WWE's Superstar Shake-up saw several stars from SmackDown Live move over to Monday Night Raw, including The Miz and Bray Wyatt. Their departure from the blue brand, along with AJ Styles recently turning babyface, will allow Baron Corbin to solidify his spot as the show's next great heel.
Since Corbin arrived on the WWE scene at WrestleMania 32 and won the third annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, it has been fairly evident that he had a bright future ahead of him. It was equally obvious that officials recognized his potential to one day be a big star given his grand debut.
Prior to being called up to the main roster, Corbin had been a dominant force throughout his NXT tenure. His extended stay down in developmental saw him evolve from an unknown up-and-comer to one of the brand's best bad guys.
Although he never once held gold in NXT, he was the type of character who didn't need a championship in order to be relevant. His entertaining programs with Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews and Austin Aries helped him build experience and prepare him for what was to come on the main stage.
In his nine months as a member of the SmackDown roster, he has beaten almost everyone he has gone up against and came close to capturing the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 33. Now, he has his sights set on a more prestigious prize in the form of the WWE title.
Clearly, Kevin Owens can be a main event-level heel on SmackDown eventually, but in being the reigning United States champion, it will be some time before he is contending for the WWE Championship and headlining pay-per-views.
Thus, Corbin would have been a logical opponent for Randy Orton at next month's Backlash pay-per-view event, but that coveted spot was instead awarded to Jinder Mahal. It was a creative decision that surprised many fans, but that only further proves Corbin is viewed as a long-term project by management.
Rushing him into the WWE title picture could hinder his momentum, whereas there is a decent chance Mahal will be a filler feud for Orton and won't be involved in high-profile programs beyond Backlash. This is the time for Corbin to continue making progress and face other established stars, such as Sami Zayn.
Those two briefly did battle in the Triple Threat match that took place on the April 11 edition of SmackDown. Their respective styles meshed well together, so it's safe to say they would have tremendous in-ring chemistry as opponents.
Another individual Corbin can feud with in the future is Styles, who is fresh off a face turn and will be gunning for the United States Championship at Backlash. They collided in the main event of Tuesday's SmackDown Live and produced a solid match, with Corbin's count-out loss indicating officials intend to protect him as much as possible.
As noted, Corbin isn't quite ready to receive a prominent push at this point, but he possesses all the tools necessary to fill the void Wyatt and Miz left behind on SmackDown. Similar to Raw's Braun Strowman, he is rarely beaten in decisive fashion and can be the monster heel the blue brand desperately needs at the moment.
Although there will be those who argue that Corbin could use a mouthpiece, his Talking Smack appearances have shown he is entirely capable of speaking for himself when he isn't overly scripted. His apathetic attitude rings true to who he actually is in reality, and those tend to be the greatest characters.
He may not be the flashiest wrestler between the ropes, but what's important is that he is aware of his strengths as well as his weaknesses as a competitor. As a result, he jells with essentially everyone he steps in the ring with and can always be counted on for a competent performance.
With Money in the Bank being exclusive to SmackDown this summer, Corbin must be considered a strong candidate to capture the contract. If he is successful in his pursuit of the opportunistic briefcase, The Lone Wolf wearing world title gold might be only inevitable.
As the "land of opportunity," SmackDown Live is without a doubt the perfect place for Corbin to come into his own as a top-tier talent and eventually emerge as the blue brand's lead heel.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a digital journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.