Since the WWE first split its roster into half in 2002 between Raw and SmackDown, drafts and Superstar Shakeups have served to re-balance talent between the two shows, set up fresh stories and offer new opportunities to underutilized performers.
That process has taken several different forms over the years, but since the brands were split for the second time in 2016, the post-WrestleMania Superstar Shakeup has served as a fresh starting point for a new year of WWE.
Over the course of the next two days, WWE stars will move be moved between Raw and SmackDown (and in some cases, from NXT and other WWE brands) to a new home. Over the next three hours of Monday Night Raw, we’ll break down each move and what it means for the performer and the shows as a whole.
WWE didn’t take long to get the night’s action underway, as The Miz moved from SmackDown Live to Raw. It’s a move that makes sense, and shouldn’t be that surprising; as The Miz himself noted, he has moved shows in every single Superstar Shakeup to date, and this gives him a clean break from Shane McMahon and the story that culminated at WrestleMania 35. Miz got a few shots in on McMahon for good measure in the moments after he ran to the ring, and being on Raw shouldn’t be much of an adjustment.
As far as who he could face, the options are plentiful. As the newly reimagined babyface Miz, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley would seem to fit the bill, but a freshly returned Sami Zayn might be the most compelling opponent out of the gate. Something just feels right about Miz, one of the WWE’s most visible presences in mainstream media and a reality star on the USA Network (via Miz & Mrs.), returning to the WWE’s flagship program.
The Viking Experience
After taking a breath to fully process the absurdity of the name change to the NXT tag team champions formerly known as War Raiders and coming down, Ivar (previously Hanson) and Erik (previously Rowe) joining the Raw roster is still likely a net positive. Raw remembering they have a tag team division is good news, and as they showed in their debut match, Ivar and Erik are incredibly versatile big men. They got the win, alongside The Revival, over Aleister Black, Ricochet and the tag team champions, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder.
If we can get away from the silliness of the tag team name (perhaps a tweak along the way, please?), Ivar and Erik are actually pretty strongly tied into the history of Vikings and are not nearly as problematic. There are a lot of horror stories of NXT call-ups going sideways, but if they’re given as strong and as powerful a platform as it seems, they can be anchors of a revitalized tag team division in a hurry.
The former cruiserweight champion hopes to follow in the footsteps of Ali by making a big splash after leaving 205 Live. He had taken a backseat of late to rising cruiserweights like Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese, so now is as good a time as any for a change of scenery. A matchup with the likes of a Chad Gable could showcase the best of what both guys have to offer, while a bigger opponent like Baron Corbin might be a good jumping off point.
– WWE (@WWE) April 16, 2019
After putting together some of the best matches of the last year on SmackDown opposite Rey Mysterio and a variety of other opponents, Andrade makes a move to Monday nights. A debut win against Finn Balor is a big deal in and of itself, and the perfect way to show fans everything he’s capable of. His mix of Lucha Libre high-flying and vicious strikes with immense swagger in the ring makes him a future world title contender, and in the interim, an Intercontinental championship rivalry with Balor is a great place to start. Zelina Vega is also a valuable piece of the puzzle, as a mouthpiece, heat magnet and valuable distraction in key matches.
WrestleMania 35 was a rough night for Rey Mysterio, who lost in abrupt fashion to Samoa Joe. For at least an hour Monday, Mysterio also lost his former top rival on SmackDown, Andrade, until he, too, moved to Raw. A change of pace was well in order, although his time in the ring with Lars Sullivan on Monday night was not quite the warm welcome he might’ve hoped for. Rey’s only got a couple of years left in wrestling, by his estimation, and whether it’s mixing it up with some of the smaller stars on the Raw roster like the newly acquired Cedric Alexander or bigger guys like Baron Corbin, Mysterio still has something to give WWE and its fans.
— The One And Only! (@KingRicochet) April 16, 2019
Ricochet & Alesiter Black
Though it wasn’t made abundantly clear on commentary, Ricochet and Aleister Black have officially joined the Raw roster, as long as Ricochet’s tweet is as clear as it sounds. When Black and Ricochet were first paired up, the two diametrically opposed characters seemed like a strange fit, to say the least. Whether it’s their combined charisma or complementary in-ring styles, the pairing has meshed in a hurry and hasn’t looked even slightly out of place in challenging for the Raw, SmackDown or NXT tag team championships in recent weeks. Alongside the newly rebranded “Viking Experience,” this could be a sign that Raw’s tag team division is back on the rise.
Despite the spoiler from the graphics department, The Usos coming to Monday Night Raw is yet another boost to the Raw tag team division. Some might just be happy that we won’t be getting any more combinations of The Bar/New Day/The Usos for the foreseeable future, but The Usos have proven time and again that every time they are given the spotlight, they thrive. Their performance at WrestleMania 35 once again proved they’re among the best tag teams in the world. They may be the ideal team to pry the tag team titles from Ryder and Hawkins and re-establish themselves as true villains — a role they thrived in.
The prospect of The Usos against The Viking Experience, as well as a straight-up tag team match against Aleister Black and Ricochet, is exciting and fresh — just what the doctor ordered for tag team wrestling in WWE.