By Brad Carroll
The Monday Night Raw portion of the Superstar Shakeup is in the books, and as it stands Tuesday morning, there might not be enough talent over on SmackDown Live to even have a show tonight. But that is sure to change when a host of Raw talent heads over to the blue brand. Whichever way the rosters finally settle, the talent acquisitions for Raw were enormous.
Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, all main eventers or close to it on SDLive over the past year, have switched sides. Breezango, The Ascension, Natalya, Baron Corbin, Chad Gable, the Riott Squad, Mojo Rawley, Zack Ryder and Mike Kanellis also went from Blue to Red to varying degrees of importance and stature.
In addition, former NXT champion Drew McIntyre also made his Raw debut, joining forces with Ziggler. McIntyre joins Bobby Lashley, Ember Moon, the Authors of Pain and No Way Jose as new superstars on Raw that were introduced last week.
On the show, Jeff Hardy became a grand slam champion after winning the US title in the opening match against Jinder Mahal, Ronda Rousey made the save for Natalya, who was getting beat down by Absolution, Samoa Joe confronted and eviscerated Roman Reigns on the mic once again, and The Miz found out he was heading to SmackDown Live, at the request of Daniel Bryan, without The Miztourage during Miz TV. It was an action-packed edition of Raw, but the biggest storylines involved the Superstar Shakeup.
So, let’s hand out our grades on the Superstar Shakeup moves Monday night, both what the defections mean to the Raw brand overall and for the wrestlers themselves.
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Jinder Mahal: He was made out to be a huge star defection in kicking off the show, and Mahal played his character perfectly, working the mic tremendously and looking the part of a main event contender. Yes, we all know his limitations and how the WWE mishandled his entire quick climb up the ladder to WWE champion, but Mahal will be good if given the benefit of the doubt from the crowd. So, his introduction to Raw was an A+, but everything came crumbling down soon after. Kurt Angle set up a match for Mahal’s US championship against Jeff Hardy in the show’s first segment, and the Modern Day Maharaja dropped the belt after a pretty solid match. Hardy became a grand slam champion in the process, and might take the title to SmackDown. But for Mahal, this wasn’t even as bad as it got on Raw. Backstage, we all got to see the seeds planted for a future Mahal feud with No Way Jose. From world champion and US champion to likely jobbing out to No Way Jose isn’t a good thing for Mahal. So, this grade for Mahal started out great, likely an A+ based on the mic work, but quickly went downhill from there.
RAW GRADE: B (He gives the show a great heel character)
MAHAL GRADE: D (Mahal could find himself back in a jobber role)
Bobby Roode: He was given the biggest spotlight on Raw, being the mystery partner during the 10-man tag team main event, and that’s a great thing for Roode, who was getting lost in the shuffle on SmackDown. Roode will get into the main event picture quickly, or at least be part of tag matches featuring bigger stars, which can only legitimize him as a potential world champion. He needs to be a heel, but for now, Roode benefited the most from the switch.
RAW GRADE: B+ (He’s another main event caliber star added to the show)
ROODE GRADE: A (His character and entrance was made for Raw)
Dolph Ziggler: Bringing along Drew McIntyre gives Ziggler something interesting to do for the first time in years, virtually saving his career. Before this, nobody would have cared if Ziggler was sent down to NXT. But now, everyone wants to see where he and McIntyre go from here.
RAW GRADE: B (Ziggler and McIntyre still have to prove their worth)
ZIGGLER GRADE: A+ (This move and partnership saves Ziggler’s career)
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: It didn’t take long for the duo to get their jobs back, but now the hard part begins: Trying not to get lost among the crowded roster on Raw. Owens is a former Universal champion and Zayn has become a main eventer since joining sides with Owens. Both will be better on Raw than SmackDown, so this is a win no matter what happens from here, but there is still a lot of uncertainty of what both will be doing on Monday nights going forward.
RAW GRADE: A (Raw gets two of the best performers and wrestlers in the company)
OWENS & ZAYN GRADE: B (We’ll know more in time what lies ahead for the duo)
Baron Corbin: This could be Corbin’s last chance to prove WWE’s vision of him as a future main eventer correct. He failed in that quest last year on SmackDown, even failing on his cash-in of his Money in the Bank contract, so this move to Raw makes sense for everyone involved. It’s up to Corbin to get over. I wouldn’t hold my breath.
RAW GRADE: C- (Corbin doesn’t move the needle at all)
CORBIN GRADE: B+ (It looks like Corbin might get a solid push, though)
Natalya: It’s no secret Natalya is one of our least favorite superstars, but it’s already pretty obvious why she’s on Raw. Natalya is going to be the first real feud for Ronda Rousey, when the time comes for the former training partners to split up, with Natalya sure to turn. It’s going to happen rather quickly, too. So, Natalya will get a giant program on Raw, but she’s not winning it. Still, this is a big spot for her.
RAW GRADE: A (It’s a legit first opponent for Rousey)
NATALYA GRADE: B+ (She’s going to lose, but she gets to work with Rousey)
Breezango: They defeated The Bar clean (albeit on a roll-up) on their fight night on Raw, setting themselves up for, dare I say, a title match down the line. That alone makes Breezango big winners in the Shakeup. They were going nowhere as a team on SDLive, but they’ve been already given a win over the best tag team on either show, and could be given a title push real soon.
RAW GRADE: C+ (Raw needs to reestablish them as credible contenders)
BREEZANGO GRADE: A+ (They’ve already got a win over The Bar)
Chad Gable: We’ll get to see what he can bring to the table as a singles star now. The jury’s still out, despite the hype, hence the lower grade.
RAW GRADE: D (Right now, Gable simply provides depth Raw doesn’t really need)
GABLE GRADE: B (He could have a future storyline with Jason Jordan and Kurt Angle)
Mojo Rawley: He was lost on SmackDown and he’ll be lost on Raw too.
RAW GRADE: F (Does nothing for the show)
RAWLEY GRADE: D+ (Switching shows cant hurt)
Zack Ryder: Same thing as his former partner.
RAW GRADE: F (Does nothing for the show)
RYDER GRADE: D+ (Switching shows can’t hurt)
Mike Kanellis: Maybe he gets over on Raw with a different gimmick than the one from SmackDown. If his wife is along for the ride the fans win.
RAW GRADE: D (He couldn’t get over on SmackDown, so what will he bring to Raw?)
KANELLIS GRADE: C+ (He needs a restart)
The Riott Squad: I thought the group’s attack on Sasha Banks and Bayley was the best moment of the Riott’s Squad’s short career as a group. They showed off some of their moves and looked better here than at any point on SmackDown. Now, if they aren’t just here to be glorified jobbers, this is a great move for the trio.
RAW GRADE: B (Raw needs some heel women’s wrestlers and gets three)
RIOTT SQUAD GRADE: A- (They benefit from having so many potential opponents)
The Ascension: They have zero value now, but they can only go up as a team.
RAW GRADE: F (Again, they have zero value)
ASCENSION GRADE: C+ (They were dead on SDLive, so this can only be a positive)
Jeff Hardy defeated Jinder Mahal to win the US championship
Sasha Banks defeated Bayley by DQ after interference from the Riott Squad
Authors of Pain defeated Heath Slater and Ryno
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt defeated The Revival to win a spot in the Raw tag team championship match against The Bar at the Greatest Royal Rumble
Ember Moon defeated Mickie James
Natalya defeated Mandy Rose. Following the match, Ronda Rousey made the save for Natalya as she was getting double-teamed by Rose and Sonya Deville
Breezango defeated The Bar
Braun Strowman, Bobby Roode, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley defeated The Miz, The Miztourage, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in the main event