July 3, 2020|
AllWrestling Weekly Power Poll 4/19: Roman’s New Empire
WWE held its annual Superstar Shake-Up week this week from Bell Centre in Montreal, and many of the performers in this week’s AllWrestling Weekly Power Poll scored victories from the results. However, we will point out a few misses we feel the WWE made before highlighting what went right.
For starters, fans reacted the most strongly against changing the name of the NXT Tag Team Champion War Raiders to The Viking Experience with Raymond Rowe becoming Erik and Hanson becoming Ivar. The strange timing of the name change killed the buzz of having them make their main roster debut. Furthermore, it took what should’ve been a celebration of the promotion of one of the best tag teams in the company and turned it into a joke for much of the WWE Universe on social media. Don’t be shocked if The Viking Experience undergoes another name adjustment soon.
In addition, the death of factions became another sensitive subject with fans responding on social media. WWE opted to break up both Sanity and The Riott Squad. Sanity leader Eric Young got shipped to RAW, and it was announced later in the week that Alexander Wolfe was likely headed back to NXT. Meanwhile, Liv Morgan got separated from Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan, being sent to SmackDown Live. Neither faction benefited from great booking by the WWE. Sanity worked matches only seven times on televised SmackDown Live episodes, while Riott Squad routinely got squashed to make women’s title contenders look strong. Perhaps these performers will find more success on their own.
Lastly, the WWE spoke volumes about their commitment to a few performers, forgetting to assign Heavy Machinery and Nikki Cross to a brand. Otis Dozovic sent out a tweet late Tuesday to let fans know that he and teammate Tucker Knight will work on SmackDown Live. However, it’s still unknown when, where and how often Cross will appear. Given the treatment that Sanity got, it’s fair to question how much WWE plans to use Cross in the coming months. The creative team on the main roster apparently does not believe in the characters Sanity used to gain a following at NXT.
With the bad out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best of the week that was for the WWE.
Top 10 Superstars (In Reverse Order)
10. Paige-Asuka-Kairi Sane – The fans predicting that former SmackDown Live General Manager Paige would manage the Sky Pirates got it half right. WWE promoted Sane to team with former SmackDown Women’s Champion Asuka in what looks like a prohibitive favorite to become the next Women’s Tag Team Champions. Given that the IIconics lost both of their matches this week, they aren’t exactly getting booked like favorites to hold on to their titles for long. Sane hit one of her patented top-rope elbows on Peyton Royce to help her side of an eight-woman tag match get the victory in her main roster debut. With Paige handling the promo work, Asuka and Sane can focus on being great in the ring which is where they thrive. It’s not hard to believe they may become champs as soon as Money in the Bank.
9. The Usos – AJ Styles, The Miz and United States Champion Samoa Joe may get billed as the fancier additions, but Jimmy and Jey might prove to be the most valuable move RAW made during the Superstar Shake-Up. Considering we’re just a year removed from Braun Strowman and a kid named Nicholas winning the RAW tag team belts, that tells you all you need to know about the quality of that brand’s tag team division. The Usos will raise the bar for RAW after dominating SmackDown since the brand extension draft in 2016 with four titles on the Blue Brand. More importantly, they won’t have to do it alone with Ricochet & Aleister Black and The War Raiders also getting assigned to RAW. Throw in the former champions Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder of The Revival and current champs Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins and it makes for a competitive division in 2019.
8. Sami Zayn – Hailed as a returning conquering hero by his hometown fans in Montreal, Sami played them in the palm of his hands. He acted at first like he was reveling in their adoration of him, repeatedly stopping to let the fans continue to chant for him and sing along with his theme music. Yet, once he started talking during his interview on “A Moment of Bliss,” he got the crowd to turn on him and boo him relentlessly as he tore into natives of Quebec. Few performers in the WWE can play a crowd like that and Zayn did it masterfully. His return as a heel is gaining heat similar to the run of “The New” Daniel Bryan as WWE Champion. He appears to be on the verge of some of his best work with the WWE.
7. Lacey Evans – Vince McMahon wants to give the Lady of WWE every chance to become the next big star of the women’s division. If that wasn’t obvious before this week, it couldn’t be any clearer now. Evans earned a title opportunity with a win over Natalya in a No. 1 Contender match and also benefited from RAW making more subtractions than additions in the Superstar Shake-Up. With Bayley and Ember Moon heading to SmackDown, RAW is light on contenders for the champ champ Becky Lynch. Outside of Evans, Alexa Bliss seems like the only other big challenge to the throne on Monday nights now. That could change if Sasha Banks decides to return to the company, but her status is in serious doubt right now. Given all that, it looks like you’ll be getting a heavy dose of Evans on your TV, whether you like her character or not.
