The Superstar Shakeup kicked off Monday night with an astounding 19 different superstars moving to Raw. The now-annual event, which serves as a way for the WWE to hit the reset button on storylines and offer fresh, new matchups, saw the likes of Jinder Mahal, Bobby Roode and Drew McIntyre on Night 1.
Still, the process was only halfway done heading into SmackDown Live, and the question remained -- would SmackDown be able to follow Raw's example and deliver surprises and bombshells? The answer: a resounding "Yes!", as Tuesday nights got a massive makeover in their own right.
Here's how it all played out.
- Visions of dream matches danced through everyone's heads as the second night of the Superstar Shakeup played out, but as impactful as some of the debuts and appearances were this week, no one made a bigger statement than the returning Big Cass. After a backstage segment in which he called Daniel Bryan a "little man," he took his return to the next level in the night's main event.
As Bryan and AJ Styles faced Rusev and Aiden English, Shinsuke Nakamura interfered as he did last week with yet another low blow to Styles. As that was going on in one corner, Cass appeared behind Bryan and lined him up for a big boot and an attack of his own.
When Cass suffered an ACL injury eight months ago, he was in the middle of a feud with former tag team partner Enzo Amore. Upon returning, he finds himself at the top of the SmackDown Live food chain and beginning a program with arguably the most popular superstar in the company. I'd say things are looking up for the big man -- no pun intended.
- WWE (@WWE) April 18, 2018
- Just when it appeared that the United States Championship was a title that had moved over to Raw, the script was flipped. One night after defeating Raw's new acquisition, Jinder Mahal, to win the U.S. title, Jeff Hardy emerged as SmackDown's first surprise of the night. In a blast from the past, he was the one to answer Shelton Benjamin's challenge for competition more than nine years after the two had last squared off in the ring.
With Randy Orton being the first one to try to answer the call, in a match that would've been a first-timer in nearly 10 years in its own right, SmackDown seemingly found a time machine to the mid-aughts. But as Orton made his way down the aisle, Hardy's theme hit and he zoomed past Orton to take on Benjamin in what was ultimately a good effort out of both men. Hardy's interruption of Orton seemed to be a bit of foreshadowing as Orton remains in the U.S. title picture despite Mahal's departure. He'll get the winner of the upcoming U.S. title match between Hardy and Mahal at the Backlash pay-per-view next month.
- One of the biggest surprises of the night saw Samoa Joe switch sides, and he made quick work of Sin Cara in his SmackDown debut. Joe has been involved in an evolving feud with Raw's Roman Reigns in the weeks following his return from injury, so it seemed as though his place on the Raw roster was safe -- but that was not the case. Joe then delivered one of his angriest promos to date; he addressed Reigns, and their coming match at Backlash, Reigns' Greatest Royal Rumble match against Brock Lesnar and his own Fatal 4-way match for the Intercontinental Championship in Saudi Arabia.
Joe's presence on Tuesday nights comes with it a ton of intriguing match-up possibilities -- dream matches that happened in other promotions as far back as a decade that few imagined could ever happen in WWE. His rivalry with Styles in TNA is the stuff of legends, while he and Bryan have a lengthy history in Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla that dates all the way back to 2002. There are also plenty of matches we haven't seen before, against the likes of Orton, Rusev and many others.
- Coming off the first singles loss of her WWE tenure at WrestleMania to Charlotte Flair, Asuka officially joined SmackDown Tuesday night as well. She assisted Flair and Becky Lynch in thwarting the new champ, Carmella, as well as Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. This one segment featured the bulk of SmackDown's women's division and provided a glimpse into what the future of the division will look like -- and it looks pretty bright.
- After dropping the Raw tag team championships to Braun Strowman and 10-year old Nicholas at WrestleMania, Sheamus and Cesaro have made the transition to SmackDown Live. The four-time Raw tag team champions dominated the tag team division on Monday nights over the past couple of years and it shouldn't be too long before they push towards the top of the SmackDown tag team division. They were joined in that move by Gallows & Anderson, another team who held the gold on Raw. It appears, for the time being, that the Balor Club has been split up -- but there's always their connection to Styles to fall back on.
- A couple of big NXT call-ups were announced on Tuesday night as well. Former NXT Champion, Andrade "Cien" Almas and his associate Zelina Vega will now call SmackDown home. We also saw a video package announcing the coming arrival of SAnitY, with Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe of also set to be added to the roster. It should be noted that Nikki Cross was not announced as coming over with SAnitY, and if that's indeed the case, it would be unfortunate. Cross added an extra level of insanity and energy to the group -- but perhaps there are plans for her in the NXT women's division going forward. There's always the possibility she could follow at some point in the future.
- SmackDown general manager Paige's former Absolution prodigies, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, also made their way to SmackDown on Tuesday night. Given their relationship with the group's former leader, there's no way of knowing how that team will fare
- In a backstage segment with The New Day and Tye Dillinger, it was revealed that R-Truth will now be a part of the SmackDown Live roster. Time will tell if he has anything left in the tank, but his comedic timing still seems to be on point.
Hits and misses
- The evening's main event pitting Bryan and Styles against Rusev and English was successful in a number of ways. First, it was an entertaining match. It also set the stage for multiple programs as the new and improved SmackDown pushes forward into the future. Styles and Nakamura will have their second WWE championship match at Greatest Royal Rumble, but it still feels like just the beginning to their rivalry. Tuesday night's finale also means The Miz may have to wait for his impending date with Bryan.
- Speaking of The Miz, the former Intercontinental Champion cut a promo from his home in Los Angeles, with wife Maryse and their newly arrived daughter Monroe Sky in tow. In addition to confirming he'd be on next week's show, he touched on a recent tweet sent out by Bryan indicating that he wanted to punch The Miz in the face. There's no telling how long Big Cass will stand in the way, but Miz vs. Bryan is worthy of having at a major event like SummerSlam -- and perhaps could even stretch out as far as WrestleMania 35 next year.
- The rivalry between new SmackDown tag team champions The Bludgeon Brothers and former champs, The Usos continued as Jey Uso found himself in one-on-one competition with Harper. Much like most of the Bludgeon Brothers' matches, this was a quick one with Harper picking up the win. A wrinkle was added to the fold when Harper and Rowan looked to continue the onslaught onto both Usos after the match using their giant hammers.
Jimmy Usos's wife, Naomi, stormed to her husband's side, pleaded with the champs to stop and they did. It was an unexpected display of mercy by the champs and exactly the type of twist this rivalry needed. The SmackDown tag team division is now overloaded with talent, and that kind of depth demands a certain level of storytelling to push it to another level.