Its clear RAW relies heavily on part-time talent. With feature stars like Chris Jericho, Goldberg and The Undertaker stepping away and Universal Champion Brock Lesnar seemingly back to his here one minute gone for two months routine, the “flagship” show doesn’t have much to offer SmackDown to make blockbuster deals. Would they trade Roman Reigns? There’s really no one left for him to feud with on RAW but after his win over Taker he could be their most valuable talent not named Brock Lesnar. Seth Rollins? I just don’t see it. He and Samoa Joe have the potential to execute a great feud and I don’t think both performers will be moved. So if Reigns, Rollins, Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar stay on RAW how do they pull off the rumored move for AJ Styles? Here is a look at six potential trades we could see during the “Superstar Shakeup” next week that may benefit both shows but most importantly the fans. Five are pretty fair talent exchanges, while the sixth is a long shot and a game-changer.
Kalisto for Titus O’Neil
I’m starting off small here. Fact is Kalisto needs off of SmackDown. The sole cruiserweight on a show without the cruiserweight division hasn’t found his footing as a singles star on SmackDown. He’d be a great addition to RAW and 205 Live, capable of having great matches with names from Neville and Austin Aries to Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins. Creative has had trouble developing cruiserweight stars thus far but adding a name fans are already familiar with seems like an easy decision.
Titus O’ Neil would be a solid mid-card addition to SmackDown. The blue brand doesn’t often rely on long promo segments which would be a blessing considering his mediocre mic skills. There’s plenty of chances for someone as talented as the underrated big man to excel on SmackDown and he may benefit greatly from sporadic appearances on Talking Smack, a show that has been instrumental in developing feuds since its debut on the WWE network. Opportunities abound for the Titus Brand on SmackDown, and a switch back to his NXT theme from his horrific PrimeTime Players music could help alter the perception of Titus in the minds of fans. Don’t remember it? Check it out below.
Video Credit: WWE YouTube channel
Dolph Ziggler for Rusev w/Lana
These two are almost mirror images of each other, having rapidly descended to the bottom of the card on their respective shows. Dolph has peaked on SmackDown, in just a few months he went from fighting for the WWE championship at SummerSlam, to a quality mid-card feud for the Intercontinental Title with the Miz, to doing handicap matches against Kalisto and Apollo Crews. There’s a plethora of fresh matches on RAW for the multi-talented former World Champ and the three hour format could greatly benefit someone with his skill set and pedigree. One on ones against Samoa Joe and Finn Balor or Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins, hell even Roman Reigns or Matt and Jeff Hardy would be exciting. With Dolph Ziggler RAW would certainly get a lot of bang for their buck.
Rusev has tumbled down the ranks of RAW since his U.S. Title feud with Roman Reigns last year. Frankly its been all downhill for Rusev since his feud with John Cena, his tumble down the card capped off by the formation and subsequent dissolution of his tag team with Jinder Mahal. A shift to the “A” show gives Rusev new life against the likes of Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin, Luke Harper, the Miz and even Bray Wyatt. Lana would fit in great on SmackDown and if she continues her in-ring development ala her training in NXT she could be a surprising addition to an already deep women’s division.
Heath Slater and Rhyno for The Shining Stars
Slater and Rhyno have barely appeared on television recently and I expect the appeal of their comedy act to be overtaken by Breezango now that the WrestleMania barrier has come and gone. Their comedic talents would fit in well on RAW not unlike R-Truth and Goldust.
The Shining Stars are the important side of this trade. SmackDown gains a competent tag team with a championship background to encourage viewership by Hispanic fans. I write this fully expecting their garbage time-share gimmick to disappear. These guys have wrestled for the tag team titles on big stages before and since their strong “debut” match on RAW way back when they haven’t been utilized to their full potential.
Alexa Bliss for Emma
I went for the women’s division trade with the most balance and impact. The rumored Alexa/Charlotte swap doesn’t work for me. RAW has the crusierweight division and the constant comings and goings of part time talent to fill up its 3 hour program. When it comes to the women’s division its about quality over quantity. I don’t see Sasha or Charlotte switching brands and without them I don’t see how a deal gets done for Becky Lynch. While scenarios exist where Alexa could be a piece in a multi-talent deal for Charlotte, for the purpose of this article I’m trying to examine the “Superstar Shakeup” as a talent for talent swap in most instances. That said I see little point in depleting a SmackDown women’s division that has been highly regarded by fans. Any pending talent influx for RAW will come from NXT.
