Who Is Better Off, Worse Off from WrestleMania 28?

Andy Soucek@Andy_SoucekFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2013

Who Is Better Off, Worse Off from WrestleMania 28?

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    WrestleMania 29 is right around the corner, which makes now a great time to evaluate how well the WWE roster is doing compared to a year ago.

    Wrestling is about creating stars, but how well has WWE done in that area?

    Who has moved up the card? Who has been struggling? And how is WWE positioning its current talent?

    Counting the pre-show, last year's event had 28 men and women wrestling. Only three of them are no longer with the company, and surprisingly, all of them are women (Eve, Kelly Kelly and Beth Phoenix).

    This list takes a look at how a certain talent is perceived by comparing their involvement in last year's show to how they are booked headed into this year's show.

    Wrestlers who weren't around or didn't compete at WrestleMania 28 (Ryback, Damien Sandow) are not included here. Part-time wrestlers like The Rock, Jericho, HHH and The Undertaker aren't listed either, as they're virtually in the same boat as they were last year.

    Here is an evaluation of the wrestlers who competed at WrestleMania 28 and a look at if they are currently better or worse off.

Dolph Ziggler

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    It seems that every year, fans have high hopes for Dolph Ziggler, and every year, he's just kind of there at WrestleMania.

    Perhaps his highest-profile match thus far was losing to Team Snooki at WrestleMania 27. For the self-appointed Show Off, that's not really much to brag about.

    Last year, he took a spot on Team Johnny, which didn't do much for how fans perceived him. Then a few months later, he won the Money in the Bank contract and seemed destined for a key slot by the time WrestleMania rolled around again.

    So far it's not been meant to be. 

    Don't be surprised to see Ziggler cash in in on a fallen Del Rio, but right now, he doesn't have an obvious opponent for a match. Still, as a whole, WWE has invested more in Ziggler now than in past years.

    Verdict: better off.

Daniel Bryan

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    At last year’s WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan was the World Heavyweight champion going into the show.

    Sure, he was pushed as pretty weak champ, but he was beginning to emerge as an entertaining character.

    As we all know, though, Sheamus took him out in 18 seconds.

    After losing the title, Bryan rose to new heights when his “yes” and “no” catchphrases really caught fire. His transition to Team Hell No was also immensely entertaining.

    As the months wore on, Bryan became more cartoonish every week, and unfortunately, he solidified himself as a one-note joke. His character stagnated, and he performed meaningless jobs in singles matches.

    While Bryan's future is bright, his current character peaked in popularity a few months ago. Since then, he's been slowly sliding into a comfortably predictable role.

    Verdict: slightly worse off.

Cody Rhodes

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    For years, when future stars of the WWE were brought up, Cody Rhodes was often among the first mentioned.

    Heading into WrestleMania 28, he was in the midst of a decent run as the Intercontinental champion and was set to do battle with The Big Show.

    WWE could have made a statement and had the youngster beat the big man, but instead, he was knocked out in five forgettable minutes.

    Unfortunately for Rhodes, his character has been in a free fall since then. Besides his first few weeks in The Rhodes Scholars, he’s been pushed as more of a high-end jobber than an in-ring threat.

    Right now, he has a mustache, but that’s about all he has going for him.

    Verdict: worse off.

Mark Henry

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    While Mark Henry still has yet to equal his run when he was the World Heavyweight champion, he's finally regaining his footing.

    When Henry was suddenly injured in late 2011, the WWE stripped him of the title. Then it seemed the company was punishing him for getting hurt in the first place.

    His character went from that of absolute dominant beast to jobbing to Sheamus in a matter of minutes. WWE tried to build him up as a big deal on Team Johnny last year, but the damage was done.

    After sitting out for over eight months, Henry returned and is now being pushed as a legitimate threat again.

    At this point, all signs point to a monster vs. monster match against Ryback at WrestleMania. While Henry will most likely be fed to him, his singles match will do a much better job of highlighting him than his role last year.

    Verdict: better off.

Zack Ryder

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    A few months before WrestleMania 28, Zack Ryder was enjoying the best push of his career.

    He had risen from a jobber to a character that a vocal minority of the crowd was getting behind. While his involvement in the "Embrace the Hate" storyline did damage to his character, there was still potential to recover.

