The landscape of wrestling changes quickly. Since I started this piece over two months ago, several wrestlers “futures” have taken interesting turns. Some for the better (Dean Ambrose), and some not-so-much (Bo Dallas).
While I could, and likely should, rearrange my picks based on the landscape changes, I actually think the poll holds up a bit, even though some titles have changed hands, and some of the rest of this list have seen better (or worse days).
A couple of things to keep in mind.
1. This isn’t a list of YOUTH. While young wrestling are littered throughout, they don’t necessarily fill in the future just because they’re young.
2. This IS a list of wrestlers who haven’t been utilized to their potential in the past, and who COULD become extremely interesting with the right push, or a continued push.
There’s no tried-and-true set of rules for past titles or past main event runs. I’ve just taken into account wrestlers who have made a name for themselves, but have left something on the table, either because of the federations they’ve been in, or because they haven’t taken the next step themselves or both.
These are the up-and-comers, or the wrestlers in a holding pattern, who could become special should the opportunity present itself. This week we are looking at #8-#14, and while some of these guys will never find their way to the top…
#14: Bo Dallas–I absolutely Bo-lieve.
Is Bo Dallas a phenomenal wrestler?
Not necessarily. There are plenty of other better in-ring technicians.
Is Bo Dallas great on the microphone?
Not necessarily. There are other that are better at giving promos.
Is Bo Dallas in perfect shape?
Absolutely not, but I am pretty sick of smarks talking about his “pooch” gut.
When it comes to Bo Dallas, he is the epitome of a wrestler whose whole is greater than the sum of his parts. When his music begins to play, the crowd instantly pops, and while many are complaining about Bo Dallas being a heel or a face, get over it.
He’s playing his part, and playing it well.
Bo Dallas believes he’s a good guy.
That’s what makes this gimmick so special. Bo Dallas believes he’s a face, and he sells that part as well as anyone else in the WWE. He plays the same gimmick with face wrestlers, and he plays the same gimmick with heal wrestlers, but what I witnessed against R-Truth showed me the true development of his character, and it was brilliant.
The heel side came out, and he ruthlessly destroyed Truth after he lost his first match in less than a minute. Dallas came out and pointed to Truth’s losing ways. After a quick bout of offense, Bo celebrated, and was school-boyed by Truth for the big win.
Dallas appeared ready to congratulate Truth before absolutely decimating him, and his face sold it all. In the land of the no-sell, Dallas understands that selling is key. Later that week, Dallas was disqualified against Truth, and another tantrum ensued.
The 24-year-old has been high on the WWE’s radar for years, and like Bray Wyatt, is the son of Mike Rotunda and Stephanie Windham Rotunda, who is the sister of Barry Windham. He is a third generation wrestler, and has a supremely high ceiling.
His newest character seems to be cooking on a slow-burn, and where it comes out should be a lot of fun. He has the potential to be exactly the kind of heel that the WWE needs: one that slaps the fans that love the “cool heel” right in the face.
I’m not quite sure where Dallas stands as of this writing, as he seems to be bouncing in WWE purgatory right now, but his potential is there as he begins to mature.
I just hope they use it.
#13: Magnus–In the real world, Magnus should be much higher on this list. In the real world, Magnus would be a real World Champion. In the real world, there may not be many on this list that have the complete package and upside that Magnus has.
What is he?
First and foremost, he’s a beast of an athlete. He’s 27-years old, and at 6’3″ and 250 pounds of chiseled muscle, he looks every bit the part of a future champion. The fact that his only championship run was essentially a career-threatening toilet flush really says it all about the way TNA had been spiraling out of control.
Beyond that, this is a guy that works well in the ring, can actually talk well when given a chance (and isn’t scripted to say the ridiculous), can work both on the mat and through the air, and isn’t even close to reaching his potential.
The fact that TNA screwed up a heel turn that could have been something unbelievably special almost made me quit watching altogether.
What’s holding back Magnus the most right now is that he’s been knocked down several pegs by his horrible run as the ‘paper-champion.’ What’s ironic here is that they were seemingly building up a potential feud with one of his “underlings” in EC3.
It was truly the one saving grace of this whole run as a champ.
As it stands now, EC3 has blown so far past him at this point, that a feud between the two just wouldn’t ring true. It was a blown opportunity to have two of their biggest and most promising stars lead the “New TNA” into the future.
