When I was 13 years old, my family went to Phoenix, Arizona for New Year’s Eve. My Mom hates the cold, and since myself and my three brothers had the time off school (as it was apparently sacrilegious to miss even a small amount of time of school for anything other than a dentist’s appointment), we decided to go. While it was a wonderful trip, there’s one moment that sticks out in my mind. New Year’s Day, the day prior to leaving, we went to one of the many outlets malls in the area. Sick of shopping, my siblings and I decided to take in a movie and let my parents have an afternoon to themselves. The movie we decided on was Avatar. After purchasing our overpriced popcorn and pop, and sufficiently ruining the pre-show experience of the other patrons in attendance, we settled in to watch what was being hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. Nearly three hours later, the four of us left the theatre, and after a period of silence, someone finally spoke up.
“What a piece of **** that was.”
Seriously, convince me it doesn’t look like Genie from Aladdin cross bread with a cat.
Seriously, I hate that movie. I dare you to ask me to explain why and until last week, it was one of the single biggest disappointments of my life.
That is, until the WWE SuperStar Shakeup, announced on the R.A.W. RAW (the Raw After WrestleMania Raw).
(What’s that? You didn’t see me go 10-3 in my WrestleMania predictions blog? Relive the glory here!)
When Vincent Kennedy McMahon appeared before the Orlando crowd and announced the first set of roster moves since the WWE Draft last summer, the wrestling world was titillated. Who would be the first to switch brands? What would the shows look like? A flurry of potential moves and feuds were released, with a new batch of rumours appearing seemingly by the hour. Reigns to Smackdown! Styles to Raw! Call-ups from NXT! As an avid NHL fan, I compared it to the July 1st Free Agent Frenzy, mixed with the Trade Deadline. Here I was, naively hoping for a panel of experts to analyze the moves, surprise appearances from stars both past and future, and massive roster moves.
Instead, the Shining Stars were renamed (again) and Byron Saxton is unfortunately still employed, but on RAW this time. Not only were most of the moves a disappointment, but the lack of any sort of format to the Shakeup hurt the product overall. Rather than make any sort of trades or even an announcement whatsoever, Superstars essentially just sort of, well, showed up. No explanations, no reasoning, just sort of ended up there.
Now, that’s not to say interesting moves didn’t happen. They did. With the swap of Alexa Bliss and Mickie James to RAW, with four time Women’s champion Charlotte making the move to the blue brand, the respective Women’s Divisions are likely the biggest winners of the Shakeup. Much like my high school self, however, the individuals traded on both rosters ended up losers.
To illustrate the point, this is me in high school.
Before we get into some moves that should have been made, let’s first recap the ones that did happen. We’ll also set some ground rules for the trades – No draft picks can be moved as part of the trades. In addition, all trades will be straight up one-for-one trades, excluding existing tag teams; there’s just too many variations of factions that can move and make things interesting. Lastly, NXT moves will be limited to one up/one down per brand, and they have to make sense. As glorious as it would be to have Bobby Roode on the main roster, he’s not going anywhere while he’s the NXT champ.
Let’s look at what happened, in order of who I believe were the best additions to the ones that I feel are as interesting as a wet piece of toast.
Heath Slater and Rhyno
As I said earlier, the combination of Bliss and James will be outstanding additions to Monday night’s. Bliss has already become the number one contender, and James gives the division a much-needed veteran presence. Bray Wyatt…well, I just like Bray Wyatt, and a feud with Finn Balor will be cool as anything. I will, however, qualify that Bray is starting to lose a bit of appeal; he REALLY needed that win at Mania this year. The Miz and Maryse are a controversial move for most wrestling fans, and I understand that after the MVP caliber work he was doing for Smackdown. However, a promotion to the flagship show, and a lack of top heels on the brand with KO’s move to Tuesday’s, give the Miz a chance to continue his year-long hot streak.
The rest of the list I won’t explain too much – Ambrose is boring now, I still love Heath and Rhyno but they don’t do much, Kalisto was literally thrown in the garbage in his first week, Curt Hawkins still apparently exists, and I’d rather be waterboarded than hear Byron Saxton speak.