Taking all of that into account Alexa for Emma makes sense. While Alexa has been the top female on SmackDown there’s just nobody left for her to feud with. I take her back to back submission losses to Naomi this week as a sign she’s headed to Monday nights. Alexa is a quality villain for the likes of Bayley and Sasha, and in addition to being a more than competent in ring performer she adds some much needed sex appeal to the RAW women’s division.
Emma is the perfect trade for Alexa Bliss. She’s gorgeous, talented in the ring and would serve as SmackDown’s centerpiece female heel. She can wreak havoc on the baby-face heavy division in her quest for her first Women’s title. Rather than allow her to be lost in the shuffle on RAW like Dana Brooke, suffering loss after loss to Bayley and Sasha, SmackDown is the perfect place for Emma to take her talents. While RAW gets a known commodity with name value and without an injury history, SmackDown gets the superior wrestler. Anyone doubting that should go back and watch NXT Takeover:Arrival and check out the match between Emma and Paige for the NXT Women’s Title, the girl can go. This is a trade that helps both shows, while tweaking their rosters ever so slightly.
American Alpha for Sheamus and Cesaro
We all want to see Gable and Jordan align with Kurt Angle. So let’s say the former SmackDown tag champs lose their rematch and head to RAW. A young talented team like American Alpha pitted against the Hardyz, The Club, even another stellar feud this time on the main roster against the Revival are all enticing to fans. That said, you’ve got to give up something good for them.
Enter Cesaro and Sheamus. The former RAW tag team champions, after losing their tag title shot on RAW could serve as an adequate fan favorite replacement team and fill out mid card and main event spots as top level singles competitors. Sheamus brings a smash mouth physicality and credibility as former WWE and World champion and Cesaro brings an unparalleled athleticism to what is widely considered the better in-ring WWE brand. Both have done excellent work as heels in the past as well and it wouldn’t take much to flip them when necessary. It’s a win-win for both shows.
AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose for The New Day and Sami Zayn
Here’s the bold blockbusting game changer for WWE. AJ Styles effectively said goodbye on SmackDown last week, that’s the impression I got from his in-ring exchange with Shane McMahon. Rumors are already running rampant that he’s on his way out and the newly debuted Shinsuke Nakamura is an effective replacement for his star power going forward. RAW has to break the bank for AJ so they send over the longest reigning tag team champions the New Day, the company’s most entertaining comedy act as well as a top tag team, each member a competent singles performer in their own right. AJ Styles joins Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows and Finn Balor on RAW. Just like that all four pieces of The Bullet Club are in the same place at the same time.
The second part of this trade goes down like this. Dean Ambrose drops the Intercontinental title this week to Baron Corbin and rejoins his former Shield brothers on Monday nights. His top mid-card babyface role gets filled by none other than Sami Zayn. Battles with Baron Corbin, The Miz, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and a potential match of the year sequel with Shinsuke Nakamura make this a great move for Zayn who has been a victim of RAW’s addiction to part time stars.
Suddenly, “The Biz Cliz” and The Shield are poised to carry a year long story that could change the well deserved perception of RAW as WWE’s “B” show thus far. The last two hours of RAW become must-see every week. Filler tag matches leave fans teeming with anticipation and the network specials each month are now loaded with dream match after dream match. Imagine Gallows and Anderson vs. Rollins and Reigns. How about Finn Balor vs. Dean Ambrose? What about Styles vs. Rollins? Maybe Styles and Balor vs. Rollins and Ambrose? Add in the likes of Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and whoever else could potentially join their alliance as a third monster faction into this mix and the story-lines are endless. They could vie against each other and the rest of the roster while various members step up to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship along the way. I’m not saying it happens immediately. They should tease it for weeks until finally we get the reformation of WWE’s most dominant trio and the complete formation on WWE TV of the worldwide phenomenon known as the Bullet Club (though they’ll go by The Club or The Balor Club for obvious legal reasons). No doubt, this one is a long shot but just imagine the possibilities.
Each one of these six potential moves could infuse both brands with fresh opportunities for under utilized talent, creating new stars along the way. Countless dream matches for fans are suddenly made possible with the shuffle of just a few pieces next week. Suddenly three hours of RAW aren’t as hard to get through. SmackDown reloads with quality performers as it continues to churn out a high level wrestling product each week, maximizing its rigidly timed two hour format and supplementing its story-telling with Talking Smack.
It all goes down Monday night as we wait to see where our favorite superstars land and exactly what cards RAW and SmackDown are dealt after this “Superstar Shakeup”.