Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow, Craig Wilson and Benjamin Trecroci
Ah, a Top Five. We haven’t seen one of you guys in a little while. What better way to bring it back and at the start of a new year then looking at wrestlers who we hope see have a sharp change in fortunes over the next 12 months.
5. Hideo Itami
I know he just started out on the main roster a few weeks ago, but could Hideo Itami have any more bad luck since he has been with WWE? From all the injuries that plagued him in NXT and the accidental stiff knee on the GTS to Brian Kendrick, Itami can’t seem to catch a break. Relegating him to the cruiserweight division also seems counterproductive and seemingly limits him. Itami definitely could use a change in fortunes.
4. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
This is a tag team that ran roughshod over all the competition in New Japan. In WWE, they were former Raw tag team champions, but it was less than a memorable run. They need to be pushed harder and more efficiently. Anderson and Gallows just seem like filler now on the Raw roster. Having them team with former Bullet Club leader Finn Balor was a step in the right direction though.
Depending on what you read and believe, it has been reported that WWE management has “given up” on pushing Bayley. If so, this would be a pretty bad decision. First off, nobody should ever be given up on. Secondly, Bayley is a tremendous worker and has a great personality and if marketed properly could still be a pretty big deal in the women’s division.
2. Apollo Crews
Apollo was rushed up to the main roster way too soon and it hurt him. There was no proper build up for him and with his lack of natural charisma, Crews needed to be built up as some kind of force to be witnessed. Teaming him with the much more charismatic Titus O’Neill was a step in the right direction but Apollo is still missing something. Maybe a heelish character would do the trick? Apollo may not be a main event talent, but WWE needs to really work on getting him at least to mid-card respectability.
1. Tyler Breeze
I have already said this about Tyler Breeze during our “Not the Slammy awards” but Tyler Breeze has the potential to be a pretty big star in WWE if given the opportunity. Right now, in my opinion, he is being totally wasted as a part of the Breezango team. Breeze has the charisma, superb in-ring ability and a great look to really go far in WWE.
5. Finn Balor
I don’t follow the main roster WWE stuff much these days, but I do try to keep my ear to the street. His interactions with former Bullet Club members aside, ‘the street’ never usually has much to say about Balor. I’ve never found him to be a particularly engaging babyface so I say turn him heel. That’s how he rose to international prominence as the leader of the Bullet Club in NJPW in the first place. Either turn him heel or we’ll see him grow really stale over 2018.
4. Sasha Banks
Pretty much exactly what I said about Finn Balor. WWE has so many stale, dull babyfaces that only remain as such due to merchandise sales and marketing opportunities. Sasha Banks initially got over as an arrogant heel in NXT, she calls herself ‘The Boss’ for fuck sake! Like Balor, I wouldn’t say she is a victim of bad fortune more bad booking. Either way, she could do with a change.
3. Hideo Itami
It’s a little too easy to forget that this is Japanese superstar KENTA we’re talking about. Such has been his luck with injuries that his first home on the WWE main roster is 205 Live – if that’s even the main roster?! With all due respect to the WWE’s cruiserweight division, Itami should really be above this show. I’d say let’s hope he has a great year in the ring, but realistically I’m just hoping he doesn’t sustain any more injuries.
2. Tommaso Ciampa
I’m convinced that once he returns from injury he will have a big year in NXT, but how’s your luck when you turn heel on your long-time tag partner in a red-hot angle only to injure yourself in the process? Thankfully, this is one of those feuds that can be picked up exactly where it left off. With Gargano getting a title shot against Almas at the next Takeover, it seems written in the stars that Ciampa will show up and cost Johnny the match.
NXT’s ‘Top Guys’ made quite an impact in their debut after WrestleMania 33. The next couple of months were also promising – as far as tag teams go in WWE – but an injury to Dawson put an immediate halt to a blossoming feud with The Hardys. They have recently returned to TV so let’s hope they can do on Raw in 2018 what they did in NXT in 2016.
5. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
I’ve really not understood the complete misuse of this tag team since they joined. Brian may be on to something about it being a good thing they’ve been stuck together with Finn Balor but I have worries over the longevity of it all as it merely seems like ‘look there are some guys doing nothing, let’s club (pun unintended) them together’. Hopefully, I’m wrong and this, at least short-term, allows the powers that be to see Gallows and Anderson, and Balor, as the talents they are. But I remain unconvinced.
4. Heath Slater
The guy has kids, why isn’t he getting the push he needs? In all seriousness, Slater is a talented worker who the crowd likes. Also, he’s done virtually all that’s been asked of him in recent years. He was the fall guy during the build to Raw 1000 and I thought him and Rhyno were a hugely entertaining tandem and tag team champions. Yet, here we are, and he’s fallen back down to being a glorified jobber again and that’s a real shame.
3. Tyler Breeze & Fandango
Fashion Files has been excellent. The whole Breezango thing has created some of the best WWE Smackdown TV in a long time. However, both acts deserve something more solid. It’s crazy to think a few years ago Fandango was beating Chris Jericho at WrestleMania while Breeze was handpicked to take on Jushin Liger. It seemed the world was at their feet. I hope that this year sees both go on to become the top-level acts they can be.
2. Sasha Banks
The Boss certainly hasn’t really bossed it in recent months, has she? Hugely charismatic, solid in the ring and easily able to make a connection with the fanbase, it’s puzzling why she has had so many stop-start pushes on the main roster. Curious to see how she does in the women’s Rumble, but I’d be staggered if she won it. Still, she has everything needed to be a top star, right?
1. The Revival
I’m with Jamie on this one. These guys were one of my favourite acts on NXT and I was stoked when they debuted. They’ve just had the worst luck imaginable. There’s no doubt that they are a strong act and hopefully we’ve seen the last of the injury niggles that have prevented us from really seeing their full potential since they stepped up onto the main roster.
Can you imagine if Goldust was given this Kane push? Can’t imagine many people would push back against Goldust the way Kane is in 2018. Would really like to see him get one final run but as the nasty over-sexualized, weird, creepy Goldust that made him the breakthrough character, he was in 1996. Not too into funny, coach Goldy. He still can go in the ring and with Cody Rhodes getting all the attention in NJPW, this would be the perfect time for Dustin.
Quick tell me the last time you thought about the Women’s MITB briefcase? This also seems like something that they did but didn’t write the finale to. Honestly am not sure if they know when or how who they have her cash in on. Who would’ve thought that she needed Ellsworth? Now she’s sort of this reincarnated Welcoming Committee. To be honest, she looks kinda bored. Her best option at this point is to join her boy Big Cass, but he’s on Raw but would be a great addition to Smackdown
3. TJ Perkins
Honestly forgot about him. Would like to see what he could do outside of the 205 Live scene. They have to be high on him for winning the Cruiserweight Classic, he had the Cruiserweight title but now he’s just kinda there. Could see TJP in a feud for the IC title or even find a partner and get involved in the sparse tag scene on Raw. 205 either needs to step it up or let those guys free to pursue other avenues in WWE, NXT, etc.
2. The Revival
Raw has about 2.5 tag teams on their roster so now that these Top Guys are healthy there is no reason they aren’t in a feud for the tag straps. Do we really need to see The Bar vs. Seth Rollins and (insert name) for that tag titles for the next four months? It’s too bad that the entire tag division isn’t on Smackdown and say the women were all on Raw but I’m not holding the pencil…
1. Tyler Breeze
Tyler and Fandango really had something really going with “Fashion Files.” However, it seemed like revealing of “To Be” was a rib with no end in site and now they both have suffered from it. Tyler Breeze has shown he has all the tools to be a top star. Fans are drawn to him in not only the NXT but on the main roster. Sadly, however, he’s seen as a comedy act and sometimes that is the kiss of death. Since it doesn’t look Breezango is going anywhere, really hoping he breaks free of Fandango and is able to shine once again.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.