Projecting the Next Crop of WWE Main Event Superstars
John Cena, CM Punk and Randy Orton. These are the three biggest names in WWE today, and really the only ones the company would have any faith in headlining a pay-per-view.
While those three have incredible amounts of talent, there is only so much mileage that the company can get out of putting those three in the ring together before the fans start beating their heads against the wall—just banging for something new.
One of the most common complaints among analysts of WWE today is the severe lack of depth on the roster and dearth at the top with main eventers.
In the past, WWE always had a system set up where older main-event stars would be used to make new ones. Over the last seven years or so, the company has gotten away from that, instead hoping to rely on the usual status quo.
Since we aren't in the creative meetings each day, we don't know what exactly Vince McMahon and company have planned to fix the roster, but it is not impossible to fix the current talent problem, if WWE gives wrestlers the chance.
Here are the superstars that we believe have the highest probability to join that elite class of performers on the WWE roster.
What better place to start than with the star who will actually be in a main event at the next pay-per-view?
Ryback's ascent has been interesting to watch, simply because it is so different than what WWE usually does with new stars. He is actually winning matches, albeit against midcard stars, and appears to really have the backing of the right people.
However, as strange as this sounds, Ryback wrestling CM Punk for the WWE title at Hell In a Cell might be the worst thing for him right now.
First, Ryback is not used to wrestling main-event matches in WWE yet. Whenever he is on Raw or SmackDown, he is beating guys in a minute or two. That's fine to get a gimmick over, but eventually you have to start going 10-15 minutes just to prove you can.
Ryback will be working with Punk on house shows leading up to Hell In a Cell, yet that doesn't really prepare them for the pay-per-view because the way you work a singles match is, or should be, vastly different from the way you work a Hell In a Cell match.
Another reason that this is the wrong time for Ryback to get a title shot is because of his gimmick. There really is nothing special about Ryback compared to any other performer in WWE except he has an undefeated streak.
If that streak is ended prematurely, Ryback turns into just another guy. But WWE is obviously building to Punk vs. Rock at the Royal Rumble, so unless there is some screwjob finish in the cell, which would completely negate the purpose of the cell and cheapen an already-soft gimmick, Ryback has to lose or Punk has to win the belt back in November or December.
I understand why Ryback was put in the spot. Cena is hurt and WWE needed a main event, but there is almost no good way out of this match.
Still, if WWE can find a way to make it work without completely blowing it, Ryback can still keep his upward momentum going. He is winning matches, the fans seem to be liking the Goldberg-esque gimmick and WWE is pushing him forward.
There was a time, back at WrestleMania after he lost in eight seconds, where it looked like Bryan was done as a potential main eventer in WWE.
Truth be told, he is not at that level right now, but the prospects are still there if WWE decides to give the artist formerly known as the American Dragon a big push.
When Bryan signed with WWE, my initial reaction was this would not bode well for his career. I am sure a large part of his decision was financially related, which is wholly understandable, but based on his size and history making his name in another company, it did not look good for him.
Strange things tend to happen when you have good charisma and can outwrestle anyone in the company. Bryan has already made it farther in WWE than I ever expected him to, yet I know there is much more ground left to be explored.
Even with the silliness of his current angle with Kane, which is basically a big brother, little brother dynamic, Bryan is making it work because of his commitment to the gimmick and easy, natural charisma.
We saw how great Bryan can be when used properly earlier this year when he was wrestling CM Punk for the WWE Championship. Even though he never won the title, nor did anyone expect him to, you always believed he had a chance because he is so good in the ring.
Bryan's biggest problem is his size, or lack thereof. Vince McMahon and Triple H are obsessed with huge giants, especially at the top of the card. There are few exceptions throughout history, but for the most part, unless you are 6'4", 240 pounds, it is hard to get a push in WWE.
Those rare exceptions tend to be great wrestlers who have the ability to talk. Bryan certainly fits that mold. All he needs is the right push to move closer to the level he was at when he was world champion and wrestling Punk for the WWE title.
Long before he got hurt and had to miss six months, I was starting to champion Barrett as a main eventer in the making. Now that he is back, why should I change my mind?
