It’s superstar shake up week which means WWE programming is abuzz with shocks, surprises and very annoying name changes. Both RAW and Smackdown had new faces appear on their rosters from all areas of the WWE umbrella. We saw stars from NXT and 205 Live also make their way to the main shows. Let’s stop stalling and get into the details of this weird and wacky week.
The first big reveal of the superstar shake up was that Shane McMahon can now appear on RAW. His appearance heralded the actual first pick of the shake up as Miz was hot on his tail. Miz attacked from behind but was knocked down by a flurry of dodgy punches from Shane and was busted open. He is clotheslined over the rail and comes back with a chair, pummeling Shane with that instead. He gets to stand tall over Shane and the pair will either continue this literal blood feud on RAW or Miz will have some new competition as this is his second return to the red brand.
A Painful “Experience”
The Revival & The Viking Experience defeat Hawkins & Ryder and Ricochet & Black via Fallout
The Viking Experience. The god damn Viking Experience. What kind of a name is that? WWE have gone full on stereotype as they renamed Hanson and Rowe, the War Raiders, Ivar and Erik the Viking Experience. They didn’t even have their NXT titles with them. This feels like a blatant ignorance of NXT lore and stars as they have brought up the current NXT Tag Champions with a new name ignoring any branding they had previously. THEY WERE EVEN WEARING WAR RAIDERS SHIRTS ON NXT! The name change was so distracting that it took away from their wrestling match. They pinned a member of the tag team champions with Fallout so they could be in title contention on RAW instantly. Also Ricochet and Black will be permanently on RAW now.
Nasty Night for Rey
Elias is always destined to be interrupted. No matter the performance it is always going to happen. Last week it was the Undertaker, this week it was Rey Mysterio who revealed he was now on RAW and got rid of the Troubadour when he tried to attack. Rey couldn’t celebrate though as Lars Sullivan’s music hit and the newest monster headed for the ring. Rey tried to fight back and succeeded in slowing the monster down but the inevitable happened and Sullivan killed him. He hit Mysterio with the Freak Accident and ended the beat down with a Sit Out Powerbomb.
The same thing happened on Smackdown where he destroyed R Truth with the same type of moves and scared Carmella out of the ring with the creepiest looking smile seen in recent history. He is still being booked as a legend/fan favourite killer and officially got booked to Smackdown permanently after carving a path of destruction on both brands.
A Cien Switch
Andrade defeats Finn Balor via Hammerlock DDT
Andrade has made his way to RAW. Him and his business associate Zelina Vega made their presence known by playing to the crowd before bigging themselves up. Andrade had a match with Finn and burned the house down with their athleticism. It was a big first win for Andrade as he got a win over the IC champion with a little help from Vega when the ref was distracted. They have set themselves up strongly and hopefully we get him booked in some solid feuds.
Go Get RAW Uce
The Usos defeat Roode & Gable via Double Uce
Someone probably lost their job over this section as the graphic for the Usos flashed on the screen before a challenge had even been made. It pretty much spoiled the surprise even if the section had made it kind of obvious. Anyway the Usos came out, beat Roode and Gable in pretty convincing fashion and have staked their claim to the RAW tag division. They are an excellent addition to the division and should help boost its appeal and match quality.
A Lady Challenges the Man
Lacey Evans defeats Natalya via Moonsault
Becky Lynch had an excellent if uninspired match with Ruby Riott on this week’s RAW but the more interesting part of the women’s division action came from the battle to be the number one contender. Natalya had thrown down a challenge to Lynch, who seemed to be considering the idea when Lacey Evans came down to the ring ready for a match. The two fought and Evans seemed to be struggling to battle the Hart Dungeon veteran. However she was able to overcome and managed to deliver the Women’s Right and finished the match with an incredible looking Moonsault. Evans has cemented herself as the number one contender and now has a permanent home on RAW.
Phenomenal Main Event
AJ Styles, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns defeat Bobby Lashley, Baron Corbin & Drew McIntyre via Phenomenal Forearm
The main event was a perfect mix of chaos and existing storyline. It saw the newly debuting AJ Styles team with the current Universal Champion and Roman Reigns. They were taking on the usual suspects in Bobby Lashley, Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre. The match had plenty of action and though it is hardly anything new, it welcomed Styles to his new home and saw him work well with the team he had been put with. It was fun and fast with Reigns having his last match on RAW for a while.
The Rest that went to RAW
There were a few other names that went to RAW that either only had little spots or debuted off-screen. These are Naomi, Samoa Joe (probably, he was ill at time of filming) Cedric Alexander, Eric Young and EC3 who was buried by Braun Strowman. Eric Young being drafted signals the end for Sanity as their leader has gone. It should also be noted that Alexander Wolfe took to Twitter to talk about leaving the company too so we are definitely looking at a faction break up. That leaves Killian Dane on his own who may continue on Smackdown or head to NXT UK.
