What an underwhelming couple of weeks WWE has had. After a pretty entertaining, if entirely too long, outing at WrestleMania 35, the world’s largest wrestling promotion has been running in neutral ever since. Last week’s post-Mania shows proved to be little more than meandering house shows that neither set up, nor resolved storylines, and only featured the debut of two Superstars who we we’ve been told to expect for months now. But that was OK, man. It’s fine that the most exciting Monday/Tuesday night of the year was a bust, because the next week was the Superstar Shake-up, the modern equivalent of the brand split draft where the rosters get shuffled and anything can happen. Surely, that would inject some excitement into what has thus far been an underwhelming start to the season! Well…
So yeah, the Shake-up was a bust, with most of the interesting moves heavily telegraphed, and some just outright baffling. It felt like, with a few exceptions, WWE got everything wrong this week — but precisely how wrong, you may ask? Well, reader, you’re in luck! As we have done with both of the previous Shake-ups, we’re here to rank every pick, every move, every astonishingly stupid re-imagining from this week in WWE all to try and make some sense of this who debacle. We start with someone who wasn’t even technically drafted…
Honorable Mention: Samoa Joe to Raw
So this one isn’t anyone’s fault, but the “infallible” (read: often wrong but still revered) Dave Meltzer has said YOUR United States Champion, Samoa Joe, was supposed to appear on Monday’s episode of Raw to both announce his arrival on the red brand and kick off his feud with Braun Strowman in earnest. Alas, a bout with the flu kept the Samoan Submission Machine at home this week, meaning he missed out on…well nothing, really. It’s probably better that he’ll get his own introduction in the coming weeks, rather than having to be a part of the laughing stock that was Monday night’s show. If you’re wondering where he would have ranked, barring some kind of embarrassing mishap during his introductory segment, he would’ve been ninth on this list. Joe’s a great heel and feels like an actual monster, but one wonders how he’ll stack up on a brand with three meathead heels at the top of the card already.
25. Eric Young to Raw
I’m probably going to say this a lot in this article, but the ranking here isn’t me crapping of the performer, just the move itself. You see, Eric Young was the leader of SAnitY, an awesome stable in NXT that was called up to SmackDown Live in last year’s Shake-up…but didn’t appear on TV until a few months later. Then only appeared a handful of times on the show over the rest of the year. Then lost in a 3-on-1 handicap match to the friggin’ Miz (who I love but has no business beating three men at the same time). In short, EY’s time on the main roster of WWE has not really been much of anything, and separating him from his stablemates on a different show does not fill me with confidence in his immediate future. Sadly, this means both the end for SAnitY, and Young’s almost certain future as a bottom-rung jobber on WWE Main Event. Which is a real shame, because Young has proven that he’s so much better than that during his stints in both NXT and TNA.
24. Chad Gable to SmackDown Live
Last year we ranked my man Gable right in the middle of this list because of his latent potential, amazing in-ring ability and untapped potential as a solo star. So what did Raw do? Not use him for most of the year then shuffle him into an awful makeshift tag team with fellow NXT sob story Bobby Roode. This being his third year on the main roster, and third time he’s been moved in the shuffle, Chad seems unlikely to break through that glass ceiling that guys of his stature and pedigree seem to be up against. It’s a shame too, as he (like EY) has so much potential that’s just going to waste. Hopefully his career can be revitalized on a brand built around smaller, more athletic competitors, but I’m not optimistic. But hey, I said the same thing about Jinder Mahal two years ago and look at him now!…Wait, look at him a year and a half ago.
23. Liv Morgan to SmackDown Live
Much Like Eric Young, Liv is being cast out of the comfort zone of a (failing but) tight-knit stable and into unfamiliar territory as a solo act. Unlike Young, however, Morgan is the clear weak link on her team. Unlike SAnitY, however, The Riott Squad was actually somewhat popular and had screen time, meaning the Jersey native probably stands a better chance of making a name for herself than others. Of course, she’s still green as grass and finds herself in a suddenly stacked women’s roster on Tuesday night of which she is clearly at the bottom of the totem pole. Look for Liv to be jobbing to everyone besides (maybe) Lana in the coming months.
22. EC3 to Raw
Man, who did EC3 piss off backstage? It honestly feels like Carter was a revenge hire, who keyed Kevin Dunn’s car or something and is now doomed to get routinely trounced by more important characters while not being able to do the one thing that got him over during his sabbatical away from the WWE: talk. The only words he has said on the main roster have been about Colin Jost and Michael Che, and the only matches he has had in his six months on Raw have been trading wins with a checked-out Dean Ambrose and meaningless losses on Main Event that no one has seen. Ethan could easily be a fixture in the upper midcard if he didn’t have some sort of voodoo curse placed on his career. Alas, he’s doomed to be the bronzered equivalent of Jinder Mahal, a big meathead who can be easily overcome by pretty much everyone on the roster in need of a decisive win.