With TNA heading to a “second-rate” cable channel, and with the potential of losing millions of potential viewers, I really don’t see the same upside that I did 12 months ago. Still, the talent is there, and the look is there, he just needs the right push, and the right opportunity.
TNA seems to be booking better these days, and there IS some upswing.
His match-up with Bram isn’t anything special, but the style that it’s given him could be the direction he should have been going from the start.
I’m a big fan of Magnus as a bad-ass heel…
…you know…like he could have been as a champion.
#12: Cody Rhodes (Stardust)–I don’t know what to make of this character turn, I really don’t.
What Cody Rhodes had before he turned into Stardust, was a whole lotta star-power. I’m not saying he doesn’t now, but his traditional good looks, polished ability in the ring, and ability to transform into any character seemed to put the 29-year old on a path to the World Title. As a matter of fact, when Rhodes turned face for the first time in years last year after the McMahon’s fired him, his character couldn’t have been hotter.
As a matter of fact, the only hotter wrestler in the WWE at the time may have been Daniel Bryan.
Whether the Randy Orton protoge’ in The Legacy, or the Narcissistic “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, his performances often overshadowed whoever else was in the ring with him. While you could definitely make a case that he wasn’t ready for the top spot, you could equally make a case that Rhodes was closing in on a big push at the top of the roster, either as a heel or a face.
Then a funny thing happened.
He showed up as Stardust, and I honestly can’t make heads or tails of it.
It should stink.
It should be an idiotic gimmick,.
Still, Cody has done what he’s always done with any gimmick he’s ever had: he’s thrown every bit of himself into it.
His backstage interviews are simply bizarre. His shoot interviews are even MORE bizarre, as he weaves in and out of his real and fake selves with ease.
It’s uncomfortable. It’s funny. It’s engaging. It makes no sense.
It’s what makes Rhodes a star, and yet…
I have to wonder: Will Stardust ever be allowed to make a push for the top rung of the later? Will the WWE allow a gimmicky wrestler to go beyond every other? Rhodes has the talent. Stardust has the uniqueness, but is it good for business?
Seriously, what in the hell is the “cosmic key?” Does anyone know? The funny thing about it is…I WANT TO KNOW. Rhodes is that good.
What I can tell you about Stardust that I can’t about many other of the top names in the business today is that he’s interesting. He has flair. He can talk on the mic, even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense, and he can entertain.
In other words…
…he’s a star…
#11: Dolph Ziggler–I can get into all of the reasons that Dolph Ziggler hasn’t been pushed over the past couple of years, but none of them make a lick of sense. While Ziggler is the current intercontinental champion, he’s not exactly perched to become the next big thing. While I think a feud with Brock Lesnar would be interesting and new, I can safely say that Ziggler isn’t build up nearly enough for anyone to think he really would have shot to win the belt.
The funny thing is that he would be the perfect underdog to present the current champion with that type of challenge. If there’s one guy in the WWE who could sell losing to Lesnar the right way, it’s Ziggler, and imagine a run of two PPV’s between the two in which Ziggler nearly pulls off the impossible.
It would be tremendous.
Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen, and most that watch wrestling these days would never give it a chance.
Instead, he’s locked in a ping pong match with several others (Miz, Cesaro, Sheamus) with an IC Belt that feels about as important as a glass of water in the middle of a lake.
The pluses for Ziggler? He’s talented. He can take serious bumps, and he has a pace and demeanor in the ring that really is unique. He also has a nice blend of face/heel, and while I usually prefer a flat out good-or-bad guy, Ziggler is one of the few wrestlers who can walk the fine line of both if they’d let him. I just don’t think that the WWE and Vince McMahon have ever seen him as a legitimate threat as a champion, and just won’t book him in the right way.
This is a company that pushed Del Rio over Ziggler (concussion or not). While Del Rio can wrestler, there was never a moment that any sane wrestling fan thought, “Del Rio is going to be a star.”
So damn dumb.
Now, for over a year, Ziggler and all of his in-ring talent has been utilized to get other wrestlers over. Even now, in this “feud” with ‘the Miz,’ he’s clearly been a tool to get Mr. Money-Maker over. Yes, Ziggler has gotten a bit of a shine in all of this, but when he’s in a ring with Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus, where do you think he legitimately ranks among those three in the eyes of Vince McMahon?
