My favorite part of RAW was not, as many of you might suspect, Seth Rollins vs. Neville. It was not the 6 man tag ‘main event’, nor was it even that awesome tag team skipping their way into our hearts.
No, my favorite part of RAW was just a single moment, seeing Cesaro, Miz and Kevin Owens in the ring together. Just the sight of those three in directors’ chairs made me ridiculously happy - Those are some of my absolute favorite talents in WWE right now.
Which, of course, got me thinking.
What followed was about 30 minutes of conversing, debating and arguing. . . All taking place within my own head, and it resulted in this list you see before you. In a very Bill Simmons type of way, I’ve also created tiers for my list.
Note: I mainly included active talents, although some guys with minor injuries made my list. I also didn’t include female talents or non-wrestlers, both of which could be a part of a future column.
I hope you will enjoy it, but as Victor Borge so eloquently stated, if you don’t, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
I find very little to be redeeming about Ryback, and I feel badly about that. He’s neither safe nor very talented in the ring, his character needs a whole lot of work, and the worst part about it is that he seems like a nice guy with a sense of humor. Why isn’t Ryback more like Ryan Reeves?
I hate to be harsh, but right now I find him to be a waste of a roster spot and of a title that, right now, means almost as little as the NXT Tag belts.
(If you had to rank the titles in order of importance, wouldn’t it be WWE Title, US belt, NXT Women’s belt [thanks to Sasha et al], tag belts, NXT title, Divas title and then, somewhere at the bottom, Ryback and BAMF’s belts?)
39. The Ascension
Every so often, I go back and read my very early work, in which Konnor and Viktor sit atop my NXT top ten for quite a long period of time. I want to go back in time, to show my younger (albeit by 8-9 months) self what has happened to these two - How completely useless they both are.
How many NXT tag teams would I rather have in The Ascension’s spot? That would be all of them, including a tandem like Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins, who are really just enhancement talent at this point.
If I had to pick one tag member over the other, it’d be Viktor, just because he looks like Christopher Daniels.
Mental Note - Column on wrestler look-alikes
38. Sin Cara
I was honestly shocked to learn that Sin Cara, aka Hunico, is 37 years old. I give him a lot of credit for moving around the ring the way he does at that “advanced” age, yet it also explains why he screws things up so often.
I get it, we needed Sin Cara to be paired with Kalisto to make the transition to the main roster, but he’s here now. The only thing Kalisto is doing being paired with Sin Cara is wasting time. If WWE insists on keeping Sin Cara around, fine! Make him Kalisto’s manager for a few months, as he starts his singles run. Then he can turn heel on Kalisto, take the mask off, join up with two other masked guys who will appear later in the column, and have a story that actually matters.
(Did I mention that this early part of the column is sponsored by #HeelDC? Well, it is.)
37. Heath Slater
I’ll get some brushback on this one, because a lot of people like Heath Slater and think there’s a role for him somewhere in WWE. That may be true, but it’s certainly not as a wrestler. Heath so infrequently appears on WWE television that it’s not even exciting when he does show up. Again, he’s just there to fill the 3 hours of Monday Night television, and we don’t need that.
36. Mark Henry
The saddest part of Henry’s match with Rusev was that I really liked what they did with his entrance - letting Mark fill the camera with his size, focusing on the “WSM” of his singlet. Maybe that’s something they’ve done for years, but it’s the first time I noticed it, and I was a big fan.
Henry is approaching his 20th year in WWE, and unless you’re either a part-time Phenom or a genetic wonder like Goldust, there’s no business still being a wrestler after that amount of time.
Despite his hilarious and creative renaissance in 2015, Ron Killings is another talent who has passed his ‘time’. He’s 43 years old, and he could have done exactly the same things he’s been doing on the microphone while not taking part in the in-ring action, had he been a manager or other on-screen personality.
We’ve lost Santino, and I’m sad about that, but until he returns, why not R-Truth for GM of RAW?
