One of the most exciting prospects for a WWE fan is when a Superstar hits on the right combination of abilities and traits to allow them to get the most out of his potential.
Sometimes this magical alignment happens immediately in a career—like Kurt Angle’s arrogant hero persona—but on other occasions finding the right mix of characteristics can take several incarnations if it ever arrives at all.
Often the additional aspect that does push a wrestler into superstardom is already part of the character’s personality—or suggested by their backstory—but that element had not been explored until later in their careers.
Right now the WWE has several stars who already have a strong following but are still one or two adjustments away from being at the very top of the company.
Here are five current WWE Superstars who would benefit from enhancing a side of their character that has been previously under-explored.
Daniel Bryan is always portrayed on WWE television as a submission master, whose ability to cause crippling pain overcomes his noticeable size disadvantage. Despite this, he rarely uses more than a couple of different submissions, and his only finishing submission is the No Lock.
If the WWE allowed Bryan to go into his arsenal of moves and pull out far more submissions, then a mystique would start to surround his character, as there always is when someone is able to do something that others cannot.
Even the biggest of Bryan’s opponents would have to respect him as they would know that one mistake could mean being caught in a match-ending hold. This respect would quickly translate over to the crowd, and Bryan would be seen as a seriously dangerous opponent for anyone in the WWE.
An additional bonus to Bryan using different submission holds to end an opponent is that he would gain the ability to come up with an instant finish. Being able to stop a match at any time adds extra tension to a performer’s repertoire, increasing the overall excitement surrounding the athlete.
Of course the WWE may have already intended for this idea—that Bryan can finish anyone at any time—to be part of his character, but it will never be fully embraced unless he is allowed to show the skills he possesses.
Alberto Del Rio is famed for his armbar submission and the meticulous breaking down of that limb before he executes the move. Yet everything in Del Rio’s backstory—both in wrestling and in reality—suggests that this performer should be far more calculating when employing a game plan.
Firstly, Del Rio is a second-generation Superstar who has grown up around the business, so he has been exposed to different tactics and methodology is whole life. He was also a successful amateur wrestler and MMA fighter, so he is used to employing tactics to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses.
Then there is the Alberto Del Rio mythology that the WWE installed with his character, which portrays him as coming from a rich Mexican family. Traditionally, privileged families make sure their offspring are taught tactics as part of their schooling—such as fencing, chess and cadet training—so this aspect of his past would also fit in with someone who is extremely calculating.
These elements combine in such a natural way that it seems incomprehensible that Del Rio’s character is not already more methodical in his approach.
Small flashes of calculated cunning have been seen in the past. Locking John Cena out of the Hell in a Cell in 2011—so he could pin the weakened CM Punk—is a prime example of him using his understanding of the situation to gain an advantage.
Del Rio’s character should use this logic on a far smaller scale in every match—such as using a jab when fighting smaller opponents, or taking the legs out from a high-flyer—to form a part of his overall identity.
This does not mean Del Rio should move away from targeting the arm entirely, as the WWE have made sure that is a very successful tactic for him to employ. However, he should be more dynamic in his approach—especially when against an opponent who would be difficult to submit because of size or knowledge—as a route to him being less predictable in the ring.
Uncovering some of Del Rio’s underutilized talents could really appeal to the audience.
For a man advertised as a former bare-knuckle boxer, it is rather remarkable that Wade Barrett throws so few illegal shots in an average match. The problem with that fact is that it completely undermines the character that the British heavyweight is supposed to be portraying.
Barrett is supposed to be an uncompromising figure who will do anything to get to his goal, meaning he is willing to use all the tricks that come with his past profession. This is highlighted in angles regularly—including the targeting of Kofi Kingston’s eye a few weeks ago on Raw—but the lack of illegal moves in his normal arsenal almost makes this type of action uncharacteristic.
If Barrett threw in a few low blows, kidney punches and weapon attacks—much like compatriot William Regal used to with his brass knuckles—then being dirty would be a normalized activity for him.
This would strengthen Barrett’s whole character, and such a thing could only be good for both the talent and the WWE.
Few characters in the WWE have the ability to affect the state of play as much as Paul Heyman does right now, yet the former owner of ECW appears to have become soft as the years have passed.
Obviously the portly Heyman is never going to be a physical threat—and will always appear congenial, even submissive, to the people that employ him as a manager—but he needs to recover the sinister edge that suggests he has the ability to make a situation happen even when others do not want to assist him.
Without this element, the master manipulator becomes a lame duck who cannot bully or cajole the WWE locker room into doing his bidding.
Despite being from the famously neutral country of Switzerland, Antonio Cesaro has come into the WWE with a vicious backstory that starts off with him being part of the Swiss militia and concludes with his forced banishment from the sport of rugby.
This should be a man who—behind the European style—is as steely as they come, yet he has backed down against almost every opponent who has provided any sort of resistance in the past three months.
If Cesaro is ever going to gel with his current backstory, then his cowardice has to be ramified quickly.
Anyone who has been banned from playing rugby is not going to be afraid of groups of large men, so a lone man should not frighten him in the least. A more logical character development might even be for Cesaro not to back down when up against insurmountable odds and be known for taking a beating and still not walking away.
This would result in Cesaro having his psychopathic tendencies conspicuously suppressed behind his European suave, leading to a very dark but interesting character indeed.