Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre returned to the Raw roster Monday.

WWEs annual Superstar Shakeup is in the books. And Smackdown won.

It's really that simple this year. Usually, both Raw and Smackdown land superstars who will benefit their shows. Last year's shakeup, for instance, brought Dean Ambrose and Alexa Bliss to Raw, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Charlotte to Smackdown. The event had a balancing effect on both rosters, addressing the weaknesses in parts of their cards without undermining the strengths in others.

This year's shakeup, however, really didn't do much for Raw. 

Stephanie McMahon's brand lost its two best talkers in The Miz and Samoa Joe. It lost its best woman wrestler in Asuka. And it lost maybe its most purely popular star in Jeff Hardy. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens somewhat make up for losing The Miz's obnoxiousness, but their act is lukewarm and their matches have been forgettable. The Riott Squad will give Sasha Banks and Bayley some cannon fodder for a few months, but the Ronda Rousey show Raw remains. And Lashley steps into Hardy's "popular in 2007" shoes, but he's no charismatic enigma. Well, I suppose his eyebrows are an enigma.

Smackdown, meanwhile, gains not just The Miz, but maybe the most anticipated feud in WWE when he faces the man he's been mocking in and out of the ring for two years, Daniel Bryan. Speaking of Bryan, he and Joe are part of what could be a new Smackdown Six: Six internet darlings who can anchor the middle and top of the card with reliably good matches. Sure, Joe's lost a step, but he'll be more than game against the other five: Bryan, AJ Styles, a newly rejuvenated heel Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev and the best of them all, fellow new arrival and former NXT Champion Andrade Cien Almas.

Asuka's move to Shane McMahon's brand opens up a rematch with Charlotte that she'll likely win to set up a rubber match (and hopefully with a better finish than their anticlimax at WrestleMania). But all of the Empress's opponents on Smackdown are enticing: A veritable horror movie against the overmatched Carmella, a hip attack showdown with Naomi, and my most anticipated women's match in all of WWE, Becky Lynch. And with the Iconics replacing the Riott Squad as the mean girls of Smackdown, it'll be fun watching Lynch and Charlotte team with Asuka and try to handle her loud personality.

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It's too bad WWE is doing away with brand-exclusive pay-per-view events, because the new Smackdown could put on a killer card: Styles vs. Almas and Lynch vs Asuka in a pair of match-of-the-year-candidate main events, Bryan vs. Nakamura in an actual dream match that hasn't happened yet, The Bar vs. The Bludgeon Brothers in an absolute slugfest, and, uh, something for Randy Orton.

The only real stinker on the Smackdown side of the shakeup is Big Cass. He did need the change of scenery coming off his injury and the disgraced exit of his former partner, Enzo, but no one needed Cass's first opponent back to be the newly cleared Bryan. Even if Cass is just a short detour on Bryan's path to demolishing The Miz, or even The Miz's new bodyguard, the better person for the part would have been Drew McIntyre. The former NXT Champion would have far better matches with Bryan, and after his career-reinventing work on the independent scene and NXT, he's earned the spotlight.

That McIntyre instead returned as bodyguard to Dolph Ziggler, a random lifeline to the stalest act in the company, almost suggests Raw went out of its way to botch this year's Superstar Shakeup.

But who cares? The next year of Smackdown is going to rule.

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.



I'm the features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com, and have been here since 2006. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.