Mickie James to SmackDown Live
This is one of those moves that will not affect the performer in the slightest. Mickie James was the reliable veteran who can score or take a pin as needed on the Raw brand, and that’s exactly what she’ll be on Tuesday nights. Maybe James and Liv will team up in an attempt to enter the nascent women’s tag scene, but it’s more likely that she’ll be used to prop up people like Carmella, Asuka and Charlotte en route to their respective runs in the women’s title scene.
20. Apollo Crews to SmackDown Live
Apollo was on something of a career renaissance in the weeks leading up to Mania, with some even painting him as one of the darkhorse favorites to win the jobber participation award match Andre the Giant Battle Royal. As such, the move to SmackDown may be a new beginning for the former Uhaa Nation. SmackDown is a show more built around physical competition, which could give Apollo a shot. Though it’s far more likely that he’ll just be a midcard act that helps put over on-the-rise heels like Buddy Murphy, Elias and Lars Sullivan.
19. Heavy Machinery to SmackDown Live
How important was it to announce Otis and Tucky’s move to Tuesday night? WWE announced it on Twitter….after the Shake-up had ended…and after they had already released another tweet revealing all the shakees for SmackDown…and they seemingly didn’t tell either man about it before that. So yeah, Heavy Machinery’s on the blue brand where…actually, they may not do so bad. With the departure of the Usos from Tuesday night (and SmackDown‘s failure to secure the services of Ricochet and Aleister Black) as well as injuries to Big E and Sheamus, SmackDown’s largest tag team suddenly find themselves as big fish in an increasingly small pond. They’re officially the second most popular face tag team on SDL‘s male roster, so look for them to be in the title picture at some point over the year.
18. Lars Sullivan to SmackDown Live
I think even the announce team thought that Sully was on Raw when he wrecked Rey Mysterio on Monday, and yet out he comes on Tuesday to SmackDown R-Truth, and suddenly the Freak is on team blue. It’s not a bad move if treated correctly, because the (at this point assumed) loss of Samoa Joe leaves an opening for a monster heel to wreck shop on the B show. It also keeps the comparatively small Sullivan away from guys like Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre who would really hurt his mystique. For now the only faces that even approach his size are Roman and the Heavy Machinery boys, and Lars should run though those latter two without much issue. That being said, look for Sully to take eat losses from Roman, Kofi and possibly Finn Balor, but (barring a flukey win here or there) making relatively short work of midcarders like Ali, Apollo and Gable.
17. Lacey Evans to Raw
So the Sassy, Sexy, Sassy again Southern Belle is now on Raw and doing more than just walking down the ramp anr heading back to Gorilla and it’s…about as good as we thought it would be. Which is to say it’s fine, but not great. Evans has never been particularly great in the ring, and her character is “limited” to be kind, but man does WWE have a thing for statuesque blondes. Now that she’s one of the only meaningful heels on Raw, she will likely be a relatively big fixture on the red brand until (or if) Ronda comes back. Or Nia comes back. Or they call up Shayna Baszler. At the moment, the only other female heels on Monday nights are Tamina, Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan, and considering Ruby just tapped to Becky in about four minutes, Lacey’s looking like the only viable challenger for that red belt for a while.
War Raiders The Viking Experience to Raw
So let’s address the elephant in the room: this is, without question, the worst renaming of a Superstar ever. And yes, I’ve heard a ton of people (including several WWE Hall of Famers) say that the name shouldn’t matter, that the talent will win out, but Jesus, there are limits. Why would you start off your hot new bruiser tag team with a name so awfully bland that they’re directly overlapping with a British theme park where you can throw axes and ride canoes? They even gave both performers worse individual character names. I mean Ivar? Erik? Who is out there saying “My favorite wrestler is Erik!” Ugh, these guys are so very talented and will probably be able to make this absolutely awful name work for them, but why start them off with a handicap like this? I mean, would “Stone Cold” Steve Austin have been as popular if he was Chilly goddamn McFreeze? Anyway, the War Raiders will definitely be contenders in Raw‘s resurgent tag division…if fans can accept this dumbass name enough not to wreck their matches.
