The Superstar Shakeup was this week in the WWE. One of the most exciting times of the wrestling calendar, it represents the start of a “new season” for the WWE, with stars switching between RAW and SmackDown Live and call-ups from NXT being added into the mix. This year had no shortage of names being added to brands, leading fans to imagine the new feuds and dream matches that await us in the coming months. Who had the better haul of new superstars? Let’s take a look at which brand had the better Superstar Shakeup.
The Miz, The Viking Experience (f.k.a. War Raiders), A.J. Styles, Ricochet, Aleistar Black, Lacey Evans, Lars Sullivan, Cedric Alexander, The Usos, Naomi, Andrade, Zelina Vega, Rey Mysterio, EC3, Eric Young.
RAW drew new superstars from all areas, including plucking Alexander from 205 Live and the newly-christened Viking Experience from NXT. Lacey Evans, EC3, Aleistar Black and Ricochet were officially named RAW superstars after appearing on both brands for a while. The men’s singles division was boosted with established names like the Miz, Mysterio, and Eric Young. It was the women’s and tag team divisions that were boosted the most. Evans, Naomi, & Vega add fresh blood to the RAW women’s division to match up with Becky Lynch, and the Usos, Viking Experience, and Black & Ricochet bolster the tag division on Monday nights.
Best Addition: The Usos
While Styles, Miz and Mysterio are all former world champions, the best addition for RAW during this shakeup is the Usos. The RAW tag team division had been outclassed by SmackDown Live’s consistently since the brand split. While SmackDown Live had epic battles between The Usos, The Bar and the New Day, RAW was left with only the Revival as their division’s standard-bearer. Jimmy & Jey immediately legitimize a division that had struggled to establish quality teams. They, along with the two NXT teams of the Viking Experience and Black & Ricochet, have now turned the show’s biggest weakness into a stacked division. Look for the Usos to challenge for the RAW Tag Team championships sooner rather than later.
Sleeper Addition: Andrade & Zelina Vega
It may be ridiculous to call Andrade and his business manager Zelina Vega sleepers. Andrade has been one of the most consistent in-ring talents that WWE has to offer in the past two years. He’s had a five-star match (with Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia in January 2018) and a series of technical clinics with Rey Mysterio on SmackDown Live. Andrade could easily be slotted into the Intercontinental or Universal Championship picture and would have lights-out matches with some of the top stars RAW has. Matches against Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Sami Zayn will tear the house down when the time comes.
Overall grade: B+
The singles stars are established names, but the real score is bolstering both the women’s and tag team divisions.
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Additions: Finn Balor, Ember Moon, Kairi Sane, Bayley, Lars Sullivan, Buddy Murphy, Elias, Roman Reigns, Liv Morgan, Apollo Crews, Mickie James, Chad Gable
SmackDown Live had less additions than RAW, but they smashed it out of the park with the limited additions they had. The obvious star of the class is Roman Reigns, who will add to the main event men’s scene alongside Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor and Elias. The real strength of this group is the women’s division. SmackDown Live is now officially stacked with women’s competitors. Sane, Bayley, Moon, Morgan, and James being added to Charlotte, Carmella, Asuka and the IIconics gives SmackDown Live one of the best women’s divisions on paper that we’ve ever seen. Now it’ll be about maximizing all of that talent.
Best Addition: Finn Balor
While Reigns is the biggest star that came to the blue brand, Balor might be the best overall fit. Bringing over the Intercontinental Championship is a big shift in the landscape of the brand. Balor is consistently popular and will be able to have fresh matchups with a ton of talent on SmackDown Live. In a less-crowded main event scene on Tuesdays, Balor may be able to get back to WWE Championship contending. It has eluded him since he vacated the Universal Championship after one day.
Sleeper Addition: Buddy Murphy
Maybe you haven’t been watching 205 Live and you skip pre-shows s youo have missed the brilliance that is Buddy Murphy. Along with Cedric Alexander and Ali, Murphy is the most recent “graduate” from the cruiserweight show to a main roster brand. He has been a tremendous wrestler and has made lots of strides with his “Best Kept Secret” gimmick. For those who aren’t familiar with him, Murphy is about to rocket up your list of favorite wrestlers.
Overall Grade: B+
The two rosters had B+ level additions. RAW had more additions, but SmackDown Live had bigger impact names come to their show. As a result, the best way to evaluate these moves it to see how the rosters look overall. The men’s singles rosters look to be balanced enough, and RAW has a slight advantage in the tag division now. However, SmackDown Live’s women’s division is so good that is pushes them up and over the edge.