Change. It is a word some people embrace. It is also a word that some experience difficulty with, especially when it impacts them directly. This brings me to events which transpired on the April 10th and 11th editions of Raw and Smackdown respectively. On those two days, the WWE held a “Superstar Shakeup.” The purpose of this was to freshen up both the Raw and Smackdown rosters, and create new rivalries. Let me provide some insight on what transpired, and attempt to predict what could happen over the course of the next year.

The women’s division on both shows was altered. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James came to Raw from Smackdown, and Charlotte Flair moved to Smackdown. Throughout her tenure on Raw, Flair was portrayed as a heel, but since the switch, the company seems to be moving in the direction of turning her. On recent episodes, she has been getting attacked by Natalya, Carmella and Tamina. As a result of that, Charlotte has been saved by the Smackdown Women’s champion, Naomi and Becky Lynch. This has resulted in a six woman tag match being made for Backlash, on May 21st. But, the main goal for Charlotte is the same for all the other women on the brand – to become the Smackdown Women’s Champion.

On Raw, Alexa Bliss became the Raw Women’s champion on April 30th by defeating Bayley. I am sure the former champ will receive a proper rematch in the future. Most likely, Alexa would retain since she just won the belt. In addition, she plays her role as a villain extremely well. But, there is still one other issue on Raw that has not been solved yet – a heel turn for Sasha Banks.

When she was in NXT, she was portrayed as someone the fans disliked. Her “Legit Boss” persona is best suited for her when she plays that role. Sasha could be the one to dethrone Alexa, likely at Summerslam. Who knows, it may occur before. If that happens, then she will likely turn on the fans. The other option involves Sasha against Bayley. Whether Sasha wins or not, she will turn on Bayley. That to me is more believable, because they are best friends in real life. Fans have seen the bond between them grow and develop in the ring.

Like the individual wrestlers, some tag teams switched brands as well. The Colons moved to Smackdown. They earned a couple victories, and with a few more, they could be in line for a future Smackdown tag team title match. For now, that honor goes to Breezango – Tyler Breeze and Fandango. They get their shot at Backlash, against the champions – the Usos. My guess is that Breezango will not win, though the WWE could surprise fans. I think the Usos will lose the belts to another tag team that switched brands – The New Day. It would be a great moment for the crowd to see new champions crowned, especially if it is a popular team like the New Day.

A week prior to the roster shakeup, Raw’s tag division received a major boost. This was due to the surprise return of the Hardy Boys at Wrestlemania. On Raw the following night, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, the Revival debuted from the NXT brand, to a tremendous crowd reaction. The only team to come from Smackdown to Raw was Heath Slater and Rhyno. Currently, the Hardys are in a heated, intense rivalry with Sheamus and Cesaro over the Raw tag team titles. Who knows what the end result will be. Whichever team ends up as the champs, they will have a lot of hard hitting competition awaiting them – Enzo and Big Cass, Gallows and Anderson, the Revival, just to name a few.

With the roster shakeup completed, emphasis was once again focused on to the secondary titles. Dean Ambrose and the Intercontinental title moved to Raw, while Kevin Owens and the United States title switched to Smackdown. On the May 1st episode of Raw, the main event was to determine the number one contender for the IC title. It featured Seth Rollins, The Miz and Finn Balor. After Samoa Joe attacked Seth and Bray Wyatt blindsided Balor, The Miz emerged victorious. The storyline that started between Miz and Ambrose on Smackdown, continues on Raw. As a result of the match, the rivalry between Rollins and Joe will continue. Most importantly, a new feud began between Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor, which will hopefully lead to some great matches between the two in the future.

On Smackdown, AJ Styles became the number one contender to the US title by defeating Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn, on the April 11 edition of the show. The match between Styles and the US Champion, Kevin Owens, will occur at Backlash, and I am confident that it will steal the show. Along with Corbin and Zayn, other wrestlers like Luke Harper, and Jinder Mahal are getting main event opportunities. In fact, Mahal will challenge Randy Orton for the WWE title at Backlash. Jinder may not win the title, but I am hoping for a great match.

I think both shows benefitted from the shakeup. Guys like Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles, and others are being given the opportunity to become more competitive and excel. Fans have been clamoring for this change for a while. Some veterans continue to be given the chance to move up the ladder as well. That helps create a sense of balance, which can only lead to a good overall result for the entire WWE product.

Azeem Kayum

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