Kudos if the past few days of professional wrestling haven't made you feel like the victim of one of Cesaro's giant swings.
Seriously, what a whirlwind. Just three days ago, Finn Balor, WWE's worshipped Demon King, left the Barclay's Center as the inaugural Universal champion in his first marquee event. Less than 24 hours later, he was forced to relinquish his belt after suffering a dislocated shoulder, an injury that could keep him sidelined for up to six months.
Certainly, it isn't the first time a champ has surrendered his title because of health setbacks (see: Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan), but the timing could not have been worse. Balor, NXT's most decorated titleholder, was to be Raw's centerpiece for years to come.
An abrupt, disappointing end to an exciting new storyline, yes, but it was far from the end of a series of events that left us feeling as lost as Heath Slater's contract. At SummerSlam, the U.S. Championship match between Roman Reigns and Rusev never officially started, and the brutal Brock-Lesnar-Randy Orton battle never really ended.
So it appears the top brass of the WWE need to scurry to find new feuds and new angles, particularly on Raw. There will be a new Universal champion crowned next Monday, but will this open up a path for more logical, fresh and fun bookings once the dominoes fall? It's hard to say at the moment. Just more than a month after the highly anticipated split-brand draft, some storylines have already become stilted. After a confounding conclusion to SummerSlam, a shakeup is in order.
That said, there are a few proposed Raw-SmackDown trades that could energize future plots.
Baron Corbin (Raw) for Kevin Owens (SmackDown)
Case for Corbin: He's 6-foot-8 with massive heel potential, but Corbin isn't quite ready to be thrust into the heavyweight/Universal matrix. What he needs is a legitimate beef against a sound star, someone other than the diminutive Kalisto, who promises to be as much of a threat to Corbin as Dean Ambrose's potted plant, Mitch. Seriously, can you picture Corbin clashing with Roman Reigns? Earlier in the year, Corbin and Dolph Ziggler engaged in a series of encounters, but the feud did little to propel the status of either. That would undoubtedly change with Reigns, the most polarizing figure in the business, in the picture. Down the road, how about Corbin and Braun Strowman mixing it up in a heated all-heel contest?
Case for Owens: Unless KO wins the Universal title Monday in Houston, he will once again be balancing on the precarious line between star and upper mid-carder. Make no mistake: Owens, arguably the best bad guy in the business, belongs in the inner sanctum of stars. The problem is he is going to take a backseat to Seth Rollins, Reigns and Balor on Raw. From the outset of his WWE career, Owens has had remarkable chemistry with almost everyone in the ring, starting with John Cena at Elimination Chamber (and subsequent pay-per-views) in 2015 and the continuation of his long-standing feud against Sami Zayn, which culminated with maybe the match of the year at Battleground last month. Owens' current teaming with Chris Jericho is fun, and there's some upside to their partnership, but KO is a singles star, a future champ who could re-establish SmackDown's pecking order.
Advantage: Push. The immediate returns suggest SmackDown gets the better of the trade with Owens, the more groomed in-ring performer, but Corbin is well on his way to becoming a bona fide behemoth.
Cesaro (Raw) for Kane (SmackDown)
Case for Cesaro: Since his return from shoulder surgery a day after Wrestlemania, Cesaro has been booked with little semblance of strategy to suggest he'll be a perennial top-tier star. True, he was given a new James Bond-style entrance and thrust into a No. 1 contender's Fatal 4-way match the first day he was back, but it's been largely downhill and uninspiring for him since. A best-of-seven battle against Sheamus? Eh. A best-of-one would have been more palatable. Cesaro himself -- perhaps staged but with more than a hint of truth -- expressed displeasure after being drafted to Raw. How fun would it be to see Cesaro feud with Bray Wyatt on SmackDown? Cesaro would also be a prime contender to takes Miz's intercontinental title, a championship he almost won at Payback and Extreme Rules earlier this year.
