The WWE’s big red machine rolls into Montreal, Canada, tonight for the first of two shows focusing on the annual Superstar Shakeup. Rather than try to predict what we’ll get in the way of matches or new feuds, I’m looking at some of the switches I think should happen. Again, since the ordeal also runs through SmackDown, it’s tough to try and call which switches will be announced when. The Official Preview for tonight leaves us with a lot of guesswork. After spending the last week and a half on the floor with a crippling back injury, I’m just glad to be upright. But I digress.
Nakamura & Rusev
If there’s one thing the Superstar Shakeup is designed to do, it’s revitalize momentum for stuck talent. Just over a year ago, Shinsuke Nakamura was coming off his WrestleMania heel turn. He’d won the Royal Rumble, he’d challenged WWE Champion AJ Styles at Mania, and then they ran his newfound love of low-blows into the ground. Sure, he had the stint with the US Title. It got the same attention usually lavished on the secondary championships, barely even defended on PPV. Nakamura has been firmly entrenched in the midcard since, and with no elevation in sight. Rusev is one in a long line of cases of guys who got themselves over to a massive degree, only for Creative to kill all momentum because, ‘it’s not the story they’re telling.’ Since the pairing with Aiden English and Rusev Day was decimated, Rusev’s been another also-there in the midcard. Both these guys desperately need a reboot, and there’s no time like the ShakeUp. They can even kill the team without going through the typical break-up routine, just move them as individuals, and we’d have two new potentially top-level heels on Raw. Either could easily be turned into credible threats to Universal Champ Seth Rollins.
Apollo’s been on a real stop/start trajectory since the WWE Universe took over as the Authority back in December. He’s had little mini-pushes, but nothing with any momentum. For a fan base that claims to not like 50/50 booking, we’re sure not changing the plot with Crews. He’s hit a brick wall with his status in the middle of the pack, and the best way for him to break through that wall would be a move to SmackDown. The style of the show seems a better fit for Crews’ athletic qualities. He could move up through their midcard ranks and present himself as a challenger for Samoa Joe’s US Title. It seems a good move for someone presently stuck putting lower-tier heels in their place, never really graduating.
Let’s face it, Roman’s not leaving Raw. Unless they’re going to run this match at every PPV from now till next WrestleMania, one of ’em has to go. McIntyre, once again, didn’t manage to meet up to expectations of him since his return. His initial tandem with Dolph Ziggler seemed primed to poise him on the edge of greatness – he just didn’t get over the line. Maybe a move over to SmackDown, where he can be the biggest dog in the yard, would finally get him into the biggest spotlight.
Jimmy and Jay Uso have been, arguably, the dominant tag team on SmackDown for several years. Dropping the titles to The Hardy’s frees them up to make the move over to Raw. It’s time for fresh opponents, who must know every move in New Day and The Bar’s playbook by now. Plus it gives WWE the opportunity to cement them in legendary status with a Raw tag team title win or two.
I’m not really sure I expect them to move Finn over to SmackDown. Of course, if they swing Joe back the other way to balance the belts, it could happen. I think I’m more just in favour of seeing this happen. Finn on Raw is like Gulliver in the Land of the Giants; we’re always going to get Balor playing the part of David versus whatever Goliath they run him up against. On SmackDown, Balor might actually get the chance to tell a different story.
Homes for the Homeless
Somewhere in the recesses of my memories, Michael Cole says something about John Cena being the only SuperStar who appears on both brands. Well, that list is somewhat extended these days, with a laundry list of apparent free agents. Aside from Becky Lynch, who as a duel champ should be expected to appear on both shows. And the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champs, a dual-brand title. We’ve got Lacey Evans, Lars Sullivan, Sami Zayn and Bray Wyatt, all popping up wherever they like. Surely if we’re going through the process of the shake-up, we’re going to stick with some roster separation for a while? So these puppies need to find permanent homes.
Lars is a natural-born Raw wrestler. Love or hate the ‘Monster’ gimmick (Vince loves it), it’s never going away, and Raw’s smash-mouth style seems to fit him like a glove. Sami, on the other hand, has always felt like he just fits better on SmackDown. He’s been away long enough that neither show presents him with fresh scenery; everything’s going to feel new for a while. Provided they keep him away from Bobby Lashley. Bray just needs to come back with a hot return, no matter where he lands, and a key PPV win or two to back it up. Otherwise he might as well have never gotten out of the Lake of Reincarnation. As for Lacey Evans, I’m interested to see what they decide to do with the Women’s Division. Is there a chance they’ll dual-brand all of the ladies and unify the titles? It certainly seems strange that Evans has stepped up as Lynch’s only challenger on both shows, opposed to seeing the Irish Lass Kicker face two different forces. Or maybe the McMahons force Becky Two Belts into forfeiting one of the straps? It’s a wait-and-see with the ladies.
There will, of course, be many more roster moves than these; in my opinion at least, these are ones that really should happen. We know they’ll be looking to make at least one ‘shocking’ announcement, and none of these above seem to fit that bill. Is there a chance they’ll flip-flop the two top champs? Move Rollins over to SmackDown and bring all of New Day over to Raw? It doesn’t seem totally inconceivable. On the whole, expect a whole lot of new match-ups for the first week at least, and look forward to seeing what they’ve got planned! On a scale of one to five, with five being, “The newest members of the Raw roster – The Briscoe Brothers!” and one being, “Now on SmackDown Live – David Arquette!”, expect tonight’s Raw to rate a three.