Last night we saw the return of the
WWE Draft uh... Brand Shakeup Superstar Shakeup! And unlike years past, when Monday Night Raw would walk away with a many major SmackDown players, leaving the blue brand handicapped, this year Raw decided to leave the Tuesday Night main-event scene relatively untouched. There’s always the possibility of a surprise departure, but for the most part, the Raw roster has taken all that SmackDown has to offer and now it’s time to turn the tables.
What’s interesting is how Raw, instead of going after the top of SmackDown, instead plundered the mid-card. Almost every move from Tuesday night to Monday came at the expense of the middle of SmackDown’s roster. The biggest names to move over were Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, two guys that didn’t look like they were going to sniff a WWE Title run anytime soon anyway. The rest of the acquisitions include guys most are fine to see go: Baron Corbin? Bobby Roode? Riott Squad? Jinder Mahal? That was their first big “get”: Jinder Mahal!
And then there’s the move that went the other way, with Miz jumping back to SmackDown, with a ready-and-waiting Daniel Bryan there to meet him. And while it’s always in the Vince McMahon wheelhouse to tease something grand and then deliver a wet fart, let’s assume for the moment that SmackDown’s Shakeup tonight will not feature a hastily-presented Bryan vs Miz, followed by Bryan leaving for Raw. Assuming Bryan stays, SmackDown (which already has heel Nakamura vs AJ Styles carrying the top of the card) becomes the new must-watch show no matter who else comes over from Raw.
But who else might be coming over?
Here’s my predictions...
THE TOP GUYS
This seems like the easy home run “big acquisition” end of night announcement. Finn has had a slow transition from being the centerpiece of NXT to being just another top(ish) player on the main-roster, and his terrible injury a couple years back at SummerSlam played a big role in that, I think. He’s just starting to get into a groove again and a change to the smaller SmackDown show might be exactly what he needs to reach the next level.
He has easy-money main-event feuds just waiting to happen with guys like AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura and Daniel Bryan, plus a lot of mid-carders who could keep him busy in the meantime between those big feuds. He’s been on Raw since joining the main-roster; this move needs to happen.
I think WWE all but telegraphed this last night, with Jeff winning the US Title. While it’s possible Jeff stays on Raw and Seth Rollins moves to SmackDown, I don’t think that will happen, if only because it would render Seth’s “Monday Night Rollins” shirt worthless (though, what a Vince McMahon thing that would be, to give a guy a good bit of merch then render it worthless with an arbitrary flick of his emperor’s rod).
Moving Jeff over seems the easier decision. It officially splits the Hardy’s up, allowing Matt the chance to breathe and be weird without Jeff (while still letting Jeff make a cameo whenever they do specials at the Hardy Compound). It gives Smackdown a mid-card champ that fans are crazy for after all these years, and someone who can help drive ticket sales to a show that has been seriously struggling in that department. After Finn Balor, this seems like the most logical move to make.
THE MIDDLE GUYS
I base this prediction on he fact that Raw’s midcard scene just got stupid-crowded and Elias is a superstar on the cusp of being a main-event heel. I look at him and see peak-Miz without having all the early “weird hat and baggy pants” stuff that Miz has on his record. He’s a heat magnet, really “gets it” when it comes to working a crowd and is improving steadily in the ring. He needs to get out of Raw and go to a show where he can be groomed as a main-eventer, then return to Raw ready to have a run possibly similar to Edge in 2006.
ANDRADE “CIEN” ALMAS
This seemed like a no-brainer even before Drew McIntyre jumped from NXT (back) to the main-roster. Maybe it’s just the completionist in me but I feel like SmackDown will need its own “call-up” to compliment Raw’s. There’s no better guy right now to bring to the big leagues than Almas. That’s on the condition that Zelina Vega comes up with him; together they can be dynamite. A US Title feud with Jeff Hardy already has me salivating.
SHEAMUS AND CESARO
It’s a bit of a longshot, since they have a Raw Tag Title match scheduled for the Greatest Royal Rumble, but I will continue to fantasy book a scenario or three where Cesaro eventually returns to singles competition and takes his place among the greats like he should have done after WrestleMania 30. So forgive me while I imagine a few months of The Bar vs Usos and New Day followed by a break-up angle that strethes out to SummerSlam or so.
Besides, these shake-up/drafts always have some move that requires a paragraph of exposition from commentary just to make sense of it. Explaining how SmackDown will draft the guys challenging for Raw’s tag titles seems like a thing I need to see Michael Cole and/or Tom Phillips trying to do.
ANDERSON AND GALLOWS
Easy call right here: They’re a good utility tag team, which is badly needed on SmackDown (New Day and the Usos have wrestled each other on every SmackDown-featured PPV, not counting the Rumble, going back to Money in the Bank last year). They’re also historically aligned with Finn Balor, and whenever that shoe drops and Finn goes bad, he’ll have a ready-made stable set to back him up.
Take your pick between Bayley and Sasha Banks. I chose Bayley because I want to keep Sasha and Charlotte separated a little longer. Bayley needs a change, and can be a solid anchor for the SmackDown division. Over on Raw, Ronda Rousey is going to be clogging up the women’s division (and rightly so). Sasha Banks can be a great foil for her; Bayley doesn’t seem to fit into Raw’s picture anymore. A move to SmackDown just feels right.
I’m sure there will be some minor moves here and there but those seven are the major changes I see coming to SmackDown.
What say you, Cagesiders? Who do you think is moving to SmackDown tonight?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!