I’ve listened to some folks who know a whole hell of a lot more about wrestling than me say that they firmly believe that the ultra-talented Ziggler will get his run because of his work ethic, he’s well-crafted style, his ability to take bumps, and his willingness to sell. In other words, he’s doing everything behind the scenes at this point in his career to get that push.
When you take into account all of the injuries to the top ‘faces’ in the company, now should be the time.
Will it be?
Doubtful, but the talent is there, and if Ziggler ever gets his chance and the right push, it could be glorious.
While I think he’s far superior to The Miz, I’m not sure the front office feels the same way.
#10: Bad News Barrett–I’m all in on the Wade Barrett phenomenon, but fully realize that there may not be too many more stops on the WWE train for the big brawler from Preston, Lancashire England. I’m not even sure I should include him on this list, but he won’t be the last member of the WWE roster that I mention on this list that is a questionable mention.
Talk about the untapped potential.
When he burst upon the scene in the WWE in June of 2010, Barrett had the look and the make-up of a future champion. His presence in the ring was undeniable, and as the leader of the Nexus, he was showcasing the type of skills that develop into main-event status.
His heel mic-skills back then were riveting, and while I certainly wouldn’t put him in with Chris Jericho, there really was a Triple H-like quality to his delivery. It was his first year in the big leagues.
The Nexus angle was brilliant for awhile, and Barrett was the main reason for it. He continually made John Cena his bitch, but ultimately, the WWE-machine used the Nexus as a vehicle to help create the Cena-Superman, and he never took the last step to greatness.
Somehow, the WWE saw Alberto Del Rio as a better heel at the time, and he got a push into Wrestlemania 27 against Edge. Imagine, for one moment, what would have happened had Wade Barrett been involved in that match with Edge. Imagine the promos, and then imagine the springboard.
Alberto Del Rio…bah.
Instead, the Nexus turned into a CM Punk vehicle, Barrett was pushed to Smackdown and the Corre, and Wrestlemania 27 turned into an eight-man tag in which the Corre lost to the Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella and Kofi Kingston. The Corre disbanded during a Barrett intercontinental run, and Barrett, who had spent part of 2010 gunning for the WWE title, had to start over once again.
His push didn’t stop there though. He had a victory over Daniel Bryan, and then a nice feud with Randy Orton, and according to most reports, was in line to become the Money In the Bank holder in 2011, when he broke his arm in a Battle Royal.
He had to start over again, and with a horrible gimmick as a bare knuckle brawler in 2012. Barrett turned into the Iron Mike Sharpe of 2012 and 2013, essentially jobbing to most everyone, and it looked as though his trip to the top was over. The good ole’ #BarrettBarrage. Yeah, it just doesn’t have the type of ring you’d want, does it.
Over the past several months, the best part of most shows was the #BadNewsBarrett. His mic skills were taken to a new level, showcasing a sardonic quality that would translate as both a heel and an face, as the fans were buying into everything. His 60-foot podium was hilarious, and Barrett was eating it all up and spitting it out.
When he won the Intercontinental Championship earlier in 2014 for the fourth time, it looked as though he was about to take that final step one more time. Unfortunately, once again, he was hurt heading into the Money in the Bank ladder match, and rumors were abound that he was going to be the winner. The shoulder injury required surgery, and he likely won’t return for a few more months.
He’s a big-man that has a very typical European flair, but has the type of agility that make you forget that he’s 6’7″ tall. While he can be an incredible heel, there is a face-side to him that is intriguing. When he returns from this injury, it could be an instant face turn for the former leader of the Nexus. While he may work better as a heel, his gimmick has taken an authentic face turn, as wrestling fans recognized Barrett’s natural ability in the ring, and out.
If he stays healthy, the sky is the limit…but that remains a question. With health, I’d have him top three on this list. Unfortunately, he’s not there yet.
#9: Cesaro–I love Cesaro.
I want him to be at #1.
If you listen to any wrestler in the WWE locker room, or talk to any independent wrestler that knows him, they’ll tell you something special about the guy, either in the ring or out of it.
