Christopher McManus takes a deep dive into the WWE Smackdown Live side of this week’s Superstar Shake-Up!
The smoke has cleared and now the RAW and SmackDown Live rosters have changed dramatically over the span of 48 hours. The WWE Universe has seen an entirely new landscape with locker room leaders switching brands, tag divisions finding balance, and a women’s division stronger than ever. Today, I highlight the moves that were made to the SmackDown Live brand and what this means in a very pivotal year for the show going forward.
It is no secret that with SmackDown moving to the Fox Network in October, the brand was going to have a large number of star power and a roster that’s is presentable for a prime time slot that’s going to be available in every household possible. The Superstar Shake-Up did that in droves, creating strong moves that will make the blue brand an intriguing show going into its transition.
Let’s get to one of the main reasons SmackDown will be benefitting heavily with their impending move to the Fox Network and that is The Big Dog in the WWE. The former WWE and Universal Champion made his jump during the closing moments of SmackDown Live, delivering a Superman Punch to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and spearing Elias. This was the play that the company had in mind for well over a year, as Reigns swapping with AJ Styles was necessary for a number of reasons.
Reigns, much like Styles, have done all that he could on Monday nights. Highly regarded as the top male star in the company and the main locker room leader, Reigns bring the star power and motivation to a young SmackDown roster ready to transition. He will still be in the background as he’s still recovering from his leukemia treatment. Until then, he will be working small programs with Elias to pick up on his ring condition. When that happens, it’s going to be an exciting time with all the new match-ups at his disposal.
A move that was a year in the making, Finn Balor has the opportunity to be one of the top three names on the SmackDown Live roster. Balor also brings the WWE Intercontinental Championship with him, for who he is in his second reign. It is possible that like before, the midcard titles could effectively switch brands with Samoa Joe and the United States title going to Monday Night RAW. Balor also has Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows lurking around, so if creative was interested in pairing “The Good Brothers” again then that’s a direction worth looking into.
The Boulder Beast has finally found a home. After his debut was postponed due to him no-showing a couple of events in January, the Leviathan made his long-awaited presence felt by destroying WWE legends such as Kurt Angle and The Hardy Boyz during Mania Week. It seems like the WWE brass is still high on The Freak Man, having him decimate a number of super popular stars. With Sullivan officially being on the blue brand, many could expect some big plans heading his way.
“The War Goddess” made her return at WrestleMania after recovering from elbow surgery and didn’t miss a beat with her showing in the Women’s Battle Royal. As what was shown leading up to WrestleMania was the severe lack of depth to SmackDown’s women’s division, leading to Charlotte Flair to regain the title from Asuka to help with the brand’s credibility at the time. With the Shake-Up approaching yesterday, Ember was one of the easy candidates in providing balance to a depleted women’s roster and an opportunity to be a perennial title contender in the coming months.
While expected, this still came as a surprise that the former Women’s Tag Champion would now be on Tuesday nights. Bayley has been indirectly involved with the current fiasco surrounding Sasha Banks, who has taken a leave of absence following their defeat at WrestleMania. Whether it played a factor in Bayley moving over or has yet to be determined, but this was also needed for lovable babyface. Prior to her tag run with Sasha, Bayley tread throughout the RAW’s waters barely finding consistent footing. Far too often and even now, she is seen as the fourth wheel of “The Four Horsewomen” of wrestling and. This is her chance to “be the change,” as she likes to put it and make a name for herself as a solo star.
As promised by Paige last week, she would bring in an impressive team to SmackDown Live to combat against The IIconics. “The Pirate Princess” made her SmackDown debut aligning with Asuka as two STARDOM alumni and instant contenders for the Women’s Tag Team Titles. Sane has been featured on both Women’s Royal Rumbles and WrestleMania Battle Royals to moderate success and participated in WWE’s sole women’s pay-per-view Evolution. The casual audience that knows her should fall in love with the Disney character come to life, as her charisma and mannerisms will have her as a longtime fan favorite for years to come.
It was a foregone conclusion that Buddy Murphy would be making a jump to the big boys after losing the Cruiserweight Championship at WrestleMania, the only question is where he would go. When Cedric Alexander was announced he’ll be heading to RAW, Murphy was the next name to be leaving 205 Live to join Team Blue. This is an incredible story for “The Best Kept Secret”, who just in 2017 was grinding on the NXT Florida loops and having heavily-praised classics with Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black. He would continue to chase for the brass ring in shedding enough weight to join the 205 Live roster and stealing the show on a weekly basis.
