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10 Biggest Winners From The 2017 WWE Superstar Shake-Up

Who benefitted the most from a move last year?

It's Superstar Shake-Up time in WWE where the deadwood from one brand seek brighter prospects on the other, and a couple of big names who are tearing it up right now are moved to the other side of the divide in the hope some of their HOT STREAK rubs off on their new colleagues.

In this era of separate brands, this is a week that is absolutely necessary to keep things fresh - unless of course WWE did what they did last year and drafted long-time rivals Dean Ambrose and The Miz over to Raw to continue a feud we'd all seen enough of... Let's hope they don't do that.

I've got to be honest, I set out on this article thinking I'd have plenty to write about a catalogue of Superstars who have seen their stock rise BARE amounts over the past 12 months. In reality, those who shifted brands last year, on the whole, haven't really enjoyed the most fruitful of times compared to their runs on their respective old shows. Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Kalisto, Heath Slater & Rhyno, Byron Saxton, Primo & Epico, Tamina, Sin Cara and Lana - all people who haven't made the list btw - were the ones on the move last year and... yeah... they haven't really done anything, have they?

We're all about celebrating all that's good from the world of professional wrestling, so let's take a look at 10 Superstars who have benefitted the most from last year's draft.

10. Curt Hawkins


WWE


After weeks of vignettes and horrible Chuck Norris-like facts about him, Curt Hawkins' return to WWE and arrival on SmackDown Live went absolutely nowhere.

I imagine you're probably sat there now saying 'Ross, his move to Raw has seen nothing change! Whatcha talkin' about, sucka?'

Well, I've seen your concerns coming a mile off.

When you ask yourself what the longest-running storyline in WWE is today, you'll be shocked to learn that - now Asuka's streak is over - it's Curt Hawkins' losing streak. I know. Big news.

I concede that it feels like we never see Curt on Raw, and when we do he's not getting an entrance and losing match after match in less than a couple of minutes, but believe it or not this represents an upturn in the former Edgehead's fortunes.

He's gone from not being used at all, to sort of being used and garnering the kind of cult following his good pal Zack Ryder has enjoyed since around 2011. It looks like Hawkins is booked for just about every Raw live event, and what's more, he even has his own t-shirt that real-life human beings have bought with their own money.

You're probably sitting there thinking it would be horrible to be Curt Hawkins, but he's actually got it pretty sweet right now - he's benefitted from the Superstar Shake-Up so much! He's gone from nothing to being something.


9. Rusev


WWE


My heart is still bleeding after last week's revelations, but without the Superstar Shake-Up, we might have never learned about the phenomenon that is Rusev Day.

Rusev would never have met Aiden. Rusev would never have defeated Randy Orton in less time Vince McMahon takes to shine his Bulgarian shovel for burying Bulgarians. Ivan Totev, Mayor of Plovdiv, would never have been on SmackDown Live to present him with the key to the city. Presumably, Rusev would have presumably remained the stereotypical foreign heel on Raw, failing to get out of the way of Roman Reigns' Spears even though he watched THE BIG DOG run at him from all of 30 yards...

Let's forget the fact that WWE just forgot the ultimatum the Bulgarian Brute gave Shane McMahon where he demanded a WWE Championship match at Money In The Bank and never got it with no explanation. Let's forget about WWE not giving us the best WrestleMania moment of all time by having him win the United States Championship when the time was so obviously right. Let's forget about Rusev having a dream Casket Match against The Undertaker being taken away from him for an unknown reason.

Rusev has ascended like the eagle's nest to become the most over thing in WWE today. He was the owner of the top-selling item of merch earlier this year. EVERYONE LOVES RUSEV DAY, and that's a beautiful thing.

For all the bad that has happened to my bae and spirit animal over the past 12 months, his journey to the most popular act in WWE - the only act capable of getting Chicago to forget about CM Punk over Christmas time, no less - is a wonderful happening that simply wouldn't have happened without the Superstar Shake-Up.

It's a shame they don't let the bloke run with the momentum he's built over the last few months. I just don't get it.

