Welcome, folks, to the NEW LordsofPain.net! It’s been a while since our last chat, hasn’t it? I’ve been so busy with both my personal and my professional life that I didn’t even have a chance to sit down and preview – let alone review – TakeOver and WrestleMania! As much as I’d like to share my thoughts on those two events, the past is in the past: I’d rather talk about something that’s merely hours away – The 2018 Superstar Shake-Up.
As we all know, last year’s Shake-Up essentially raided SmackDown of their top male and female stars, with Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, The Miz and Alexa Bliss all joining the red brand. In return, SmackDown received Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Charlotte and….Jinder Mahal. Minus the Jinder pick and push, this didn’t seem like a terrible trade on paper. Both midcard champions (Owens and Ambrose at the time) swapped shows, the respective face of each show’s female division found a new home, while acts like Zayn and The New Day were in desperate need of a new environment (pun intended). Furthermore, WWE could have taken the opportunity to replenish SmackDown’s sudden lack of singles stars by having Big E or Kofi venture into the singles department (they didn’t). Instead, we were left with a bloated Raw roster and a SmackDown roster that took nearly an entire year to rebuild its foundation and get all their players in the right spots.
The good news is, WWE has an opportunity to right all the wrongs they did in 2017. Many wrestling critics will tell you that 2017 was one of the worst years in the modern-era and I wouldn’t argue with those people. In many ways, everything went downhill (at least on Tuesdays) as of the Superstar Shake-Up, which, I might add, was horribly executed. Rather than emulate the format of successful 2016 Brand Extension, the creative team got lazy and just had wrestlers show up on their new brand. No announcements made by the General Managers or the Commissioners, no official trades – wrestlers simply showed up. That was really fucking lame. Not only that, but they made way too many swaps. Come Survivor Series, why should any wrestler feel entitled to represent his or her brand when there’s a 60/40 chance he/she won’t still be in the same locker room at the following year’s Survivor Series? Furthermore, did sending guys like Curt Hawkins, Heath Slater and Rhyno over to Raw in exchange for Sin Cara and The Colons make any difference at all? Did they ascend the pecking order? Not a chance. If anything, keep them where they are so they can develop chemistry with the rest of the locker room. What’s the point of taking a jobber who lies down for everyone and sending him to a show where he can lie down for everyone else over there?
There’s a simple fix – this year, keep the Shake-Up limited to only a certain amount of names and make sure those talents are midcard at worst. Let’s cap it at the magic number of TEN – six male stars, two teams and two women seem about right. Which twenty superstars (22 if we’re being precise) might be landing somewhere else this week? Here are my predictions…
1. Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins for United States Champion Jinder Mahal
As someone who has tickets to see the Monday Night Raw taping on April 30th, I write these words with the greatest anguish imaginable. Last year, I predicted that Universal Champion Brock Lesnar would swap places with WWE Champion Randy Orton. I was close, as that didn’t happen, but the midcard champions changed brands instead. Sadly, very sadly, I see WWE doing the exact same thing this year, as I couldn’t believe they had all three members of The Shield on the same show, even before they reunited. They will never send Vince’s love Roman Reigns to SmackDown and Ambrose already did plenty as a face over there, so Rollins is the most likely Shield member to leave. Plus – sigh – they need different guys to put over Mahal. Sigh…
2. The Miz for Randy Orton
Although time will tell if WWE learned from their mistakes made during and after last year’s Shake-Up, I’m pretty confident they at least learned from the horrible, confusing build to Backlash 2017. Literally half the card featured wrestlers feuding with a guy on the other brand. It was just a mess. With both Backlash next month AND The Greatest Royal Rumble weeks away, I don’t see them creating another wave of confusion for no reason. Orton hasn’t been on Raw in nearly two years; Miz has a main-event spot and a feud with Daniel Bryan awaiting him on SmackDown…or does he?
3. Braun Strowman for Daniel Bryan
I think there’s a very good chance that WWE keeps Bryan and The Miz away from each other until Bryan’s final match at WrestleMania (whichever one that may be). It would make sense, when you think about it. As much as we applaud Miz for what he has accomplished since the summer of 2016, he still hasn’t ascended to that constant main-event level. As it stands, Miz isn’t even on Bryan’s level, at least not yet. Before the two of them finally reignite their rivalry, why not allow Miz the opportunity to occupy the spot that Jinder Mahal erroneously occupied in 2017? That way, when Miz and Bryan DO clash, it will be a WrestleMania main-event waiting to happen. Plus, to have Miz be Bryan’s final opponent would be such amazing story-telling.
As for The Monster Among Men, it couldn’t be any more obvious that Braun is leaving. He willingly relinquished the tag team titles and was nowhere to be seen for the remainder of Raw last week. I look forward to the era of Strowman on SmackDown.
