WWE's TLC pay-per-view has, in recent years, gone a long way in determining which young talents will enjoy a push to the top of the card in the early parts of the coming year.
Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder were recipients of said push last year, while The Miz experienced a great deal of success coming out of the 2010 show.
This Sunday, two of World Wrestling Entertainment's most talented young stars have the opportunity to throw their names into the race for a major push in 2013.
One is a man who, at one time, was among the hottest performers in the sport, while the other is a champion experiencing increased presence on TV.
Since becoming United States Champion on the pre-show prior to SummerSlam, Antonio Cesaro has seen his status rise on WWE television. He has scored a number of impressive victories over some very talented members of WWE’s mid-card and has competed against several of the company’s top babyfaces.
Yet, as impressive as he has been, he has yet to really capture the attention of the audience at-large, and has not really had that one match that defines the early portion of his career in WWE.
Matches with Kofi Kingston, Sin Cara and Justin Gabriel were quality affairs but none were truly must-see encounters.
At TLC, Cesaro will defend his United States title against R-Truth for the second consecutive month. Their match at Survivor Series was not necessarily bad, but contrasting styles most certainly made for a forgettable match.
With recent booking trends suggesting that the company has big plans for the former Ring of Honor standout, it is time for Cesaro to step up his game.
The match at TLC could be a major determining factor as to whether or not the company moves forward with a push up the card for him, or if they decide he is better suited as a mid-card villain.
A performance that stands out amongst his others, against a popular star like Truth, could assure that Cesaro ends up where the company hopes he can, and probably should.
In 2010, Wade Barrett and the members of Nexus exploded onto WWE television; wasting little time in making a name for themselves by targeting the top stars in the industry. For months, the collection of NXT competitors were amongst the hottest performers in the sport, and Barrett, specifically, appeared to be on the fast track to heavyweight gold.
Fast forward two years and Barrett finds himself in limbo.
A former Intercontinental Champion, he finds himself challenging for that very title at Sunday’s TLC and facing the exact same man he defeated for the title well over a year ago in Kofi Kingston.
There is little argument amongst wrestling fans that Wade Barrett has every tool necessary to stand atop the sports-entertainment industry as either WWE or World Heavyweight Champion. It is very rare that so many people in one fan base agree on something so debatable.
For Barrett to realize his massive potential, he must take the very same steps the previously-mentioned Antonio Cesaro must: Continue adding new elements to his performance, up the intensity in his matches and do something to make himself stand out.
Since returning from injury, Barrett has had the same difficulty connecting with audiences as the current US titleholder.
There is a great deal of blame for the lack of audience response to both Barrett and Cesaro being put on a creative team that has done nothing, be it crafting stories or meaningful rivalries, to give fans a reason to care for either performer.
But, as 2012 comes to a close, both men must overcome poor booking and take matters into their own hands.
Give the people a reason to care and success, along with upward momentum, will come with it.