8. Apollo Crews


WWE


Apollo Crews has been on WWE's main roster since the Raw after WrestleMania 32 - I know, where have these last couple of years gone?

After being drafted to SmackDown as part of the 2016 Superstar Shake-Up, nothing really happened for Apollo. It was clear for all to see the company was extremely high on the guy - how could they not be with a physique and moveset like his. But his severe lack of charisma and mic skills shone through like the sun at the start of Telebubbies - Apollo smiles just about as much as that thing too!

Upon being drafted back to Raw last year, Titus O'Neil liked what he saw from Apollo and tried to recruit him for The Titus Brand - which he eventually would, but once again, this new alliance wouldn't get the former NXT standout any further than the PPV pre-shows.

However, the pair, now known as Titus Worldwide thanks to the signing of Akira Tozawa who has since disappeared off the face of the planet, started to gain traction in the Raw tag team ranks. After defeating champions The Bar on Raw, Titus Worldwide challenged for the titles at Elimination Chamber. They would lose of course, but at least they were in that position to begin with, right?

So after joining Raw as a Superstar with plentiful skills and ability but not much else, Apollo now has a clear gimmick, a purpose, and has been challenging for titles. Granted, things have stopped since WOOOORLDWIIIIIIIDE lost a 2 Out Of 3 Falls rematch against Cesaro and Sheamus on Raw the night after their EC loss, but it still represents a huge leap forward for Crews in terms of his main roster career to date.

7. Mickie James


WWE


She might be a massive hypocrite these days - don't worry, Nia. I've got your back m8 - but Mickie James has benefitted from a move to Raw.

James has come a hell of a long way since re-debuting as La Luchadora on SmackDown Live at the start of last year. She's gone from being somewhat of a joke that nobody took seriously, to an integral part of WWE's weekly marquee show. Not bad going when you think about it...

Every single time Alexa Bliss is on television so is Mickie James. And since Alexa Bliss has been Raw Women's Champion for much of the last year, she's been on television more than any other women on the red brand's roster - apart from Mickie James that is, who has been with her most of the way

I know. I would have liked it explained why James aligned with Alexa in the first place too but we can't have everything...

Now some of you out there will be questioning why I believe a bonafide sidekick has benefitted from last year's Superstar Shake-Up. I'll do a Coachman here and come back at you with one word, bro - exposure. I'm sure that even Mickie herself wouldn't have believed she would be atop the Raw Women's Division like she is today when the shake-up initially took place. She plays a very crucial role in one of the company's biggest and most popular Superstar's gimmicks today. Mickie James plays a role more important than you might think...


6. David Otunga


WWE


Remember the days when David Otunga was fresh off an uninspiring run as SmackDown Live's babyface commentator, all set for his new role on Raw? Before that could really get going, he'd be off for around six weeks to shoot a movie with Booker T keeping his seat warm. That went well for Dave, didn't it? He lost his job, winding up back where he started on PPV kick-off shows.

I really think this was for the best, though...

Let's be blunt and all kinds of honest here, David Otunga was horrible in his role as a commentator. Being one of three voices heard for at least three hours each week exposed him terribly. It wasn't nice on the ears at all. Getting him off commentary not only did the broadcast all kinds of good, it also prevented him from making a fool of himself and showing just how far he was out of his depth.

I felt really harsh while typing that last paragraph, but you and I know it's bloody true. Getting Otunga out of there was best of all parties.

5. Kevin Owens


WWE


Kevin Owens was a Universal Champion during his time on Raw, but even though he hasn't captured the WWE Championship yet, I believe his time on SmackDown Live has confirmed how highly he is thought of behind the scenes in WWE. What he's done on Tuesday nights hasn't been done by too many other Superstars before him.

While winning championships probably means more to casual fans of WWE, you and I both know that KO's interactions with both Shane and Vince McMahon are worth a hell of a lot more. When all is said and done, Vince McMahon doesn't let just any old Superstar headbutt him right between the eyes. That moment means more than any championship win ever could. That shows the boss, the literal God of professional wrestling, wanted to help Kev's cause by putting him over, brother. McMahon is on team Kevin Owens and that's really bloody rare when you look at the list of pretenders to true Superstardom in WWE.

