I am here to bring you this week's installment of the Roster Rundown. It's a different kind of recap that focuses on the individual performers and how well they performed on a show-by-show basis, rather than looking at specific events or matches.
This week I'm trying another change of format, on two counts. One, I'm giving a look back at the whole week rather than show-by-show, partly because I'm now adding in NXT and Superstars to the assessment.
However, at the same time, I'm dropping Raw. The simple fact is, the A Show is focused more on promos and filled with established wrestlers that don't really need an evaluation—everyone knows how they feel about the top dogs. Instead, I'm taking a primary look at the mid-carders and below, who most sometimes overlook.
Still, each wrestler will be graded in four categories. In-Ring is simply that—their in-ring ability, though more than the others, it's graded slightly on a curve.
Well, the Big Show is never going to technically out-wrestle someone like Daniel Bryan; that much is obvious. But he can still wrestle a good big-man match and look good in the ring without being maybe as athletically impressive or as technically sound as a smaller wrestler of a different style.
There's also charisma, which describes their ability to connect with the audience and non-verbal acting such as posture and facial expressions.
Mic work is both the quality of their promo delivery—and to an extent—the content, though I realize often that's scripted and not their fault. Finally, their gimmick, which is how much of a character they are and how well they live it on a weekly basis.
They'll be graded from "A" to "F", with "A" being excellent, "B" good, "C" average, "D" poor and "F" terrible. I confess to being a fan first, so it's possible that sometimes my own opinions will bleed through, but I maintain an effort to be objective.
As always, opinions vary, and you are always entitled to disagree with me and let me know why in the comments. I live for discussion.
That said, let's see this week's Roster Rundown.
It’s hard to tell whether it’s an intrinsic quality of charisma that gets Alex Riley a pop as he walks to the ring, or his phenomenal entrance music. I want him on TV more just for that. I won’t lie. In the ring itself, he got a few good pops on his big moves, so it seems that the crowd connects to him in some degree.
I liked him better as the arrogant jerk jock; I think his look naturally suits the gimmick, but people seem to rally behind him so he could, perhaps, make a good midcard babyface.
I remember the crowd definitely being behind him against the Miz nearly a year ago now. It’s a shame that push fizzled, but I think he could bring it back in due time.
As for ring work: serviceable, not outstanding. He’s young and he’s growing, and I think he handles himself out there well.
Though he came in off the hot tag and thus was actually in the match for the shortest amount of time of anyone, Percy managed to show the most personality and make the biggest impression on me.
He is a high-energy and larger-than-life personality. That much is clear, and I think it’s going to take him places, especially coupled with a solid amount of athleticism. It’s a shame he took the loss of any of the four, but he made a big splash while he could.
His main problem, as all four of the guys in the opening tag team, is a lack of a solid character. However, I think he’s taking the most strides to at least make an impression with the time he has, and he gets credit for that.
So, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve watched NXT, so clearly I’m missing something, but wasn’t Titus a top babyface?
Wasn’t he involved in a near-blood feud with Darren Young? Why are they a tag team? And why are they talking about the heels being rewarded for outstanding acts of charity on commentary?
It’s a great cognitive disconnect and it’s hard to figure out what they’re doing with him, and why, and the crowd shows little response because of it.
That said, he’s a not-bad big man who was, like a lot of heel big men in WWE, forced to play evasive heel and thus not bring his actual strengths to the forefront. I’m assuming there are actual strengths, I honestly can’t remember his ring work prior to this, I just can’t see any here.
As far as his promo goes, all I can say is...ehh. He fumbled on the mic, his delivery was lacking, and he just didn’t seem comfortable in the role at all. Maybe that’s something that will be fixed with more time, but it doesn’t put me in great anticipation of where his career is going to go, if I’m honest.
Mic Work: C-
Honestly, bland is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Darren Young.
His ring work is solid but not particularly exciting, and there wasn’t really much TO him in this week’s episode of NXT, nor is there anything particularly outstanding about him that I can remember to it previously.
The only thing that sticks out about him are his solid finisher and his obnoxiously catchy theme.
The crowd had no response to him, really, and I can’t blame them. What was there? A heel for heel’s sake, teamed up with a guy he used to loathe. He didn't show any particular sparks of personality this week, and I find it hard to see anything honestly worthwhile about him.