4. Bayley for Becky Lynch
If any two women were in dire need of a brand switch, it’s these two ladies. Bayley’s character has been 100% RUINED on Raw; in my opinion, there is no salvaging her over there. I think one of the reasons Bayley vs. Sasha Banks was scrapped from the ‘Mania 34 card is because there was very little momentum behind Bayley. I’m okay with them having a bit of a throwaway match on Raw tomorrow night and revisiting the feud in a year or so after Bayley (hopefully) gets back on track.
I don’t think I can name any member of the SmackDown women’s division who had a worst, less eventful 2017 than Becky. Despite being a ghost and losing more times than she won, Becky has found a way to remain over. Rather than have her rot on Tuesdays, I’m hoping she’ll get a renewed and sustained push by coming over to Raw.
5. The Revival for Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
The same can be said about both these teams, really. Both units deserve better – they were simply in the wrong spot at the wrong time. The Revival kept getting hurt and by the time both Dash & Dawson were ready to go, it was way too late to justify them receiving a Raw tag team championship opportunity at WrestleMania. Benjamin & Gable did challenge for the SmackDown tag team titles on numerous occasions, but they never got hotter than The New Day or The Usos did. Thus, much like The Revival, they were left on the outside looking in come WrestleMania. Hopefully a brand switch means good things in store for them.
(Spoiler alert: this means The Revival aren’t beating Woken Matt & Bray on Monday. But you already knew that…)
6. Finn Balor for Baron Corbin
I’m not too confident with the Balor pick, as he could very easily remain on Raw, but I will be shocked if The Lone Wolf doesn’t head to Monday Nights. Corbin has wrestled the majority of the blue brand and is still carrying with him the stink of the failed Money in the Bank cash-in last year. In order to truly start fresh, he needs to change shows (and Raw is in need of heels). This would also be a good way to keep Balor in the Intercontinental title scene, since both his WrestleMania 34 opponents are leaving as well (if you ask me, anyway).
7. Kane for Tye Dillinger
There’s not too much to this one. Braun Strowman will need someone of his size to compete with every once in a while, and if Corbin, Samoa Joe and The Big Show all end up on Raw, Braun will be out of opponents his size. I don’t think a Kane vs. Braun feud will be done on SmackDown, but I can see it happening regularly on live events or even as a TV main-event every now and then. In regards to Dillinger, I could see them trying to give him a renewed push on Raw, but I doubt it. WWE hates guys who get over on their own, remember? What’s even worse for Tye is you know WWE is petty enough to split up him and Peyton Royce who finally joined him on SmackDown last week. Don’t believe me? See: Dean Ambrose & Renee Young.
8. Mandy Rose for Natalya
In my opinion, with Paige’s in-ring retirement official and the 25 year old now the General Manager of SmackDown, Absolution is now a thing of the past. The first step is to make sure Mandy and Sonya Deville are no longer on the same show, thus unable to team together. Despite their physical appearance, I have a feeling WWE officials are higher on Sonya than they are Mandy, which is why I see them keeping Sonya on Raw. Maybe as a future opponent for Ronda Rousey?
Natalya and Naomi had their blow-off match last week on SmackDown so we know one of them is leaving for sure. I don’t really care which one: as long as we never have to see them wrestle each other again, I’m fine. My money is on Nattie going to Raw, but it’s a toss-up, really.
9. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson for The New Day
I have no clue if ‘Balor Club’ is still a thing or if it’s just what Balor calls his fanbase. Either way, are WWE really going to leave Gallows & Anderson on Raw while both Balor and AJ Styles are on SmackDown? No Way Jose. I predict we’ll get a Club reunion of some sorts in the future, but will it be amicable with all four members or will one leader get the boot? My money is on the latter, with Balor Club possibly turning on AJ. That’s for later, though.
Much like Naomi & Nattie, The New Day had their ‘farewell’ match with The Usos last week as well. Just like Naomi and Nattie, it was a bit of a toss-up to determine which team stays and which one goes. However, since The Usos have locked down a tag team title match with The Bludgeon Brothers at GRR (see what I did there?), logic would dictate New Day leaves and The Usos stay. But with WWE, you can never be too sure.
10. Kevin Owens for Sami Zayn
If your first thought isn’t, “Huh?!?!” then you probably zoned out and I apologize for not being captivating enough to hold your attention. Here’s the deal. Both Owens ans Zayn have been ‘fired’ so they can’t be traded, right? Right. HOWEVER, we have a new SmackDown General Manager and her name is Paige and she has no beef whatsoever with either Owens or Zayn. What’s to stop her from hiring them as free agents and leaving their fates to the luck of the draft? These two simply MUST end up on different shows as they can’t spend their entire WWE careers feuding or teaming with each other. Personally, I think KO was a better fit for Raw while we have yet to see what a heel Sami has to offer SmackDown without his best friend around. This is a bit of a longshot prediction, but I’m expecting them to end up on different brands regardless.
Your Two Centsss: Do you have any crazy predictions for this year’s Shake-Up?
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