The New Day
Number One Contender Jinder Mahal
The Colons (the artists formerly known as the Shining Stars)
Much like Drake, I’m going to start from the bottom here. The Colons, don’t care. Sin Cara, don’t care.
But yes, you read that right. Number One Contender, Jinder Mahal. I just needed to specifically point out that this is the worst thing to happen to wrestling since the Undertaker retired. (Still not over it.)
Then, we make the move to the returning Tamina and the re-debuting Lana. Both are interesting additions in their own respect; Tamina provides muscle in a similar manner to Nia Jax on RAW, but she can at least wrestle. Lana is apparently debuting in a dancer gimmick, and apparently the early returns aren’t promising if recent NXT house show reports are to be believed.
I’d like to send a special shout-out to my brother Parker, who’s changed my opinion on the New Day moving. I hate to admit it, but I’ve grown to dislike the faction; I simply believe that they’ve outworn their welcome, and could be better utilized as solo acts by this point. However, his belief is that the three gentlemen will eventually turn heel again, in an effort to put over American Alpha once and for all. Frankly, it excited me, and thank you Parker for your help in this paragraph.
Rusev is just awesome. End of story, he’s great, let him shine when he returns from injury. Make Rusev Handsome Again!
We do, Rusev, and it’s magnificent.
When it comes to my top three, I honestly think they’re all interchangeable. Sami Zayn has long been a favourite of mine, and I truly think that he’ll be given a chance to shine on SD. A less stacked upper card has room for someone who can connect with an audience, and few can do it like Zayn.
Charlotte is an asset to whichever division she’s on, and I love this move. Fresh matchups, and a rematch with real-life best friend Becky Lynch, all promise to elevate not only the Queen, but each member of the division. Truly, she’s the best built heel in WWE right now, regardless of gender.
However, that claim is being rivaled by Kevin Owens with his move to the brand. Since his breakup with Jericho prior to WrestleMania, the current US champion and “Face of America” is doing the best work of his WWE career – and that’s saying something. Gone are the days of joking KO with his sidekick (which were also awesome), and replacing it is the cold, calculating Kevin Owens we expected when he signed with WWE and exhibited perfectly during his NXT run. All three will be valuable additions to the roster, and I can’t wait to see where they take the respective shows since.
Again, however, each of these moves happened for no rhyme or reason, and with no explanation whatsoever. No trades, no free agency, no nothing. So, in the spirit of the NHL, here are five SuperStar Shakeup moves that should have happened. And again, this isn’t ‘Nam, Smokey, this is wrestling - there are rules here.
Smokey was never very good with following the rules.
- No draft picks can be moved as part of the trades.
- All trades will be straight up one-for-one trades, excluding existing tag teams
- NXT moves will be limited to one up/one down per brand.
- No moves that a reasonable person couldn’t justify. As glorious as it would be to have Bobby Roode on the main roster, he’s not going anywhere while he’s the NXT champ.
- No moves that were made can be made here; that’s just a cop out.
Monday Night Raw trades Cesaro to Smackdown Live for John Cena
Things get started with a bang, as former tag team champions Sheamus and Cesaro are broken up, and RAW acquires a 16-time world champ. This trade works on a number of fronts; firstly, Cesaro is massively underutilized. One of the best workers in the WWE regardless of brand, he’s got the potential to be a future champion. Massively respected by his peers and fans alike, this writer feels that he’s simply too talented for the tag-team division. Secondly, the rub of being traded for a main-event talent like Cena can only elevate Cesaro as he makes the switch of brands. In addition, it gives the blue brand a full time star to replace the increasingly part-time Cena; RAW has a number of high-end babyfaces (Rollins, Balor, Jericho) that are capable of holding down the workload while the future Mr. Bella takes his time off. However, outside of the recently called up Shinsuke Nakamura, there are few main-event caliber stars on Tuesday’s. The trade of Cesaro gives another full time face to the blue brand.