It’s a shame that the crowd was so hostile during the joint promo because I think there were some gems there.
Bateman, as always, is more entertaining on the mic than a lot of main eventers and has a solid, humorous kind of charisma that I think will take him places.
He also has a more fleshed-out character in the hen-pecked and desperate boyfriend than a lot of guys running around Raw and Smackdown, too.
But really it’s his comedy that stands out, and I enjoy watching him because of it. His burns to Curtis were solid, and I really cannot believe that they got “Grape Van” through. That was not what I expected to hear on WWE.
But I can believe that they hate each other, too, and the jokes don’t take away from the feud.
Mic Work: B+
As quite a few have noted in the past, I have little doubt we’re not watching Celeste Bonin the woman on screen when Kaitlyn talks.
She seems utterly comfortable with herself, a charming, funny, girl-next-door who just happens to have thighs bigger than your head. It makes her effortlessly entertaining and likable in a way other babyface Divas struggle to be.
It’s interesting, too, that Kaitlyn and Maxine went from having what was the worst worked match of the year back in 2010, to putting on some of the strongest Divas contests around.
The two of them have improved more in a year and a half than, I am willing to say, Kelly Kelly has in her entire WWE tenure.
Kaitlyn herself brings out solid mat work and a good power game, not to mention one of the more innovative pins I’ve seen lately, and just does solid work these days.
Mic Work: C+
It must be said, mic work is not one of Justin Gabriel’s strengths. The boy tries, I’ll give him that, but he just doesn’t seem to have it for some reason.
It could just be that he doesn’t feel comfortable talking in the middle of the ring, it could be that he’s not a great actor, and, yes, it may be slightly up to his accent, which seems a bit more muddied than the likes of Wade Barrett or Sheamus. All told, your go-to promo guy, he isn’t.
But that said, he doesn’t have to be. Justin has a natural charisma that makes for a great babyface. He looks like a genuinely nice person, he has good energy, and a flashy in-ring style that makes him reminiscent of Billy Kidman or Rey Mysterio, in a way.
The crowd instantly wants to rally behind him just from looking at him. The pop when his 450 splash came was nice, and it was all on him to earn it.
Mic Work: C-
Maxine is, bar none, one of the best Divas in WWE today.
I think I can say this without reservations. No, she’s not the in-ring talent that Beth and Natalya are, but she brings herself up to that level through both having a strong, defined character and living that character.
She’s emotionally volatile, selfish, vicious, and dedicated to take herself to the top no matter what she has to do to get there. In a sea of mediocrity and underdevelopment, she is a shining beacon.
In the ring, she was willing to tear it up this week, as fit the storyline. She went out there looking like she hated Kaitlyn and was about ready to tear her face off, as she should.
Too often heated feuds dissolve in the ring where it turns into standard ring work, but Maxine’s anguished screams, repeated pinning attempts and never-ceasing offense made it clear that this was not just another match.
Mic Work: B
I think I spelled that right, anyway; it’s certainly easier than Hennig, isn’t it? But let’s not beat that horse anymore. He’s still not a great talker, as the Genesis of McGillicutty proved so long ago, but I think there might be something there.
He has good facial expressions, even if he seems to jab wildly from deep scowl to wild-eyed psychopath with little rhyme or reason, but it at least makes for an interesting character to watch.
I was quite surprised, too, to see him actually keeping up with Tyson on the mat. I’d never thought of McG as a great technical wrestler but I suppose with Mr. Perfect as his father, he’s picked up a few tricks.
That said, his actual offense and control of the match was, as I remembered it being, largely boring. I’m just never interested when he’s in control.
Mic Work: D
Oh. Tyson is a face again. Okay. If the weak and scattered applause from the crowd is any indication, they had about the same reaction that I did to him.
There’s not a lot to him, right now, but I did see hints in his promo with Natalya. The idea of him being the insecure hero put under the weight of the Hart legacy could make for an interesting character, if they actually let that kind of story develop.
But then, nobody comes to watch a Tyson Kidd match for promos or stories, do they? Naturally, he put on a great showing of mat wrestling, as everyone was expecting.
