This week’s Raw featured part one of WWE’s “Superstar Shake-up.” That’s the term the company has used to explained some necessary moves as they swap stars from one show to the other to keep things fresh, bring new life and create exciting matchups for each program.
The whole thing could have been explained better. That’s a mistake WWE makes all the time. We assume that wrestlers were traded from one show to the other, but it was not announced like if you were watching a real sport where they say “Wrestler A got traded for Wrestler B.” Instead, they had 11 names move from Smackdown to Raw while we are to assume that Raw will send 11 names to Smackdown on Tuesday.
There was also no explanation of the trades. The announcers mentioned several times that Raw General Manager Kurt Angle and Smackdown General Manager Daniel Bryan negotiated the trades. Angle was barely on this show, while Bryan wasn’t there. Why would Bryan send some of these people to Raw? Nobody told us, so if you’re a viewer at home you are just left to wonder.
I think one of the biggest flaws in WWE is that they don’t explain things well. They think fans are too stupid to ask questions because all that really matters is what happens on screen, in their eyes. However, I can assure you that fans want logic in their storylines. Things should be explained better. Details should be provided. When you ignore the logic, it’s going to hurt the show. That doesn’t mean it was a bad show because I found it to be entertaining. I just think WWE could organize it better.
Here’s the listing of the Smackdown wrestlers moved to Raw with some quick thoughts on each, listed in order of importance.
Bray Wyatt – He appeared after a Finn Balor win to say he’s a part of Raw. That should mean they will be in a feud very soon.
Wyatt’s story with Randy Orton is continuing because it was noted that he’s getting his WWE Title rematch at Raw’s Payback PPV in a “House of Horrors” match. Orton’s still a Smackdown guy who’s wrestling on a Raw PPV simply because it’s a big match and there’s no Universal Title match since Brock Lesnar is off TV for the next month. Orton should retain the title at Payback.
I’m surprised that Wyatt was moved to Raw. I thought he would stay on Smackdown to feud with Orton for several more months. Most people expected AJ Styles as the biggest Smackdown name to move, but WWE went with Wyatt instead. I hope it works out for him. The problem is Wyatt hasn’t been booked that well for several years. The WWE Title win in February was cool, but it lasted less than two months. He needs to be used better. Wyatt on Raw also means he’s on the same show as former Wyatt Family member Braun Strowman… unless Strowman gets moved.
Dean Ambrose – Ambrose is the current Intercontinental Champion who retained the title against Baron Corbin at WrestleMania. That decision confused me at the time, but it makes sense now that Ambrose got moved to Raw.
There are a lot of new rivalries for Ambrose on Raw, so it’s easy to see why he was moved over there. I think his run as a main eventer on Smackdown last year went well for the most part. After that ended, he slotted into the upper midcard as the IC Champ again.
Also, Ambrose on Raw sets up the possible Shield reunion with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, which is likely to happen this summer at some point. I’d rather see Ambrose go heel soon, but I doubt that happens now.
The Miz & Maryse – They are an entertaining act that started the show doing their John Cena & Nikki Bella impression. Maryse has been with her husband on screen for the last year and Miz had arguably the best year of his career. He upped his game on Smackdown by delivering some of the best promos of anybody on the roster while his matches improved as well.
The Miz spent the last few years as an average midcard wrestler. In the last year, he reminded us that he can be a main event-level heel that’s going to have a good feud with anybody he’s matched up with. I think a rivalry with Sami Zayn (it may have started this week) would benefit both guys because they contrast each other well.
Alexa Bliss – Bliss is a former two time Smackdown Live Women’s Champion who improved as a performer after last summer’s draft. She’s stronger on the microphone than she is in the ring, but the important thing is she always gets a big reaction. I think she’ll do well on Raw since Charlotte Flair is likely heading the other way. It slots Alexa in as one of the top women on Raw right away.
— Mickie James~Aldis (@MickieJames) April 11, 2017
Mickie James – Mickie is a veteran who only started on Smackdown in January and has already switched brands. She started out as a heel helping Bliss, then appeared to be a face when she realized Bliss was just using her and went back to being a heel for a brief period. I think she can slot in well as a rival of Bayley, Sasha Banks or Nia Jax (assuming all stay on Raw) in any role. She’s a favorite of mine, but they need to get her a direction that works.
Rhyno & Heath Slater – They were the inaugural Smackdown Tag Team Champions last fall. After the pair won the titles as an underdog team, they dropped them soon after and faded into the background. They were barely used on Smackdown for the last few months. Will that change on Raw? I doubt it. It’s a team that will be there to provide depth.
Apollo Crews – His move was announced several hours before Raw. When he got called up to the main roster last summer, there were high expectations. He didn’t get very far, though. They need to work on his character because right now he’s just the guy that smiles a lot.
