Over the last few weeks, RAW ratings have been. . . Slipping is probably too casual of a word. . .Plummeting might be too harsh. . .Let's settle on declining, and its causing panic within WWE and questions and debate outside of Titan Tower. The Twittersphere has been abuzz with potential problems and supposed solutions, and one of the most common ones is the idea that there just aren't enough "top stars" for WWE to build stories and content around.
This led to questioning the NAIborhood, asking them to pick 6 stars that they'd center their booking around for the next 4-6 years. Since I always try to answer the questions I ask, I'm here to offer my own "A-Team".
Since it was my question, I can tweak it, so I decided to come up with a Top Ten. Unlike my usual lists, I'm actually going to rank them from top down, instead of building to number 1, and since I'm already working backwards, might as well put my overall thoughts and conclusions first.
Completely unsurprisingly, I went ahead and chose 10 guys (I limited myself to male talents, which was the original premise of the question I posed) with what I consider superior wrestling chops, assuming that the rest would take care of itself. Probably a bold assumption on my part, as prior history shows (Hello Dean Malenko) that in-ring ability doesn't equal commercial success.
Having said that, I think all of these talents would and could succeed if creative and management bought into them and was willing to work to create compelling stories and aspects to their characters. Since the question put me in charge of WWE, I can guarantee that would happen.
Dean Ambrose, while he might have the potential to be the most captivating character in the company, doesn't have the ring work to back it up, which to me is a problem. If this wasn't the PG era, I'd probably have included him in my list, as an "extreme" heel Ambrose would be must-see TV.
John Cena probably should be on this list. In the next 4-6 years, he's going to be a major presence, and having him as a cornerstone of the company allows for other stars to become bigger because of him. Having said that, it really wasn't in the spirit of the question to include him. Sorry, John.
Apollo Crews was a popular choice by most of the NAIborhood participants, but he was never really an option for me. I'm still not sold on him as a wrestler. He's got some skills, no denying it, but I haven't seen him wrestle someone on his level, and that to me is a big thing. Anyone can have a good squash match (well, that's not true, but let's go with it), but Crews vs. Breeze will go a long way of getting me on the Crews Ship for good.
Crews Ship? Why isn't NXT running with this?
New Day could be the biggest thing to come out of WWE (besides maybe The Shield) in this decade, but since they are at their best solely as a combination of parts, it wouldn't make sense to include them. Sure, I could have bent the rules, but I already expanded my list to ten. I didn't want the hate mail.
Roman Reigns not being on this list proves that I did want at least a fair amount of hate mail, as I'm sure many people will be very put out he didn't make the cut. Look, he's good, and he's getting better, but he is only ever going to be "OK" as a professional wrestler if he keeps relying on a stupid punch and an overplayed spear.
Bring it on, people. I, like Roman Reigns should, will #EmbraceTheHate.
No question on this one, Seth Rollins is the best wrestler in either WWE or NXT and will likely remain so for at least the next decade. He wrestled two matches at Night of Champions and looked. . . tired. Not exhausted, not wiped out, not "blown up", just tired. Like he just completed a moderate Crossfit workout.
He's going to be the biggest babyface WWE has had since vintage Cena in the next 12 months. Count on it. #PreDCtion
There's a sizable gap between Rollins and the rest of the field, but Kevin Owens could make some headway catching up in the next 6 months, depending on how this IC run is booked.
Owens has supreme skills for a wrestler of any size, and the fact that he's not quite #BullFit only makes it all the more impressive. A heel Owens and a face Rollins could main event MULTIPLE Wrestlemanias.
Owens is like Peter Pan. He can fight, he can fly, and he can crow. No wonder he was a consensus NAIDraft Top 3 pick.
While already 34, Cesaro (and the wrestler that's next on this list) has the physical abilities and body type to wrestling well into his 40's, so I'm not worried about age. Cesaro does things in the ring that I've never seen before on a regular basis, and that's ALWAYS going to make somebody special in my eyes.
I get the reasons he's not main eventing right now, but remember - in this hypothetical, I'M in charge, so Cesaro can be as Swiss as he wants to be, just as long as he lets me put all the money he makes me in one of his countries' lovely bank accounts.
Doc Manson and I have both gone on record during the NAIborhood Podcast in saying that we're not huge Balor fans. The character needs work and I'm sick to death of the double stomp as a rule, but I've never denied he's a top shelf wrestling talent, and that's what matters. We can tweak the Demon if we need to, or, as I really want to do, we scrap is completely and let Balor be Balor.
Sami Zayn is only at this position (and possibly only on this list) because of the feud potential with Kevin Owens. If I'm starting a wrestling promotion from the ground up and can cherry-pick talents from anywhere, Owens and Zayn are probably the first two guys I pick. Even above Rollins. Both are excellent wrestlers and their chemistry together is just perfect. I can build stories around their on-again off-again friendship for years.
This is probably my #PieInSpace pick - the one that's way out there and probably will come back to bite me in the end. Luke Harper is already 35 and unlike Cesaro or Balor, doesn't necessarily have the body type that can last into his 40's (although with that tank top on, maybe he does and I just don't know it).
I'm picking Harper because he is the best 'big man' (only 6'5") I've seen in ages. He's super athletic, he can fly (and I don't even think we've seen his best aerial stuff yet) and he can brawl. Any promotion I am in charge of has Harper as a main event talent, beard or no beard.
Actually, I've seen pictures of him without the facial hair - He needs the beard.
For those who don't know, I'm working on a long term project where I have pseudo-Fantasy Booked (some realism included) from Night Of Champions (my predictions, not the actual results) to Wrestlemania 32. In my work, Kalisto goes from a tag team to a mid-card singles star, and if I expanded further (which would be a nightmare, don't make me do it), he's probably a main eventer.
A lot of people compare him to Rey Mysterio, and that's fair, except he's probably more athletic than Mysterio was in his prime. I think Kalisto could be bigger than Rey. #PreDCtion
There's something about Bray Wyatt's ring style that makes me completely and utterly happy. Maybe its the way that he often just throws his sizable frame at people. Maybe its because a lot of his moves look like car crashes, but unlike Foley's, hopefully won't shorten the length of time where he's able to walk well.
Bray is 28 (younger than everyone on this list but Kalisto) and a complete blue chip talent, in my book. Bray vs. Rollins or Wyatt vs. Owens could last years and I'd love every second of it.
Neville was someone I debated for a while. I love his in-ring work, even if its a bit formulaic at times, but I did have to spend a bit more time weighing that against his character / gimmick deficits than I did with the other guys on this list.
I'd have to go back and explore Neville's minor heel stint in NXT, where he was a little more arrogant and a little less. . . Dopey might be the right word. That's a character I could work with.
The damage might be irreparable in the real world of WWE, but I'm still a big Rusev supporter. I'm a sucker, wrestling wise, for guys who I think look like me, size wise, yet can move around. Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Boss Man, Amish Roadkill, Bray Wyatt, Rusev.
Put him back with Lana, drop the nationalist gimmick and just let him fight. #FreeRusev
That's it. Ten talents who can have amazing matches night in and night out, even if I'm the only one watching them.
What do YOU think? Who would you build around, and more importantly, why? #BeHeard