Imp’s WWE Adventure
A good week for a Shake-Up, not a great week for name changes.
And bloody hell was this a week that genuinely changed the landscape of WWE, Tuesday night especially felt like a 2 hour declaration of shifts in priorities. Top stars moved to the blue brand and with FOX’s mega deal upon the horizon we could very well see a momentous push ahead of the move to Friday nights.
Here in the UK I won’t see any of FOX’s huge promotion, but I can damn well see it on my WWE TV. Arguably this is the first Shake-Up to hold any weight, a genuine shift occurred and I’m damn well interested to see how all the pieces fall.
But how were these two shows? Did the Superstar Shake-Up hold up to the weight of the occasion? Let’s quickly go through both shows and see… and by ‘see’ I mean moan and criticize. Why was this all so confusing? It’s just blokes and lasses switching to working different days, how complicated can it be?
State of WWE in 2019: They called up the War guys to do their war thing, but they can’t say, “War!” Well they bloody thought that one through didn’t they?
Nice and telling was probably the fact that our new shiny Vikings weren’t included in the RAW Shake-Ups graphic, doesn’t exactly scream ‘planned’. Hell, even Eric Young made it onto the graphic. Even Eric Young! A man that’s so relevant in their plans that his announcement was literally a, “Oh I guess him too by the way,” after he was plopped on the end of a picture.
I’d argue this first tag match set the tone for the rest of the night, the whole set up for the Shake Up felt so unnecessarily confusing.
Cole outright said at the start, “All because they’re here tonight on RAW, that doesn’t mean they won’t show up on SmackDown tomorrow.” A statement with two faces: the surface one of current RAW champions or main eventers who could move themselves the next night, but also one screaming of WWE not really knowing what they’re doing and writing in a loophole for future retcons.
At least they’re telling us things will be changed now, I guess?
This genuinely happened, live on the night the commentators couldn’t say whether Aleister Black & Ricochet were confirmed for RAW or not. Like… decide this shit before you go live. If you can’t, then you don’t need me to tell you your process has some flaws, my friend.
Fellow LOP columnist Maverick summed up the delivery of the Shake Up damn well with this Tweet what he wrote me on Twitter, “Unlike the draft they have never established the kayfabe of what the criteria are for the shake up or who is deciding. At least with the draft in 02-12, it was meant to be a “lottery” or “trades” would go down. Now, stars move brands but it doesn’t seem to be Steph and Shane making those decisions, it’s just someone’s music playing, and that creates the uncertainty.”
For me that perfectly describes Monday Night RAW, people appeared but we had no idea what it meant. To be fair, that’s probably because neither did WWE. New superstars turned up, but their appearances seemed to mean different things as the night went on? Hell, variables even happened within one match with the tag opener. Black & Ricochet entered and Cole had no idea if they were actually on RAW, but the Vikings’ music blasts and it’s a certainty that they are.
You can see how this gets confusing fast?
Although later on we got what felt like the actual reason for the retcon loophole. No, not Finn Balor or Roman Reigns, but Lars Sullivan. Sure he wasn’t the sole reason, but what happened and his scenario sure was. Monday he came out on RAW, commentators built him up and WWE.com put him on the RAW Superstars section. But then Tuesday hit and he’s-… he’s not… wait, he’s not on RAW?
As Mav said, the rules were never really established to begin with, but having superstars coming out mean different things surely just breaks the whole process? Suddenly there are no rules, it’s just stuff happening and you’ve no idea what you should get invested in.
The whole thing just wreaked of not being thought out and planned, which to be fair once again perfectly embodies the current state of Monday Night RAW: you didn’t think that one through, did you?
On the positive side, some of the switches themselves were actually great. AJ Styles and The Usos should both thrive in new environments with completely new competition, Andrade too is a great choice to showcase on Monday nights. So sure the delivery of their arrivals may have been subject, but the actual feel of RAW truly has had a healthy revamp.
I’ll also hold off on criticising them for having both mid-card titles on Tuesdays for the second year running (like y’all didn’t learn from last year?), as apparently Samoa Joe was meant to play some part but got ill. So it’s still in the air what will happen with those titles, but that’s more subject to a badly timed illness rather than the usual badly planned television.