What I did notice, though, is that he doesn’t seem entirely sure how to play a babyface; his eyerolling arrogance as he tied McG up in the ropes and his big “did I do that?” smile after seemed a lot more like a heeling mannerism to me.
Still, his kicks were beautiful and he hit a flawless moonsault that made for quite a show.
Mic Work: C-
Given that Tyler Reks didn’t do much himself this week, I’m just going to grade the two of them together. Let me say this: I love these two.
They are a hilarious duo who make for some greatly entertaining heels, and I think, and have thought for a while, that Curt Hawkins is one of the most underrated heels on the roster, bar none.
Coming out during Matt Striker’s promo with camp chairs and popcorn was beautiful. The two of them, as I talk others up for, live their characters. They never drop the arrogant swagger, they never stop reacting to what’s going on around them.
When William Regal was declared GM, they flipped out, and it was a sight to behold. Hawkins even uses something as simple as a cane to further his character and identity.
As far as Hawkins’ match on Superstars, I think he did a solid job against Santino. Given his recent mini-push, Santino was allowed to control the pace of the match, but Hawkins kept up with him on the mat and didn’t look too bad when he was taking control.
Mic Work: B
Johnny Curtis makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable, and that’s a compliment.
I’ve been watching some Attitude Era Raw recently, and I’ve just gotten to the video packages introducing Val Venis, and I can say that the two give me the same feeling.
Curtis certainly brings a twisted humor and a stand-out energy to the table when he’s on the microphone, and his current role is miles ahead of the bland persona I only vaguely remember from NXT Season 4.
Mic Work: B
How is it that the fourth-rate show WWE puts out has become the one I enjoyed the most this week?
With a rocky Raw, bland Smackdown, and traditionally unenthusiastic Superstars, NXT brought liveliness, humor, storyline advancement, and some solid in-ring work. It is a terribly enjoyable hour of television and you could certainly do worse with your time.
I think it also really is proving to be a breeding ground for young and underutilized talent. Do you sometimes have to suffer through less-than-stellar stuff? Sure.
But most of these guys in particular are still learning their craft, finding a place they are comfortable with, and it's a lot better than leaving them to flounder in two-minute matches on the big shows. For the entire show, I give it a B.
MVP: Maxine, for living her character with every breath
Flop of the Week: Titus O’Neil and his terrible heel work
Match of the Evening: Tyson Kidd vs. Michael McGillicutty
Biggest Move: Kaitlyn’s Full Nelson Bomb into Bridging Pin…somehow
As said before, people love them some Santino.
He is probably one of the most over babyfaces in the WWE right now, a fact that should maybe concern some of the people in charge when he’s a mid-card comedy act, but I also think they should capitalize on it while they can.
His natural sense of humor and likability really can take him places if they just let him run with the ball.
It doesn’t hurt that he is surprisingly good in the ring. Watching the opening minutes of his match with Curt Hawkins on Superstars shows he is more than a comedy act.
He brought solid technical mat wrestling, he snaps off some beautiful arm drags, and he is just generally capable of putting together a good, fluid match with a solid opponent. That’s nothing to sniff at.
His showing on Smackdown was less impressive, admittedly, but he had less time to work with and Heath Slater is far less exciting in the ring to work against. It was basically the traditional Santino spots, but they all got a good reaction for a short squash. The Marella Machine keeps chugging along.
Alicia had a bit of time to talk on NXT that was, wisely I feel, kept brief. Her natural bubbliness makes for a good babyface Diva, but it also makes it hard to take her seriously when she tries to act as she doesn’t really seem that able to turn it off.
Unlike the people I’ve been talking up for living in their character, she seems to slip out of it in between actually needing to talk.
She didn’t actually do too badly in this match. I’ve gotten used to thinking of her as fragile and botch-prone, after some of her more recent TV efforts, but she kept up nicely with Beth and took some hard hits.
It’s a bit odd that they picked Alicia Fox to push the dominant Beth for several minutes, of all the duos they could have, but it was nice to see a longer Diva’s match all the same.
Mic Work: C-
It’s funny seeing Beth booked as the dominant and unstoppable Champion now, when a few months ago it took her, what, three straight attempts to knock off Kelly Kelly for the belt?
It’s a bit ridiculous it took them that long, but I’m just glad that they did. She has taken that identity of under-challenged Champ and made it solid, and she stands head and shoulders above the other Divas because of it.
