Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow, Brian Damage & Russ Morgan
A follow on from last week in a way as we look at who is best placed to step up in the WWE. This started on Monday as a general discussion over the next top WWE star but by Thursday we learnt that Seth Rollins is out for 9 months. So, with John Cena, Brock Lesnar on limited dates and the likes of Kane, The Undertaker etc coming to the end of their runs, who is best placed to grab that much vaunted brass ring?
Craig: This makes sense as a perfect follow up to last week’s Sermon. Particularly if we believe that there are similarities between now and 1995, then we must also share the belief that the company needs to find that next superstar.
Now with Cena out, Lesnar and Del Rio on limited dates and the veterans mentioned in the intro working less and less and looking likely to hang up the boots, who is there to step up?
It’s a well trodden path but the WWE has undoubtedly caused much of this with the reliance on experienced hands rather than building up the next superstar. But with Randy Orton also out, the jury still out on Roman Reigns and with Dean Ambrose in possession of a loss to win ratio that would make some jobbers shudder, has the WWE backed itself into a corner and is all this its own doing?
Jamie: I feel like the ‘correct’ answer here is Roman Reigns. That is who WWE will go with, whether fans like it or not. In fairness, his recent efforts are garnering more appreciation. Not unlike John Cena, he is churning out good matches despite not having the audience’s full backing. As is, I don’t see him becoming that mainstream crossover mega star WWE is searching for, regardless of the push he receives. The jury is still out though. The Rock was in the same position in 1997. It’s amazing what a heel turn and some creative license can do…
Craig: You raise a valid point and it makes it even more baffling why Reigns still occupies the role of a baby face. Reigns has more in common with The Rock than just a bloodline. Mind you, what sort of an eye on the future does the WWE have? After all, the last two PPV opponents of Seth Rollins were Sting and Kane.
Jamie: You mention the Attitude Era. Dean Ambrose was once heralded as an Attitude Era throwback, but has since gone on to do little more than chum around with Roman Reigns. Like Reigns, in his current role I find Ambrose to be a forced babyface and he also looks restrained in terms of what he is and is not allowed to say.
Brian: The best part of the Attitude Era was the fact that nothing was forced….things just developed naturally and fans really appreciated that. What rule is there in wrestling booking that says there has to be a babyface and a heel? Roman Reigns needs to stop pandering to the crowd and just be himself. As for Dean Ambrose…I see a heel turn in his future.
Cesaro has been talked a lot on this blog and how much he is being wasted as a talent. I will continue to harp on this issue because it is still extremely valid. Cesaro needs a run in the main event picture. His personality has grown leaps and bounds since his debut a few years ago and continues to do things in the ring that I have never seen before. No offense against Stardust because I think they could have great matches…but feuding with Stardust at this point seems like a step back…not forward.
Craig: The problem with Dean Ambrose for me, and I really like Dean Ambrose, is that he loses far too many matches to be taken as a genuine star in the making. Yet despite that the fans are firmly behind him. Imagine what it’d be like if he went on a run of winning matches. I think there is certainly something there with Ambrose. I like the almost ‘loose canon’ aspect to him, I like his in-ring work and I like his laissez-faire attitude. I think the WWE could do something really good with him.
You mention Stardust. He’s an interesting one. Don’t get me wrong, his current gimmick is naff and I’m worried it’s not as short-lived as we’d first hoped now that he’s aligned with The Ascension. Could a Cody Rhodes be a genuine star or is he more likely to cook the cook treatment in a Book or Cook? piece on this blog?
Jamie: The fact that Cody Rhodes is now Stardust – and likely will be for some time – suggests to me that while WWE value him they clearly do not see him as a top guy, which is a shame. History tells us that WWE’s next big star is not going to someone like Cody Rhodes. It will be a guy comfortably taller than 6ft, between 250 and 280lbs, in great shape, capable of producing good matches, has not received inconsistent stop/start booking, charismatic as hell and from North America. Does anyone on the current WWE roster or in NXT match that criteria?
Brian: Baron Corbin down in NXT sure does fit that bill. There is no doubt the NXT roster is filled with young guys and girls capable of becoming big stars. Sadly, it isn’t up to them…it is up to Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn.
Cody Rhodes could easily be a main event star if given the chance….I really don’t think he has had one yet. Perhaps this feud with Cesaro will help…but I doubt it.
Jamie: Corbin is a good shout. Having seen him on Breaking Ground the other week I now look at him as someone who could do pretty well on the main roster. Character wise he reminds of Batista, and heel Batista was awesome.
