PARKS’S TAKE: Assessing the changes brought on by the Superstar Shake-Up

By Greg Parks, PWTorch columnist

WWE Smackdown Live logo - new July 2016 (c) WWE.com

Less than a year after the latest incarnation of WWE’s roster split, the brands were shaken up again this past week. Some of the moves were made because wrestlers needed a change of air, as they had be stagnating on the show to which they were initially drafted. During the split last summer, there were some fans questioning the brand to which a few wrestlers were drafted. During this shake-up, some of those wrestlers were sent to the side many thought they should’ve landed in the first place. Regardless, the landscape has changed. Here are some thoughts on each wrestler who was shaken up this week:

To Raw:

The Miz & Maryse: Miz gives Raw a strong heel presence and is a big loss for the Smackdown side. I was hoping, based on Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut, that Miz would be his first feud. You almost hate to break the momentum he’s had by shifting him to Raw at this point. If nothing else, Miz TV can eat up some time on the three-hour Raws.

Dean Ambrose: As Ambrose heads to Raw, so goes the Intercontinental Championship. Ambrose had the potential to be the lead babyface of the Smackdown brand, but that never really materialized. It felt like he was out of his depths at times relative to his push. Feuding with Baron Corbin and only making it to the Wrestlemania pre-show shows how far he’s fallen: Last year, he was in a key match with Brock Lesnar on the show. A move to Raw could freshen him up.

Bray Wyatt: This was one of the biggest surprise moves of the week. Wyatt’s feud with Randy Orton, despite the lackluster match at Wrestlemania, seemed destined to have legs. Their House of Horrors match at Payback is still on the docket, but this could be an admission by WWE that the feud didn’t play out and get the reaction they’d hoped. Wyatt is going to be Wyatt no matter what night he’s on, as he’ll simply bring his brand of magic to Mondays.

Alexa Bliss: The top heels on each brand swap, as Bliss goes to Raw and Charlotte head to Smackdown. The blue brand rushed through the Bliss break-up with Mickie James. She has done enough with the top two babyfaces, Naomi and Becky Lynch, to warrant a change.

Mickie James: Back full-time, James has already turned babyface after returning as a heel alongside Bliss. She’ll give a steadying veteran hand to a young Raw women’s division. I don’t necessarily think a title run is in her future, but she could play a Natalaya-like role on Raw.

Apollo Crews: The nail was in Crews’s Smackdown coffin when he was booed against heel Dolph Ziggler during their feud. They’ve done little if anything with him since. “Potential” is the word thrown out a lot with Crews, but he’s going to need to show something, and soon, on Raw.

Kalisto: Hopefully Kalisto was brought over to add depth to the cruiserweight division. If not, it’s a lateral move for him, which is not a good thing.

Heath Slater & Rhyno: I had thought Enzo & Cass filled the “goofy tag-team” quota on Raw, but apparently not. Smackdown seemed to lose interest in Slater and Rhyno, as there’s more to this story that can be cultivated. Hopefully, with more time on Monday nights, it can be fleshed out a little further.

Curt Hawkins: Hawkins replaces Jinder Mahal as designated heel job guy on Raw. I don’t see him advancing any higher up the card than he was on Smackdown.

To Smackdown:

Kevin Owens: Owens’s move is contingent on him retaining the United States title against Chris Jericho at Payback. With Jericho heading out on tour with Fozzy, Owens is expected to get the win. He has some real interesting possible opponents on the Smackdown (especially if A.J. Styles turns babyface), and he’ll freshen up the main event scene.

Charlotte Flair: WWE telegraphed Charlotte’s move. She had been protected so well that when she started losing more and more, a change seemed likely. She gets away from Sasha Banks and Bayley, which was necessary given how much Raw has run those matches into the ground already. It’s difficult to prevent that, though, with so few women on each brand.

New Day: A good move to send them to Smackdown. I don’t know if they need a change of scenery or if their overall act is just played out. We’ll see if landing on Smackdown re-energizes their creative juices. To some extent, it feels like they’ve gone as far as they can go (and done as much as they can do) as a triumvirate. The dynamic changes somewhat with Kofi Kingston on the shelf.

Rusev & Lana: When Rusev comes back from injury, it’ll be interesting to see how he and Lana are paired. Smackdown ran a vignette solely for Lana this past week, indicating she’ll be a character on her own, perhaps even wrestling. If she becomes a women’s division fixture, does Rusev fly solo? Either way, Rusev has a lot of untapped potential. Hopefully, he’ll get more opportunities here.

Sami Zayn: Some fans groaned when it was learned that Zayn would follow Owens to Smackdown. Zayn was one of those original draft picks that seemed tailor-made for Tuesday nights. It took almost a year, but to many, he’s finally where he belongs. He’s got some more upward mobility on Smackdown, though the delineation between the two brands (Smackdown being the wrestling show and Raw being the entertainment show) isn’t what it once was.

The Shining Stars: One wonders if a repackage is in their future given how they appeared on Smackdown this week. It didn’t have the feel of the happy-go-lucky time share salesmen. That would be the best idea for them, otherwise they replace The Vaudevillains as a lower card act.

Sin Cara: Babyface fodder is babyface fodder regardless of what show it is.

Jinder Mahal: Mahal has improved his look to what Vince McMahon likes, so there’s always a chance he gets a push. Otherwise, added heel depth on the brand.

Tamina: It’s been a while since we’ve seen her on TV, though she returned to house shows some time ago. She gives Smackdown’s women’s division some size, but I’m not sure how she fits in. It appears this era of the women’s division has passed her by, making her somewhat of a relic.

Greg Parks joins Wade Keller on the PWTorch Livecast a couple times a month, usually after WWE Smackdown. Read additional columns from him at PWTorchVIP.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks. Comments, questions and feedback are welcome, and can be sent to g_man9784@yahoo.com.

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