If we thought the RAW roster changed on Monday, we had no idea how different SmackDown would look too as it concluded Tuesday night
WWE’s annual Superstar Shake-Up finish their two days at the Bell Centre in Montreal, and a host of new faces showed up Tuesday night.
But were they game changers or poor picks? Let’s take a look.
(NOTE: There was also a number of talent that was moved post-show – Apollo Crews, Chad Gable, Mickie James, Liv Morgan & Heavy Machinery were all announced after this was written)
After an opening segment with Kevin Owens and the New Day, Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor was introduced as the first addition for SmackDown Live. Balor had a match with SmackDown Live’s resident underdog Ali. It was, as you’d expect, a great athletic encounter with Balor picking up the win.
Balor has never been on SmackDown Live before, and brought the workhorse Intercontinental Championship back with him. Having one of RAW’s top five picks in the initial brand split switch to SmackDown Live represents a huge get. Balor is very popular with fans (usually in spite of his booking) and will bring his big-match ability to the brand.
Overall, a great first get for SmackDown Live. With the right booking, Balor could fill the spot left by A.J. Styles’ departure.
Big, bad Lars Sullivan continued to have an issue with legends of the WWE. This week, he appeared after Carmella lost to Charlotte Flair and he beat up on R-Truth. A Freak Accident and a sit-out powerbomb laid waste to Truth, and the Montreal faithful booed the monstrous Sullivan.
While physically impressive, there isn’t a lot that separates Sullivan from other short-lived monsters of old. As of now he feels more like a Snitsky than a Strowman, and his booking will have to be carefully done. Some monsters stay monsters and develop naturally (like Kane) and some end up dancing caricatures (like Brodus Clay or Great Khali). Time will tell with Sullivan.
One of RAW or SmackDown Live had to get him. Turns out it was SmackDown Live.
When Becky Lynch came out to talk about her two championships and the Superstar Shake-up, she was interrupted by Ember Moon. Ember said she was here to make a name for herself. She was interrupted herself (more on by who down below) but still aimed to make a difference.
Moon is a superstar who has struggled to find a spot after being a strong NXT Women’s Champion. The new attitude she displayed when stepping up to Lynch could make her an immediate threat to Becky Two Belts. Ember Moon is the type of competitor who can help WWE develop strong midcard storylines for their female competitors.
Moon represents a strong addition to the SmackDown Live women’s division and a new challenger to the top of the brand.
It was Bayley who also interjected and was actually booed by the Montreal crowd. She said she’s on SmackDown Live as a singles competitor and even said she wasn’t looking for a hug. She was interrupted, this time by the women’s tag team champions the IIconics.
The former Women’s Champion Bayley was met with a chilly response in Montreal, but is still a strong addition to the division. Bayley is showing a little bit of a heelish edge, not wanting hugs and instead wanting to focus on singles competition. Her booking has made her somewhat damaged goods, but she’s still a talented wrestler overall.
Another great worker for a SmackDown Live women’s division that is looking stronger and stronger with each get.
Paige was out to introduce her new tag team to challenge for the Women’s Tag Team Championships. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville thought an Absolution reunion was in the cards, but Asuka and Kairi Sane were the tag team Paige actually had in mind. When all the new additions hit the ring, it was Asuka, Sane, Bayley, and Moon that stood tall to end the segment.
Sane is separated from her original Sky Pirates partner Io Shirai, but with Asuka should be an instant threat in the tag team division. She’s incredibly talented and should be given strong booking alongside an established threat like Asuka. The 2017 Mae Young Classic winner is going to be dropping Insane Elbows all over Tuesday nights.
The RAW women’s division was plundered by SmackDown Live, and then Sane’s addition is the icing on an extremely talented cake.
Former WWE Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy was given a pre-taped promo to introduce himself to the SmackDown Live viewers. He said that WWE’s “Best Kept Secret” was coming, and we should be very excited for his arrival.
Murphy, much like Cedric Alexander and Ali, had accomplished what he could on 205 Live. A lengthy title reign and cutting through almost every babyface, the cruiserweight show had given Murphy plenty of opportunities to show off his talent. He’s much crisper in the ring than he was as part of the NXT tag team champions with Wesley Blake, and continues to grow as a performer.
On a show that prizes the ability to put on a good match, Murphy could be the breakout star of his Superstar Shakeup class.
Vince McMahon came out to announce what had been hailed as the “biggest acquisition in the history of SmackDown Live.” McMahon described him as tough, talented, and exuding charisma. That lead to McMahon announcing Elias as the future of SmackDown Live.
Elias continues to get a lot of attention as a heel and is put in major spots. His work as a heat magnet is almost unparalleled in the company currently. Aside from his work in the famous gauntlet match on RAW last year, Elias hasn’t had a standout match as of yet. On a roster full of good wrestlers, Elias will stand apart as an elite entertainer.
We all should be ready to walk with Elias on SmackDown Live.
The real big acquisition for SmackDown Live made his presence known as Elias started to sing. Roman Reigns came down to the ring and dished out Superman Punches for both Elias and Vince McMahon. Reigns was cheered in Montreal, and his presence on the blue brand for the first time does change the main event scenes of both shows.
Roman Reigns will be inserted right into the upper echelon of SmackDown Live immediately. There are potential battles for him lined up with guys like Shinsuke Nakamura, Lars Sullivan, or Daniel Bryan down the line. Based on past experience, Reigns won’t be away from the title picture for long. He will likely be a challenger for Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship, either while the New Day member holds it or after he drops it.
SmackDown Live really is the Big Dog’s yard now. He could thrive on his new show.
Overall, SmackDown Live had some big additions after being ransacked a bit by RAW. Reigns is the obvious blue-chipper of the bunch, and he’ll help to anchor the main event scene. The women’s division is now absolutely loaded with talent, and Balor and Murphy will help offset some of the talent lost on Monday. One concern is the tag team division, which now appears thin once you get past the Hardys and the Bar. The addition of even one tag team would have put this haul over the top.
You can find me on Twitter @ngtriplett. Thanks for reading.