The Superstar Shake-Up has come and gone for another year, leaving the two rosters well and truly shaken up. Raw and SmackDown Live have been freshened up to the point where all corners of the card should undergo some drastic changes. But for every blockbuster attraction now defecting to the other side of the curtain, there is also some potential for absolute blunder.
Sometimes a brand switch can be a godsend for a superstar’s career, providing them with a new start on a different playing field, allowing for new feuds to flourish and more opportunities for the performers to get over with the mainstream audience.
Let’s pick apart the five best swaps and the five worst from the 2019 WWE Superstar Shake-up and throw out some predictions for the superstar’s near future.
5. Best: Buddy Murphy
The former king of 205 Live has now been signed to SmackDown Live. A huge acquisition for the blue brand, one of the WWE’s best home-grown talents that has now managed to break-out onto the main roster after consistently putting on excellent matches as part of the Cruiserweight division. The Best Kept Secret has become one of the most successful NXT call-ups of recent memory, which is crazy to think when looking back on his meagre run on the developmental brand.
Murphy now has the chance to excel as a member of the main-main roster, not being restricted to the weight limit of 205 Live. Buddy Murphy has the potential to be able to mix it up with almost anyone in that ring, with an innovative style that should make for a perfect addition to the roster.
Depending on how they treat former Cruiserweights outside of 205 will determine just how far Murphy is going to go on SmackDown Live. Hopefully he’ll be treated as a raging talent that’s worthy of competing for at least the mid-card titles. I’d love to see Murphy challenge for either the IC or US championships sometime over the next year. Time will tell whether both he and Cedric Alexander will be able to shake off that label of ‘Cruiserweight’ now that they’re fighting for themselves.
5. Worst: The Viking Experience
Still a touchy subject for the WWE Universe, the artists formerly known as the War Raiders are now members of the Raw roster, dubbed Erik and Ivar – The Viking Experience. Whoever decided to rename the duo should start backtracking pretty quickly if they want this act to get over in the way that the NXT Tag Champs deserve to.
The Viking Experience were on a roll as the mastodons of the NXT tag division, putting on exceedingly good matches with the likes of The Undisputed Era and Blackochet. A call-up well earned, but one that’s somewhat premature and what with this sudden change of aesthetic and identity, they’re not off to a great start.
This isn’t a knock on either of the tag champs, but they’re definitely going down as one of the worst picks purely because of the backlash coming their way.
Quite frankly, they just need to go away for a little while and eventually show up as The War Raiders, PG be damned.
4. Best: The Usos
Jimmy and Jey have held down the SmackDown Live tag division since the brand extension’s inception in 2016. The Usos have absolutely raised the bar for tag wrestling in their timeless feuds with The New Day, The Bar and The Bludgeon Brothers. Having recently dropped their latest tag titles to The Hardys on the SmackDown after WrestleMania, what better time for them to make a name for themselves on the flagship show?
The idea of seeing The Usos mix it up with the likes of The Revival, AoP and The Viking Experience is so very tantalising. The twins are undoubtedly one of the best tandems on the planet today, so this is a very big get for Monday Night Raw.
I definitely see them picking up a couple of Raw tag titles in the near future. Best of luck to them.
4. Worst: Lars Sullivan
When haven’t we seen this trope in wrestling? The grotesque behemoth of a man has arrived and he’s steamrolling over anyone that gets in his way. Maybe he’ll manage to overwhelm another of WWE’s fabled giants; cue a cameo from either Big Show or Kane. Maybe he’ll have a crack at the mid-card champion. But how far can Lars really go in WWE after finally making his debut?
Sullivan wasn’t exactly the fan’s darling from NXT. He very rarely did much to impress the ever-so critical audience and failed to capture the NXT Championship from Aleister Black. Perhaps I’m being too cynical of one of the few current roster members to have a 5* match to his credit, but I think he’s going to go down as one of the worst draftees of the year.
Expect to see Lars mow down the mid-card for the next few months only to be stomped out by Braun Strowman or someone of equal status.
3. Best: Finn Balor
The Intercontinental Champion is now sharing the same brand as the United States Champion. A weird decision unless we’re on our way to a unification title fight. Nevertheless, SmackDown Live has been gifted one of the most popular talents on the roster and a man with heaps of potential that has still yet to be exploited. Finn Balor has been destined for the main event since debuting as part of the original draft night in 2016, maybe now is his time to finally break free of the mid-card hell and get some big title wins under his belt.