    However, the low blow he received from Eve at WrestleMania 28, and the fact that he never got revenge, seemed to be the official end of his push.

    Recently, it appears that Ryder should have kept his mouth shut about wanting to be involved in this year's show. After the announcers brought it up on Raw, he was quickly squashed in under a minute against Mark Henry.

    Joining in on a pre-show battle royal or tag match isn't out of the question, but any hope of a meaningful role at 'Mania is long gone.

    Verdict: much worse off.


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    At 45 years old, Kane probably doesn't have many WrestleMania matches left in him.

    When he’s not fighting The Undertaker, Kane’s matches are almost always an afterthought on the show.

    Last year, he took on Randy Orton in a rushed feud that seemed designed to give these long-time veterans something to do.

    The previous month at Elimination Chamber, Kane was involved in the main event against John Cena. Sure, he was just helping Cena kill time until The Rock showed up, but he was still given a big match.

    So much has changed for Kane in this past year that his character is barely recognizable anymore.

    Out with the torture and in with the jokes. It’s too bad that Team Hell No has stagnated so much; otherwise, Kane could have a fun role at WrestleMania.

    Kane has nothing to be ashamed of, though. He’s an effective role player at this stage in his career and will get another well-earned payday.

    Verdict: slightly worse off.

CM Punk

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    It says quite a bit about someone when they are no longer the WWE champion and are still doing better than they were a year ago.

    At WrestleMania 28, CM Punk took on Chris Jericho in the second to last match on the show. In reality though, The Rock vs. Cena and Triple H vs Undertaker greatly overshadowed Punk's match.

    Punk and Jericho's feud was also a bit clunky due to the alcohol accusation storyline they were going with instead of a simple "best in the world" feud. 

    This year, Punk is getting the coveted spot against Undertaker, which at this point is perhaps more prestigious than a title shot.

    While Punk is certain to lose this outing, you can imagine he'll be even more of a focal point than he was last year.

    Verdict: better off.


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    Last year, WWE pulled a fast one on us and decided that Sheamus should win the Royal Rumble instead of Chris Jericho.

    In a storyline sense, Jericho would have made a lot more sense, but WWE wanted to make a statement with Sheamus.

    While he didn't fall flat on his face, fans weren't overly excited about seeing him capture the gold.

    This year's WrestleMania looks destined to have Sheamus, Orton and Show taking on The Shield.

    It's a respectful position on the card, but WWE has to be somewhat disappointed that Sheamus didn't truly catch fire. In terms of popularity, he seems to have leveled off and may have to be content with his current standing on the card for future WrestleManias.

    Verdict: slightly worse off.

Brodus Clay

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    Yes, Brodus Clay didn't actually wrestle at last year's show, but he did get his own dancing segment.

    At the time, Clay was surprisingly over. But his Mania dancing moment with his "mommas" was probably when the character officially jumped the shark. His routine has became increasingly monotonous since.

    The Clay faithful shouldn't give up hope, though—there's a pretty fair chance that he'll dance like an idiot with Tensai on the show.

    So, there's always that to look forward to. 

    Verdict: worse off.

Jack Swagger

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    As a member of Team Johnny at last year's show, Swagger was completely lost in the shuffle.

    He had been jobbing for so long, and to everyone under the sun, that his addition to the team meant absolutely nothing.

    There were fans out there who thought that Swagger wouldn't even be employed by the time that WrestleMania 29 rolled around.

    Not only did Swagger come back after his hiatus, but he's enjoying the best push of his career. Alongside Zeb Colter, the two are clearly a favorite of McMahon's. Because of this, the World Heavyweight title match will be promoted stronger than last year's. 

    It looks like we'll have to wait until after 'Mania to see if there will be any repercussions from his DUI.

    Verdict: much better off.

John Cena

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    To the surprise of no one, John Cena is still the top star in WWE.

    This past year has been a bit of a trying time for his character, but there is still no one on the horizon who is challenging him as the main guy in the company.

    Headed into WrestleMania last year, it was all about Cena's feud with The Rock, and the two taking immature swipes at each other. From the single interaction we've seen so far this year, it looks like they've both become more serious, which is great to see.

    WWE feels comfortable enough with Cena to risk any sort of backlash for a match we've already seen. And with the business that WrestleMania did last year, it's hard to blame them.

