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Heel Turns: Who won the roster shakeup?

Posted by Achilles Heel On April 17

Achilles HeelThe WWE roster shakeup presents new opportunities and the possibility of new rivalries. Which brand got the best of the “trades?” Let’s examine the swap.

Raw receives Intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Maryse, Bray Wyatt, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Curt Hawkins, Apollo Crews, Kalisto, Heath Slater and Rhyno from Smackdown. Moving from Raw to Smackdown are United States champion Kevin Owens, Charlotte, Sami Zayn, The New Day, Jinder Mahal, The Shining Stars, Sin Cara, Tamina, Rusev and Lana. Broadcasters Byron Saxton and David Otunga, which The Greek God of Wrestling doesn’t care about a little bit. (Broadcasters are important, but Saxton and Otunga are both non-factors).

The big prize for Raw is Ambrose and Intercontinental Championship. The move also puts Ambrose on the same show as his former Shield teammates Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, which creates some interesting possibilities.

Another big gain for Raw is the package of Miz and Maryse. Perhaps nobody has raised their game during the past year as much as Miz. He’s terrific on the microphone, and he’s put together some terrific matches, most notably with Dolph Ziggler. With Raw being a three-hour show, Miz will have even more opportunity to use his mic skills to become a top heel.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Wyatt. Will he form a new version of the Wyatt Family or will he be a loner? As long as he was on the same brand as Luke Harper, Erick  Rowan and Randy Orton, Wyatt could never escape the Wyatt Family storylines. The move to Raw gives him a fresh start.

Apollo Crews may also benefit from a fresh start. I’m not so sure if the move to Raw will make much difference for Curt Hawkins, Kalisto, Heath Slater and Rhyno, although it could for Kalisto if he joins the Cruiserweight division.

Mickie James and Alexa Bliss will get the opportunity for fresh rivalries in the Raw women’s division, but Smackdown is the clear winner in the trade the bring Charlotte to Smackdown. Charlotte remains the crown jewel of the women’s division. Her feuds with Sasha Banks and Bayley had pretty much run their course. Now she can begin new feuds with Becky Lynch, whose two main nemeses (Bliss and James) went to Raw, Smackdown Women’s champion Naomi and possibly Natalya. But gaining Charlotte definitely elevates the Smackdown women’s division.

Along with Charlotte, Owens is the biggest acquisition for Smackdown. Not only does he bring the United States Championship with him, but Owens is outstanding on the microphone and in the ring. With Zayn coming to Smackdown, Owens brings in his own long-time rival.

The New Day (Big E, Xavier Woods and the injured Kofi Kingston) will inject some much-needed life into the Smackdown tag team division. Once Wyatt and Randy Orton broke up, the tag team division basically consisted of American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan), Jimmy and Jey Uso and a bunch of interchangeable teams. The Shining Stars (Primo and Epico) may get a chance to shine on Smackdown, but New Day are the ones who elevate the division.

The long-term best find in the trade may be Rusev. Achilles Heel has praised Rusev on numerous occasions and bemoaned WWE’s failure to find a larger role for him. When he returns from shoulder surgery, perhaps he will find his way to the top of the card on Smackdown. Plus, he brings Lana with him, which is definitely a mark in his favor.

Tamina has been inactive, at least on television, so moving to Smackdown will allow her to be a monster, a role she couldn’t play on Raw due to the presence of Nia Jax. Moving to Smackdown provides a fresh start for Jinder Mahal and Sin Cara. Both of them need a fresh start, although I’m afraid Mahal is going to immediately find himself in an undercard feud with Mojo Rawley.

Who is the winner? The addition of Charlotte and The New Day rejuvenate the Smackdown women’s and tag team divisions. The Greek God of Wrestling also gives Smackdown a slight edge in the Owens-Ambrose trade of champions. Throw in Rusev and NXT call-ups Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger, and Achilles Heel says Smackdown comes out on top by a narrow margin.

The real winners, though are the fans. RAW’s tag team division was elevated by the return of Matt and Jeff Hardy and the promotion of the excellent old-school team of The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) from NXT. Ambrose, Miz and Wyatt freshen up the top of the card. If Kalisto competes as a cruiserweight, that division may have improved as well.

The bottom line, as Stone Cold Steve Austin used to say, is that the roster shakeup should make both Raw and Smackdown better.

*****

DOING THE JOB: Before switching from Raw to Smackdown, Charlotte put over Bayley and Nia Jax, and The New Day put over The Revival. That’s the way the business is supposed to work.

*****

MONSTER ALERT: As I noted at the end of last week’s Heel Turns, the segment in which Braun Strowman attacked Roman Reigns on Raw was awesome. Yes, The Greek God of Wrestling knows that Strowman didn’t tip over that giant ambulance all by himself, but the visual was still incredibly impressive. Pushing Reigns off the loading dock on a stretcher and flipping over the ambulance reinforce Strowman’s character as a remorseless and unstoppable monster.

