Top Five Winners and Losers from the “Superstar Shake-up”

This past week, the WWE had their first ever Superstar Shake-up where wrestlers switched brands.  This essentially replaced the draft concept used in the past.   Wrestlers showed up at random on each show without warning or explanation, and overall, it was more interesting than awaiting an announcement from an authority figure.  The shake-up lived up to the name, and the rosters look radically different.  The following list looks at competitors who are potentially in a better or worse position now.

Top Five Biggest Losers

5. The Miz

The Miz and Maryse became one of the most entertaining fixtures on Smackdown since the brand split last year.  His mic work has been top notch in his feuds with Dean Ambrose and John Cena, and he carried the Ziggler program to being one of the best things on the brand.  Had The Miz stayed on Smackdown, it would be nearly inevitable that he’d have sniffed the World Title this year.  Unfortunately, he’ll be behind Bray, Samoa Joe, and Braun in terms of the upper card most likely.  No doubt, Miz will overcome this positioning; he’ll entertain, drawn heel heat, and make whatever program he’s involved in better, but he’ll remain in that midcard title range.

4. Bray Wyatt

Bray moving to RAW feels like a a demotion to some degree.  If the Roman Reigns-face that is really a heel-situation is discounted, Bray might be the top heel on the brand. Still, he was elevated to World Champion on Smackdown, then had a cheesy program that led to a horribily-received match at Wrestlemania.  He couldn’t get the title, his gimmick, or the program over.  This isn’t his fault obviously, at least not completely: the booking and writing deserves just as much blame.  Nevertheless, once his feud with Balor is over (in another program he’ll lose), then what is left for him?  He’s feuded with Roman recently, and the maligned feud with Ambrose still feels recent.  Seth Rollins would be a fresh program although it might not be wise to put Seth with Bray if they are trying to push Rollins to the moon.  After that though, there’s little they can do unless the Wyatt Family reforms, and something with the Hardys starts.  The future certainly isn’t looking as bright as it did last November.

3. Dean Ambrose

He’s still the Intercontinental champion right now, but Ambrose is behind Seth, Balor, Jericho if he sticks around, and maybe Roman if his situation ever resolves.   There’s a limited number of main event heels on RAW as well.  This doesn’t bode well for Ambrose just by the numbers.  Bray is out as a possibility as referenced above; Brock isn’t going to happen; The Miz happened last year on Smackdown; there’s a possibility of doing something with Joe at some point, but that’s it.   If he remains face, then he’s lower down the card.  However, two things could change this, and it’s Ambrose’s best hope for success on RAW.  The first is if they turn Roman finally, and he enters into a program with him.  The other possibility is turning Ambrose heel.  This might be the best bet for him at this point.  He’s shown in his NXT and indy work that he’s a tremendous psychotic heel in the vain of Jake Roberts.  This would also help the heel problem on RAW.

2. American Alpha

The Smackdown tag team division is in shambles right now.  The two new arrivals are The New Day and The Shining Stars, which are added to the champions, The Usos, American Alpha, Breezango, and The Ascension.  Breezango and The Ascension will never get a push, so let’s just say there are four teams here.  The New Day will enter into a program with the Usos right away because there is no other team to feud with.  That leaves American Alpha with The Shining Stars, who might be more capable than what they’ve been given, but if they don’t make it here, then they are gone probably.  This feels like Alpha is left out of the division unless another team is moved up from NXT, but the only ones ready are DIY, another face team.  Alpha will be most hurt out of this boring tag division.

1. Sami Zayn

This might be controversial to some, but Sami Zayn’s stock isn’t much higher than it has been on RAW.  He’s about in the same spot as before, but on a show that runs ninety minutes now.  Granted, Smackdown last year was able to do a lot with less time especially considering they have Talking Smack as another venue for character development and exposure.  Still, Nakamura, AJ, and Orton are all going to be ahead of Sami.  He’s the fourth face on the roster right now.  The main event and upper midcard heels are Kevin Owens, who nobody wants to Sami feud with again so soon, and Baron Corbin.  That’s it.  Ziggler and Jinder Mahal are the third and fourth top heels. There’s almost literally no program for Sami unless he gets involved in a face/face program, a three-way feud, or Orton turns heel. Being on Smackdown automatically helps underused, underexposed stars, but with the writing making Sami look like a goof who just happens to be a great wrestler already, the future for Zayn looks disappointing.