34. Big Show
Of those in this category, Big Show is my favorite, and it’s not just because of his increased efforts in the ring, though those are, by me anyway, well documented.
No, Big Show gets such a “lofty” position because the post-wrestling place for him is so perfect, I’m surprised WWE hasn’t acted on it by now.
Make him an announcer. Let him take Byron Saxton’s place, who currently isn’t doing much of anything for the betterment of WWE commentary. Let Michael Cole call the match, which he’s proven he still remembers how to do, and let JBL and Big Show tell the stories around him.
If that doesn’t work, and I can imagine Paul Wight might not want to do all this traveling just for an announcer gig, then put him in NXT! He lives in Florida anyways, if I remember right, so move Corey Graves to the main roster (long overdue) and have Big Show join. . . . Whomever else NXT uses as commentary. Heck, let Big Show call it himself?
How hilarious would it have been if Kevin Owens came out to join the announce team, tried starting stuff with Big Show, who just glared at him, then Owens starting picking on Saxton instead?
33. Curtis Axel
I’m not sure if it was a one-time thing, an act of Photoshop hijinks, or a quick idea that got even more rapidly squashed that resulted in that picture floating around of Axel in jorts (jean-shorts, for those playing at home), but obviously WWE has nothing for young Mister Hennig right now.
That’s probably for the best, as would be releasing Axel, and every other name on this tier of the list. Axel could find himself work right now - As I’ve written about before (though I’m glad Cesaro didn’t read it), it’s a REALLY good time to be a free agent wrestler. Lucha Underground, Global Force, Japan, there’s definitely work to be had.
Axel is probably more like Ted Dibiase Jr (Is he even still wrestling? Note: No, he’s not, he’s involved in random businesses you’ve never heard of) than David Hart Smith (currently a tag team champion in Japan with the former Lance / Vance Archer / Hoyt), but whatever he finds, it’ll be better than what he’s doing in WWE.
32. Zack Ryder
This is the one I could be wrong on. Scary as it might be, Hype Bros might get a somewhat legitimate shot as a tag team, both in NXT and in WWE. Plus, he’s not getting TOTALLY run over in his last few RAW appearances, so perhaps he might be salvageable.
Still, there’s no argument in my mind that Ryder could do far better for himself on the indie circuit, and I hope he finds his way there in some form or fashion soon.
31. Dolph Ziggler
We’re getting to the tricky parts now - Where I actually start to like the people on the list. Actually, I like most of the talents on the WWE roster, but now we’re getting into the ones I am “fans” of.
I enjoy Ziggler’s ring work, although he’s far better as a heel, and am looking forward to his in-ring return, but let’s face it - Dolph is a main event talent in pretty much any other promotion he goes to, and he’s a mid-card stalwart if he stays in WWE.
Truthfully, I imagine he’s out of wrestling altogether in the next 2-3 years, hosting a podcast, doing standup, maybe even dating a Kardashian.
30. King BOOOOOOOM
Alas, poor Barrett. . . We knew him, NAIborhood, a fellow of infinite potential, of most excellent physique. At some point, we’re going to learn about the egregious act he committed against Clan McMahon that caused him to be booked as he has been these last years.
Until then, much like Ziggler, Wade could be battling Prince Puma or . . . who is going to be the ‘main event’ talent in GFW, anyway?. . . but instead will continue to be Ruler and King of the Jobbers.
Whoa, the fallen Corre.
29. Jack Swagger
Absence has made my heart grow fonder for Mr. Swagger - I know that if he was on my TV more often, he’d plummet down this list. Just looking at him for an extended period of time makes me want to punch him right in his dopey face.
And that’s what bugs me the most - He is the personification of every 80’s college movie villain - How did WWE not take advantage of that? Where was his Chris Nowinski style letter jacket? The Real American schtick was good, it’s true, but you had a golden opportunity, WWE, and you BLEW IT!
Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger . . . Geez, take EVERY guy from this tier of my list, put them in a “Cocky Jock” stable (Hey, if Submission Sorority can get through Standards and Practices, so can my idea) and let them have some fun. Spirit Squad meets Mean Street Posse meets Varsity Club.
Good God, that’s a fun idea. I can’t even write any more, I’m too excited about that. We’ll have to make this a 2 parter and cover the remaining talents tomorrow.
Until then, BE HEARD!
Full disclosure - I'm not even an hour through Monday Night RAW yet. Having stayed up until 11:00 (#NAIdraft 2.0), though, I am well aware of what is to come. Car doors flying (and hitting children, apparently), Titus being ace on commentary, a main even match that should cause me to lose my mind. I'm excited for all of that, and I encourage any of you Hall of Famers out there to share your own RAW responses here on NAI.
But today, I want to talk about the IC title picture. . . In a complimentary way.
Based on the Twittering I was seeing last night, I expected this match to be a train wreck, a travesty, a complete and utter waste of time. That wasn't what I got, though.
On Twitter, I called it "great", and while fellow NAIbor Chris (@ChrisToTheW) reminded me to put the segment in context, it still was very good. Now, I have no love for Ryback, I've made that abundantly clear. I also feel that Big Show needs to transition to an announcer role, pronto.
As for The Miz. . . Well, you know how I feel about him. He has been on a role as of late, and this spot on the roster is the perfect chance for him to get over, while getting booed. He's no longer getting "X-Pac heat", as most call it. People are actually enjoying the over the top ridiculousness that is Mike Mizanin right now - He truly is becoming the guy we love to hate.
Like one would expect, his work during this segment was great, if a little too enthusiastic, if you catch my meaning. I loved having him on commentary, distracting both talents in the ring, though I think we can all agree that the best Miz work of the night was done after the match, trying to find his way out of the ring, stuck between the irresistible force and the immovable object. From a purely physical standpoint, Miz has no business being in the ring with either Big Show or Ryback, which is going to make it even sweeter when he wins the IC title.
(Yes, that's my prediction, and I'm sticking with it. Either the Ryback experiment is done or he'll be a legit, size wise, challenger to Brock's WHC.)
It wasn't just Miz that made that match, though. We all anticipated that.
I don't think any of us counted on Ryback and Big Show being that decent in the ring.
Again, I won't say they were "good", even. That might be a stretch. However, they were serviceable. Ryback did the best he could fighting a 500 pound giant, breaking out his top rope splash once more, which I have to say, is impressive.
Big Show, however, struck me as the "star". He's taking lessons from John Cena, dusting off some older favorites (He should be using the Haas of Pain during every match, IMO) and breaking out new ones, like the powerbomb faceplant and the second rope elbowdrop. You had to take notice of that.
Sure, Big Show's time has come and gone, but I give him a lot of credit for still trying to improve in the ring. It can't be easy to be a 43 year old giant. Any effort he puts in, in my mind, is appreciated.
Long story short, folks, let's #PromotePositivity. We all might have better ideas of how to use the IC title, there's no question. But for what we've been given, that segment was pretty darn watchable. Take off the bias blinders and watch it again. You'll see what I mean.
What do YOU think? Be Heard.
As just about everyone who reads this column knows, I'm in the midst of trying to watch every NWA / WCW PPV (and Clash of Champions) on WWE Network. It's an arduous task, especially when you consider that the talents and matches at some of these points, and I apologize to the uber-fans like my dear friend Magnum here, just weren't very good!
For me, though, its not really about the matches. It's about the characters, particularly the lesser known / mildly terrible ones.
I mean, come on, I'm the guy who spent 10+ minutes discussing New Day on NAIpod this week! I've always been drawn to the undercard when it comes to professional wrestling, and boy, does late 80's and early 90's WCW have an undercard!
Rather than do a traditional DC Diaries this week, I thought I'd instead introduce many of you to a cast of characters that, in many ways, defy descriptions. The following are NWA and WCW talents that, in my opinion, you should know.