*****

PHILLY IS HARDCORE: Tommy Dreamer presents House of Hardcore 25 on Saturday (8 p.m.) at 2300 Arena. Matt and Jeff Hardy have joined WWE, but the main event for this event is advertised as Tommy Dreamer and Bully Ray vs. Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero (the TNA personas of Matt and Jeff Hardy). Also announced is Sami Callihan vs. Pentagon Junior and appearances by MVP and Brian Cage. Dreamer usually has a few surprises as well at his House of Hardcore shows in Philly.

*****

BROADCST(ER) NEWS: The Greek God of Wrestling is trying to maintain a fresh outlook regarding Impact Wrestling, but he didn’t give two you-know-whats about the feud between broadcasters Jeremy Borash and Josh Mathews, which built to a main event 8-man tag team match on Impact Wrestling.

Achilles Heel isn’t stupid. He understands the tag team match was a way to introduce Matt Morgan, Magnus and Chris Adonis (the former Chris Masters), all of whom wrestled for Borash’s “good guy” team. But the closing segment, during which all of the babyface wrestlers taunted Mathews for losing the match and his broadcast job, turned the attention back to the broadcasters instead of keeping the focus on the wrestlers.

*****

BROADCAST(ER) NEWS II: The story about Mauro Ranallo’s apparent departure from Smackdown and WWE continues to gain momentum, with the focus being on JBL and his alleged bullying. The Greek God of Wrestling can only judge JBL’s public actions. I won’t get into speculation and rumor. Quite frankly, JBL’s comment about the Internet loving Ranallo isn’t enough for Achilles Heel to come down too hard on JBL.

As I wrote last week, Ranallo was tremendous during the Cruiserweight Classic and did a good job on Smackdown. His departure is a loss for the fans. Unless I see more reliable evidence of bullying, however, I’m not going to join the crowd calling for WWE to punish – or even fire — JBL.

Keep in mind that professional is an unusual business. Does anyone remember the beating that JBL and Ron Simmons put on Public Enemy on live television for what was perceived as the former ECW stars acting as if they were already big stars in WWE? I’m not condoning bullying. All I’m saying is that there is a different code in professional wrestling than there is in a typical office setting.

*****

PAYBACK CONFUSION: WWE’s “Payback” on April 30 is supposed to be a Raw pay-per-view, but two Smackdown championships will be defended on the show. Because of the brand switch for many superstars, Raw’s Bray Wyatt will face WWE champion Randy Orton in a rematch from WrestleMania. This is being billed as a House of Horrors match, although it’s not clear what that means. What it probably means is that Brock Lesnar will not be defending the WWE Universal Championship at Payback.

Kevin Owens departed for Smackdown with the United States Championship, but he will defend that title against Raw rival Chris Jericho in another WrestleMania rematch. The Raw Tag Team Championship will be defended by Matt and Jeff Hardy against Sheamus and Cesaro in an all-Raw match. The same is true for a WrestleMania rematch between Neville and challenger Austin Aries for the Cruiserweight Championship.

*****

PENNSYLVANIA PROUD: With the exception of an early July trip to North Carolina, CHIKARA is going to remain within Pennsylvania’s borders until taking King of Trios to the United Kingdom in early September. CHIKARA presents “Hour of Power” on Sunday at The Wrestle Factory, which also will be the site for “The Eleventh Hour” on May 6. The Eleventh Hour will feature a gauntlet match.

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CRIST IS THE BEST: Dave Crist defeated Shane Strickland in the finals of the 16th Best of the Best tournament in Combat Zone Wrestling. Crist and Strickland will have a rematch at “Sacrifices” on May 13 at Flyers SkateZone in Voorhees, N.J. There also will be a rematch for the CZW Championship between Joe Gacy and challenger Lio Rush after Gacy retained the title in controversial fashion in their last match at “Decisions.”

Other matches signed for “Sacrifices” include Joey Janela vs. Father Matthew Tremont in a steel cage, Sami Callihan vs. “The Artist” Jake Crist, and Storm of Entrails (Shlak and O’Hare) vs. The Awakening (Stockade and G-Raver).

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IMPACT TAPINGS: Impact Wrestling will be taping television shows at Universal Studios from Thursday-Sunday. The main event for this week’s Impact is Bobby Lashley defending the Impact Wrestling World Championship against James Storm.

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WAR OF THE WORLDS: Don’t forget about the War of the Worlds Tour, which is coming to 2300 Arena on May 14. The tour, which includes stars from Ring of Honor and New Japan Professional Wrestling, will include IWGP Intercontinental champion Tetuya and Kushida.

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CAN YOU DIG THIS, SUCKA!!! Before David Otunga joins the Raw broadcasting crew, he will filming a movie. His replacement for six weeks will be Booker T. The Greek God of Wrestling appreciated Booker T in the ring, but is not a big fan of his broadcast style. He is, however, an improvement over Otunga.

 

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