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    Thursday, April 19, 2018

    Which GM Played The 2018 Superstar Shakeup Better?

    The 2018 Superstar Shakeup is now in the books. Even though it's still as messy as when it was first introduced last year, still worse than an actual WWE Draft, at the end of it all it's still done a good job of shaking up the two main rosters. Each scene is sufficiently mixed and reshuffled, and new possibilities are upon us.

    Because the Superstar Shakeup (and by extension, the brand split) has an air of how moves and transactions are done in professional sports, we'll break down how both GMs played their cards in the two-week window. (We say two weeks because the real shakeup began on the shows after WrestleMania when NXT guys started showing up.) Going over the moves, the GMs' transactions actually underscore a solid, tangible gameplan to drafting and trading, reflecting real, offscreen needs both rosters have at the moment.

    Before that, a quick but important take on the Shakeup's format: each GM really has to make moves per round, in real-time. Allowing RAW to have the first move without knowing what SmackDown is going to do until the next night makes Kurt Angle look like a chump and Paige look like a genius. Yes, it's nice to see people move between brands, but make your bosses look halfway smart by not giving them holes to poke.

    At least explain things, like what would happen if the Miz, a SmackDown pick, won the Intercontinental Championship from RAW's Seth Rollins at the same time the United States Champion Jeff Hardy is on SmackDown as well. Looks like the Greatest Royal Rumble also has a few tricks up its sleeve with regard to the finalized 2018 rosters. Man, it seems like they wanted to shake our brains up too.

    RAW understands that it needs midcarders

    On RAW this week, it seemed that the red brand absolutely fleeced SmackDown of its deep midcard talent without any repercussions. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, Jinder Mahal (plus the Singhs), Bobby Roode, Dolph Ziggler, Chad Gable, Zack Ryder, Mojo Rawley, and Mike Kanellis were taken from the blue brand with only the Miz as change. That's four United States champions in the past year alone by our count, and a truly noticeable loss from the SmackDown roster.

    Angle knew what he was doing, though. The past year of RAW saw a rise of the show's then-midcard into pseudo-main event status due to Universal Champion Brock Lesnar's part-time schedule, leaving the actual midcard (i.e. the guys who had nothing to do with the Intercontinental Championship) really thin. You can go check the RAW-exclusive PPV cards for proof.

    With this ridiculously huge coup, Kurt can't go wrong no matter what happens with the Universal Championship. Assuming Lesnar retains it throughout the spring and summer, both Reigns and Lesnar will have other people to deal with, plus Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley, and a returning Dean Ambrose. Assuming Reigns wins the title soon, you can finally separate the true midcard from the upper midcard, relegating half of these guys to the Intercontinental Championship scene and half of these guys in the atmosphere surrounding the Universal Championship.

    Also, a deep midcard pool also allows for new tag teams to be made, because...

    SmackDown wants to have a stronger everything

    If Paige looked like she won the whole shakeup, it's because people tend to appreciate quality names more than just-there midcarders. Like last year, SmackDown stole key players in certain divisions while managing to keep important people.

    Paige scoring the Bar, the Club, and SAnitY in exchange for SmackDown's lesser tag teams (Breezango, Ascension) establish the show even further as the workhorse brand, promising equal opportunities for dominance among these great teams. Paige knew that her tag team division was built solely on the Usos and the New Day (with the Bludgeon Brothers still emerging) so she needed teams that could keep up with them. And if she needs people to shore up the United States Championship scene, she's got Almas, the Bar could break up, and Eric Young and/or Killian Dain could do that too.

    Meanwhile, Paige's biggest steal was Asuka, whose transfer automatically makes Kurt Angle lose because how do you let go of Asuka? Just because you have Ronda Rousey? Ember Moon doesn't come close—remember, Asuka had to drop the title to no one for Ember to win it. Natalya is, well, Natalya. Asuka, the Iiconics, Charlotte, Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Carmella once again make for a stronger women's division than RAW's.

    She also knew that she needed a few more pieces to complete her dream main event scene of Styles, Nakamura, Bryan, and maaaybe Rusev. Miz and Samoa Joe are the perfect additions, and the jury's still up in the air for Big Cass, but we wish either Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, or Braun Strowman were added as well to strengthen it further.

    The only issue we have with SmackDown is that their two hours just aren't enough to justify all these moves. Consider that they had to introduce all their tag teams and Almas via video package. Yes, it means they don't have to force segments just to introduce everyone, but it gives you an idea of what they're working with.

    What about the guys who didn't move?

    And there are quite a number of them, too. Both GMs were intent on protecting their current main event scene, but it looks like Paige cared more than Kurt did.

    Angle did well in keeping Strowman, Rollins, and Balor, knowing that these three were arguably the most popular guys in his roster, as well as Lashley and Reigns. It just means that his upper midcard scene doesn't really change until his fresh picks interject themselves, but he could've tried to go for Shinsuke Nakamura.

    In getting Samoa Joe, we can assume Paige did her best to steal the guys Kurt managed to keep—Joe was all he was willing to give up. Styles and Nakamura—and to a certain extent, Randy Orton and John Cena—have been holding down the main event scene on SmackDown for a while, but Daniel Bryan's return makes it all fresh. She did more.

    The women's division doesn't have that much going for it, on the other hand. Sasha Banks and Bayley could've benefitted from a move to SmackDown, while Becky Lynch needs the Alexa Bliss glow-up of moving to RAW. While it would've made the divisions go back to their 2016 states, just on different brands, the past year justifies the switch-up. Elias and/or Apollo Crews could have also benefitted from a jump to SmackDown, as now he could get lost in the deeper midcard of RAW.

    The Usos and the New Day remaining on SmackDown is good only because Paige managed to bring them the exact competition they could have found on RAW.

    So who won the shakeup?

    In all objectivity, both GMs (and in reality, WWE Creative) did a pretty good job of assessing each roster's needs and making moves to address them. Kurt Angle really needed a midcard, and he got a midcard. Paige needed bigger names everywhere, and she got it. It's nearly a tie.

    But it's that leveling up across the board that edges SmackDown over RAW just a little bit. Angle's acquisitions will still take time to develop into what they could be, whether they're ending up in the midcard, the main event, or the tag division. Paige, on the other hand, got a shot in the arm everywhere she needed it. And Kurt Angle let Asuka walk.

    Let's see where the chips fall after Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash, but for now, tell us what you thought of this year's Superstar Shakeup!
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    Item Reviewed: Which GM Played The 2018 Superstar Shakeup Better? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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