She did well in the ring, too, to absolutely no one’s surprise. Her offense is always crisp and looks like it hurts, which is especially easy against someone as dainty as Alicia.
As said, if anyone deserves a short Divas squash, it’s Beth, but I won’t complain about the ladies getting more time to do what they can do.
Oh. Great. Khali actually seemed to get more of a mixed reaction on Superstars than his usual inexplicable pops, and I’m proud of my hometown for that.
As proof of how useless the Great Khali is, he and Jinder were supposed to have this serious feud over the Great Khali’s sister.
So how does the Great Khali look when Jinder comes to the ring? More bewildered and bored than anything.
His match against Jinder was the usual Khali affair. Slow clubbing blows, big chop, big chop, etc. etc.
I think everyone knows by now how terrible he is, so I won’t waste any more words on it, except the fact that seeming him take a DDT is seriously worrying to me.
Ah, Jinder, how can I rail on you tonight?
He has the look and carries himself like a decent heel, but the gimmick still sets my teeth on edge and I can’t wait for WWE to either move on with him, or just cut him loose because of it.
It’s awful and the audience didn’t give him any reaction because of it.
Once again, Jinder was paired up with a slow and limited wrestler and it’s hard to gauge his own efforts because of it.
He tried hard to hit a DDT on the Great Khali, I can give him that, but who could DDT the Great Khali well is the question. I’m reasonably sure even Arn Anderson couldn’t make that spot pretty.
That’s really all you can say about Jinder; he tries with what he has to work with, but what he has to work with is usually terrible.
Okay, seriously. One half of your entire show should not be a promo from another show, especially when there is an identical replay of the same promo on yet a third show, and a cut down and far more effective promo package recap on a fourth!
I know that they are trying to push the Rock-Cena match hard, as well they should be, but this is patently absurd. And really, who watches Superstars or NXT and doesn’t also watch at least Raw or Smackdown? Have you met anyone?
That said, Superstars was pretty mediocre. Reks, Hawkins and Santino were entertaining, while Jinder and Khali just weren’t.
Beth and Alicia tried, and I’ll give them credit, but as usual nothing on Superstars really seems to mean anything and it’s hard to say that anyone gets any better for being on it.
Which is a shame, as there is often a lot of young and exciting talent; it’s just that nobody outside cares. For a total grade, it gets a C-
MVP: Santino Marella, who deserves the attention he is getting
Flop of the Week: The Great Khali, as he will be on every show he’s on
Match of the Evening: Hawkins vs. Santino
Biggest Move: Beth’s Glam Slam, which is always a glory to behold
A strong promo for the Celtic Warrior to open the show. I love that he acknowledges his heel role in the past and ties it into his feud with Daniel Bryan, as that adds such a stronger dimension to the storyline.
History can be such a tool to build stories and WWE ignores it more often than they should. He held his own against Dolph quite well and came out looking strong just from being on the mic.
Nothing was really remarkable about Sheamus’match this Smackdown, but only because he’s become reliable for good, solid work. I haven’t seen a bad Sheamus match that I can remember, and he definitely deserves the push that he’s getting.
Catching Dolph into the Irish Curse was fantastic, and his new finisher is an impressive one, even if I’m left wondering why “White Noise” is the best they could come up with for a name.
Mic Work: B+
Not a bad start for Mr. Ziggler, either. He didn’t get quite the level of heat that Vickie does, but considering that she’s a nuclear heat magnet, that’s not a surprise.
He has definitely improved since his days starting out with her and could probably carry his own, but I think Vickie staying with him for a little longer won’t do anyone any harm.
Though, I have to ask once more: what's with the butt-cape, Dolph? That is not a good look.
Quite a good showing for Mr. Ziggler, too, as he put Sheamus through his paces. The match was long enough that he came out looking impressive even though he lost, and he hit some good moves in there.
The neckbreaker sandwiched between the ropes that had Sheamus bouncing back and forth looked surprisingly nasty, and it’s that kind of creativity that makes Dolph a pleasure to watch in the ring.
Mic Work: B
If anyone deserves to take a Cobra, frankly, it’s Heath Slater.
I find it disgusting that after allegations of assault were brought against him he still has a job, and I look forward to seeing him be one of the post-WM roster cuts.