It is a shame that I am now looking for guys who look the part, but that’s what WWE invariably do. Cody Rhodes is one of several guys on the roster who probably could do very well in featured bouts and main events, but that “brass ring” is just always outwith their reach. We all saw Kevin Owens tear the house down with John Cena over the summer, but for whatever reason he has been knocked down the card too – ironically to a level that would have suited him perfectly when he first debuted on the main roster. It’s sad to say, but if not for his physique I’d have Owens down as a can’t miss future megastar.
Russ: Kevin Owens can be the new Steve Austin if it is played correctly…
Brian: Kevin Owens can be a huge star with the WWE…let’s hope he continues to progress. Tyler Breeze will also be a big star for the company in my opinion. They picked the perfect first opponent for him in Dolph Ziggler who can get a great match out of just about anybody.
Craig: I think the key point of Russ’ contribution on Owens is “if it is played correctly.” The number of scripted promos directed towards him about his weight suggest a mindset amongst creative towards him that’s worrying when it comes to his chances of success, unfortunately. Which is a real shame as I like him, I like fact he looks different and I’m certainly a fan of his high impact style. I wish the WWE would look beyond a superstars’ aesthetic but we’re long since passed that happening, aren’t we?
Jamie: I’d say so. I love that Owens calls himself a ‘prize fighter’, but what is Roman Reigns? Bray Wyatt is a weird, mysterious – now magical – cult leader, but what is Randy Orton? Rusev is a hard-ass, Bulgarian playboy – despite being engaged – but what is Ryback?
WWE are shooting themselves in the foot by giving good gimmicks to guys they clearly don’t like the look of, and giving sweet f**k all to the guys Vince does have a hard on for. Why is Roman Reigns not some hard ass prize fighter? I’d be interested in him then.
Here’s a prediction; Apollo Crews in NXT looks the part and has a moveset to boot. I guarantee that when he makes his main roster debut he will be presented as a bland, generic, high fiving babyface with no depth. BANG! Right in the foot.
Craig: But with the news that Seth Rollins is likely to be out for as much as 9 months, and the WWE title to be competed over in a tournament, it’s now or never for some of the guys we’ve discussed. Right? Or is it obvious that Reigns will be the winner of this tournament?
Jamie: One would think Reigns would be the logical choice, but I honestly did not see him winning at Survivor Series anyway. I had my money on Dean Ambrose turning on him, or Sheamus getting inserted and doing the job for Rollins instead. Fans are beginning to warm to Reigns as someone chasing the title, so keep him chasing it until we actually want him to win it.
Having said that, who else is there? We’ve identified flaws – or what WWE might see as flaws – in damn near every potential contender. Assuming Lesnar does not enter and Cena is not back in time, then Reigns – who I personally don’t see as Champion material yet – is the closest thing WWE have at the moment.
Craig: One difficulty is not having Lesnar in the tournament – due to dates – and explaining why Cena isn’t there, due to his time off. In terms of who should be part of it, it’s got to be Sheamus, Reigns and Del Rio for starters in that tournament. Right? I’d lob in a curve-ball or two as well. Why not an Apollo Crews? Why not Big. E? This injury will push creative more than they’ve been pushed for a while but they have a bit of space to take a risk as well. The status quo isn’t an option any more, that’s for sure…
Jamie: I love that all I am reading online is how WWE are in a panic and trying to parachute old timers in to keep ratings afloat. Obviously that’s just rumour, but for once I wish they would just take the hit and make peace with the fact that they will just have to put more faith in the ‘new generation’.
With Cena off doing whatever he is doing WWE need a top babyface in the interim. With Rollins injured they also require a new top heel too. To cap things off, they also require a new champion. As we’ve discussed, it looks odds on that Roman Reigns will fill at least one of these roles. Here’s a thought though, what if he takes Rollin’s spot, and not Cena’s? A WWE Title tournament at Survivor Series is already starting to sound familiar, so why not go the whole hog and have babyface Reigns sell out to The Authority during the final match to capture the gold? His opponent – let’s say Dean Ambrose, but it could literally be anyone – would become a massive sympathetic figure (like Mankind) and Reigns would become a truly despised heel (like The Rock).
That would be the next two or three months of PPV main events sorted and two new performers catapulted into natural roles in the main event picture… rather than forced against the will of many fans, as I fear will actually happen. This could even allow Rollins to return as a babyface to capture the title he never lost.
Craig: I agree, it’s a chance for the WWE to be brave and launch a face of a new generation. If Seth Rollins’ return is done well – maybe a documentary showcasing his recovery – then he could return as a massively over babyface with a huge amount of sympathy combined with his in-ring excellence.
He’s suffered a lot from overexposure, as have many on the roster, but we’ll soon find out just how valuable he is to the WWE product.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.