Welcome to the Superstar Shake Up, everyone! As a special treat for the occasion, I’m going to grade General Manager Kurt Angle on his talent acquisitions for Raw. Sound good? Good.
Time has Come and Gone for Words
The show opened with Michael Cole stating that the Paige and Angle had been negotiating all week on which Superstars would be traded. It resulted in missing the opportunity to actually show segments of the two general managers wheeling and dealing for the second year in a row.
But you’d figure that an explosive new addition to the Raw roster would open the show, right?
Wrong. You’ll get Jinder Mahal and you. Will. Like it.
On a personal note, I’ve been avoiding watching Mahal wrestle since he became WWE Champion last year. I’d rather not support a character where cultural appropriation is being used to vilify him – at least not in such a stereotypical way. And by prefacing that, I want to say I was delightfully surprised by him.
He was a villain for the right reasons, not because of his culture. He was a pain in the ass right out of the gate. He spoke too much, demanded too much, and Angle paid him back for it, booking Mahal in a United States Championship match to start the show.
It was posed as an open challenge to the Raw locker room and none other than Jeff Hardy emerged.
Honestly, I was again impressed by Mahal. He’s not equipped to be a world-beater in the ring, but he did a lot to rile up the crowd and they chanted earnestly for Hardy throughout. And only 8 days since his return from injury, Jeff Hardy is a champion.
Welcome back, Jeff!
As for Mahal, he’s invoking his rematch at the Greatest Battle Royal and he seemed to begin a feud with No Way Jose backstage. Watching Jose dance around him should be fun.
Ten Man Tag? Ten Man Tag.
Ahh, that conniving Authority. It’ll never end.
Firstly, Sami Zayn is a golden blessing to us all. Zayn and Kevin Owens were guests on Miz TV as the newest members of the Raw roster. The sheer smarminess with which he read Stephanie McMahon’s letter was incredible. Glorious, even.
But I’m getting ahead of myself there.
Angle was in rare form on this show as well. Angered by McMahon going over his head to sign Kevin Owens and Zayn, Angle forced Miz to SmackDown Live without his precious Miztourage and booked the five men in a match with Finn Balor, Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, Braun Strowman, and a mystery partner to be named later.
That partner turned out to be…Bobby Roode.
The match itself was just a bit of fun. No real storylines can coalesce from this until the Superstar Shakeup ends. With that said, this match is set up perfectly for someone like Strowman. The crowd chanted for him as Balor struggled to return to his corner and Strowman eventually caught a hot tag.
Carnage was had. The Miztourage betrayed Miz and the Miz caught those hands. Strowman is the Tag Team Champions wins.
Everything Joe Says is Correct
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here to read from the gospel of Joe.
Roman Reigns came out similarly to last week to talk about his rematch with Brock Lesnar. He said the exact same things and this is precisely why I had hoped that Reigns would win at WrestleMania.
His words ring hollow now. Reigns is here for the show. Fine. So are all the other wrestlers and workers in the back.
How’s that worth cheering? What was once a good point towards making him champion now seems pathetic after’s he lost again to Lesnar.
But that wasn’t all. For the second straight week, WWE allowed Samoa Joe to appear on stage and use his words to tear into Reigns. Joe called him out for bragging about showing up when he never gets the job done. Reigns is pathetic in Joe’s eyes and Joe laughed at him for getting destroyed by Lesnar once again.
The crowd cheered Joe. Reigns countered by calling Joe a “lazy fat ass,” and that’s a bad look for a whole bunch of reasons. If someone runs you down with enough points to fill a presentation, a simple insult in return sounds pretty petty.
WWE just threw one right into Samoa Joe’s wheelhouse. He was fun to watch. As for Reigns, I have no clue what WWE is trying to do with him. And with his history, I think that’s the biggest shame; I’m always looking for what they’re doing with him instead of simply enjoying his talents.
Best of the Rest
Running Riott – Remember that Sasha Banks vs. Bayley blow off match? The Riott Squad ruined that by assaulting the former friends and making their Raw debut.
Authors of Pain def. Heath Slater and Rhyno – Man I love the AoP. Slater earned a hard paycheck for his kids on this show.
Deleter of Worlds def. The Revival – My favorite part of this match was The Bar’s fearful “What was that?” when Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt hit a combined finisher. I think we’re looking at the next Raw Tag Team Champions here.
BREEZANGO ON RAW! BREEZANGO DEF. THE BAR! – YES THIS IS CAPITAL LETTERS SHUSH THEY’RE MY FAVORITE. THEY WON TOO!
Ember Moon def. Mickie James – This was a fun match with an absolutely lethal Eclipse to finish it. Nia Jax was on commentary and Alexa Bliss was still trying to spin the story as if she’s the victim. Right.
DZ is back on Raw, but he’s not alone – I wasn’t a huge fan of Dolph Ziggler merely changing brands and doing the same things. Pairing him with Drew McIntyre, however…now you have my attention. Raw’s tag division looks better than it has since Jason Jordan got injured.
Natalya def. Mandy Rose – Hey, Absolution is still a thing! Or at least, they were until they beat up Ronda Rousey’s friend. Rousey is literally the scariest human ever. Screw Lesnar – Rousey’s scarier.
I’m stealing from sports drafts and playing fortune teller with these shakeup grades. They are based on my optimism (and possibly a bit of markdom) for the talent involved moving forward on Raw:
Jinder Mahal – He lost his title on his first night on the show and now looks to be feuding with No Way Jose. Combine that with the loaded main roster scene...Not good for the Maharaja. Grade: D
Riott Squad – They didn’t exactly impress on SmackDown Live. Hopefully the new environment will allow them to gain some footing. Grade: C-
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn – Real talk: these two are two of the most talented in the world. They’ll kill it on Raw no matter what they do. Grade: A
Breezango – I’m not sure they’ll ever win the Raw Tag Team Championships (I hope I’m wrong!) but I’m exponentially happier every time they’re on my television. Grade: A+++
Natalya – WWE spent the show billing Natalya as a friend of Ronda Rousey. Pair that with getting away from the stranglehold Charlotte has atop the SmackDown card and things are looking up for the Queen of Hearts. Grade: B
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre – This grade wouldn’t be so great if not for McIntyre. I think this pairing gives them both a better shot to succeed on Raw. Grade: B-
Baron Corbin – Corbin got a promo package. With Reigns and Brock Lesnar seated atop the men’s division, I’m not too excited about his chances of making a meaningful splash. Grade: C+
Bobby Roode – It’s the same thing as with Corbin. Roode’s potential on this show is capped by the men at the top. Reigns, Joe, and Lesnar don’t appear to be going anywhere. Grade: B
Overall, I’m a little concerned for Raw moving forward. The tag team division looks loaded, but I’m not too sure how I feel about the additions to both singles divisions. The Riott Squad isn’t exactly an intimidating presence, and they could really mess Natalya up in this Rousey’s sidekick role if they aren’t careful.
As for the men, the division got much larger. I’d imagine much of the past year’s mid card will switch shows as well. As a rule, I’ve never enjoyed a bunch of hulking figures in the main event so I’m concerned for my own enjoyment moving forward. Hopefully they just put the title on Strowman and let that be the end of it.
As for this show itself, I liked it better than last week.
What did you think of the show? Who’s going to break out from the talent moved to Raw? Who needs to go to SmackDown?