As such, I find it hard to say a damn good thing about him; and luckily for me, he doesn’t make it difficult to resist.
Nobody cares about him, for one thing. He has zero heat, which his goofy look and bland gimmick don’t help. Added to that, he has terribly boring offense and I cannot remember a single “big move” that he has in his arsenal.
I think he does a neckbreaker variation as his finisher, but I’d have to check online to be sure. All told, send the ginger packing; seeing him brutalized is only entertaining for so long.
Where the hell was this talent when she was playing a babyface in peril?
I find the angle that kicked off the Eve heel turn still utterly disgusting and shameful, but I’ve got to say she is starting to rock this new character, and it came right out of left field.
Her promo against Natalya was some of the best mic work I’ve ever seen her do. Kudos.
I still can’t entirely get behind the gimmick because of its start, but it’s got her good heat all the same. It almost feels like there is a slow regrowth happening in the Divas division, looking at this whole week of television.
Natalya has turned, Eve has a strong new character, Beth is one of the top heels in the entire WWE based on booking alone, and NXT is brimming with talent in their women. Maybe I’m getting excited over nothing, but I like it, all the same.
And while Eve is often grouped into the “Model Class” of Divas alongside Kelly Kelly, Alicia, and the Bellas, I think she is definitely a cut above.
She went toe-to-toe with Natalya for the time they had together and she looked good, capable of handling chain wrestling and with some nice athletics on display.
I’ve heard people compare her to Lita recently and, frankly, I think that’s fair. Hell, she can even do a moonsault.
Mic Work: B-
Between NXT and Smackdown, it looks like Natalya is swinging back to being a face, perhaps in preparation to face Beth at WrestleMania?
Though I question giving her a ridiculous comedy gimmick if that is the case; but then, I question that very much regardless.
Still, it was nice to see Natalya on the mic, and she has a natural charm that lends itself to playing a sympathetic hero. Just a shame about the complete joke she’s saddled with.
As always, Natalya was stand-out in the ring. Also as always, there wasn’t a whole lot of time there, but it seemed a little bit longer than the usual main-show Divas match and she proved why she deserved it.
Her wrist-lock escape and kip-up were some striking athleticism to prove she is much more than just power, though she clearly has that, too.
The only problem is that a lot of her, and Eve’s, effort was covered up by the announcers making fart jokes and talking about irritable bowel syndrome.
JR and Trish Stratus can try to cover for the product all they want, but this gimmick needs to die and whoever came up with it needs to be fired, if you ask me. It’s stupid, juvenile, and helps no one.
Mic Work: C+
Cody seemed to slide back a little from a defined character when he lost the mask, becoming, while a stand-out one, just another sneering, arrogant heel to some respects.
Now, though, he seems to have captured the core of his character again in a way that makes him stand aside from the rest. Cody Rhodes is a troll.
His mind games against the Big Show are, ironically, a bit reminiscent of his brother Dustin: very different than Goldust’s style, of course, but the same vein. Still, it makes for an interesting character and an utterly loathsome one, too, as he verbally assaults beloved face Big Show.
His videos are hilarious and, again, bring continuity and history to the forefront, something that Cody has always been good at. It seems coming from a legacy has built in him the importance of that very concept.
Later in the evening, his commentary was decent, while rather sparing.
He didn’t say as much as I would have liked and seemed content to watch more than anything, but what he said was good and he didn’t tear down Big Show so much as point out his poor record, showing that Big Show is still a credible threat...just not at WrestleMania. An interesting point to make.
We’ll see how the Show of Shows plays out.
Mic Work: B
Well, so much for that heel turn that seemed to be in the works. It looked like Big Show’s brief little rampage was just another example in the long list of faces acting very much unlike faces...but getting cheered all the same. Alas.
Still, I guess there’s no reason to turn him face when he is so over and can be used, hopefully, to elevate the likes of Cody Rhodes.
His ring work was, well, he got beat on for about 10 minutes before scoring a spear and a big right hand. That is about it.
Not much to say there, and I can only hope that he brings much more to the table at WrestleMania. He could put on a real star-making performance with Cody, I believe, but only if they both put in some serious effort.
Mic Work: C+
It was an up-and-down night for Mark Henry, really.
