RAW Deal: The strategies of the 2018 Superstar Shakeup
HARTFORD, CT, USA—In only a couple of weeks, the WWE managed to overhaul their two major brands with the movements of the Superstar Shakeup.
For those who are unaware, the Superstar Shakeup is the millennial version of what was once the WWE Draft—a period of time in which each General Manager of the two brands, RAW and SmackDown Live, may make trades and transfers of roster members across the shows, as well as call up people they deem deserving from NXT, WWE’s farm league.
Of course, the biggest difference the Superstar Shakeup has with the WWE Draft is that it’s not as organized or structured as the latter. Where the WWE Draft made more sense because it followed the way other professional sports leagues both drafted rookies and traded players between teams—RAW and SmackDown took turns picking, and in previous years, trades were made transparent—the Superstar Shakeup sees new acquisitions just appear randomly on the show they were selected, without much rhyme or reason.
However, despite the lack of logic built into the Superstar Shakeup there’s still some strategy implied in the moves that were made this week. Where previously the WWE Draft really was more meant to switch stars elsewhere and shake things up, I noticed that this year’s roster moves were meant to address actual holes in both rosters. I like this move because not only does it fix some imbalances between the rosters, it makes both GMs look even more credible and competent for taking people they need. (Granted, I still would’ve made some smarter moves if I were one of them, but that’s beside the point.)
Kurt Angle beefs up the RAW midcard
RAW General Manager Kurt Angle, understanding that he’s got a pretty stacked main event and upper midcard scene with Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor, largely stole SmackDown’s deep midcard for himself. Counting only the men who aren’t part of a tag team, Angle got Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, (former United States Champion) Jinder Mahal, Bobby Roode, Dolph Ziggler, Chad Gable, Mike Kanellis, Mojo Rawley, and Zack Ryder. With these guys alone RAW came away with more selections than SmackDown, and for good reason: for much of 2017, they didn’t really have a midcard.
Consider, say, this year’s men’s Elimination Chamber match for a shot at Brock Lesnar. You had guys like Apollo Crews trying to fight their way in, and someone like Elias actually competing for a main event spot at WrestleMania. That’s because Brock Lesnar’s part-time schedule (plus key injuries to people like Samoa Joe) meant RAW had to make its midcard the main event. By taking who Angle took, he could buffer the upper midcard with some worthy names whether or not Lesnar is keeping the title for the foreseeable future, and still seed the Intercontinental title scene or the RAW tag team division.
I mention the tag team division because as we’ll get to in a bit, Angle sold off much of his tag team scene to SmackDown. It’s fine, because he’s clearly looking to rebuild it with picks like the Authors of Pain, Breezango, and the Ascension, mainstays such as the Revival and Heath Slater and Rhyno, as well as new teams such as Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt, and the possible partnership of Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre.
For RAW’s women’s division, though, I don’t care if you have a Ronda Rousey on your team, but you just do not let Asuka walk. That’s just dumb.
RAW’s missed picks: Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Becky Lynch, The Usos
Paige reinforces all fronts on SmackDown
Meanwhile, where Angle looked to restock his dangerously thin midcard, SmackDown Live General Manager Paige took this opportunity to swoop in and steal people to pump up a roster that’s bursting at the seams.
Also understanding that she’s got a main event scene that you can’t really mess with (AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Shinsuke Nakamura is your new WWE holy trinity, to be honest) Paige just decided she’d add one more big name in Samoa Joe. But her biggest coup is in her women’s and tag team divisions. Boosting last week’s Iiconics selection by landing the second biggest woman in the WWE, Asuka, Paige really did not go wrong here.
She also really got to work stacking the SmackDown Live tag team division, as the Usos, New Day, and the Bludgeon Brothers are joined by Sheamus and Cesaro, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and SAnitY from NXT. While her midcarder selection was relatively thinner (she got back the United States Championship by selecting Jeff Hardy, who won it from Mahal on RAW, and the other big pick she made is former NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas) the tag teams she got could either be broken up or utilized in the US title scene.
The only problem now with SmackDown is trying to figure out how all the big names they just got are going to fit with only two hours of programming every week. They already have a hard time consistently using talent they don’t have plans for, so expect a lot of these good selections to not show up every week.
SmackDown’s missed picks: Roman Reigns, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins, The Revival, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Apollo Crews, Elias
Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! On this week’s episode, the boys review MWF 1: Kasaysayan! Listen to it here!