It would be nice to see Barrett get a pay-per-view match now that he has been back for two months, but it is not necessary at this stage of the game in order for him to turn into a legitimate star.
Rewinding the clocks back two years when he was leading Nexus, Barrett could have reached that level if WWE decided to do the right thing. Instead, WWE killed the group by never putting them or Barrett over John Cena and Team WWE.
Barrett managed to survive the glorified burial because WWE saw something in the tall Englishman. Like a lot of big guys in WWE, he is limited in what he can do in the ring. No one is going to watch him expecting four-star or better matches, but he is not Hulk Hogan out there, either.
The best thing Barrett has going for him, aside from the size, is his ability to talk. He is not The Rock with the microphone, but he is strong enough and charismatic enough to get himself and an angle over.
I am compelled to say that, while I don't think Barrett will be main eventing WrestleMania in his career, it is not hard to see a scenario where he is the No. 2 or 3 star in the company and headlining B-level pay-per-views and occasionally sneaking into a multiple-person match on a show like SummerSlam.
There is a ceiling with Barrett that WWE has not come close to tapping into. Given his size, pedigree and ability, it shouldn't be too much longer before he starts to separate himself from the pack.
The artist that hardcore wrestling fans will know as Jon Moxley from his days in Dragon Gate USA, Ambrose is still working his way through Florida Championship Wrestling just waiting for his time on the main roster to come.
Ambrose isn't completely buried in developmental, as he has been touring on the road with WWE for house shows.
It is so hard to predict what stars who aren't actively on television are going to do because you never know what kind of push WWE is going to give them, how the company views them, if their ability in FCW will translate under the bright lights of Raw, SmackDown and pay-per-view.
That said, Ambrose is not without his credentials. In addition to his work on the independent scene for the last seven years, he has been one of the shining stars on the revamped version of NXT, at least when he gets used.
He did great work with William Regal over the summer. Regal is one of the most underutilized performers on the WWE roster, so when someone like Ambrose can step right into a feud with him and hold his own, it speaks to just how talented he really is.
WWE needs to do something with its talent at FCW at some point. There isn't that one sure-fire superstar, like The Rock or John Cena, when they were being developed, but the farm is not completely bare, either.
Ambrose is the best of the bunch. He just needs the creative team to find a way to properly integrate him to the roster in a way that lets the audience know he is a force to be reckoned with and not just another new star who will be dancing with Brodus Clay.
The final spot on this list was one I debated for a long time. I thought about everyone on the main roster and in developmental. There was a select group I was going to choose from, but at the end of deliberating, I knew that Ziggler was always going to be the choice.
I do not say this one with any great confidence. It is, as the title suggests, a prediction on my part. I have almost no faith in WWE doing right by Ziggler, since it hasn't since he won the Money in the Bank briefcase.
But whenever you watch Ziggler wrestle, it is so easy for him to get over. He is not always the most smooth or fluid worker in the company, but there is something different about his matches when he gets the chance to work 10-15 minutes on Raw, SmackDown or pay-per-view.
Ziggler seems to have no fear or objection to trying anything, as we see when he is in a ladder match. That does not bode well for his long-term health prospects, though it is a much easier way to connect with the audience than just being a great technical wrestler.
My trepidation with Ziggler stems from the fact that he never wins a match. And when I say never, I mean never. WWE almost goes out of its way to make sure Ziggler loses, even though he usually looks good doing it.
The greatest myth in wrestling is that wins and losses don't matter. Fans want to see great matches, sure, but they want to know that the creative team really cares about someone by making them feel important. The only way to do that is by winning matches.
Some might think that Ziggler's losing streak right now is a good thing, because it just means he is going to win the world title when he eventually cashes in the briefcase.
Well, we have already seen how much faith WWE has in Ziggler as champion, since he held it for a grand total of 11 minutes in 2011.
The talent, work ability and charisma are all there for Ziggler to be a main-event star in WWE for a long time. He just needs a real push so the fans can start to take him seriously, not just expect a good match and a loss when he walks out from behind the curtain.