The WWE Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live shows in the aftermath of WrestleMania are always fascinating, and this year is no exception. The WrestleMania 33 results suggested that we had seen something of a changing of the guard. Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker saw a victory for Reigns, and The Undertaker announced his retirement by leaving his hat, coat, and gloves in the ring as he departed the arena. SmackDown star AJ Styles defeated Shane McMahon and then extended the hand of friendship to McMahon, seemingly bringing their WrestleMania 33 feud to an end.
Seth Rollins defeated his former mentor, Triple H, and WrestleMania 33 even saw the return of the Hardy Boyz, who not only made an appearance but won the tag team ladder match to claim the Raw tag team championship. In short, WrestleMania 33 saw the passing of the WWE network torch to a new generation. We have even seen numerous reports, including in Heavy, suggesting that WrestleMania 33 marked Bill Goldberg’s final WWE network appearance.
If WrestleMania 33 didn’t give enough clues that we are seeing the dawn of a new WWE generation, then this week’s Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live added to the drama. As reported in the Inquisitr earlier this week, Shinsuke Nakamura introduced himself to the main WWE roster on Tuesday’s SmackDown. Tye Dillinger, who impressed at the 2017 Royal Rumble, also made a SmackDown appearance.
The return of Finn Balor and The Hardy Boyz to Monday Night Raw, and the sight of Braun Strowman squaring up to Brock Lesnar, all give clear hints as to how the WWE network is shaping up for the year to come. We even heard the news that WWE legend Kurt Angle is taking over from Mick Foley as the Raw General Manager. All of that said, it was Vince McMahon’s announcement of a “superstar shakeup” on Monday Night Raw that will have the most significant impact on the WWE network in the year to come.
WWE Superstar Shakeup Rumors: Is It Just The 2017 WWE Draft?
According to CBS Sports, the WWE “Superstar Shakeup” is not just the 2017 WWE draft. Vince McMahon made it clear that he intends to “shake things up around here.” Apparently new Raw General Manager Kurt Angle has already been in discussion with the Blue Team General Manager Daniel Bryan regarding potential superstar movement.
There have been no announcements from the WWE network as to which WWE stars are likely to be involved in the superstar shakeup, but some moves do seem rather obvious. The WWE network clearly sees Monday Night Raw as its premium brand, but the Red Team has been losing viewers, and many commentators believe that SmackDown has been the more entertaining half of the split. It is now difficult to split the brands according to the viewing figures, but SmackDown is now regularly pulling more fans into the arena that Monday Night Raw.
That fact alone suggests that the time is right for a superstar shakeup. The most obvious move is for AJ Styles to move to the Raw brand. Styles is widely recognized as one of the world’s top wrestlers, and he has been a huge factor in SmackDown narrowing the gap on Raw. THeavy suggests that Styles will be traded for Sami Zayn or Seth Rollins. Having Styles on the Raw brand would be a boon for the red team, but would weaken SmackDown considerably.
Zayn is very much cast in the role of “plucky loser,” so it is difficult to see how he could be an adequate replacement for Styles. As a former member of The Shield, Rollins enjoys a higher profile than Zayn, but even he would need a major push by the WWE if he is to replace Styles. Of course, moving Styles to Raw carries a huge risk to the SmackDown brand, especially as John Cena is expected to be a very infrequent competitor.
There have been suggestions that Roman Reigns might move to SmackDown in a straight trade for Styles. It is difficult to see that happening. McMahon has promoted the “Big Dog” as the face of the WWE network for over five years. Moving Reigns to SmackDown would be an admission that McMahon’s plans have failed.
The tag team division on SmackDown could certainly use a shakeup, and rumors suggest that The New Day are switching brands to boost that division. We could also see Charlotte Flair moving to SmackDown to boost the blue team’s women’s division. Of course, that would bring Charlotte’s feud with Bayley to a close, but that feud is past it’s “sell-by” date anyway.
Of course, it makes perfect sense for the WWE network to boost its premier show, but there is a real danger that they could hurt the SmackDown brand as a result. Expect the WWE to surprise us by adding some new stars to the SmackDown roster. We may well see NXT stars like Bobby Roode step up to the main roster, and the women’s division on both main brands desperately needs a boost.
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