At the end of his career, MARKS, MASSIVE MARKS will judge Kevin Owens' career on the number of championships he's won. We, however, know that with moments like that image above, and Hell In A Cell bouts with Shane to boot, mean The Prizefighter has already enjoyed a far more special career than most to ever lace up a pair of those fabled boots.

4. Alexa Bliss


WWE


No matter what they tell you, we all know that when it comes to WWE's weekly shows it's all about Monday Night Raw. Raw is the marquee show. Raw is Vince McMahon's baby. If you're in WWE, you want to be on Raw.

Alexa Bliss was tearing up all kinds of trees on SmackDown Live which is an almighty achievement in and of itself. However, and this might just be me and my warped perspective of WWE, her carrying that good work over to Monday nights is all the more impressive than reaching those levels in the first place.

She's the Pep Guardiola of WWE. While the brand new Premier League winning manager did the business for both SmackDown and Raw, she did fantastic work for Barcelona and carried that on into Bayern Munich. Hang on...

It's a saying that's applicable to many different things in life, with the position on a WWE card being one of them. It's one thing making it to the dance, but it's another staying at the dance - Alexa has managed that with aplomb over the last 12 months.

The doubters - if there were any - have been silenced.


3. Charlotte Flair


WWE


I might as well copy what I've written for Alexa Bliss and paste it into this entry, but add a star or something else suitably shiny just to show Charlotte has had a slightly better year than the Raw Women's Champ. Like Alexa Bliss, Charlotte has been on a journey of true Superstardom affirmation over the past 12 months - and she defeated Asuka which is where the shiny star would come in... that's a match The Queen will be able to dine out on for the rest of her days, by the way. It's potentially the biggest result of the year and we're only in April.

Her run on SmackDown Live might have only picked up since capturing the Women's Championship from Natalya in November, but since then - and despite appearing on what many still see as the 'B show' - she has cemented her place as The Woman in WWE, much like her dad was The Man beforehand.

Charlotte is the face of women's wrestling in WWE today and will be until somebody else reaches her level. That somebody might just be Ronda Rousey, with a huge WrestleMania 35 match seemingly in the pipeline.

Sorry Lana, but over the last 12 months Charlotte has become the absolute best; Charlotte number one (clap clap)

2. Sami Zayn


WWE


I think we were all in agreement that Sami Zayn should have done more during his time on Monday Night Raw. He was a bit part player who was clearly more talented than just about all of the prime time players on the red brand - not Titus and Darren, the people featured heavily on the show.

The move to SmackDown Live was necessary and was begged for by large chunks of the WWE Universe. This was the move that was supposed to see Sami reach his potential and capture the hearts and minds of main roster fans just like he'd done as part of NXT.

Instead, Sami made the move, flirted with the WWE Championship picture, and then lost to Mike Kanellis and Aiden English. Great.

Then the alliance with Kevin Owens came about and Sami's placing on the card went up more vertically than a helicopter taking off - it's late in the day over here in England, can you tell?

Interactions with McMahons, long talking segments normally reserved for the people that matter on SmackDown Live, main events, and a match on the WrestleMania 34 card followed. It might have been a route that none of us predicted, but Sami Zayn got to the top of the SmackDown Live card eventually. The cream always rises as they say...

And who would have thought Sami would be reaching these heights as a heel?! Not me, for one...

1. Jinder Mahal


WWE


Re-signed by WWE after two years away > Jobber > Short-lived alliance with Rusev > Traded to SmackDown Live > Unexpected win in a number one contender's Six-Pack Challenge > Crowned WWE Champion at Backlash 2017 > Loses WWE Championship in England last November > Crowned United States Champion at WrestleMania 34.

If anybody claims they saw any of that coming they're a massive liar. Good on Jinder for coming such a long way in such a short space of time but F**K YOU FOR RUINING RUSEV DAY AT 'MANIA YOU NUMPTY!

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Ross Tweddell

Written by Ross Tweddell

Editor-in-chief of Cultaholic.com and presenter on the Cultaholic Wrestling YouTube channel. Email: [email protected]