Since the last WWE brand split in 2016, the company has done a pretty good job in keeping Raw and SmackDown separate. Each show has its own identity, its own pacing and ethos. While Raw feels like a cut throat battleground, SmackDown is the land of opportunity. The stars of each show reflect this attitude, with the likes of Brock Lesnar and The Miz embodying Raw’s energy, while AJ Styles and The Usos do the same for SmackDown.
Inevitably, with the amount of talent on each brand and the constant influx of NXT wrestlers, some superstars get lost in the shuffle. They need a chance to reinvent themselves, which is where the Superstar Shake-up comes in. Next week, Raw and SmackDown will trade back and forth, with several superstars ending up on a different show. This year, it feels like the Shake-up has come at just the right time. There are several stale acts on both Raw and SmackDown that could do with a dip in the lake of career reincarnation. Here are our picks for the WWE superstars who could benefit most from a change of scenery.
Raw to SmackDown
1. Jeff Hardy
Given the alliance formed between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania and their subsequent tag match on Raw, it seems certain that WWE are keen to continue the Broken Universe. Jeff, meanwhile, returned to action in full Hardy Boy mode. His interactions with Matt and Bray on Raw felt more like a way to distance the brothers rather than bring them together.
I think moving Jeff to SmackDown achieves a few things. It allows Matt and his Woken persona to develop without the shadow of Jeff hanging over it. I think WWE sees the value in keeping them apart at this point, with the inclusion of Jeff likely to be seen as a backwards step for “The Charismatic Enigma. Matt can make this work without Jeff but keeping them on the same show practically begs for them to join forces.
Jeff has historically been one of the bigger merchandise movers in the company and he achieved his biggest successes on the blue brand. Let’s be honest, Jeff on Raw is quite limited in terms of upwards mobility. He’s unlikely to fit into the Universal Title scene any time soon, given that Brock, Roman and Joe are in pole position. With Braun and Bobby Lashley waiting in the wings, Jeff is likely to find himself lost in the shuffle. A move to SmackDown brings him in line with the likes of AJ Styles and Nakamura. A feud between the two biggest rockstars in WWE has money written all over it. Jeff likely has one big title run left in him and I think he’s most likely to achieve this on SmackDown.
As good as a tag team as The Bar have become, it feels like their run is coming to an end. Braun Strowman and Nicholas’ victory at WrestleMania was a clear sign that the duo have run their course. As Kurt Angle pointed out on Raw, the tag team scene is pretty packed at the moment. Sheamus and Cesaro was only ever meant to be a temporary thing and I think the longevity and success of their team has surprised everyone.
Both men have improved their stock thanks to their alliance. Sheamus and Cesaro have shown a great deal more charisma in their tag title reigns than in the rest of their WWE careers combined. I think it’s time to put the goodwill they’ve garnered to good use in singles runs on separate brands.
Cesaro just feels like a better fit for SmackDown. Again, the chances of upward mobility for “The Swiss Cyborg” are increased on Tuesday nights. There are so many fresh feuds for him on SmackDown and it’s easy to build a story around him having never had world title opportunities on Raw. The land of opportunity strikes again.
Until her recent interactions with Sasha Banks, Bayley had been treated as the joke of the Raw women’s division. Her momentum has been absolutely destroyed over the last twelve months or so. It wasn’t that long ago that people were calling her the female John Cena, a surefire prospect that could inspire future generations. Now, she’s an afterthought.
This Bayley and Sasha thing is likely leading somewhere but it feels like absolutely the worst time to pull the trigger. “The Boss” vs. “The Hugger” was the glue that held NXT together and is an absolute money feud for WWE, but to run this angle while both women’s momentum is at an all time low feels counter productive.
In my opinion, now would be the perfect time to split them up, before they come to blows. Give them time to rebuild on opposite sides of the roster divide. Give them a year or so to prove why they are the best on their respective brands and then bring them back together to finish what they started. Bayley has more potential opponents to rehab her underdog spirit on SmackDown. Bayley vs. Natalya, The Riott Squad and eventually Charlotte Flair could do wonders for her never-say-die attitude.
SmackDown to Raw
Naomi’s rise to prominence on SmackDown has been a joy to behold. She’s the embodiment of the spirit of the show and the idea that everybody gets a chance. She’s gone from Funkadactyl to glowing role model, picking up women’s titles and battle royal victories along the way. She’s peaked on SmackDown, cementing a character that will see her in the WWE for as long as she wants to be. The time has come for her to move to Raw.
Naomi would be a perfect fit in Raw’s evolving Women’s Title scene. The flash and fun of her entrance belies a ring presence and athletic ability that Raw’s women demand. She’d make a great opponent for the likes of recent NXT callup Ember Moon and is a great counterpoint to new champion Nia Jax. If WWE wanted to go that route, she’d also be a great opponent for Ronda Rousey along the way. Naomi may have been built by the blue brand, but she feels Raw ready. She’ll fit right in with the current scene while offering something new and exciting.
2. The Usos
As stacked as the Raw tag division has become, there’s always room for the Uso Penitentiary. Unquestionably the best WWE tag team of the last year, The Usos have truly reinvented themselves on SmackDown. Given the opportunity to show some charisma, they’ve absolutely knocked it out of the park and become as entertaining on the mic as they are in the ring.
Their feud with the New Day has been amazing, but there’s not much more mileage left in it. The Bludgeon Brothers look like they’re taking the tag division in a new direction. Oddly, the team that rebuilt SmackDown’s tag ranks feel like the odd men out. A return to Raw could prove to be very timely. The Usos could move straight into title contention without missing a step. Their new character direction fits the Raw mould perfectly and their in-ring skills are a match for any team on the brand.
3. Kofi Kingston
Talking of the New Day, as good as the trio have been, now is the time to shake things up. They’ve had an amazing run but their latest WrestleMania appearance felt a bit like they’d jumped the shark, something that I’m surprised Kofi hasn’t done at the Royal Rumble yet.
Kofi is another competitor who has opened a lot of people’s eyes over the past couple of years. We’ve always known him to be an amazingly talented athlete but his New Day run has really showcased his innate charisma. Kofi deserves a high profile singles run after various false starts in the past. Separating him from his New Day brothers gives him a real chance to shine on Raw.
The New day gave Kofi the chance to shake away the shackles of the dead-end Jamaican gimmick he debuted with. In a weird way, by becoming more humourous, he’s proven that he isn’t a joke. Kofi has a lot of TV years behind him but is still only in his mid-thirties. The reinvention of his character means he could be a main event player for years to come. A run on Raw against the likes of Finn Bálor, Seth Rollins and Apollo would make for some excellent matches. He might not be in line for a Universal Title run any time soon, but his place in the upper midcard is virtually guaranteed.