15. Rey Mysterio to Raw
To get it out of the way, Rey’s a living legend and one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boots. The fact that he’s in his 40s and still performing at the level he is is a testament to his great skill and commitment to his craft. That being said, I think WWE is kind of booking him how an aging Superstar who won most of his fights by being fast and clever SHOULD be booked at this stage of his career, which is to be putting over younger talent in well paced and exciting matches. Rey is always worth watching, but he’s not getting out of the midcard anytime soon — especially when they have him jobbing clean to Baron Corbin transitional moves. Rey may vie for a midcard belt, but that’s probably the best we can expect from him.
14. Naomi to Raw
I don’t think this will be a great move for Naomi, but I dig that she gets to stay on the same brand as her husband. As I said for Lacey Evans earlier in this list, Naomi finds herself on a weak women’s roster, which would be good, if the brand didn’t have (arguably) two babyfaces ahead of her in Becky and Natalya. Still she’s better in the ring and on the mic than Natty, and the only other faces (unless there’s something to that Alexa Bliss pseudo turn) on the brand being forgettable shmos like Dana Brooke, there’s a chance Naomi gets the glow she deserves on the Red Brand. Either that or she’ll be relegated to third wheel in 6-woman tag matches — in which case, what really changes?
13. Cedric Alexander to Raw
Cedric’s move to Raw really cements the impression of 205 Live as a lesser brand. Dude was literally branded “the soul” of the show and the fact that his addition to Raw is being treated like an upgrade speaks volumes. It totally is an upgrade, by the way, and I’m happy that people will actually get to see Ced perform. He’s a magnificent in-ring performer, which should help offset his lack of size, but his relatively weak mic work means he does run the risk of falling into Apollo Crews territory. Beyond that, I worry that he’ll have to develop a new finish, as I don’t think he’ll be getting bigger guys like Corbin or Lashley up for the Lumbar Check. Still, he’s young, likable and has an exciting move set, so let’s be optimistic about Ced’s chances.
12. Buddy Murphy to SmackDown Live
A lot of what I said about Cedric holds true here, except that SmackDown is better suited toward smaller, more athletic competitors like Buddy Murphy. Murphy will likely fill the midcard heel gap left in the wake of Andrade’s move to Raw, and that’s a great position for the Juggernaut. Murphy’s been having the best-wrestled matches on PPV cards for most of his run with the purple brand, and will likely have several barn burners with the likes of Finn Balor and his old rival Ali, only actually seen and cheered for because they’re on the SmackDown portion of the company’s live shows.
11. Kairi Sane to SmackDown Live
The Pirate Princess has done about all she can in NXT, so it’s not a bad idea to bring her to main. It’s also great to keep her in the tag division, even if it’s as partners with Asuka (who deserves better than a tag run). Personally, however, I just don’t really think she’s been doing great work since coming to WWE. Now I don’t blame the performer, per se — she’s still doing cool athletic moves and putting on athletic, engaging bouts when she’s in there with opponents like Bianca Belair or Shayna Baszler. It’s just that the “Pirate Princess” presentation just doesn’t work for me. The music, the gear, the looking glass — it just feels too ’80s. Still, she’s super talented, and is clearly getting a decent push out of the gate. I don’t imagine it’s long before she and Asuka are holding the tag titles…I just hope then she goes back to the Black Lotus Triad. Hopefully when Io gets called up.
10. Bayley to SmackDown Live
What was up with Bayley getting booed out of Montreal on Tuesday? Regardless, Bayley is another performer who needed a big change in her status quo. Even before getting into her makeshift tag team with Sasha Banks (one need only look at how bad their team name is to see how lazily thrown together those women were), Bayley was treading water as the weakest of the NXT Horsewomen in public perception. Moving her to SmackDown opens up a number of new options for feuds and matches and will hopefully reignite the fans’ passion for the Hugger in a way that fighting Nia Jax for the 50th time just never would.
9. Elias to SmackDown Live
“The single biggest acquisition in SmackDown history” according to Vince McMahon, Elias’s move to SmackDown is a curious, but strong one. Sure, it’s great to see him open up to new potential opponents and feuds, and his crowd work should help him make an impression on the wider audiences being introduced to SmackDown once it hits Fox later this year. It’s just that he’s a bit limited in the ring, and on a show with a lot of faster, more exciting wrestlers, it feels like Elias’s slow, power move-heavy offense may lessen his appeal to some. Still, he’s popular and memorable enough that I could see the Drifter nabbing an IC title run before the year is out — shoot, why not have him break the Honky Tonk Man’s record? It would only be fitting.
8. The Miz to Raw
Fun fact, The Miz has been moved in literally every draft/Shake-up since he’s been with the company. This time around it’s nice to see him get away from Shane McMahon, but it’s great for him to be a face and on a Reigns-less Raw. With the departure of Big Dog, Miz easily moves into the top three faces on the red brand, and is in a good position to have a strong year. Now let’s try to ignore the fact that they only moved him to Mondays so he could continue to promote his successful reality show on the network on which Raw airs, rather than a meaningful storyline reason.
