Raw vs. SmackDown: Which Brand Won the 2019 WWE Superstar Shake-Up?
Back when Raw and SmackDown general managers were feuding, the annual Superstar Shake-up felt like the brands were in direct competition to make theirs the best.
However, since the McMahon family started running things together, there's no longer any logical reason why both shows don't have the most balanced lineup of wrestlers to present the best possible programming each week.
Of course, there will always be arguments among fans over which is the "A-show," and events like this amplify those discussions.
Now the 2019 Superstar Shake-up is supposedly over—there are still some lingering questions—let's assess the new rosters and decide whether Raw or SmackDown came out looking better after the trades.
Full List of Roster Moves
For reference, here is a breakdown of all the Superstars who moved to a different brand as of Tuesday evening:
New to Raw
- AJ Styles
- Aleister Black
- Cedric Alexander
- Eric Young
- Erik and Ivar (The Viking Experience)
- Jey and Jimmy Uso (The Usos)
- Lacey Evans
- Rey Mysterio
- The Miz
- Zelina Vega
New to SmackDown Live
- Apollo Crews
- Buddy Murphy
- Chad Gable
- Ember Moon
- Finn Balor
- Kairi Sane
- Lars Sullivan
- Liv Morgan
- Mickie James
- Otis and Tucker (Heavy Machinery)
- Roman Reigns
It's important to note WWE can always randomly announce more trades on social media over the course of the next week or so, as well as backtrack and switch people around on a whim whenever deemed necessary.
More moves, if they come, may adjust the rosters further, and some of these trades can be nullified at any point.
Comparing the Women's Divisions
With The IIconics and Becky Lynch holding the titles, the female talent on Raw and SmackDown are in an odd set of circumstances where there will be more crossover than ever before during this current iteration of the brand split.
Still, the rosters must have enough power to sustain storylines for house shows, television episodes and the eventual scenario when Lynch drops one of her two belts.
At face value, SmackDown has the more stable lineup. On the babyface side are Asuka, Bayley, Carmella, Ember Moon and Kairi Sane—an abundance of talent with the promise of some interesting and fresh matches to come.
As far as heels go, Charlotte Flair, Lana, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville and Mickie James can certainly hold their own.
Liv Morgan is an unknown, as her split from The Riott Squad could lead to a face turn somewhere down the line. She'll be low on both totem poles at first, but she has a chance to grow into something more.
On Raw, there are far too many variables that make it a weaker group, at least until some questions are answered.
What will WWE do with Sarah Logan? Will she and Ruby Riott continue to team together, or will Logan be paired with The Viking Experience? Is there a face turn in the future for either one?
Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax are both out with injuries, Alicia Fox hasn't been seen in months and Sasha Banks may leave WWE. Those four being off the table puts a huge dent in the roster.
Lacey Evans seems poised to step into the top heel spot, but Zelina Vega may be the sleeper pick for Raw's women's division. She has significant untapped potential and could easily steal the show.
Meanwhile, Alexa Bliss seemed to tease a face turn during her interactions with Sami Zayn this week. If so, she would shoot straight past Naomi and Natalya as the pre-eminent babyface on the brand.
Dana Brooke will probably remain a utility player who can move back and forth when need be, but she has more momentum right now as a face than she has in a long while, so WWE might want to capitalize on that.
Generally speaking, it's easier to trust SmackDown's stability than Raw's shaky foundation, no matter how much promise there is for Monday nights.
Winner: SmackDown Live
Comparing the Tag Team Divisions
While Raw is missing key players in the women's division, its tag team section is much healthier than SmackDown's. There are still some hiccups on the red brand that should be addressed, though.
Fandango is still injured, leaving The Fashion Police a defunct team, but they might pick up where they left off once he returns.
Likewise, Akam is still injured. Once he's ready, though, AOP will surely become a dominating force in the division and could be set for some great matches against The Revival, The Viking Experience, Aleister Black and Ricochet, and The Usos.
That is a strong group without even mentioning the current tag team champions, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder or The Lucha House Party.
Really, the only teams not pulling their weight are Heath Slater and Rhyno, The Singh Brothers, The Ascension and The B-Team, but every division needs jobbers and that is the role those four play.
Meanwhile, on SmackDown, The Colons and The Good Brothers are nonentities who are so inactive they might as well not even be in WWE anymore. Hopefully, the company will do something with them, but they don't count until that happens.
That leaves the lackluster makeshift team of Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura, The Bar, The Hardy Boyz, Heavy Machinery and The New Day as the only teams currently on the blue brand.
Technically, The New Day is out for a while: Big E is injured, and Kofi Kingston will be busy with the WWE Championship.
It will be strange to depend on Otis and Tucker as legitimate anchors of the tag team side of SmackDown—the responsibility will fall on them by default, particularly if The Hardy Boyz aren't able to keep up the pace further down the line.
SmackDown desperately needs another team or two to help carry the load, as The Hardy Boyz will burn through The Bar in no time and be left with few options for the rest of the year.
Comparing the Men's Singles Divisions
The hardest aspect to judge every year is the largest grouping, which is all the male talent who compete in singles competition, as there are far too many twists and turns that can throw things off-balance.
For instance, a few heel or face turns can tip the scales toward not enough options for feuds or too many people vying for the same title.
Injuries cannot be accounted for in advance and have major implications, too.
Even someone like Brock Lesnar has to be viewed through the right scope. On paper, he seems like a huge deal, but if he only makes a handful of appearances over the next 12 months, does he really matter?
It can even be argued he's a detriment to Raw because if he ever does his disappearing act after winning a title yet again, the red brand will be left without a world championship.
Luckily, both Raw and SmackDown seem to have a nice balance going with the main event, midcard and jobber levels, as well as heels and faces.
On Raw, the hierarchy of babyfaces will consist of Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, The Miz and Rey Mysterio at the top, with Aleister Black, Ricochet and Cedric Alexander just underneath and enhancement talent like No Way Jose and Titus O'Neil.
It's disappointing the same three top heels are still there in Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Baron Corbin, but at least they'll have some new people to feud with and will be joined by Andrade and Sami Zayn to spice things up, as well as possibly Bobby Roode, EC3 and Bray Wyatt.
SmackDown will depend on Kofi Kingston, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens and Finn Balor as its top faces, with Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Lars Sullivan and Samoa Joe as the primary villains.
Ali, Apollo Crews, Buddy Murphy, Chad Gable and Elias stand out as the main midcarders, with others like R-Truth and Shelton Benjamin game to contribute.
By the skin of its teeth, Raw wins this comparison due to having an extra hour to showcase all these Superstars, which will ensure everyone has ample time. SmackDown still may run into a problem of not having room to let people flourish.
With all things considered, this was one of the more balanced roster shifts WWE has done in a long while.
Whether that was planned or a result of having so many talented Superstars to begin with may never be known, but all that matters is the end result.
Both brands have their flaws and problems that need to be addressed, but they also have major upsides and a ton of potential for great things to look forward to. It all depends on WWE's creative direction and the execution of that plan.
Ultimately, despite the SmackDown women's division being much healthier, the tag team division looks very weak and the extra hour on Monday nights gives Raw the slight edge for coming out of this year's Superstar Shake-up on better terms.
Here's hoping WWE now has the proper rosters in place to maximize all five hours of programming each week to make these two shows as entertaining as possible.
Which show are you most excited to see with these new rosters? Do you think SmackDown made out better overall than Raw? Tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.