Speaking of badly planned, after SmackDown went off air WWE posted on their website an actual FULL list of roster changes, including extra ones not included on air! How nice, I genuinely would have had no idea about that if their Tweet didn’t happen to be at the top of my timeline when I logged in.
So, who did RAW lose with this list? Liv Morgan, Mickie James, Apollo Crews and Chad Gable. So not only have SAnitY died, but we’ve also lost Riott Squad and Roode & Gable in a, “Oh these guys too,” internet post. Cool.
Talking of SAnitY, I checked all the rosters and Nikki Cross is nowhere to be found. Oops?
So there were a few big stories coming out of last night, but I’ll start with the one that arguably hits RAW the hardest in the long term: Jesus their Women’s division just got gutted! Not counting dual brand champions Becky Lynch and The Iiconics, Monday’s division is now comprised of: Alexa Bliss, Natalya, Lacey Evans, Naomi, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Dana Brooke and Tamina. Both Nia Jax and Alicia Fox are currently out, maybe Zelina Vega is counted but she’s primarily a manager and Sasha Banks is at minimum on a mini break.
It’s not like the division is empty, it’s just chocablock with wrestlers whose booking has taken away momentum. It’s a roster that’s very difficult to envision getting invested in at first glance; a lot of work is going to have to go in to rebuilding and I doubt WWE’s aptitude for quick fixes is going to help with that. The other thing that won’t help is how damn STACKED the SmackDown side of things has suddenly become.
On top of retaining Lynch, Flair and Asuka, Tuesdays now have: Bayley, Ember Moon, Kari Sane and Paige managing a team of Japanese badasses. Calling that roster ‘heavily loaded’ is putting it lightly, FOX may have wanted Rousey, but in her place they seemingly got the next best thing. Good God. How are they gonna fit ‘em all in a 2 hour show? That’s not forgetting they also got Mickie James and Liv Morgan in the aftermath. That is one mighty strong Women’s division!
But what about the men’s side? After losing the face that ran the place since its rebirth, in AJ Styles, SmackDown needed someone to help fill those massive boots. Well that’s exactly what they got. Or as WWE PR put it, ‘The Biggest Acquisition in SmackDown Live History!’
We’ll never here Michael Cole shout, “The Big Dog!” down our ear holes on weekly television again! It’s confirmed, greatest draft/shake-up ever.
For me, Roman Reigns moving to SmackDown is the biggest indicator of the change of priorities for WWE. He is the man they’ve tried to make their top star for years, putting all their creative effort behind him and having him main event WrestleMania after WrestleMania. So arguably whatever brand Roman Reigns is on, that is the flagship brand.
Which is a monumental shift for WWE given how RAW has been leading the way for 26 whole years. Sudden realisation that that’s how old I am, RAW’s been WWE’s flagship for as long as I’ve been alive. So even though the two brands are homogenised to the point of being almost identical and brand switches don’t really hold any loyalty weight, this Shake-Up really did change the landscape of the company. Priorities shifted in a major way and both shows will likely feel very different going forward.
So yes, the actual revealing of these new rosters could have been handled better, but the state of WWE we’re left with in the aftermath really is intriguing. The wrestler’s switching isn’t really the big story for me, it’s more what certain stars switching means for the bigger picture. Is RAW the flagship show anymore?
Looking back writing this, I can’t help but feel positive about this whole thing. Change in the air brings a promise of anticipation. A glimmer of happiness before remembering their creative process is still fucked and it’s likely all in vain.
But what do you think? What did you think of the Superstar Shake-Up? Are you excited with some of the brand switches? Is this all just to please FOX or a kick up the arse for WWE to reform?
Email Imp – firstname.lastname@example.org
Imp’s on LOP Radio every Thursday with Perfect 10 Wrestling! Last week he was joined by Burn to recap the whole of WrestleMania Weekend!
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 2: The Ace of the Universe
Imp’s NJPW-ROH Adventure – G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden Preview
Imp’s WWE Adventure – Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Puts the Spotlight on Vince McMahon
Imp’s WWE Adventure – The Road to the Main Event of WrestleMania: Straight Fire At The Rumble