The former “Cruiserweight Juggernaut” will have a chance to do the same thing on Tuesday nights, with a fresh set of faces to display his skills against. He can rekindle his old feud against Ali, trade strikes with Finn Balor, and even step up to Roman Reigns himself. The possibilities are endless for him and if there’s one man that can prove his opportunity is worth it, it is him.
Vince McMahon’s “biggest acquisition in SmackDown history” turned out to be RAW’s former drifter Elias. Feeling that now he longer have to deal with the interruptions on Monday, Elias was quickly dealt with by Roman Reigns. This is likely to be his first program on the blue brand, as SmackDown has always been the breeding ground for midcarders needing to break through to the top of the card. He’s always been a serviceable act on RAW and now will have to step it up a notch on the show full of workhorses.
The Riott Squad started like a ball of fire nearly two years ago only to fizzle out throughout 2018. As with many members of the main roster, they became victims of circumstance, often fed to Ronda Rousey and The Four Horsewomen. It was only a matter of time that the trio would run their course and had to split in order to truly get the most out of each other. In Liv Morgan’s case, this is a show-and-prove moment for the mischievous, plucky superstar. It will be her first true test as a potential singles competitor, which means she will have to go out of her way to stand out on a now stacked division. Hopefully, she has grown enough not to draw similarities to Carmella, who both developed a brash and urban-influenced gimmick in NXT and are both billed from the Tri-State.
Gable’s run on the main roster has been flashes of brilliance marred with being lost in the shuffle. After being swapped to RAW last year in hopes of a solo run, he was paired with Bobby Roode in a makeshift tag team with moderate success. Then he got stuck again after losing the tag team titles and was sent to SmackDown when it looked like the duo was starting a heel run. Now on his own again, this might be the last shot for Gable to make something worthwhile after so much push and pull.
Getting placed in a tag team with Shelton Benjamin again would only defeat the purpose of Gable’s desire of wanting a solo run. With Fox focusing on a sports-oriented product for their weekend slots, Gable could be seen as a potential athlete to promote. He’s a former Olympian and can be seen as the heir to Kurt Angle if given the right push.
Mickie James has been absent over the past few months before returning for the Women’s Battle Royal at WrestleMania. She returns to SmackDown as a veteran leader into the SmackDown locker room full of talented women. I doubt that she will have much of a bigger role on a roster that includes Charlotte Flair, Asuka, Bayley, and Ember Moon, but she will be a great hand to get younger stars like Kairi Sane and Liv Morgan over and will have good matches.
Heavy Machinery was built for SmackDown Live. The comedic powerhouse duo of Tucker and Otis is a great fit to a dynamic tag team division full of colorful individuals. I wouldn’t be shocked if they have a small run with the titles, though there will more interactions between Mandy Rose and Otis for my amusement.
Apollo, much like Chad Gable, was a victim of being bottlenecked on such a top-heavy RAW roster over the years. He would find some success with Titus O’Neil and Dan Brooke as a part of Titus Worldwide but later went solo facing Jinder Mahal and Baron Corbin in small TV programs. Now back on SmackDown, Crews help in a diverse midcard where no matter where he is placed, he’s gonna do well. He may not be a future world champion now, but Crews have the ability to get to the next level.
SmackDown Live continues to be the beacon of in-ring athleticism and new faces making their mark in the company. This year, the roster has a chance to truly cement themselves as THE A Show.
You can follow more of Chris’ musings on Twitter: @RappersRActors
Levin: Television Deal Gives AEW A Chance To Push WWE Around
With the news of Tuesday Night Dynamite on TNT, it should shake things up. How much potential lies in this AEW deal?
With the news of Tuesday Night Dynamite on TNT, it should shake things up. How much potential lies in this AEW deal?
I don’t know if it is competition yet, but the fact AEW has a television deal with WarnerMedia to air live matches in a weekly primetime format on TNT should make things interesting.
