This week’s edition of Smackdown Live provided WWE fans with a conclusion to the “Superstar Shake-up” that began on Monday Night Raw. There were 11 Smackdown stars moved to Raw on Monday while fans assumed that a similar number would be moved to Smackdown. As it turned out, Smackdown up getting more people.
Here’s a list of the names moved from Raw to Smackdown in the order of importance.
Owens is the United States Champion and he started Smackdown this week with an egotistical promo. Owens was more clean-shaven than usual, wore a suit and talked about how he was a Champion of America while noting that Canada was better than America. As a Canadian, I can’t disagree with that although I love America as well. Of course, the crowd in Boston hated him for it. He was interrupted by Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn and AJ Styles, which set up the main event.
It was announced by Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan that the winner of KO’s match against Chris Jericho at Raw’s Payback PPV on April 30 will be a part of Smackdown. I would be shocked if Owens lost that match since Jericho is leaving WWE after Payback to focus on his music interests with his band Fozzy.
Moving Owens to Smackdown makes sense because he’s feuded with some of Raw’s top stars like Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns already. It’s also an easy way to counter the Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose moving to Raw on Monday. I was a bit surprised by both men switching shows, but they are great talents and former main events who can get back to that level. Owens is a tremendous asset that will add a lot to the show right away.
A new division to conquer, new subjects over which to reign..
Hello #SDLive, your Queen has arrived. #Woo pic.twitter.com/udtNwO9gKD
— Charlotte Flair (@MsCharlotteWWE) April 12, 2017
The most expected move during the entire Superstar Shake-up was Charlotte moving to Smackdown. That’s because she is the best women’s performer in WWE (I don’t think it’s an arguable point) and wrestled the likes of Bayley and Sasha Banks more than enough.
Moving her to SD will allow her to start a rivalry with their new Women’s Champion Naomi, who is doing the best work of her career. Plus, Charlotte can rekindle an old rivalry with Becky Lynch, who is her best friend. (Check out their Twitter accounts – they love to tell people that.) She’s going to fit in nicely on Smackdown while helping boost the match quality on every show she’s on.
The New Day (Xavier Woods, Big E & Kofi Kingston)
Near the end of the show, it was announced that the longest-reigning Tag Team Champions in WWE history, The New Day, would be joining Smackdown as well. It makes a lot of sense because Raw’s tag team division had too many teams with the likes of The Hardys and The Revival showing up in the last two weeks. The New Day faced most of Raw’s other teams several times, so it was time for them to go to help freshen up the act.
Kingston recently underwent ankle surgery and is expected to be out for several weeks, which isn’t very specific. My understanding is that it will be about one month at the most. I’m not sure if Big E and Woods will appear on TV next week or if WWE will save them until Kingston is ready to go.
I would love to see a New Day breakup angle at some point this year. I understand why WWE keeps them together since they sell a lot of merchandise, but they also have potential as singles wrestlers. Big E could thrive in the midcard with potential to be a main event talent. Woods would be a big star in the cruiserweight division and Kingston has had a lot of success as a midcard wrestler. Moving them to Smackdown will add depth to the tag division but long-term, they are assets as singles wrestlers as well.
Think I'm going to like it here. #SmackdownLive
— Sami Zayn (@iLikeSamiZayn) April 12, 2017
Zayn is one of those guys who I wanted to see move, but I wasn’t sure if they would do it since they had him in backstage segments with Kurt Angle telling Zayn he wants him to be on Raw. With Raw having a lot of faces above Zayn in the pecking order, he slots in better on Smackdown.
I hope Zayn can break through to become a top guy over the next year or two because he is skilled enough to be at that level. His rivalry with Kevin Owens could continue on Smackdown, even though some fans may be sick of it. I’ll never be sick of it, though. I think Zayn may have a rivalry with Baron Corbin soon because it makes sense for both guys while putting on some quality matches together.
Can we get a Zayn vs. Nakamura match soon? They had my 2016 match of the year in NXT during WrestleMania weekend and it was the first time they had a match. I know they are both faces, but they would have another classic if given the chance.
Rusev is out of action for two or three months with a shoulder injury. He wasn’t at the show, but they mentioned he was moved to Smackdown from Raw. This shake-up is perfect for a guy like him because he was booked terribly on Raw since the draft. I don’t know what they were doing with him most of the time. Hopefully, he can go back to being a strong heel who can eventually be a top guy because I think he has that potential.
They also didn’t mention his wife Lana with him, which was confusing. However, they mentioned her a little later in the show with this video.