His in ring ability truly reminds me of a Chris Benoit or a Dean Malenko, except he’s a whole lot bigger than either one of those guys. He’s an intensely smart human being, but on top of that, has a complete understanding of how to work a match, how not to typecast his abilities or his moves, and knows how to get a guy over, while getting himself over at the same time.
There aren’t many guys in the wrestling business these days that understand part of your job is to make the other guy look credible. Cesaro does that…always. His matches with Sami Zayn were nothing short of PPV-headline worthy, and it typifies what you see in the ring nightly.
His in-ring command is reminiscent of wrestling-days-gone-by, and if you blur your eyes a little bit, what you see on that mat is a guy that puts together matches a whole lot like Ric Flair and Harley Race. No, I’m not saying that as an all-around, complete-package wrestler, Cesaro is either of those two, but he is at least as good in the ring, if not better (yeah, I said it). Cesaro is far more athletic than both Flair and Race, and a whole lot stronger than either as well. For as talented as he is though, he’s never going to be a Ric Flair or Harley Race though.
Unfortunately for Cesaro, his mic skills aren’t all that great. He does have an interesting quality on the mic, and I suppose this is where I’m supposed to mention the fact that he can speak every major language known to man, but he really doesn’t inspire or do much of anything for me on the mic.
He became a real American, and Dutch Mantell really helped there. He moved to Paul Heyman, and he really helped as well. Now, with Brock Lesnar back, Cesaro is once again alone, in the upper-mid-card stratusphere where he seems destined to die without the proper push, or the proper mic-manager.
Pound-for-pound, Cesaro is the most talented wrestler on the WWE roster with his in-ring ability. His core strength is raved about. His technical talent in the ring is unmatched. His ring-generalship is something to behold.
Here’s my question though: Can his lack of mic skills allow him to become something special?
Watch any one of his matches with John Cena, including one early in 2014. Watch the Zayn match. Watch him against Daniel Bryan in a gauntlet match, or against Randy Orton.
They are all amazing matches…because he’s in them….
…but is it good enough?
I hope so, because the WWE needs a healthy dose of Antonio Cesaro. Give him a belt better than the U.S. Title, and do it soon, and just watch what happens.
#8: The Miz–People hate the Miz.
When you look at the layout of professional wrestling, there aren’t many people that would place The Miz at the top of their lists of heels or performers.
As a matter of fact, most people would point to his sidekick, Damien
Sandow Mizdow as the better in-and-out-of-ring performer. I couldn’t really argue that point, if I’m to be honest.
Unfortunately for SandMizdow, his ability to mimic and utilize humor with ease has turned him into a quasi-squash worker, who enhances those that are around him, rather than push himself. While I’d love to include SandMizdow in this poll, I can’t, for the simple reason that his “pushes” are always centered around something or someone else, whether it be a tag team with Cody Rhodes, the MITB briefcase, weekly getups, or now, Miz’s stunt double.
Which brings me back to the Miz.
He’s a former World Champion, even though most agree that he shouldn’t have had the belt for as long as he did. Most agree that he’s only getting his bumps because of his past experience on TV on MTV’s ‘The Real World,” and all the subsequent reality TV shows that he’s been on.
All of that’s true.
if you can get past the window dressing from the Smarky Audience that has painted Miz as a joke, what you find in Miz is a true, unlikable heel, and that’s something that is excessively rare in today’s professional wrestling product. Miz doesn’t try and act cool. He’s just a jerk, and he’s really good at it.
His newest persona as Hollywood star trying to protect his “Money-Maker” isn’t really original. You could argue that it isn’t really special. Somehow though, Miz brings an annoyance that supersedes that is unique in today’s product. People hate him because he’s from MTV. People hate him because he’s given unfair pushes.
People hate him, and he revels in it.
His new schtick with SanMizdow is fairly brilliant as a pair, and while I don’t see Miz getting a main event push any time soon, I wouldn’t count him out. The brass hasn’t given up on him because of his ability to work the social media, and his overall ability to perform in the ring, talk, and be a personality.
Vince McMahon loves personalities, and love him or hate him, Miz is exactly that.
If he were to get the right push, at the right moment, and against the right face, there’s a chance that he could be that rare top heel that everyone truly hates.
Next, I’ll take a look at the top seven wrestlers, who truly are ready to change the landscape of professionally wrestling today, and beyond.