The Superstar Shakeup has come and gone and they really did shake up these rosters. A few times, they’ve referenced how “Paige and Kurt Angle have been working on these trades all week” so I thought: if this was a real sport, how would you balance out these trades? Certain players are obviously worth more than others and anyone who’s collected anything from sports cards to trading card games knows this. So here’s my attempt to balance these “trades” and I will do my best to be objective and rate them based on how they’re presented on TV, not what value I think they have.
Let’s start by simple listing who got who:
Smackdown Live to RAW: Jinder Mahal, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Ruby Riott, Zack Ryder, Mojo Rawley, Tyler Breeze, Fandango, Natalya, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Bobby Roode, Mike Kanellis, Chad Gable, Konnor, Viktor
RAW free agent pickups: Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Drew McIntyre
RAW to Smackdown Live: The Miz, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, Big Cass, Asuka, Gallows & Anderson, The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus), R-Truth
Smackdown Live free agent pickups: Sanity (Eric Young, Killian Dane, Alexander Wolf), Andrade “Cien” Almas, Zelina Vega
I think it’s important to make these “free agent” distinctions because I would argue that Raw’s biggest acquisitions weren’t from Smackdown. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were storyline fired from Smackdown Live. Drew McIntyre was returning from injury but was last on NXT.
Smackdown Live, on the other hand, took some major players from Raw in The Miz, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, and Asuka. Sanity and Almas w/Vega have the potential to be huge but they’re all coming from NXT.
So how do we balance these transactions? Let’s see if we can.
Let’s start on the bottom end. R-Truth for Mike Kanellis. Neither have been on TV in I don’t know how long and will likely continue to not be on TV making any significant impact.
Next: Absolution (Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose) and the Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan) seem even to me. Raw gets one less superstar but Absolution reunites with their creator in Paige and Absolution has a little more credibility because of the management of Paige over the last several months.
On the surface, both Raw and Smackdown Live traded two tag teams. Smackdown Live traded The Fashion Police (Tyler Breeze and Fandango) and the Ascension (Konnor and Viktor). Raw traded Gallows & Anderson and The Bar. This is only equal in the amount of bodies moved. Even if I give bonus credit for the Fashion Files, Gallows & Anderson’s association with Finn Balor over the last few months and The Bar being The Bar means Smackdown has to give up more for this. This is actually so imbalanced that I think you have to add in then-US Champion Jinder Mahal. Jinder himself has been strongly featured and is a WWE and US Champion but he just doesn’t carry the heat the way he needs to. The US Title carries some weight here so I think that balances it out.
Speaking of the US Title, let’s figure out Jeff Hardy. Veteran name with plenty of titles under his belt but just back from injury and not holding any title at the time of negotiations brings his stock down. Plus with Woken Matt partnering with Bray Wyatt, you don’t get the Hardy Boyz in nostalgia or Woken/Broken form. This seems like a solid trade for Dolph Ziggler straight up. Both veterans with history and name value but not doing a whole lot right now. Plus, if you’re Kurt Angle and you know you’re bringing in Drew McIntyre to team with Dolph, this is a steal.
Of course, Jeff won the US Title which you traded for and it became uneven but you don’t know that at the table.
WWE is big, no pun intended, on Big Cass. Also coming off of injury, Raw would have pushed for something more than he’s actually worth. Right when he could have proven he was truly a star without Enzo, he got hurt. If I’m Paige and Shane McMahon, I offer Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley. Zack Ryder is the journeyman who no team is sad to have but can never properly use and Mojo has upside. How Big Cass and Mojo perform will determine how balanced this trade is in the long run but the injury to Cass really drops him down in value.
The storyline for The Miz going to Smackdown Live is that Daniel Bryan made a special request. That’s great but Raw isn’t going to give up one of their top heels for nothing. WWE seems to value Baron Corbin at a similar level. While I don’t agree with that, it doesn’t change the fact the presentation has been that way. This is a one for one trade only because of Daniel Bryan and the overvaluing (in my opinion) of Baron Corbin.
I’m genuinely not sure how to balance Samoa Joe and Asuka with Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, and Natalya. None of those are one for ones. Maybe as a two for three? That doesn’t seem like enough.
It maybe isn’t too much of a stretch to equate Joe and Roode. Both are put in main event spots frequently. The main difference is they let Joe do promos. Bobby Roode has been all entrance and no promo, to his detriment. He certainly is capable of a scathing promo.
On the flip side, Asuka understandably struggles on the mic. Natalya, even with all of her experience and pedigree, is not an equal trade for Asuka. You do get someone who can speak on the mic and can get a decent match out of anyone but isn’t going to really wow anyone in any area.
Chad Gable has earned some serious good will with his in-ring skills and his promo is getting better and better. The big question is: how he will do as a singles competitor? He’s only really been in tag teams, first with American Alpha (which is now possible to reform when Jason Jordan returns from injury if necessary), then with Shelton Benjamin. He’s shown great potential in the singles matches he’s had though. Since it seems Kurt’s strategy has been to pick up mostly young talent and Chad seems a little like Kurt 2.0, he probably sees some serious value in Chad. So yeah, Joe and Asuka for Roode, Gable, and Natalya.
WWE, as we know, is not a real sport. It’s interesting how they broke up storylines like Joe vs Roman (not that we need that again), Absolution vs Ronda Rousey, Jeff Hardy joining the Woken Warriors, Balor Club, and I just can’t see The Bar winning the Raw Tag Team Titles now that they’re on Smackdown. They do their best to impart value to these superstars and determine how much we should or shouldn’t care about them.
If these were real trades, I say Smackdown Live won by a landslide. They unloaded mostly talent that they just weren’t using for serious top names with a few very strong mid-carders to fill out the roster. The big names they did trade (Roode, Corbin, Ziggler, Natalya to be nice) weren’t doing much for them.
Raw picked up a whole lot of unproven and underutilized talent with maybe three or four names that aren’t already dismissed by the audience. The names they did give up in Miz, Samoa Joe, and Asuka are huge.
As a final observation, this is a very heel heavy shakeup. Including free agents, Raw got twelve heels, six faces, and Drew McIntyre who was a face in NXT before he was injured but is now aligned with Ziggler who’s a heel. Also, I really stretched for six faces. I’m assuming the Ascension are faces based on their relationship with the Fashion Police and that Zack Ryder is a face because Mojo was the one who turned heel when the Hype Bros broke up.
Smackdown Live received eight heels, five faces, and Sanity who qualify as “chaos” so I have no idea what they’re supposed to be. In NXT, they seemed to flip depending on who their opponents were. I’m including Gallows & Anderson in the face category since they were last with face Finn Balor but they have been mostly heels as a tag team unto themselves.
I’m interested to see where the stories go from here. After The Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash, we should be through the awkward time where storylines that existed pre-shakeup need to still be resolved and able to focus on the brand specific stories. While the co-branded pay-per-views somewhat defeat the purpose of the brand split to begin with, I’m happy it’s here but that’s for another article.
The “trades” have been made. The shakeup is over. I hope you enjoyed this long exploration of, “what if this was real?” as much as I enjoyed overanalyzing it.