    Barring any sort of injury, expect him to be in the top match at next year's show, too.

    Verdict: about the same.

David Otunga

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    Ever since his Nexus days ended, David Otunga has spent most of his WWE tenure as a joke.

    He's mainly been called on to be squashed by larger talent whenever WWE needs to eat up a few minutes of TV time.

    Before WrestleMania 28, he had a mini-push when he became the leader of Team Johnny. After that, he became Laurinaitis' lackey for a while before his boss was let go.

    Whatever push Otunga had after that was gone, and he has spent the rest of his time as one of their go-to jobbers.

    While he apparently appears in The Call (though it's hard to prove this fact from the trailer), he doesn't seem poised to have any meaningful role at WrestleMania 29.

    Verdict: worse off.

The Miz

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    For a time, it looked like the headliner of WrestleMania 27 wouldn’t even appear on WrestleMania 28.

    Fortunately, The Miz was added to the seemingly obligatory WrestleMania giant tag match when he became a member of Team Johnny.

    Miz had been having a horrible time since his feud with Cena ended, but he did end up scoring the winning pinfall in his WrestleMania 28 match.

    After that, it seemed he was going to work his way back up the card.

    Months of a burial continued, however. He later turned face and slowly started to gain the faith of management again.

    Currently, he’s without a defined feud for the show, but his pseudo-alignment with Ric Flair can only help his up-and-down career.

    Verdict: better off.

Drew McIntyre

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    You would think after last year that things really couldn't get much worse for Drew McIntyre.

    That is, until he joined the 3MB. Now, it's debatable how expendable he has become.

    While he's only 27 years old, McIntyre's best days in WWE seem far behind him. Every extra match that he spends in The Three Man Band will make it that much harder for him to be taken seriously when he gets out of it.

    While he was on an amazingly inept losing streak last year for WrestleMania, he at least made it onto Team Johnny.

    Really though, there's just no sign of any upward momentum for the once promising Scot.

    Verdict: the same.

Kofi Kingston

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    Another WrestleMania, another year with nothing for Kofi Kingston to do.

    While he's competed at WrestleManias 24-28, he's yet to have a singles match on the big show.

    Recently, his character fell to a possible all-time low, and he often doesn't even have his entrance televised anymore.

    Unless management starts getting behind him soon, he could run into the danger of being labeled a mid-carder for life. Let's hope that next year he'll finally get his match.

    Verdict: worse off.

Randy Orton

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    Last year, Randy Orton was given John Cena's leftovers in Kane.

    We had just seen Cena defeat The Big Red Machine cleanly, so a showdown with Orton wasn't very compelling. With all the other big opponents spoken for, it seemed they were paired up just to get them on the show.

    This year, Orton seems destined for a Shield showdown.

    Both matches, though, are a far cry from when he main-evented WrestleMania 25 against Triple H.

    With two strikes on the wellness policy, a midcard match like this may be as good as Orton has to look forward to in the coming years.

    Verdict: about the same.

The Big Show

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    At WrestleMania 28, The Big Show was presented as a big joke.

    Not only was he being pushed as a fun-loving babyface at the time, but his entire feud with Cody Rhodes revolved around how much of a failure he was at WrestleMania.

    It was a midcard match that didn't receive a lot of advanced hype.

    Things have changed quite a bit for Big Show this year. After turning heel, he had a bit of a career renaissance. While he's no longer pushed as unstoppable—as he was a few months ago—he's still one of the few legitimate threats on the roster.

    A World Heavyweight champion Big Show who had never lost his title taking on Ryback would have been more interesting, but his spot in the six-man tag match against The Shield isn't a bad place to be.

    Verdict: better off.

Primo and Epico, the Usos, Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd

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    These six men competed on last year's pre-show match for the tag team titles, but it's safe to say that was probably the highlight of everyone's year.

    The Usos were recently squashed in a two-on-one handicap match by The Big Show.

    Primo and Epico (champions a year ago) can't defeat Hornswoggle and Khali.

    Justin Gabriel has become a jobber while Tyson Kidd is on the sidelines with an injury.

    The entire tag team division is in shambles, and these six men have suffered the fallout from it.

    Verdict: all are worse off.