Kalisto – The talented cruiserweight didn’t do much on Smackdown other than get beat up by Baron Corbin repeatedly and a brief feud with Dolph Ziggler. Now that he’s on Raw, perhaps he will finally be a part of the cruiserweight division where he should be.
Curt Hawkins – Curt was brought back to WWE last year just to put people over. During his Raw return, he did a promo that was interrupted by Big Show, who decked him with a KO Punch. In other words, his role is the same even though he changed shows.
After Raw was over, they announced a WWE announcer swap on WWE.com and YouTube with Raw‘s Byron Saxton moving to Smackdown in exchange for David Otunga. I don’t think either guy is that interesting or entertaining, so it shouldn’t affect things that much.
Which stars are likely headed to Smackdown? I think the most obvious names are Kevin Owens, Charlotte Flair and New Day among others. I’m not going to guess anyone else, but I’ll explain some of those reasons later in the review.
This Week’s Raw Matches
It was a solid week for matches. Last week was a step in the right direction and this week followed that.
The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) defeated The New Day (Xavier Woods & Big E)
The news on Kofi Kingston is that he had ankle surgery and should be out for several weeks. They did the storyline explanation last week when The Revival attacked his right leg.
Good match to put over The Revival again. They work so well as a crafty heel team that always knows how to outsmart their opponents. They aren’t the biggest guys on the show, but that’s okay because the chemistry is so good. I’m very happy that they’re on the main roster. Cool finish with the Shatter Machine on Woods as he was jumping off the turnbuckle.
New Day getting moved to Smackdown is very likely. Putting over The Revival in back to back weeks was done for that reason.
T.J. Perkins defeated Austin Aries
They set up the match with Neville getting in Perkins’ ear in a backstage segment by noting that Perkins has struggled for months. Aries showed up to call Neville a liar.
Perkins ended up beating Aries, thanks to Neville distracting Aries briefly. Perkins applied a small package and got the win. I was a bit surprised by that, but I’m happy for Perkins too. After the match was over, Perkins attacked Aries with a forearm to the back and a Detonation Kick. It meant that Perkins is now a heel while possibly forming an alliance with Neville. Good match and post-match angle.
Nia Jax defeated Charlotte Flair
It was a below-average match due to Jax’s sloppiness. There was a point where Jax hit a shoulderbreaker and when she put Charlotte down, she dropped her right on her head/neck. The referee reacted right away to check on Charlotte, but she appeared to be fine. Charlotte went on to finish the match while even doing a moonsault onto Jax on the floor. Jax ended up coming back with the clean win thanks to a Samoan Drop in a match that went about seven minutes.
Charlotte is likely heading to Smackdown after losing several matches of late. It’s the right move for her.
Finn Balor defeated Jinder Mahal
Balor got the easy win in about three minutes. The story of the match was when Mahal hit Balor with a stiff forearm to the jaw that stunned Balor. It looked bad, but Balor finished the match.
After the match, Bray Wyatt appeared on the video screen to say that Raw is his home now. He talked about his upcoming match against Randy Orton and warned Balor as well as the rest of the Raw roster. Wyatt vs. Balor should be an interesting feud soon.
Sami Zayn defeated The Miz
They had a competitive match for about eight minutes with Zayn getting the win with a rollup where he sat on top of Miz for the win. I like how Miz kicked out right after the three count, which shows that it was a narrow victory for Zayn. It shows that they were very even.
This feels like a solid midcard feud assuming Zayn stays on Raw. Miz is arguably the best heel in the company, so he’ll help Zayn get over more.
The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff), Cesaro & Sheamus defeated Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Primo & Epico
The story of the match was that the Hardys were teaming with Cesaro & Sheamus even though they are opponents at Payback. No sign of dissension since they are all faces. It was an easy win for the Hardys team with Matt hitting a Twist of Fate on Epico and Jeff finished him off with a Swanton Bomb.
I think Gallows & Anderson may be moved to Smackdown just based on their recent booking. It could lead to a reunion with AJ Styles on the blue brand as well.
Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens
It was a battle of champions as Intercontinental Champion Ambrose faced off with United States Champion Owens. Neither man’s title was on the line.
They had the longest match of the night at around 13 minutes and it was also the best match. While I’m not going to stay it was outstanding, they did a good job. Ambrose and Owens feuded a lot in early 2016, so they got right back into it. The finish was built up well with each man going for signature moves, there were a lot of counters and Ambrose hit Dirty Deeds to win.
After the match was over, Chris Jericho (who had been laid out by Owens last week) entered the ring and hit a Codebreaker on Owens. That’s how Raw went off the air.