(Honestly, I'm only writing this column for one specific reason. You'll see what it is at the end. Trust me, its worth the wait.)
Yes, I know what you're thinking and Yes, you're absolutely right - That's a guy in a YELLOW Spider-Man costume. Meet Arachnaman, and if you think this is WAY more "gimmick infringement" than a Springboard Stunner, you're not alone. This character was very short-lived as Marvel Comics, the owners of the real, red Spider-Man, weren't so friendly when WCW tried stepping into Peter Parker's neighborhood.
Arachnaman is just one of many gimmicks given to fantastically underrated wrestler and almost certainly a future Throwback Thursday all his own, Brad Armstrong, the late son of Bullet Bob and brother to Scott, Steve and the Road Dogg himself, Brian James. As I said, I'll likely go into greater detail on the career of Brad Armstrong in a future column, or perhaps someone who is more familiar with the Armstrong legacy will do so.
Magnum, Keith, I'm looking at you two.
The uber-gimmicks of the WWF are well documented - the trash man, the dentist, the escaped convict. One thing that, if memory serves, they never did was have a wrestling fireman, and that is probably only because WCW did it first.
Behold, Firebreaker Chip, seen here with his tag team partner Todd Champion. There's not much to tell about his gimmick - Chip was a fireman, teaming with soldier Champion as "The Patriots", part of WCW's "Special Forces". Chip wasn't half bad in the ring, though outside of holding the United States tag titles (yes, friends, there was a time where tag divisions were so big they needed 2 sets of straps), he didn't do much.
Fun fact from the research - Before becoming a firebreaker, Curtis Thompson's previous gimmick was the "US Male", a wrestling postman. Look it up, I'm not kidding.
Kids, gather round, I have some shocking news. There was a time, boys and girls, before every person in the world owned 3-5 computers, the majority of which fit in the palm of your hand. In fact, in the early 90's, the personal computer was more science fiction than reality.
This enabled WCW to create a gimmick where, by using the power of the computer, a group of wrestlers could gain an advantage over the competition, and the York Foundation was born, so named because of its leader, manager Alexandra York.
Sharp-eyed fans will recognize Miss York as Terri Runnels, ex-wife of Goldust and formerly Marlena and then Terri, manager in the WWF/E. Oh, and in case you're wondering, that giant monstrosity that she's holding happens to be what a computer looked like back then. Weird, right?
Quick aside to tell the Terri Runnels story, though you could go to Wikipedia like I did to get more details. Terri was a makeup artist working for CNN (helping keep Larry King looking like he was 90, not 900). She also did make-up for pro wrestling in her spare time until she was finally asked to be an on-air talent.
The first wrestler to join Miss York was Michael Wallstreet, otherwise known as Mike Rotunda, yet another talent whom I shall need to devote an entire Throwback Thursday. Before long, Rotunda was off to join the Internal Revenue Service in WWF, so the Foundation expanded.
At its peak, the York Foundation was home to Terry Taylor, Tommy Rich and Ricky Morton, three talented guys with no chance of a singles push on their own. Apparently the first thing the computer suggested they do was go by their full names, so we now had Terrence, Thomas and Richard. The York Foundation was just a blip in the radar for all three men, finding their biggest success and notoriety (Can you say Red Rooster?) elsewhere.
WCW embraced the cultural and musical changes of the era, creating both a rapper (PN News) and a heavy metal talent, in this case one Van Hammer (sometimes even called Heavy Metal Van Hammer, for reasons that completely elude me).
I have no desire to talk to you about Van Hammer. Truthfully, I don't. He was agile for a big man but a pretty lousy wrestler, and the less said about his career, most likely the better.
I bring this name up for one reason and one reason only, and friends, this is why I've dragged you all here.
I warn you. . . What is about to be seen cannot be unseen.
Spooky, isn't it?
It's like that Old West picture of a guy who looks exactly. . . EXACTLY. . .like Nicholas Cage. If you told me that this was the same guy, cursed with immortality, who just kept trying to make it as a pro wrestler? I'd almost believe you.