I’m not sure what the promo video means for her, other than possibly making her a wrestler more often. I know she’s been training more and wrestling live events at some smaller NXT shows, so perhaps that’s what this was about. The promo also shows that they might mention her dancing background with this new version of her character. I expect her to be at ringside with her husband Rusev as well.
They moved him over from Raw to put people over, which is what he did in losing to Mojo Rawley. It was similar to Curt Hawkins going the other way on Raw. On the Talking Smack show on WWE Network, he talked about wanting to live up to his potential to become a champion in WWE. I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen, but it’s nice to have goals.
The Shining Stars (Primo & Epico)
This move doesn’t mean that much because The Shining Stars have lost way more matches than they have won in the last couple of years. I can’t remember the last time they got a significant match. Their debut saw them attack American Alpha from behind, so they should have a feud for a few weeks with AA beating them to get their revenge.
Another Raw team that I thought should have moved was Enzo & Cass, but they are still on Raw while Cass’ real-life girlfriend Carmella remains on Smackdown. Poor guy.
Sin Cara has barely been used since the draft last July. If he is on TV, he’s usually there to put people over and that’s really it. I thought it was a mistake when they broke up his Lucha Dragons team with Kalisto last summer and neither guy has done much since then. Now Kalisto is on Raw, so they aren’t together again.
The newest woman to join the #SDLive Women's Division is the second generation athlete, @TaminaSnuka! #SuperstarShakeup pic.twitter.com/eNV5WhcvHG
— WWE (@WWE) April 12, 2017
I don’t really count Tamina in the shake-up because she wasn’t a part of the Raw brand. When they did the draft last summer, she was on the injured list due to knee injury. She returned to action at live events a few weeks ago.
What WWE should have said is she was signed to Smackdown similar to Nakamura and Tye Dillinger last week, except they came from NXT. She’s nearly 40 years old and is one of the tougher women on the roster, so she has a role, but I don’t think of her as a featured performer that they are going to push that hard.
Summary of the Shake-up
There were 11 names that moved to Raw and 12 names to Smackdown. There are 13 if you count Tamina, but as I said she wasn’t a part of Raw, so I think it’s incorrect to count her as well.
I think both shows got better after WrestleMania thanks to talent like The Hardys, The Revival and Finn Balor adding a lot to Raw while the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger are big names who can boost Smackdown as well. Add in all of the moves that happened in the shake-up and we have a lot of potential for great new matches as well.
It was a good idea to do the shake-up. I hope that my excitement for both shows continues in the weeks and months ahead.
This Week’s Smackdown Live Matches
It was a great week for in-ring action thanks to a competitive tag title match and an excellent main event.
Randy Orton defeated Erick Rowan
Orton is the WWE Champion and did not put the title on the line against Wyatt Family member Rowan, who no longer has his leader Bray Wyatt on the show. After Orton dominated for a few minutes, Wyatt appeared on the video wall telling Orton he’ll see him in the House of Horrors match at Payback. After the brief interruption, Orton left the ring and Rowan hit him with steel steps in the head leading to the disqualification.
Post-match, Rowan gave Orton a Full Nelson Slam and stood over him to end the segment. I think WWE will do this match again next week with Orton getting the win. It’s going to be tough for Rowan to succeed without Wyatt on the show with him. I wasn’t a fan of the finish, but they needed to do it that way to set up a rematch.
The Usos defeated American Alpha to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles
This was an outstanding match for the 10 minutes they were given. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are a great babyface team that has the crowd firmly behind them. They also sell everything well, have great-looking offense and know how to build up to the conclusion of a match very well. The Usos are better as heels than they were as faces, which says a lot since they were good faces too. I loved the near-falls in the match with AA coming close to winning with a double team bulldog off the top. The Usos came back with a superkick into a Splash combo to retain the gold.
It was the second-best match on the show and also better than any match on Raw.
After the match, The Shining Stars attacked AA at ringside to set up a new rivalry.
Mojo Rawley defeated Jinder Mahal
Easy win for Rawley thanks in part to his buddy Rob Gronkowski, who was at ringside because it was in Boston where Gronk’s New England Patriots play. Gronk threw his drink on Mahal for some revenge from WrestleMania. Rawley finished off Mahal with a running forearm to the face. Best part was it only went three minutes. These guys bore me.
Tye Dillinger defeated Aiden English
English started out with a song because he’s a singles wrestler now that Simon Gotch has been fired. Dillinger’s intro interrupted him and Dillinger won in about three minutes with his Tyebreaker finish. Cool moment at the end of the match as the crowd chanted “ten, ten, ten” while the ref counted the “one, two, three” since Dillinger is the “Perfect Ten” after all.
