Dillinger and Shinsuke Nakamura.
The Tag Team Divisions
With The Hardy Boyz safe on Raw, nobody is going to be touching those tag titles for a while. The Revival appear to be in a feud with The New Day, so unless both teams move, I would expect to see both stay on Raw.
Here’s where things get dicey, though. There’s no room for The Hardy Boyz, The New Day, Sheamus and Cesaro, AND Enzo Amore and Big Cass as prominent babyface teams on Raw. Meanwhile, on SmackDown, the only babyface team worth something is American Alpha.
Clearly, things are out of balance, and Raw needs to send a face team over to SmackDown to even things out.
More than any other trade possible in this shake-up, I’m most confident in Enzo Amore and Big Cass to SmackDown. I thought it was strange to begin with during the last draft that Enzo/Cass were on the same brand as The New Day as they had similar vibes, and now that SmackDown desperately needs another face team, those two and American Alpha can share that responsibility. Plus, Cass and Carmella would be reunited on the same brand, and that’s much easier on their relationship.
SmackDown is really in shambles at the moment. Since Simon Gotch was released, The Vaudevillains are no longer a unit. The Hype Bros aren’t going to be reforming any time soon, either, and Heath Slater and Rhyno are on borrowed time. There aren’t any good heel teams unless The Ascension or Breezango step up their game, but I would equate those two teams to be more along the lines of equivalents of The Shining Stars and The Golden Truth, and we’ve already seen them on the blue brand for a while anyway. I could very much see Breezango and The Shining Stars switching spots as they function in similar roles.
On the topic of heel teams needed on SmackDown, as we only have The Usos, I’m thinking the issue will be rectified more so with the formation of a new team or maybe a push for The Ascension rather than Gallows and Anderson moving away from Raw.
Sheamus and Cesaro are a funny case, though. They are currently the No. 1 contenders to the tag titles, but that match wasn’t announced for Payback. I’m suspicious of that booking choice. Perhaps they receive their title shot on Raw next week before being split up? It’s much easier in WWE’s eyes to hurt the tag team division than deprive the main roster of singles stars. Sheamus and Cesaro already had their title run, climaxed their storyline potential, and while they work rather well as a team, they have a lot to offer the midcard, upper midcard, and main event of Raw and SmackDown.
It’s more of a longshot than Enzo and Cass going to SmackDown, but I’m going to put out the suggestion that Sheamus and Cesaro split. Who stays on Raw and who leaves is questionable.
The Women’s Divisions
That quartet of women we saw face off at WrestleMania for the Raw Women’s Championship absolutely has to be broken apart. They even addressed it on Bring it to the Table by saying they feel like they’ve been watching only those four face off for months. It also wouldn’t hurt to switch up some of the SmackDown Six to keep things fresh.