Seriously, if you take Ryback, give him Dolph Ziggler style hair, and put a guitar in his hand?
Yes, this is why I wrote an entire column about WCW wrestlers from the early 90's. JUST so I could put those two pictures someplace other than Twitter. . . And my nightmares.
What do YOU think? Favorite gimmicks from the early 90's? Think I'm totally wrong on the Van Hammer / Ryback thing? (Hint: I'm not.) Be Heard.
If you were to take 100 average WWE fans and ask them about Hell in a Cell, the vast majority of them would immediately talk about Foley’s brush with death during his seminal Cell match with Undertaker. Some might also mention the bloodbath that was Michaels vs. HHH, back in the day.
Last year’s CM Punk vs. Ryback match is likely not going to be on the top of many wrestling fan’s minds when HIAC is brought up, and after watching it last night, I can totally understand why. It was a boring, boring match. No blood. Very few high spots, save for Punk’s beatdown of Heyman after defeating Ryback and some quite creative suplexes Mr. “Feed Me More” gave to the future GFW World Champion...
See what I did there? Got your attention, didn’t I?
So what was wrong with that match? The story was there, both competitors certainly did their part to try to make it as exciting as possible. Yet, something still was missing.
I couldn’t figure it out, then all of a sudden, it hit me.
Hell in a Cell matches don’t really work in the PG era.
Now, I have never claimed to be an expert in recent WWE. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to make sure people know that up until July or so, I wasn’t really watching very regularly at all. So perhaps there are some Cell matches of the last few years that were absolute slobberknockers, in which case I’ll gladly admit to being wrong.
But it seems to be that Hell in a Cell is a match that NEEDS to be bloody. There needs to be gratuitous violence in these types of bouts, otherwise what’s the giant metal thing for? When I watched that Cell match last night, I knew nobody was going to go flying off of the top (especially Heyman, who practically super glued himself to that support structure). I knew there wouldn’t be a ‘scarlet mask’, unless it was a complete accident. That’s not what the PG era is all about.
Ever since Night of Champions (and actually, well before that), people have been debating on Twitter what is going to happen with this month’s Hell in a Cell event. Would it be Lesnar vs. Cena III? Ambrose / Rollins? Most people, in fact, assumed both matches would take place inside the Cell, and couldn’t believe that I disagreed with that idea. Why wouldn’t I want to see 2 Cell matches?
Because this is the PG era, that’s why. There are only so many ways to use a giant metal cage if you’re not able to bleed or be overly violent. Nobody is going to rub their opponent’s face into the cell, there won’t be any chairshots to the head and I doubt anyone is even going to ascend the structure, unless they’re posing at the end of the night.
In an age where WWE feels they need to apologize for Big Show pulling down a Russian flag (onto the mat, mind you, technically not the ground. Can the American flag in my classroom not touch a desk?), you can bet your bottom dollar there won’t be anything over the top at Hell in a Cell, so why do I want to see 2 of those matches?
Too much of anything is no good, as anyone who has been in an elementary school can tell you. Survivor Series changed because people were bored of too many elimination tag matches, and King of the Ring disappeared, I think, because people couldn’t attend long enough to appreciate a singles’ tournament. WWE fans demand variety in their matches, and seeing 2 Cell matches, no matter who the wrestlers involved are, wasn’t going to work when nobody can bleed or do the creatively violent things necessary to make a Cell match truly exciting.
Honestly, if WWE insists on staying PG (which I’m not sure they will, at least not for much longer), they should get rid of HIAC altogether. PPV’s built around a gimmick are always strained, since you’re building a feud (or two) around what PPV is next instead of vice versa.
For this month, we need to see a Fatal 4 Way in the Cell. Cena, Ambrose, Rollins and Orton. There’s enough interwoven stories there to justify it and having multiple men inside the structure for a single match will, in my mind, make it easier to pop the crowd.
Your thoughts? Can Cell matches work PG? What do you want to see at HIAC?