AJ Styles defeated Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin
I thought it was an outstanding match. It was one of the best TV matches of the year so far. That’s no surprise since Styles is the best performer in WWE while Zayn is one of the best workers and Corbin has shown he’s very capable in the ring, especially when working with smaller opponents. Styles and Zayn spent the first half of the match bumping around the ring for Corbin to make him look strong. As the match progressed, Styles and Zayn each did their part to weaken the bigger man. There were some great near-fall spots like when Zayn hit his Blue Thunder Bomb, Corbin hit the Deep Six and Styles hit a Somersault 450 all leading to two counts. For the finish, Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Corbin while he was on the apron and Styles capitalized on that with a Phenomenal Forearm on Zayn for the win after 17 minutes.
Styles appears to be in a face role moving forward, which is the right call. He did a promo earlier in the show as a face, acted like a face in the ring and didn’t do some of the heel things he had done in the past. Plus, it makes sense for him to embrace the crowd since he gets cheered more than anybody on Smackdown anyway.
EXCLUSIVE: "The Phenomenal" @AJStylesOrg proved amidst the #SuperstarShakeup that #SDLive is in fact the house that HE built! pic.twitter.com/VcEv5Jscwe
— WWE (@WWE) April 12, 2017
With the win, Styles earned a future US Title shot after the Owens/Jericho match at Payback on April 30. No date was given for the Styles title shot, but it could be Backlash on May 21. Is it a step back for Styles to be in the US Title picture when he’s a former WWE Champion? Yes, it is a bit, but it’s also a way to elevate the US Title when you have performers as awesome as Owens and Styles competing for it.
Other Key Items From Smackdown
1. The Women’s Division welcomed two new competitors
At the top of hour two, Smackdown commissioner Shane McMahon addressed the women’s division. He brought out the current Smackdown women to the ring: Women’s Champion Naomi, Natalya, Becky Lynch and Carmella with James Ellsworth. There was a bit of trash talk, but nothing much happened.
Shane introduced the first new addition as the daughter of a Hall of Famer making people think it was Charlotte Flair, but it was Tamina Snuka, who is the daughter of the late Jimmy Snuka. There was no response to her.
Shane also introduced Charlotte Flair, which led to a lot of “WOO” chants from the crowd. Charlotte made her entrance in her ring gear including a peacock robe, stood on the ramp and that ended the segment.
It would have been nice to have Charlotte say something or do something physical, but just like with Nakamura last week, they want to take it slow. Now that she’s on Smackdown, people can speculate what might happen next. As I said earlier, a feud with Naomi is likely. There’s nothing wrong with a slow build.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura introduced himself to Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler was in the ring for a promo talking about how fans get excited about new superstars, while noting that he’s going to remain on Smackdown and be better than them all. That brought out Shinsuke Nakamura, who debuted on last week’s show.
The crowd went wild for Nakamura as he did his incredible entrance, which is arguably the best in all of WWE (along with Bobby Roode). When Nakamura stopped, Ziggler asked him who he was. Nakamura replied by saying his name and then the fans chanted his name. Ziggler went for a superkick, Nakamura caught his foot and shoved him down. Ziggler teased another attack, but instead he left like the cowardly heel that he is.
I thought Nakamura might feud with The Miz right away, but they moved Miz to Raw to prevent that. Ziggler is a good choice as Nakamura’s first opponent. If they save it for Backlash on May 21, that builds up to Nakamura’s first main roster match very well. They can push him up the card any time they want after that. Nakamura is going to be a huge star on the blue brand.
Looking Ahead to WWE Backlash
The next Smackdown pay-per-view is Backlash in Chicago on Sunday, May 21. There is a lot of time to build up to that show, so no matches have been announced yet.
Smackdown’s Kevin Owens is defending the US Title against Chris Jericho on April 30 at Payback with the winner being a part of Smackdown. Owens should retain the title.
Also, Smackdown’s WWE Champion Randy Orton defends the WWE Title against Raw’s Bray Wyatt at Payback. I doubt Orton loses that match.
I thought it was a great episode of Smackdown and probably the best of the year so far. There was a lot of excitement in the air thanks to the new names that joined the show, while newcomers such as Nakamura and Dillinger were booked well. In addition to that, the two main matches featuring Usos over American Alpha and AJ Styles winning an exciting triple threat were excellent. When you can deliver matches of that quality, plus increase the star power on the show by spreading the names out for better exposure, everyone benefits.
The post-WrestleMania period can be very difficult for WWE since fans may lose interest in the product, but they did a smart thing by coming up with this Superstar Shake-up. It has provided us with new matches to look forward to while avoiding the staleness that may drive people away from the product. Good job by WWE in making things feel fresh again.