7. Ember Moon to SmackDown Live
SmackDown nabbed almost all of the actually exciting performers in this years Shake-up, and that goes for men and women. With Ember Moon, the blue brand welcomes a character that is cooler and more athletic than 99% of her contemporaries. She’s still a little shaky on the mic, but if she can stay healthy, I could see the War Goddess sticking around the title scene (possibly challenging for the strap in a one on one match) even if I don’t see her winning it. It’ll be great to see her mix things up with performers like Sonya Deville, Charlotte or (and most interestingly) her old NXT nemesis, Asuka.
6. Ricochet and Aleister Black to Raw
WWE seems to be keeping them together, so I guess I will too. The two NXT standouts have proven to be a pretty exciting tag team in their short time together, and should the company ever get wise to their potential and split them up, they’ll realize “oh wait, these two are awesome singles competitors!” Hopefully that happens sooner than later, as I can’t imagine either man being without singles gold for too long. Now if only WWE would stop adding stupid ass sound effects to their theme songs in an effort to ruin their entrances.
5. Andrade (w/ Zelina Vega) to Raw
We’re taking a potential gamble on this one, but given the our #5 pick was SAnitY last year and Rusev the year before, it seems like the five spot can be all over the place. Andrade is an immeasurably talented and captivating performer who wows every time he gets in the ring, and with Zelina Vega doing the heavy lifting for the promo work, this dude is the untapped future of WWE…IF they actually book him right. We’ve seen so many sure things fall by the wayside, and Raw‘s creative for the past year has been pretty abjectly terrible. Still, let’s retain a little optimism for El Idolo, and think of the matches he could have with guys like Seth Rollins on the red brand.
4. The Usos to Raw
This was the big no-brainer move of the shakeup, as Raw‘s tag division has been in the crapper, The Usos have done pretty much everything there is to do on SmackDown as a tag team. Jimmy and Jey are one of — and very likely THE best tag team in the world at the moment, so why not let them rebuild the shattered remnants of the red belts? Their matches with Blackochet, The Revival and the WAR RAIDERS should be epic, and I imagine it won’t be long before these dudes are wearing those dime belts once again.
3. AJ Styles to Raw
SmackDown may the house that AJ Styles built, but it’s long since time he moved out. Sure, SmackDown has the better creative and let him have a lengthy run with the WWE title, whereas he’ll almost assuredly end up jobbing to some of the larger heels on Monday nights, but it’ll be nice to see AJ enter into some new matchups and scenarios, as he’s felt fairly stale on Tuesday nights for at least a year now. Fortunately, he’ll also have a number of other top faces to help him carry the main event scene, which should allow him to spread out his talents and (hopefully) regain some of the mystique he lost while being the Face that Runs the Place week in, week out.
2. Roman Reigns to SmackDown Live
Man, did the Big Dog need this. Roman’s return from his battle with cancer should have helped launch him into the stratosphere, yet familiar booking and presentation quickly led to the crowd booing his match at WrestleMania. Getting him away from Raw and its inferior creative team is the best thing for Reigns, and as a bonus SmackDown gets a big name at the top of the card that isn’t over the age of 40. I hope they lean into it, too. Change his music, change his gear, lose the damn vest. This could be a great thing for Roman…but knowing WWE, he’ll just keep doing the same thing. Look for him to end Lars Sullivan’s early win streak with a single spear, and move into the title picture once the belt is off of Kofi.
1. Finn Balor to SmackDown Live
Speaking of people who needed to get away from the red brand, Finn Balor’s move to SmackDown Live is LONG overdue. With Tuesdays being the night for more athletic competition among the (comparatively) smaller Superstars, Finn’s a natural fit. Think of the bouts he can have against guys like Buddy Murphy, Kofi Kingston, or Daniel Bryan. He also brings with him the IC title, which is great for SmackDown as a whole as the white strap certainly carries more esteem than the US Championship. Finn’s another guy that will likely be in the title picture by the end of the year, and given the state of the locker room on Tuesday nights, Balor may just take that title back to Bray County.
So there you have it, the 2019 Superstar Shake-up ranked from ashy to classy. Which brand do you think won the night? Let us know in the comments below.
Do you love wrestling? Do you have strong opinions on AEW, WWE, NJPW, Impact, ROH, and the independent scene? Do you like to write about wrestling? Then we want you on our team. AIPT is currently recruiting wrestling writers. Apply to write for AIPT today!