On Monday night, the WWE will begin the annual superstar shakeup following WrestleMania with performers making the move from Raw to Smackdown Live and vice versa.
This year’s Superstar Shakeup also comes with a little extra scrutiny because this will be the last major move for performers ahead of the upcoming shift as Smackdown Live goes from USA Network to FOX later this year.
Now the new Smackdown Live won’t debut on FOX until October but there are already huge plans in motion for the launch including a new weekly ‘magazine’ style show that will feature interviews, behind the scenes footage and coverage of WWE similar to other major sports that broadcast on FOX.
While Monday Night Raw has remained the featured show for the WWE over the years, the $2 billion deal to bring Smackdown Live to FOX will almost certainly change the way the Superstar Shakeup will work this year.
FOX is a bigger platform than USA Network because it’s network television versus cable so no matter what else happens with this Superstar Shakeup, that has to be noted before the first ‘trades’ are announced on RAW on Monday night.
Triple H (Paul Levesque) previously addressed the move for Smackdown Live to FOX and the shift in how that show will be handled going forward.
“There are contractual obligations to provide that level of exposure for us and all that other programming, but [FOX] have already gone above and beyond that and that’s part of the partnership,” he told the Sports Business Journal just after WrestleMania 35.
“Fundamentally as a company, we constantly reimagine ourselves so we are deep in the process now of, when we get to October on Fox, what is the reimagined version of SmackDown going to be?”
Because FOX will be available to more viewers along with the initiative to help launch WWE programming on the network in October, that would seem to indicate that the Superstar Shakeup will bring more of the biggest stars to the blue brand.
One name in particular that would seem obvious for the move would be former Raw women’s champion Ronda Rousey, who was a staple on FOX programming when she was the women’s bantamweight champion in the UFC.
FOX executives know the kind of ratings that Rousey can bring in and even if she’s only a part time employee going forward, there’s little doubt that she would get a lot of attention performing on network television. Obviously there are still a ton of rumors swirling about Rousey’s future with WWE after her most recent match at WrestleMania, but if she’s coming back, it would seem like a safe bet that FOX would like to see her on Smackdown Live.
It’s also possible a couple of other top stars such as Roman Reigns or even Brock Lesnar (assuming he’s returning to WWE) end up on Smackdown Live.
The key for the move to FOX is getting people to tune in week to week but also providing the kind of star power that will get more casual viewers to make Smackdown Live must see TV right at the launch.
While Smackdown Live has produced numerous compelling storylines over the past few years including the rise of Becky Lynch’s stardom as well as the recent promotion behind Kofi Kingston, the blue brand has never completely escaped being the ‘B’ show behind the ‘A’ brand’ at Raw.
That could all change with the upcoming shift for Smackdown Live to FOX because that network didn’t shell out a lot of money to land WWE programming only to get table scraps when it comes to the superstars performing on the show.
It’s also worth mentioning that while FOX will definitely get a lot of attention with this Superstar Shakeup, WWE can’t forget about their longtime television partners at USA Network either, who are still footing a hefty bill to keep Monday Night Raw.
While every year provides a few interesting storylines, the 2019 Superstar Shakeup might be one of the biggest to keep an eye on with the massive shift about to happen to WWE television programming later this year.