The moment that everyone takes away from his match with Big Show is, unfortunately, Big Show kicking out of the World Strongest Slam. And make no mistake, that is pretty terrible.
That said, it wasn’t all bad. Mark managed to look dominating for the first half of the match or so, and seeing him hurl the steel steps through the air at Big Show is always a dramatic spot.
That just makes it all the more ridiculous, though, that the Big Show managed to turn things around in true Super Cena-esque fashion.
Glad to see they remembered Drew had a storyline going. Too bad it all seems to be for naught. If they were hoping for a sympathetic face turn, they completely fumbled it.
If not, I don’t really understand what the point was, other than the complete degradation of yet another heel on the roster.
My guess is that John Laurinaitis will re-hire Drew this coming Friday, but why should anyone care? This entire storyline has proven something of a farce.
But while the storyline he’s stuck in is questionable, and so is his acting, I did see something worthwhile in the ring.
He was convincing as a man desperate to get a win, going after Gabriel with everything he had and trying for pins quickly.
I can believe, more when his mouth is closed than when he’s talking, that he needs this job and that he will genuinely do anything to keep it. He hits good moves, too, and sold that float-over DDT like a champ.
Mic Work: C
Now, ordinarily, I’m not a big Orton fan. I’ve grown to respect him more in recent months for his ring work and apparent willingness to put others over, but the debacle of his top babyface run earlier in the year still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Some good matches with Christian aren’t enough to outweigh all that.
That said, I thought his promo tonight was strong. Orton is best when he is allowed to be vicious, and curt, and to the point.
Asking him to play the hero or give long promos is simply outside of his range, and they let him get back to basics on Smackdown. He was the cold-blooded Viper again, and that’s what he’s best at.
No complaints about his in-ring work, either. It was interesting to see Randy Orton of all people on the losing end against Daniel Bryan for so much of the match, and he did an excellent job selling his arm for most of it.
It wasn’t quite as one-sided as Big Show and Mark Henry earlier, either, so his comeback felt a lot more natural. All in all more convincing and solid work.
Mic Work: C+
Another good heel promo for Daniel Bryan this week. I thought his taking the usual local boy cheap pop and subverting it was clever, rather than the traditional cheap heat, as was calling himself “the love of AJ’s life,”proof of his selfish demeanor.
Once again, I’m not crazy about the role-model gimmick, but he didn’t play it too hard this week and kept to what he’s good at. He’s arrogant, and has a track record that doesn’t make it entirely out of place.
He continues to play an excellent heel in the ring, too. He managed to avoid all the pratfalls of the cowardly heel, instead going back to the old-fashioned ways of constant assaults to prone areas, such as Randy’s notoriously bad shoulders, which I was pleased to see the announcers bring up on commentary.
It wasn’t one of his best matches, as they clearly weren’t going to go all out with the DQ ending, but it made him look rather strong to keep up with Randy for so long.
Mic Work: C+
A rather middling show. I remember in late 2011 when Smackdown was consistently a top effort compared to Raw, and while it’s not bad, it does seem to have slid back a little.
The opening and closing segments were both strong and peppered with solid ring action, but in between that, there was nothing that stands out in particular.
Drew McIntyre’s angle is a complete flop, and hopefully this rumored “Arrogant Playboy” character with re-enliven his career, but we’ll see.
Meanwhile, Santino and Slater wrestled a largely pointless match that just kept Santino on TV, and Eve continued her heel turn, but to what aim? You’d expect them to be building up a challenger for Beth going into WrestleMania, but it seems WWE has a different angle in mind.
It feels like, in general, not a whole lot of note happened on Smackdown this week, exempting Kane’s post-match assault to Randy Orton. It was just a holding pattern, and while it wasn’t bad, I expect more from this time of year.
I’m curious to see what they have planned for the GM swap, and hopefully it will bring more excitement, but that’s an issue for another week. For a final grade, I give it a C+
MVP: Sheamus, who continues his strong wave of momentum
Flop of the Week: Heath Slater. Get him off of my TV.
Match of the Evening: A toss up between Sheamus-Ziggler and Orton-Bryan
Biggest Move: Sheamus catching Ziggler into an Irish Curse
And that's it for this week! See you next time for the Rundown.