Next week, the landscape of the WWE might change with the Superstar Shakeup. For the sake of both brands, it needs to change the direction of both shows.
Since the last Superstar Shakeup, SmackDown Live in particular has been struggling to put out a compelling product on a weekly basis. Just look at their build from October until WrestleMania. Their main storyline was between Shane McMahon, Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. For a large part of that feud, there couldn’t have been a payoff with Daniel Bryan. That made a lot of the booking decisions on SmackDown Live seem boring, and weird.
Raw wasn’t any better. Their entire main event scene was built around a champion that didn’t show up (things really have changed, right?) and when he did, destroyed whatever competition was put in front of him. Right now, Raw’s main event scene is in rough shape. Lesnar has gone through every realistic challenger on the roster, so until the belt gets to somebody else (see: Roman Reigns at the Greatest Royal Rumble), Raw will continue to be stale.
The brand split has been more beneficial than detrimental. It allows superstars that would normally get lost in the shuffle to thrive. Matt Hardy’s “woken” character may not have a spot on WWE television with all of the roster on both shows. The women’s divisions on both shows have been able to thrive and develop multiple storylines that actually matter.
That’s why this Superstar Shakeup may be the most important one of this new brand-split era. SmackDown Live came out of the original WWE Draft a few years back as their premier show. They had superstars like AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and The Miz carry the show and make it the fan-favorite. This last year hasn’t been great for them (should I remind you all of the Jinder Mahal WWE Title reign?).
Now, WWE isn’t going to all of sudden change the way they book the shows. What they can do is go back to what made the first edition of the new brand split work. Treat the shows differently.
Daniel Bryan and Kurt Angle being the general managers of both shows created a buzz for the draft. There was a ton of buzz on Tuesday night when Paige was named as the replacement to Daniel Bryan and the dynamic of her on SmackDown Live will be great.
The other thing that SmackDown Live will have going for them is Styles, Nakamura and Bryan being on the show. Bryan returning to in-ring competition is automatically a boost to the blue brand.
WWE is trying to secure a new television deal over the next couple of months that will set the company up for years to come. With the potential of FOX and FOX Sports 1 being a legitimate contender for them, WWE needs to showcase all they can offer.
They can have the Ronda Rousey/Roman Reigns be the mainstream appeal of Monday Night Raw, while basing SmackDown Live on the more in-ring work. Move the Intercontential Championship over there and let the “workhorse” belt truly be that on that show.
It can still be sports entertainment, but WWE should showcase the different styles of sports entertainment they can provide.
While next week will probably just end up being the movement of a couple of different superstars with some NXT callups, it has the chance to be something special. If it is the right set of superstars being moved, next week has the chance to fundamentally change the landscape of the WWE and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time.