We all know that the WWE has been struggling for years to establish the company's next generation of "Superstars" to carry them forward. As a lifelong fan of wrestling (and active member of the IWC), I understand all-too-well the feeling of seeing the WWE take one step forward with our favourite performers, only to take another two back.
Here is a list of those I think could be better utilised by the company. If you feel I've missed anyone, sound off in the comments.
At the time of Barrett's serious elbow injury, he was involved in the most high-profile feud of his short career against Randy Orton.
When his return was teased with a series of slickly-produced vignettes (a rarity in today's WWE, something all of us took as an indication of bigger things to come), we in the IWC knew the logical move was for Barrett to build on the anticipation and immediately resume his feud with Orton.
Instead, we saw him return to almost no fanfare to squash Yoshi Tatsu, a character nobody has ever taken seriously.
The smart move would have been for Barrett to resume his feud with Orton immediately upon his return. This would have given the character a strong upper-midcard feud with one of the company's top performers, allowing the audience to take Barrett seriously as a legitimate threat to the World Title scene.
Furthermore, by putting Barrett over in the best way possible, Orton's floundering babyface character would have drawn more sympathy from the crowd while also establishing a new main-event player on SmackDown—and the blue brand has been desperately short on that front since Edge's untimely retirement.
The most under-appreciated talent in the company outside of the IWC was the logical choice to win the Money in the Bank ladder match. I don't need to tell you how good this guy is.
But since winning the briefcase, instead of being built up as a genuine contender to the title, Dolph Ziggler has suffered an innumerable number of losses on TV and pay-per-view, including a couple of failed cash-ins.
It seems as if everyone except Creative is behind him. For starters, he should have defeated Chris Jericho at SummerSlam. Sending a future Hall of Famer packing at 2012's second-biggest PPV would have been more fitting than a throwaway victory on the following Raw.
Also, Ziggler should have been booked much better during his programme with Randy Orton. A victory on SmackDown does not compensate for another PPV loss, especially when a clean pin on a performer such as Orton would have boosted his credibility to no end.
Instead of being deemed as an up-and-coming headliner banging his fists on the glass ceiling, Ziggler's inevitable title win will be deemed as a fluke based on his current booking. This is reminiscent of The Miz's situation—and it took him a year to even make it back to the midcard. As well as adding a much-needed main-event heel threat, a few more clean victories would at least add a new dimension to an increasingly-stale World Title division.
I know they've only just been put together and I respect the decision to try and revitalise a flailing tag team division, but I think both of these superstars would benefit much more from being solo.
Damien Sandow has been one of the more refreshing new additions to the roster. Excellent on the mic and playing an old-school heel character, he is a welcome change from the staple diet of WWE heels being either "cool" or "cowardly."
Despite not being involved in anything approaching a lengthy feud, Sandow has steadily improved his in-ring work, while drawing heat from the crowd with his "Intellectual Saviour of The Masses" gimmick. Instead of focusing on the tag team division, Sandow would be an ideal rival for Antonio Cesaro over the United States title.
Having two young, hungry competitors compete over a neglected championship would give some meaning back to the belt after rarely being defended on television in the last year. Sandow could easily carry Cesaro in their microphone confrontations and would have no trouble keeping up with him in the ring.
This would establish the SmackDown midcard as a highly competitive environment and could ultimately provide either man with a stepping stone to the World Championship picture.
This time last year, many of us were predicting big things for Cody Rhodes. The breakout star of Legacy was coming off a 236-day stint as Intercontinental champion, a reign that managed to restore some relevance to the once-prestigious title.
Instead of building on his increasing importance to the SmackDown roster and elevating him to the World title scene, he regained the belt from The Big Show after an awful feud, dropped it again to Christian and ultimately went back to the well with another masked-themed feud with Sin Cara.
Rhodes could have quite easily be seen as a main-event player on SmackDown if creative were behind him. Feuds with Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler and mentor Randy Orton would have added another dimension to the World title scene, instead of the blue brand rehashing the same storylines over and over again. With a little backing from those behind the scenes, Cody Rhodes could have established himself in the main event, but now finds himself chasing the Tag Team Championships.
I'm going to be honest here, I'm not the biggest fan of The Miz. I appreciate the improvements he's made both as a performer and personality in his years with the company, but his act has always just left me cold. However, there are better ways of utilising his talents than being squashed by Ryback.
After winning a WrestleMania main event against John Cena (albeit with help from The Rock), Miz struggled to remain relevant, coming off as a coward in his exchanges with Cena and having a poor feud with protege Alex Riley. He continued to lose the majority of his matches and seemed in danger of dropping off television entirely—even before he left to film The Marine 3.
He made his return in style at Raw 1000 by defeating Christian to win his first Intercontinental title, and many were hoping for a Cody Rhodes-esque reign to rebuild his damaged reputation. After retaining the title at Night of Champions, he now seems to be embroiled in a mini-feud with Ryback, who squashed him on Raw.
A Ryback-Miz feud over the strap could be something the fans would invest in. The heat Miz draws from the crowd would get more supporters for Ryback, something the rookie needs if Vince pushes him as hard as we're led to believe. The feud could pit the unstoppable face against the conniving heel, who would need to use every trick in the book to avoid the match.
Ultimately, Ryback could win their title match, which would give him his first taste of gold and allow the fans to take him more seriously. Putting Ryback over and making him look good in the process could also allow The Miz a route back into the WWE Title scene, as losing to someone booked as unstoppable wouldn't harm his character.
The meaningless squash win on Raw has devalued both The Miz and the championship he holds, and that didn't have to be the case.
Would you mess with that guy?
When Brock Lesnar returned to the company the day after WrestleMania, it brought the WWE some of the mainstream attention that Vince McMahon so desperately craves. The fans went wild, and the roof nearly blew off when he F-5'd John Cena without saying a word. The buildup was great—and then came Extreme Rules.
In his first match for the company in eight years, Lesnar should have gone over. Keep the match the same, except have Lesnar win.
Not only did the result increase the hostility towards John Cena and his "Superman" character, it made the returning former UFC champion look weak—not the legitimate badass that he is. Then he quit after breaking Triple H's arm. If you pay a guy $5 million a year for a handful of appearances, don't waste them. Instead of being the dominant monster heel who could attack anyone he wanted, anywhere, at anytime, Lesnar became a coward who threw his toys out of the pram when he didn't get his own way.
Add to the fact that one of the toughest guys in the world was reluctant to accept a fight with a part-time athlete and corporate executive, and the WWE killed all of his momentum.
His match at SummerSlam played out before a largely indifferent crowd, and even the clean win over Triple H was overshadowed by Hunter hogging the spotlight at the end. And then he quit again.
Using WWE's new toy Tout, the biggest mainstream star on the roster among sports fans quit through a video message. With Lesnar out of the picture until his dates need to be used up, WWE has left fans feeling ambivalent about his impending return. Lesnar should have been depicted as a dominant force who lets his actions do the talking, while Paul Heyman handled the mic work.
Having him tear a path through the roster would make each of his appearances essential viewing—maybe even for more casual fans—and his few remaining matches would bring in the pay-per-view buys.
Seeing as the only marketable superstars the WWE can picture him working with essentially amounts to Cena, The Rock, Triple H and The Undertaker, more of an effort should have been made to establish him as the unpredictable, devastating force of nature that he is, rather than the guy who quits every time things don't go his way.
So that's my two cents on who isn't being booked properly by WWE Creative and how easily it could have been different. Let me know what you think, because with the way things are going, it could easily become a regular feature!