6. The Miz – Monday Night Must-See TV is back. The Miz made his return to RAW memorable, jumping Shane McMahon in the opening segment. The A-Lister got some payback for the WrestleMania assault on his father and got busted open as well. One of the worst-kept secrets of the Superstar Shake-Up was that The Miz would return to RAW because of the network change for SmackDown. By coming back to the Red Brand, Miz can cross-promote his reality TV series, Miz and Mrs., on the USA network. This week’s segment played well with fans as the second-most watched clip from RAW this week and third-most of both shows. Roman Reigns decking Vince McMahon on SmackDown led overall (3.5 million) while AJ Styles leading his tag team to a main event match victory (1.3 million) narrowly edged The Miz (1.2 million). Either way, it’s a great debut on RAW for both Styles and Miz.
5. RAW and SmackDown Women’s Champ Becky Lynch – The Man continued to look strong working double-duty this week, and the Superstar Shake-Up certainly broke her way on RAW. In addition, she squashed the Riott Squad in their final appearance together. Lynch dominated Ruby Riott and then hit Bex-sploders on Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan as they tried to ambush her after the match. With the way the RAW roster is set up, Lynch will face challenges from only three former champs – Bliss, Natalya and Naomi. Neither Natalya and Naomi seem likely to get a major push any time soon, so it appears RAW will become Lynch’s show in a similar way it was Rousey’s show in 2018. With how stacked the SmackDown Live roster is, it looks like when Lynch eventually drops a belt that it will be that show where she does. It makes sense since she is already a 3-time SmackDown champ and has worked with most of that roster already. However, there is no indication that she will lose anytime soon.
4. Kevin Owens – How fun is KO as a good guy? SmackDown Live completely built this week’s show around Owens and he killed it as the main attraction. For starters, the native Canadian received a hero’s welcome in Montreal and got a roar when he told the crowd that the show from Bell Centre served as his WrestleMania this year. Then, KO brought out WWE Champion Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, who were without injured New Day partner Big E. That’s when Owens suggested he become an honorary member of New Day as “Big O.” Never did I imagine seeing Owens put on a cut-off shirt, mimic Big E’s hip gyration dance, eat a platter of pancakes backstage and wear a New Day unicorn headband. Oh yeah, he also hit Rusev with a Stunner to secure a victory for New Day in a tag match against The Bulgarian Brute, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro. I didn’t expect to like Owens this much as a babyface character. It will be a shame when he breaks our hearts and goes bad once again. Let’s enjoy him as a nice guy while we can.
3. Intercontinental Champ Finn Balor – The champ switched brands during the Superstar Shake-Up, causing him to work double-duty this week. He followed up a victory over Andrade, who made his RAW debut, on Monday with another win in his SmackDown debut against Ali. There’s an argument to be made that no Superstar benefited more from the brand change than Balor. Since injury killed his Universal Championship push, he’s had a rough time getting booked higher than the mid-card. Though he will raise SmackDown’s mid-card scene in the short term, Balor’s chances of once again holding one of the top belts rises on Tuesdays. WWE has given a shot to several first-time champs with the WWE Championship since the brand split, including Kingston, Jinder Mahal, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles. It seems inevitable that at some point down the road Balor and Roman Reigns will be on a collision course for the Blue Brand’s top prize.
2. AJ Styles – Monday Nights are Phenomenal now. Technically, Styles did work with WWE about six months before the brand split in 2016, but his home has been almost exclusively on SmackDown Live in the WWE. His move to Mondays will open up a lot of fresh feuds and make sure his act doesn’t go stale. He’d accomplished everything he could on SmackDown, and had worked his way through the roster with the conclusion of his WrestleMania arc with Randy Orton. Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Bobby Lashley to help his tag team of Universal Champ Seth Rollins and Reigns defeat The Almighty, Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin in the main event of RAW. They worked together on Monday, but the long-term payoff with this move is an inevitable showdown between Rollins and Styles for the Universal title.
1. Roman Reigns – Tuesdays are Roman’s Empire now. The Big Dog ended up being “The Biggest Acquisition in SmackDown history” that Vince had teased going into the show. The fact that McMahon insisted on doing the segment himself and took a Superman Punch from Reigns tells you all you need to know about the future of the Blue Brand. Though this roster isn’t quite set up with a lot of new feuds for Reigns like RAW is for Styles, the former Shield enforcer will obviously serve as the tent-pole attraction. It’s likely we’ll soon see Reigns squaring off against the new monster on the block, Lars Sullivan. The Big Dog also will probably have a great feud in the future with “The New” Daniel Bryan. We knew that Kingston wouldn’t retain the WWE Championship for long, but his expiration date likely speeds up with Reigns on SmackDown. WWE will want to feature its preferred main event star who just defeated leukemia to make a triumphant return back to wrestling with a championship as soon as they can. It’s probably a coin flip between Reigns and Balor as to the Superstar who won the most with the new rosters announced this week.