Case for Kane: It's hard to say how much in-ring exposure Kane will get at this point in his career. Any exposure he does garner likely will be relegated to "Director of Operations" work. But Kane, one of the cornerstones in the Attitude era, remains one of the most amusing personalities in the business. He worked brilliantly with Seth Rollins, and though we are a little hesitant to rehash familiar storylines, this dynamic worked. How about ... Coach Kane?
Advantage: SmackDown. Cesaro is younger and a largely unfulfilled talent. A weaker SmackDown roster gives him more opportunity to shine.
Sasha Banks (Raw) for Natalya & cash (SmackDown)
Case for Banks: With Raw acquiring the effervescent Bayley, the flagship show currently owns the top three women in the business, Charlotte, Banks and Bayley -- a glaring inequity. With Banks out of action for a month to heal an ailing back, Charlotte and Bayley will establish the most compelling women's rivalry in some time. That leaves Banks, whose reign as the women's champ lasted less than a month, disenfranchised. Although SmackDown has a plethora of solid women's performers, none rises to the level of Banks, who could easily contend for the show's impending women's championship. We could see Banks turning heel and setting up multi-PPV showdowns against Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella for SmackDown supremacy in the near future.
Case for Natalya: She has the pedigree and name recognition, but the fact remains that Natalya has failed to find a permanent identity. She has come oh-so-close to holding titles on NXT and WWE but has ultimately come up short. As a manager or tag-team partner, Natalya appears destined to be a lifelong sidekick, even when paired with her 59-year-old uncle, Bret Hart, as we saw at Payback earlier this year. Still, there's hope for Natalya to remain viable. Raw's women's roster is comparably weaker than SmackDown's once you get past Charlotte and Bayley (and for now, Banks), which would give Natalya more opportunity to shine as a mid-card fixture.
Advantage: Not even close. SmackDown wins by a landslide in landing Banks, which is why we offered cash in the transaction.
Neville (Raw) for The Vaudevillians (SmackDown)
Case for Neville: If defying gravity is his shtick, what better than to move Neville to a brand run by the daredevil himself, Shane-O-Mac? Despite his high-flying theatrics, there has to be concern that Neville will be consigned to a glorified jobber one of these days, given his trajectory on a bloated Raw roster. Wins over Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, riveting as they might be, won't do much to propel Neville out of mid-card purgatory. Let's be real: He's too good to be part of Raw's future cruiserweight division.
Case for The Vaudevillains: Similar to Neville, The Vaudevillains debuted in the WWE with a good deal of interest. Their throwback gimmick feels somewhere between spooky and kooky. But after vying for the tag-team titles, which culminated in a championship match earlier this year at Extreme Rules, the duo -- Aiden English and Simon Gotch -- has found it difficult connecting with the crowd. But making the move to Raw would open a path the Vaudevillains currently don't have on SmackDown, which has an overflow of tag teams. If anything, they could take the spot of the newly retired Dudley Boyz.
Advantage: Close call, but Raw would acquire a viable, talented team in The Vaudevillains worthy of an occasional tag-team title shot. As awesome as Neville's Red-Arrow finisher is, it's hard to imagine him as a legit top-level star.
Heath Slater for a box of Booty O's
Weirdly, Slater has had just about as many cheers as anyone on either roster, but there's some irony there, of course. Where will Slater land? That has been the No. 1 question since draft day. Whether WWE intended or not, Slater's promos on Raw and SmackDown have been outstanding. Who doesn't love a bleeding heart simply trying to feed his stable of kids? Could Slater just live in limbo for the remainder of his career?
As for Booty O's, they're delicious and nutritious. But here's the kicker: They aren't cheap. The lowest we've seen for one box is $12.99 -- and they're not even gluten-free. On Amazon Prime, you'd have to shell out upwards of $45. That probably isn't in Slater's budget until he signs that contract.
Advantage: Booty O's. It's all about the power of positivity.