Smackdown Live trades A.J. Styles to Monday Night Raw for Roman Reigns
One of the most surprising aspects of the Shakeup was the lack of an A.J. Styles move to RAW – prior to the event last week, it was seemingly the only “confirmed” move that Vince McMahon had decided on. However, it wasn’t to be. However, a move to RAW would have made a lot of sense for the former Bullet Club leader. Especially if left as a heel, a number of dream feuds make themselves available; names like Seth Rollins immediately come to mind, while a feud with another former Bullet Club member in Finn Balor can entice even the most cynical of fans into watching.
In addition, Smackdown provides the opportunity for Roman Reigns to prove he really is “The Guy.” Again, with Cena as a part-timer, there’s a lack of true top babyfaces on the brand, and like it or not, Reigns is a babyface AND VINCE WILL BE DAMNED IF YOU BELIEVE OTHERWISE.
Yeah, because this face inspires the feeling he cares what you think.
Honestly, Reigns draws a reaction, and regardless of whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy (or the guy), a move to Smackdown would give him an opportunity to truly lead a brand.
Enzo & Cass are traded from Monday Night Raw to Smackdown Live for American Alpha
What do you do with an act that has managed to remain one of the most popular acts on the roster, but hasn’t picked up a big victory in WWE yet?
By the same token, what do you do with a team that won a championship within its first year in the big league, but hasn’t managed to gain any popularity?
These are the types of moves the Shakeup was made for, but alas, both squads remain on their respective brands. Enzo and Cass remain one of the most popular tag teams on the roster, behind likely only the returning Hardy Boyz. However, they haven’t come close to winning a championship yet, and despite what Vince McMahon seems to believe with his 50/50 booking, wins and losses do matter. A move to Smackdown and that elusive title victory (likely over the Usos) would only benefit their popularity.
Conversely, the move to RAW would elevate the status of A.A. to levels that Smackdown hasn’t been able to do. Touting the team as huge additions and allowing them to exhibit the personalities that got them so over in NXT is vital to their success. Besides, the possibility of an Olympic wrestler in Gable, as well as an NCAA champion in Jason Jordan, on the same brand as Kurt Angle is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in years. A huge miss on the part of WWE Creative.
Curtis Axel traded from Monday Night Raw for Luke Harper of Smackdown Live
Both these men are criminally underused on their respective brands. On one hand, Curtis Axel. A third-generation wrestler, and the son of Mr. Perfect, Axel is more than adequate both in the ring and on the mic. As proven during his “AxelMania” phase, Curtis obviously can make the right gimmick work. I equate him to a guy a lot like Damien Sandow, but with the ability to actually wrestle. A move to Smackdown would be a fresh start for the younger Henning, and I believe he could flourish in the mid card as both a heel or face.
Perhaps even more than Axel, Luke Harper deserves a shot to get himself over. Since his split from the Wyatt Family, it’s been a tumultuous ride for the 6’6 Harper. He’s seen himself go from a title shot to a bit part in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at ‘Mania. However, given crowd reactions to him since his pseudo-face turn, Harper deserves every chance to flourish in the upper mid-card. I firmly believe that he could be a titleholder by the end of the year, something I think is more likely on Raw than Smackdown Live.
Monday Night Raw signs Hideo Itami from NXT
Smackdown Live signs Andrade “Cien” Almas from NXT
Rounding out the moves that should have happened are two NXT call-ups. Firstly, Smackdown benefits huge from the signing of Almas. The former La Sombra is an experienced veteran of the indie wrestling scene at the young age of 27. Since turning heel in the Dusty Rhodes classic this past year, Almas has reinvented his bland babyface character into an arrogant partier, and his character work has been outstanding to say the least. The blue side could certainly benefit from some additional mid-card heels, especially with Tye Dillinger coming up on the post-Mania Smackdown.
Secondly, RAW gains a big name with Hideo Itami. The current #1 contender for Bobby Roode’s NXT Championship, Itami would have been better served coming up to the main roster. At 37 years old, Itami’s time to make it is growing short, which would be a huge disappointment to wrestling fans worldwide. Remember, this is a guy that none other than Daniel Bryan praised as one of the best in the world during his time in the ring. Much like Nakamura, a guy like that doesn’t deserve to be on what is still technically a secondary brand; he deserves the spotlight.
Remember, keep your shoulders off the mat!