By Brad Carroll
At roughly the 40-minute mark of Tuesday’s edition of SmackDown Live, I was worried there wouldn’t be enough talent to even finish the show, let alone set up a future for the blue brand. With just Jeff Hardy, who brought the US championship with him to kick off the show, and Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose being added at that point, the prospects of what has been the clear B-show since the last Superstar Shakeup were definitely not looking good.
But then everything changed - in a big way.
SmackDown Live added one big name after another as the show continued, including Samoa Joe, Asuka, Big Cass and The Bar, and when the main event finally came to a conclusion with Shinsuke Nakamura continuing his masterful heel persona, it was more than clear that SDLive is not only set up for a bright future, but could challenge Raw for the best show overall. That is one heck of a change of events, considering how bad SDLive has been recently.
But SmackDown won this round of the Superstar Shakeup and it’s not even close.
The best part of the Superstar Shakeup for SmackDown Live was it made the show must-watch. Throw in the announced additions Tuesday night of Andrade "Cien" Almas and Sanity, minus Nikki Cross, which is a shame, and this was a complete victory for the blue brand.
One could already guess the grades on the defections from Raw to SmackDown will be high, and they will be, but there’s still much to break down for what the switches mean to both the SDLive brand and for the wrestlers themselves.
[Read our Raw Superstar Shakeup Grades Here]
The Miz: His move was the only one announced on Monday Night Raw, but is still one of the biggest for SmackDown overall. The Miz was the MVP of the Raw brand since he came over in the last Superstar Shakeup, making the Intercontinental title mean something, which was especially important since Brock Lesnar had the Universal championship holed up somewhere in Canada. The Miz is going to be missed on Raw, for sure, and that’s an even bigger score for SDLive. Miz already has a ready-made feud with Daniel Bryan, which should be great for the promos alone, and hopefully he doesn’t end up jobbing out every night. This feels like a bit of a loss for The Miz, though, and it has nothing to do with the Miztourage not coming with him, as he was made for Raw. But, on the other hand, there was no chance he was ever going to be Universal champion, but he could very well win the WWE title on SmackDown.
SDLIVE GRADE: A+ (He carried the “A-show” and now he’s on SmackDown)
THE MIZ GRADE: A- (He might lose to Daniel Bryan, but he could be WWE champion)
Samoa Joe: This was a surprising addition, but there was no complaining from the SmackDown crowd. Joe delivered another great promo, promising to beat everyone from Daniel Bryan to AJ Styles, not to mention saying he’s going to beat Roman Reigns at Backlash and win the Intercontinental title at the Greatest Royal Rumble, too. Joe brings a legitimate title contender to the blue brand with potential epic feuds with Styles, Bryan and so many more.
SDLIVE GRADE: A+ (He completely changes the entire brand with his presence)
JOE GRADE: B+ (Great feuds to be had, but Roman Reigns feud seemingly ends)
Asuka: This move was expected, but again, much needed for SmackDown. I’m not happy they paired Asuka up with Charlotte and Becky Lynch, though, which brings back memories of Charlotte, Becky and Naomi against the Welcoming Committee, which was terrible and a waste of everyone’s talents. But if they keep Asuka and everyone else separate (except the IIconic duo, of course) it will set up nothing but great feuds and matches in the near future. Asuka vs Charlotte, Asuka vs Becky Lynch, Asuka vs Carmella, Charlotte vs Becky Lynch. Throw in Absolution and this group of women is far and away better than Raw’s group. SmackDown’s women’s roster was a disaster before this, but it’s been transformed overnight.
SDLIVE GRADE: A+ (Just imagine all the potential feuds Asuka will be part of)
ASUKA GRADE: B+ (Please don’t make her best friends with Charlotte and Becky)
Jeff Hardy: He brought the US championship with him from Raw to SmackDown, which means the blue brand will have a secondary title, an absolute must. With Seth Rollins entrenched on Raw, this made the most sense. I still believe there are better alternatives for a champion than Jeff Hardy, but he gets a fresh start on a new show.
SDLIVE GRADE: B (They didn’t get Seth Rollins, but at least they get the title)
HARDY GRADE: A (He gets to shine in the ring, and hold the title for a while)
Big Cass: Maybe Big Cass will get the first feud with Daniel Bryan instead of The Miz. If so, that shows how much faith the WWE has in him. That feud could determine just how far Big Cass will go in the company.
SDLIVE GRADE: B+ (A solid heel addition)
BIG CASS GRADE: A (He obviously is being given a huge spot right off the bat)
The Bar: Another shocker. Sheamus and Cesaro have erased every challenger on Raw, so it only makes sense to head over to SmackDown for what could be some great matches against the New Day, the Usos and the Bludgeon Brothers, the latter of which won’t be able to manhandle them in the ring, making for an interesting future feud.
SDLIVE GRADE: A+ (The tag team went from stagnant to awesome again)
THE BAR GRADE: B+ (We’ll see if they are here to rule, or to put over others)
Absolution: Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose switch spots with The Riott Squad. It gives SmackDown a couple of extra heels to go against the big three in Asuka, Charlotte and Becky Lynch. (There’s a lot of heels on SmackDown right now.)
SDLIVE GRADE: C (Didn’t really need two more heels)
ABSOLUTION GRADE: D+ (They are at the bottom of the food chain on SDLive)
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: Things can only get better for Gallows and Anderson, who can pair with AJ Styles again to help them get over. The SmackDown tag team division is stacked now, the only question is whether or not Gallows and Anderson will get over as legit title contenders or be used as enhancement talent.
SDLIVE GRADE: B (This would have been higher if not for the addition of The Bar)
GALLOWS & ANDERSON GRADE: B (Anything had to be better than them on Raw)
Sin Cara: This is just a move to create depth for SmackDown.
SDLIVE GRADE: D (It’s an inconsequential addition)
SIN CARA GRADE: C+ (He might get on television more with the switch)
R-Truth: He had a backstage promo with the New Day and Tye Dillinger, and that’s probably the most TV time he’s had in months.
SDLIVE GRADE: D (They add a strange character, I guess)
R-TRUTH GRADE: C (He got on TV, so that’s a positive)
Jeff Hardy defeated Shelton Benjamin
Luke Harper defeated Jey Usos. After the match, Naomi came to the Usos rescue when the Bludgeon Brothers went on the attack in a pretty embarrassing moment
Samoa Joe defeated Sin Cara after delivering a great promo, setting up potential feuds with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan
AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan defeated Rusev and Aiden English via DQ in the main event after Shinsuke Nakamura and Big Cass interfered