Top Five Biggest Winners

5. Rusev

Rusev is injured right now, but coming back to the blue brand upon his return is exactly what he needs.  In the past two years, he’s been lost in poor booking (Ziggler), poor storylines (Enzo and Cass), bad stables (the League of Nations), and in being fodder for main event stars (Roman).  He’s been lost in the shuffle due to his nagging injuries and the desire to focus on other stars.  Being on a smaller roster with less heels (only Owens and Corbin) could really benefit him and let him be the monster he was upon his debut.  This distance from television will help the viewers miss him, and if he “comes back stronger than ever” then he could be in a midcard title position quickly.  The rest would be up to booking and Rusev himself.

4. Alexa Bliss

Besides Becky Lynch’s superior in-ring work, Alexa Bliss helped hold down the women’s division on Smackdown.  Her ring work isn’t the best out of the women certainly, but her heel character is accessible to the audience, and her mic work is top notch consistently.  She’s a star in the making, and RAW is the next step for her.  With Nia being exposed recently for being greener than previously imagined (and still drawing no heat), Bliss is the top heel immediately on the show.  She will have the two top faces in Sasha Banks and Bayley to contend with for the next year, and in some ways, Bliss could help rehabilitate Bayley and make her the babyface should always should have been. If she’s able to do that, she’ll be a top heel for years to come and has the possibility of becoming a huge star for the company.

3. Kevin Owens

Owens held down RAW in the second half of 2016 and early 2017.  His Universal title run was corrupt, surely, and perhaps even considered weak.  He cheated to hold onto the title in every feud and never really looked dominant.  But his ring work and promo work is one of the best on both rosters.  Many noted, however, that after Owens lost the title and it was transitioned to Brock, he would drop back down the card, which is exactly what would have happened.  But by moving to Smackdown, his momentum continues.  By swapping places with Bray Wyatt, he’s immediately the top heel on the show right away.  He’ll hold the World Title, assuming it stays on Smackdown, by the end of the year, and if the United States title remains the top title instead, he’ll hold that for an extended period or two.  This might be the Kevin Owens show even more than RAW has been as he has a number of babyface contenders to deal with.  WWE could have let him slip, but by moving him, they’ve shown a lot of confidence in him.

2. Seth Rollins

Keeping Seth Rollins on RAW instead of trading him, which everyone was predicting, could be fantastic or dangerous.  It led to what might have been the best promo Seth has given in his WWE career, at least since he turned face.  He displayed guts and remorse for his past.  By keeping him on RAW, this is Seth’s chance at truly being “the guy.”  His only competition for the top face position is Finn Balor, but unfortunately, it feels like his stock has dropped a little since the return from his injury.   Surely, Vince is still interested in his money-making potential, and he’ll be kept high on the card as long as low-midcarders don’t concuss him anymore. This is Seth’s show with Lesnar off television a majority of the time and Roman being boo’d out of the building. Somehow, miraculously almost, despite wishy-washy writing and booking and a meandering match at ‘Mania, two good promos have rebuilt him in the fans’ eyes.  He could be the most whitemeat babyface the company has if he continues that.  They need to book him right, but this is the opportunity Seth has needed even though the path was winding.

1. AJ Styles

AJ Styles was the anchor of Smackdown last year.  It might have been heel hyperbole to say that Smackdown was “the house that AJ built,” but there’s a degree of truth to it.  Staying on Smackdown and presumably turning face is his ultimate victory, more than any title run or accolade because it shows both the fans and Vince have absolute and complete trust in him.  He could have went the way of a number of former TNA or indy talents that have been brought in, but being the best in the world, no matter what path it took to get there, has won out. With Cena gone, AJ is the top babyface on the show, and he has a few new toys – Nakamura, Owens, Zayn – to work with to put on another year’s worth of stellar matches.  AJ might be the most over in the company and rightfully so.

 

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