I think Owens is a strong candidate to move to Smackdown. No reason to have both midcard titles on Raw, so with Ambrose going there it’s smart to move Owens over to the blue brand.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Braun Strowman sent Roman Reigns to the hospital in spectacular fashion
Roman Reigns did a sit-down interview with Michael Cole in the backstage area. He only spoke for about one minute when Braun Strowman showed up to attack him. Strowman beat up Reigns all around the backstage area. He threw him into a garage door repeatedly, he rolled an equipment cart into him, he slammed him onto another equipment casing and it looked like that was it.
However, Strowman wasn’t done. He continued the attack even when Reigns was put onto a stretcher by EMTs. He prevented them from taking Reigns away and shoved Reigns off a ledge while he was on a stretcher. It was filmed in such a way that we could only see the back of Strowman because Reigns was obviously not on the stretcher when it got pushed off. It was clever editing. When Reigns was in the ambulance, Strowman said he wasn’t finished and actually tipped over the ambulance onto its side in an incredible feat of strength. It drew a huge reaction from the crowd and it was very impressive to see. Eventually, Reigns was taken away in another ambulance.
I thought it was an outstanding segment to put over how much of an angry beast Strowman is. When it looked like he was going to let up, he kept going. Strowman is a great athlete who may be the most improved performer on the entire roster since the brand split and he keeps getting better. I still think WWE made a huge mistake at WrestleMania by not having him get a win at that show. This moment will make people forget about that mistake, though. Lifting over an ambulance will make people forget other things pretty easily.
The crowd reaction was telling because they chanted things like “Thank You Strowman” and “You Deserve It” to Reigns. It makes you wonder if WWE is finally going to listen to the fans by booking Reigns to be a heel or if they will keep booking him as a face. If you look at this segment, though, the intent was to get the crowd to be sympathetic towards Reigns by having him get taken away on an ambulance. When you listen to the crowd they don’t feel that way. It’s such a unique situation just to see how stubborn WWE’s creative team is when it comes to Reigns.
This should lead to a match at Payback where Strowman may get the win since he’s rumored to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title possibly in May or June.
2. Seth Rollins was assured that he is still a Raw guy
Seth Rollins did a promo talking about his role on Raw. He spoke about how things might be difficult for him since he beat Triple H at WrestleMania and Hunter’s wife Stephanie McMahon is the Commissioner of Raw. He noted that the easy way out would be to go to Smackdown, but he did the easy way out before (when he turned heel on The Shield in 2014) and didn’t want to do that again. He talked about how wanted to fight and stay on Raw.
Kurt Angle showed up to assure him that even though Stephanie may want Rollins off Raw, Angle believes in him and told Rollins that he’ll still be a part of Raw.
Samoa Joe showed up for a cheap attack on Rollins, but Rollins fought him off and kicked him out of the ring. They will likely have a match at Payback.
I thought Rollins did a better job in this promo because he played to the fans more. A lot of times when he did his face promos, he wasn’t sucking up to the crowd enough. He did a better job of it this time.
3. Bayley and Sasha Banks were interrupted by Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Nia Jax
Sasha Banks did a promo about how Bayley’s her best friend. That led to Raw Women’s Champion Bayley going out there to thank the fans for all the support. Banks made it clear that she wanted that title, which led to Alexa Bliss making her announcement that she is a part of Raw. Mickie James showed up to join in on the fun by telling Bliss that she has to deal with her still. Nia Jax showed up at ringside, ran over James in the aisle and dropped both Banks and Bayley in the ring as she hit Bayley with a Samoan Drop. After the destruction in the ring, Bliss stared at Jax. They could have an alliance together or it was just Jax just warning her that she could be next.
It was a good segment done to put over all the women interested in holding the Women’s Title while also making Jax look strong like usual. Good way to introduce Bliss and James into the picture. I’m not sure if this means they will do a Fatal 5-Way match at Payback or limit it to just Bayley vs. Banks.
Looking Ahead To Payback
— WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2017
The next WWE pay-per-view event is a Raw brand show on April 30 in San Jose, California. There’s only one match announced at this point.
WWE Championship “House of Horrors” Match: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho
Raw Tag Team Championships: The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro & Sheamus
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Austin Aries
Another match that is likely is Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns, but it’s not official yet. Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins is probable as well.
I enjoyed the show this week. It was a lot more newsworthy than normal since they brought 11 people over from Smackdown to Raw. It’s hard to predict some things since Raw talent will show up on Smackdown this week as well, but I did my best to read into some of the booking. At least I can say that I enjoyed the last two weeks of Raw quite a bit. It’s been a definitive improvement over the previous two months of shows, that’s for sure.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of Smackdown with all of the fallout from the Superstar Shake-up as we find out which Raw talents will be on Smackdown.