New Day & Kevin Owens defeat Cesaro, Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura via Stunner
The big crux of the show was the fact that Kevin Owens was trying to join the New Day since Big E is out with an injury. The New Day gave him a series of tests based around how the New Day are so he could prove himself. He had to eat a massive load of pancakes, wear a crop top and pull off Big E’s iconic opener for their entrance. Owens succeeded at all three and had pretty good chemistry fighting alongside the New Day. He had to take part in their double team moves and helped them win their match against the usual big bads of Smackdown. It was a fun little match that hopefully be the start of a funny long-term story for Kevin Owens. Seeing him as a comedic face is incredibly enjoyable to watch.
The Demon Comes to Smackdown
Finn Balor defeats Mustafa Ali via Coup de Grace
One of the biggest debuts on Smackdown was the IC champion making his Smackdown debut. He put on an excellent match against Ali and really showed off what he can do against lighter and faster opponents. I want it to be the start of a title feud for Ali but Smackdown has a whole host of people he could fight for that belt. He should flourish on the blue brand as there is no sign of Corbin or Lashley in sight. He will probably be a replacement for Samoa Joe as he goes monster hunting for Braun.
Paige’s New Team: Women’s Division at War
Asuka, Kairi Sane, Bayley & Ember Moon defeat The IIconics, Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville via Insane Elbow
So Paige’s big surprise team was the formation of Asuka and Kairi Sane as a unit. They have formed together to probably chase the women’s tag titles. Interestingly they are not the only new women on Smackdown as Ember Moon and Bayley also made a Smackdown debut. Those four teamed up to take on the heel team of the IIconics and the old Absolution stable. This match showcased all of the new women and the chemistry between Asuka and Sane. It was another bout of chaos.
The Biggest Acquisition
Vince McMahon’s biggest acquisition came in the form of Elias. He got a lot of pomp and celebration before Roman Reigns came out and declared Smackdown was his yard now. He Superman Punched Vince in the face to the crowd’s love and came across a total badass. He has some new top guys to go after and he has the chance to run a new show. As long as he isn’t instantly pushed to the moon then I feel he can benefit massively from the show change. Also the fact that he hasn’t received the corporate push means that the crowd may just rally behind him as an anti-authoritarian face.
These are the other names who made it to Smackdown. Buddy Murphy (who I am incredibly happy with), Apollo Crews, Mickie James, Heavy Machinery, Chad Gable and Liv Morgan. The last two are notable as Gable is a singles star again and Liv Morgan signals the end of the Riott Squad which is sad as they were becoming a natural unit.
Dream Over for Murphy
Velveteen Dream defeats Buddy Murphy via Purple Rainmaker
Can all NXT shows open with a match of this quality? This felt like a Takeover match as Dream had to take on the former NXT star and recently dethroned Cruiserweight Champion after lambasting him at Mania. Murphy was out for blood and nearly won this match on multiple occasions as he blasted him with knee strikes and other power moves. He even had to push the lifeless corpse of Dream into the ring at one point just to break up a count out. Dream wasn’t slouching either as he tapped into his own power game to stop Murphy stealing his title. I refuse to spoil anymore of this match as it should be sought out and watched.
It would appear that Gargano and the Undisputed Era have unfinished business. Gargano dropped a promo talking about finally being the champion and his love of the NXT universe. The promo brought out Adam Cole accompanied by Fish and O’Reilly. They have a war of words with Cole stating he wants the title and lulling Johnny into a fight. However Cole doesn’t start the fight as Gargano is blindsided by Roderick Strong and held down by the rest of the Era. Cole Superkicks Gargano and poses with the belt.
Dijakovic is Mad
Dominik Dijakovic defeats Aaron Frye via Discuss Big Boot
One shot, one kill. One strike killed the fire of Frye then Dijakovic took to the mic to call out Velveteen Dream. It seems he’s targeting the North American Title now.
Shayna Baszler defeats Kairi Sane via DQ
The NXT main event saw the potential last attempt at the Women’s NXT Title that Kairi Sane would ever get. If she lost, Sane would no longer be allowed to challenge for that title. As the result shows she did indeed lose and with her Smackdown debut, it would appear she is out of NXT competition. The pair put on a very competitive and hard-hitting match that was only slowed down once Sane collided arm and shoulder first with the railing outside. From there Shayna targeted the limb and Io Shirai came out to try and save her partner from Shayna breaking the arm. Unfortunately all she did was get the match thrown out as a DQ and was forced to watch as Sane had her arm stomped. Sane seems to have been definitively taken out of NXT now and Io is carrying on the feud in her place.
So there you have it, the big post Mania week rounded up. There are a lot of big moves and hopeful long-term booking ideas going forward but it’s not without it’s drawbacks. The RAW women’s division has been gutted and The Viking Experience is a bad joke at the expense of an amazing NXT team. It’ll all be a case of seeing how these new additions are booked and managed before casting any real judgement. Hopefully we can look at these changes and be happy that this shake up happened. I can hope at least.
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