Grading SmackDown’s Moves from the 2019 WWE Superstar Shake-up


Finn Balor

I’m assuming this means that Samoa Joe is being sent to Monday Night RAW. I was wondering why they didn’t have him just show up on RAW to begin with, but then I read a report that he was practically unusable because of a bad case of the flu, so perhaps we will see that in the next week or two. I didn’t think the mid-card champions changing brands would change much, but I do think that Smackdown is more of a natural home for Balor because he is in workhorse territory. He also has the potential to put on quality matches with some of the mid-card while he is there as well.

While WWE doesn’t seem to have much faith in him as a main event guy, if Kofi Kingston can work his way to become WWE Champion after 11 years, there might be an opportunity awaiting Finn down the line. I like this move and it helps give Smackdown a top tier face that they can throw in any capacity.

Grade: A-

Ember Moon

Ember has been sidelined recently with an injury and made an uneventful return in the women’s Battle Royal at WrestleMania. She wasn’t being used particularly well on the RAW Women’s Roster, and having her on Smackdown also gives me the fantasy of re-starting a feud with Asuka. She has a distinct look and is a very underrated worker. I just think she needs an opportunity to showcase her skills on a bigger stage. I think Smackdown can provide just the opportunity she needs.

Grade: B-


Bayley stated that she’s a singles competitor now, so I guess there’s that. As a singles competitor, however, Bayley’s stock has dropped dramatically since her last title win over two years ago. She hasn’t been taken seriously since then, she’s been made a fool of in a variety of feuds (don’t get me started with that This Is Your Life segment), and she looks a far cry from what she used to be in NXT. While I’m glad to see her on a new brand after all these years, Bayley needs to pick up a few high profile wins to make the Smackdown Women’s Division reach its true potential.

If she can get back that babyface fire that made her debut so special, then we may have something here. But it’s going to be a long hill back up for her.

Grade: B-

Kairi Sane

An obvious call-up after her curtain call in NXT, Kairi Sane presents another face in the Smackdown Women’s Division who has credibility as a former NXT Women’s Champion. While I think she will face some of the similar chances that Asuka will face for obvious reasons, she’s a solid worker. I also think bringing her up in a tag team with Asuka is pretty neat, because bringing her up as a singles competitor may have her reach her ceiling much quicker than she should. Plus, it gives her something effective to do, and the same thing goes for Asuka.

Grade: B+

Lars Sullivan

Okay, clearly I missed the boat here. Read my other column to hear my thoughts on him.

Buddy Murphy

I personally love this move. Buddy Murphy was the best Cruiserweight of 2018, and Buddy has proven to have earned his keep through his work in 205 Live. While his presence amongst the Cruiserweights will be missed, Buddy provides Smackdown with a solid heel and a high-intensity worker they can thrust into the mid-card. Whether or not he will be as effective as Andrade remains to be seen, and according to some, he may already be of equal quality. Nonetheless, it is a solid pickup. All the more since this means we may be able to get more of his matchups with Ali that I loved from the tournament last year.

Grade: A


Elias is certainly an interesting choice, and he does seem more suited for a workhorse show such as Smackdown. However, my biggest concern is that his act is something that requires a bigger show and more time. I fear that his performances and segments will be drastically cut and that there won’t be enough time for him to make an impression. He doesn’t compete in many matches these days so much as he tries to put himself over with live musical performances. I don’t complain about the move from a quality sense, but he needs to be used correctly if he is going to have success on Smackdown. I trust that he will, and if he can reach his true potential, it opens up a lot of possibilities.

Grade: B

Roman Reigns

With AJ Styles moving to RAW, this was the obvious move to offset the loss. While Roman Reigns won’t fix the level of match quality that AJ left behind, he’s an established main eventer and a top tier face that will represent the brand. Characters like Roman Reigns typically spend most of their careers on RAW because that is the premier brand, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts on WWE’s B-show. He’ll be sure to get plenty of time to make an impression, and WWE will make sure that he succeeds in any capacity. No matter how you feel about Roman, he’s a big name and he’s WWE’s guy through and through.

Grade: A-

Final Thoughts:

With RAW having an extra hour of show to fill, it was no surprise that RAW got a lot of names in return, so to an extent it seems that Smackdown got the shorter end of the stick. However, there are some things to like here. They got main event caliber talent, they got solid mid-card talent, and they were able to get some names to bolster the Women’s Division which has been on life support for the past couple of months.

As I stated with RAW, the measure of success doesn’t come in the form of who they get, but how they’re utilized. You can put anybody on any show, but it won’t matter if the storylines stink, characters do not get enough time to develop stories and inconsistencies abound. Smackdown is certainly different this go around, but this is definitely a roster that I’m interested in seeing perform going forward.


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