For a while I was hoping we might get to see some big feuds between him and AJ, Ricochet and Aleister Black on Raw, but now it seems we’re going to be seeing Finn tangle with Daniel Bryan, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kofi Kingston in the coming months. I mean hey, it’s not Baron Corbin.
The Intercontinental Champion should fit right in amongst the blue brand, but what happens now that Raw has been left without a mid-card championship? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
3. Worst: Liv Morgan
I’m not quite sure why there’s such a demand for this particular third of The Riott Squad. Liv has now been split from Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan, who remain part of the Raw roster. Morgan hasn’t really been making many waves as of late, aside from a semi-successful performance in the Elimination Chamber, so the choice for her to now be let loose on her own is a bit of a strange one. Ideally they’ll repackage her and build her up from scratch, rather than getting her to continue the Riott shtick on SmackDown.
As of this writing, I can’t see how Liv is going to fit into the women’s division on SmackDown. Perhaps this is purely so the blue brand have a jobber for the newcomers to work with over the next few weeks. Either way, I feel like this was a bit of a waste of a draft pick.
I could be wrong, but so long as they don’t bring back that awful NXT entrance theme, I’m cool with it.
2. Best: AJ Styles
Styles was rumoured to be out with an injury, so seeing him show up as the final draft to Monday Night Raw was a huge surprise. Like The Usos, AJ has accomplished all he can as part of SmackDown Live to the point where there wasn’t much else for him to do. With a star as big as AJ Styles, you don’t want to allow him to become stale, so this move to Raw was probably the best thing that could happen to him.
AJ is one of WWE’s biggest names at the moment, so bringing him in as one of the flag-bearers for the red brand is a very smart decision. Hopefully it won’t be long before Styles is clawing his way back into the title picture, challenging Seth Rollins for the world championship that he has yet to get his hands on.
AJ Styles is a massive get for Raw, a name that will undoubtedly fill the gap left behind by Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Raw might not be the house that AJ built, but it’s one that’s currently under new management.
2. Worst: EC3
I think Dave Meltzer put it best by saying this is one of the biggest burials from WWE in a very long time. EC3 had buckets of potential coming onto the main roster, with all the makings of a Vince McMahon golden boy. That wasn’t to be. EC3 has quickly become a joke on Monday Night Raw, losing to the likes of Apollo Crews and Tyler Breeze on Main Event. Whether there’s some big plan in place to bring him back from obscurity is beyond me, but at this point is there much use in trying?
EC3 is a commodity that WAS wasted before he even had a chance to make a name for himself in either NXT or WWE. The Top 1% definitely could have done with a few extra months in developmental before being brought up as part of the new initiative to freshen up the main roster. Now as a permanent member of the Raw brand, we’ll see whether this goes further into the cesspit or if he somehow bounces back.
As it stands, a terrible pick for Raw.
1. Best: Roman Reigns
“The Big Dog is here on SmackDown Live” – Probably Maggle, 2019.
Roman Reigns is on a career resurgence after his battle with cancer towards the end of last year. This is the best move for Roman to make while he’s reclaiming his place at the top of the card. A fresh scene for him to dominate is probably the best idea to ensure he doesn’t go down the same route with the fans as last time.
Fortunately for Roman, the fans seem willing to allow him to become the WWE’s golden goose this time round — they want to see him winning the big one. After his heartbreaking departure from competition last year, it’s a feel-good moment that we all need in our lives. Plus, it would make for the ideal first story for Fox to broadcast as part of their new relationship with WWE.
Roman is the marketable face that SmackDown Live needs to have to put it on par with Raw. I’m looking forward to this new chapter of Reigns’ career, it might finally be a smooth ride.
1. Worst: Eric Young
Oh man I hate myself for saying this, but what was Raw thinking by drafting Eric Young? In a previous article, I wrote about how SAnitY needed a rebranding and were in dire need of a move to Monday nights. What I didn’t expect was for the leader to be drafted, Alexander Wolfe to announce his departure and Killian Dain to be left behind. Eric Young has always been the draw for SAnitY, thanks to his veterans legacy keeping him in fans good books. However at this point in his career, I can’t see Young really making it as a singles star.
Giving him the mentoring role for up-and-coming stars as part of SAnitY was such an ideal situation for him. It allowed him to capture the tag titles and make him a prominent threat on NXT. His and SAnitY’s main roster career has been well documented as a total disaster and unfortunately I can’t see it improving now that he’s on his own.
Perhaps Young is going to be left as an enhancement worker or will be attached to another budding stable on the red brand. Who knows, but what I can say is that this was a very poor decision by WWE.