Craig Wilson, Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow, Benjamin Trecroci and Padraic Toolan
With WrestleMania in the book and the superstar shakeup in the bag, for all intents and purposes, we are at a new season for the WWE. In today’s Sunday Sermon, the team discuss who they want to see prosper in the year ahead.
Craig: First up, I quite liked the subtle refresh afforded by the superstar shakeup. It wasn’t too wholesale – although do duff name changes I know Jamie is going to talk about – but otherwise OK.
Am excited to see Kairi Sane on the main roster and, as it looks, teaming with Asuka. That’ll give that women’s tag division and a wee boost.
I also like Kevin Owens filling in for Big E in New Day. Big O, if you will. I know it’ll lead to a heel turn but until then it’s exactly the sort of content I want to see on my TV!
So, team, what were the best moves and what, if any, were you disappointed with?
Brian: Okay, let’s just get this right of the bag first, The War Raiders being renamed the Viking Experience is just plain stupid. With name aside though, that team should elevate the Raw tag team division immensely. I do not like that they broke up Sanity at all. Such a misused faction.
I’m also not quite sold on Liv Morgan away from the Riott Squad and putting her on Smackdown. I do think Smackdown’s addition of Buddy Murphy is great. Murphy is really an underrated wrestler, who doesn’t nearly get talked about enough.
AJ Styles on Monday Night Raw will set up a dream match between he and Seth Rollins. Overall, I like what both shows did.
Jamie: I truly hated the War Raiders name but did understand it because WWE either couldn’t or wouldn’t use War Machine, which is fair enough. I joked with Craig that ‘Viking Experience’ sounded like the title of a tourist excursion myself and my wife could have booked when we visited Iceland… turns out it actually was! It is a truly atrocious name. Why use the term ‘Experience’? Viking Raiders would have worked, but no, ‘Experience’ says badass more than any word ever could. If that is the way the creative team envisage War Raiders (I refuse to accept the Viking bullshit) then I do fear for them on Raw, regardless of their obvious talents.
Anyway, AJ Styles to Raw makes sense because he was approaching the limit of what he could achieve on Smackdown before he got a bit stale. Most of the other trades/shake-ups are what they are in the sense that they are opportunities for new/underutilised performers to get over on pastures new. I do always fear that when these ‘shake-ups’ and ‘drafts’ are announced that WWE will make wholesale changes but thankfully not this time. Both Smackdown and Raw seem to have maintained their identities with just a few little tweaks to freshen things up.
Craig: Yeah, I think that’s basically what’s happened with the shake-up. Whilst it’s been relatively understated and downplayed compared to previous years, it has been a bit of a refresh. Guys and girls, who had perhaps grown slightly stale on one brand have been moved to the other. As has been stated, that gives them fresh feuds and matches to get stuck into – that’s a good, good thing.
I do agree with Brian regarding the splitting up of Sanity and, I also guess, the Riott Squad. I sense, however, it says more about WWE’s thoughts on those stables than anything else, right?
Benjamin: Overall there are definitely some intriguing match-ups like that were mentioned earlier like AJ Styles-Seth Rollins. That should be saved for SummerSlam. Let that build to an all-out clash!
Then over on Smackdown, moving Finn Balor over to the Blue Show was easily the best move. Opens up some great contests like we saw vs. Mustafa (I’m still calling him by his first name) Ali, Buddy Murphy, etc.
Did anyone notice how Smackdown is really lacking in solid heels though?
Assume Kevin Owens will eventually turn heel, but after that who is on there? Daniel Bryan? Orton?
I am very intrigued by the women on SD, Ember Moon is a huge talent and hasn’t really been exposed to the masses yet, hopefully, this will be her time.
Meanwhile, the women on Raw looks pretty bleak on paper anyways. Would be perfectly fine if they moved all the women to SD but they probably won’t be doing that anytime soon.
Not a huge fan of the execution of the “Superstar Shakeup” as would rather have some explanation or more a draft type feel instead of random slotting of people. But I am intrigued as to what happens next with some new members of each show. It’s a new day, yes it is…for now.
Padraic: The thing I’m most excited about is that we finally have Lars Sullivan. My biggest problem with his debut segment is that in the moment, it erased Baron Corbin’s rub from going over Angle at Mania. Angle comes out and gets revenge on Corbin, already a 50/50-type booking, which as we’ve seen, gets NOBODY over, and then Lars comes out and destroys Kurt, taking Corbin’s heat. I’m nitpicking though, and overall I love how they’re using Sullivan. There’s few heels who stick to kayfabe and don’t get cheers, and Sullivan is one; Corbin is the best example of another.
Viking Experience is stupid as hell. I read that they were originally going to be called The Berzerkers, which would have been so much better.
My biggest hope: more crowds like the one in Montreal this week. I usually can’t stand the smarky Canadian audiences, but they were terrific. They cheered for the faces, and booed the heels, even completely turning on Sami Zayn when he turned on them. When the fans let themselves get sucked into the story, it enhances everything. Sami Zayn saying “see you in Hell” was so much more effecting to a booing crowd singing Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye to him than it would have been if they’d being cheering and singing his theme song. I love what Sami is doing with his character, and while I don’t think it fits in the main event, I think he could be a top mid-card heel.
AJ Styles on Raw is a terrific move with a smaller guy like Seth Rollins as Universal Champion. My biggest issue, and I know a lot of people feel the same, is Braun Strowman. How can they expect people to buy into him when he’s booked with guys from SNL instead of dominating the main event scene? Braun is a HUGE star, literally and figuratively. He’s the total package, and I’m hoping it’s finally his time.
Roman moving to SmackDown could be a great idea. Freshen him up and give him new feuds instead of letting the fans who hated him before watch the same old stuff and think “how long do I have to cheer him beating leukemia?”
Becky Lynch is starting to fade a little bit to me, I think she’s way too happy and jokey and instead needs to have that heel edge that made everyone back her in the first place. I’m not sure how a Lacey Evans feud will go; do you really want to thrust her right into the main event? Either she wins the title when she’s not ready, or she loses before you can build her up.
Overall I’m really optimistic about how everything is gonna play out. It’ll be interesting to see who Kofi’s first challenger is.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.