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Who Won The 2017 WWE Superstar Shakeup?


Okay, we'll admit it: the Superstar Shakeup was a clever way to get us to tune into all five hours of WWE programming this week (six if you're a 205 Live devotee like EIC Ro Moran). But the truth is the brand split creates a system that fosters excitement, by creating separate, almost-isolated environments that make the occasional cross-brand interaction fun. So when you, uh, shake up those environments on RAW and SmackDown Live, naturally people are going to tune in to see what happens and what the status quo is.

Now that SmackDown is finished, we'll take a quick look back on how the Shakeup went, what it did right, where it went wrong, and which brand came off stronger in the fallout.

The Shakeup itself


First, a comment on the Superstar Shakeup. When it was initially announced, people thought it was going to be another WWE Draft, where the GMs of each show took turns to steal people away from the opposite show. Then it turned out it was merely going to be a two-day period of deals, trades, and signings.

Then RAW happened and it quickly turned out to be an exercise in lazy writing. SmackDown superstars suddenly showed up from out of nowhere, the WWE social media accounts just randomly announced who was coming over tonight, and there was no buildup at all as to who was showing up. The surprises were nice, but in the end there were so many questions left hanging, all unnecessary had the RAW team just written around it properly.




We expected that it was going to be the same way for SmackDown, but to a certain extent, we were wrong. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn did actually show up on SmackDown Live unannounced, but the authority figures managed it well. Daniel Bryan announced that he was pretty much bringing the United States Champion over to the show, and whoever won between Owens and Chris Jericho at Payback in three weeks would be on SmackDown. Shane McMahon also announced the new women signings (more on that later). So if anything, as usual SmackDown was the more hardworking show between the two, despite the flawed system.

But would it be too much to ask to make it like the old Draft? Or to announce who was being traded, in order to hype up SmackDown? Too many jokes about SmackDown getting stripmined on RAW happened, and they didn't have to if they just announced who was going where.


The upper midcard


Of course, unlike 2005, the top championships of each show weren't going anywhere. The biggest move was that the Intercontinental and United States Championships were switching homes; Dean Ambrose headed to RAW, and either Kevin Owens or Chris Jericho are heading to SmackDown. It wasn't a trade that needed to happen, but both championships are now in their respective traditional homes.


But the biggest move is actually Bray Wyatt, who's moving back to RAW after a short WWE Championship run. It seems as though he's not destined for bigger things, as he's about to clash with a rising Finn Balor, who stays put. RAW also gets the Miz and Maryse presumably to help make other upper midcarders look good.

SmackDown gets Sami Zayn and Rusev as midcard players to help bolster the flagging middle, and also as potential new main eventers. Both men, as well as others, have a clearer path to the WWE Championship on SmackDown than they do on the top-heavy RAW.

Winner: SmackDown Live. With Shinsuke Nakamura and, more importantly, AJ Styles staying put, the Blue Show getting infused with better in-ring workers makes for a really exciting summer. It really was RAW generously unloading some of the underused and talented midcarders they have, and it should be fire from the middle to the top with all the new players. If RAW can salvage Bray's damaged reputation from the WrestleMania fiasco with Orton, we'll grade them better, but at this point, they gave their rival brand a lot of tools to be better here.

The women


We already expected it thanks to the rumors, but RAW ended up fleecing Alexa Bliss and Mickie James from SmackDown Live. At this point, there wasn't anything left for Bliss to do after dominating the frankly shallow SmackDown women's division for months, and while Mickie was a welcome veteran presence, it's getting more and more obvious that RAW needs her guidance more.

In return, RAW gave up Charlotte but not Sasha Banks, instead getting her former stablemate Tamina back as an apparent free agent. Charlotte was a shoe-in thanks to the star power she brings, but we're not entirely sure that this is the best idea, especially with Emma needing a shallower pool to reestablish herself, but they also apparently needed a powerhouse Nia Jax-type on SmackDown, and Tamina is the best they can do. There are a few women in that scene who may be capable of getting some good mileage out of her, but we're not holding our breaths for Tamina.

Before we forget, SmackDown also gets Lana because they also got Rusev, and that's a huge question mark because we've only ever seen her compete once. She did all right, but it was a giveaway.