I’m not expecting the return of the Monday Night Wars or for Tony Khan to shout from Stone Mountain that he is in the “wrasslin business” as Ted Turner once did to the deaf ears of Vince McMahon. This isn’t the same kind of confrontation between two middle-aged men with egos bigger than the state of Florida.
Per the New York Post, “The new wrestling company and WarnerMedia announced the agreement Wednesday morning. TNT will air live AEW matches weekly in prime time starting in the fall, as well as streaming them on B/R Live and on pay-per-view. AEW will be presented to advertisers during the WarnerMedia Upfront at the Madison Square Garden Theater on Wednesday.”
If this is the kind of entrance Khan and his performers want to make, then I am all for it. Pro wrestling is moving the needle a bit from the monopoly of the McMahons with NJPW, ROH and the NWA grabbing the attention of fans – away from the stale and pungent feel of what WWE has offered ahead of the Money in the Bank PPV. If anything, there is an injection of adrenaline in a business that has been on life support in some circumstances since the last day WCW was in operation and Billionaire Ted gave in to the struggles of trying to get it right on a weekly basis.
Per Joseph Staszewski,” The deal marks the first time wrestling will appear on TNT since the final “WCW Monday Nitro” on March 26, 2001, and officially puts AEW in competition with WWE for prime-time television ratings.”
My son wasn’t two yet and I was on my first wife at the time.
Now comes the fun of seeing what Khan, who is a huge wrestling fan and part owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars will do with top-level talent (Cody, Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, The Young Guns and Britt Baker to name a few) at his disposal.
If the branding and storylines follow that of the old NWA with a splash of WCW from the early 1990s mixed in, then Khan and his venture have a chance to rock the wrestling boat. No one is going to knock McMahon off his lofty perch. But the programming and promotion can offer hardened fans a chance to see their old favorites weekly.
What AEW did by making the announcement in grand style is deliver a message to WWE, which signifies this is an upstart that isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers. It was the right time with the right company backing them.
It’s time to see if the McMahon old guard is as solid as it once was or can the little engine that could make a dent in a business monopolized for too long.
Greg DeMarco’s Three Stars Of The Night: WWE Smackdown (5/14/19)
They had Kayla Braxton interview Lars Sullivan. Really.
WWE Smackdown is in London this week, and it’s the go home SD Live for Money In The Bank. Who stood out?
WWE Money In The Bank is on the horizon, and the WWE Smackdown side takes it home in dramatic fashion. Who delivered big performances this week?
The Third Star for WWE Raw: Andrade
Andrade is the man. Seriously, he’s taken tranquilo to the main shows in WWE, and it shows in such a good way. I still wish he was on Raw where he’d be given more opportunity, but he still makes the most out of each moment. Despite the “tranquilo” attitude I referred to, every thing he does actually has far more intensity than almost anyone else not named Brock Lesnar, Drew McIntyre, or Roman Reigns. Traditional thinking means a win here won’t lead to a Money In The Bank briefcase retrieval, but if I was booking the show he’d leave Money In The Bank with the WWE Championship.
Elisa looks great in her Chairshot gear.
You can, too!
Be like Elisa and get yours at:
The Second Star: Kayla Braxton
These assholes had Kayla Braxton, a mixed-race female, interview Lars Sullivan? LARS SULLIVAN? I don’t know what idiot made that decision, but they need some special training of their own. Kayla, of course, handled it like the true professional she is. But I’m biased, because I love Kayla Braxton.
The First Star for WWE Smackdown: Kevin Owens
I am so glad Kevin Owens didn’t stay babyface for long. He’s more than a natural heel–he’s a spectacular heel. He told the truth to Kofi (“reality begins…reality ends this Sunday”) and it worked. He answered Kofi’s babyface challenge, but walked away multiple times, which was long enough to make Sami Zayn’s attack unpredictable. He’s fat, looks dirty, and wrestles in a t-shirt. But he’s so good while doing it. Kevin Owens is the heel we all need, in an era where it’s hard to be a true heel.
In hockey, a game’s “Three Stars Of The Night” represent the top three performers of the night. For more clarification, I defer to this Pittsburgh Gazette explanation:
“The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.
Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.
The NHL keeps track of its own Three Stars Of The Night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third – a running total can be found on the league’s website – but it does not present an award based on them.”
In hockey tradition, the first star represents the best of the three, but all three are considered to be receiving a high honor.