Winner: RAW. SmackDown lost two of its best women, and even though they'll manage with champion Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte, Alexa Bliss was one of the anchors that held it together. RAW's women's division is going to flow a lot better now with Little Miss Bliss, assuming they use her correctly.


Tag teams


Whoever was in charge of the transfers here knew what they were doing. RAW didn't actually need a lot of help in the tag team division, considering they just signed the Hardys and called up the Revival (and still have the Club and the Professional Warriors), so all they had to do was, uh, pick up Heath Slater and Rhyno from SmackDown Live.

In return, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon apparently dealt in a fair trade and got The Shining Stars for the first SmackDown Tag Team Champions, but also scored a huge coup and got longest-reigning champs The New Day. Tonight's match between American Alpha and the Usos show just how willing SmackDown is to give their tag team division a lot of time to do work (assuming they even get time in an episode). This switch may be what the Shining Stars need to reestablish themselves, but at the same time, SmackDown no longer has a jobber team because they went to RAW, and Simon Gotch got released.

Winner: SmackDown Live. But barely, and only if we're judging who made the better deals this week. RAW's tag division still looks stronger at the end of the day due to their blockbuster signs. That's not to say SmackDown didn't make a good move, though, as adding the New Day gives their division a real anchor. They just needed to make bigger moves; we would have preferred the Professional Warriors over the Shining Stars, but shows need jobbers.


Lower midcarders


Yes, we're being nice here, but jobbers also need to get traded. To be fair, they're not all jobbers; some of them do actually need a new environment to thrive in.

RAW makes intelligent moves to future-proof their brand and sign Apollo Crews and Kalisto away from SmackDown. Crews could restart his midcard push should Vince ever want him to, and it's obvious that the Kalisto move was designed to get him quicker to the cruiserweight division and 205 Live. We just don't know why they didn't just put him on RAW in the first place, but the Samuray did give us some pretty stellar matches on SmackDown. Curt Hawkins rounds out the RAW steals, because again, shows need jobbers.


Meanwhile, SmackDown makes the most of their pickings and get Jinder Mahal and Sin Cara from RAW. They actually don't need much help in the lower midcard because they've managed to build a solid foundation there, maximizing a lot of minutes. If anything, they were being generous to RAW, offloading future stars they could use. Not to say that Jinder and Sin Cara don't have their upsides; Mahal will go far if they really wanted him to, especially on SmackDown, and Sin Cara could be better utilized in a show that could use him as a jobber more creatively. It's essentially a useful change of scenery.

Winner: RAW. If only for the higher upsides Apollo Crews and Kalisto bring to the table. Curt Hawkins is also one of the better jobbers in the WWE.


Commentary


Yes, even the commentary team is not spared from getting #shookt. David Otunga goes over to RAW and Byron Saxton heads over to SmackDown. It's not a harmless deal; if the objective is to train Otunga to become a better color commentator, he could probably improve faster with the calmer Michael Cole and Corey Graves instead of trying to spar with the uncouth JBL. Saxton isn't great by any means, but he holds down the fort and does a better job of tempering JBL's motor mouth with Tom Philips than Otunga could.


Overall


Yes, it seems like we here at Smark Henry seem like SmackDown fanboys, but there's just no denying it: SmackDown won the first-ever Superstar Shakeup. They came away with a bolstered and exciting midcard scene despite looking like they were losing on RAW. Who wouldn't be excited for the 2017 SmackDown Six of AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin? And Rusev, when he gets back? Now imagine any permutation of those guys competing for the top two titles on the show. How doesn't SmackDown win this one?

RAW is already overloaded with big stars, with Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns (yes), and Finn Balor, among others, so they knew that all they had to do was round out the fringes of their roster. It's actually surprising that they didn't take a bigger star like AJ Styles, as advertised, and not offload Roman Reigns to a show that has a better chance of salvaging his reputation.

In RAW being generous, though, they created a lot of perceived parity between the two WWE brands, and it's now up to each show to maximize their new rosters. Knowing what we know about how they operate, however, it's pretty clear that SmackDown won on paper, and is going to win in the ring.

What did you guys think, though? Who won the Shakeup? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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