Projecting the Ceiling for Alexander Rusev and WWE's Next Generation of Stars

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Projecting the Ceiling for Alexander Rusev and WWE's Next Generation of Stars
Credit: WWE.com

Alexander Rusev leads an influx of new talent into WWE rings.

Of the recent NXT transplants on the main roster, he has the best chance at being a marquee name thanks to a combination of his skills and the fact that WWE has marketed him so well. Paige and Emma have already made their mark on Raw while Adam Rose and Bo Dallas are set to arrive on that stage.

Rusev's debut singles match came on the night after WrestleMania as he rolled through Zack Ryder.

That edition of Raw also featured Paige's first bout on Raw and vignettes for both Rose and Dallas. It felt as if WWE was telling us that the future is now, that it's committed to building new stars. 

What kind of chance do these Superstars have at major success? Whose careers will they most mimic?

The following is a look at those questions, projecting the ceilings for WWE's recent call-ups and those set to make their debut, from the bubbly Emma to the brutish Rusev.

 

Emma

WWE fans haven't seen what Emma is capable of yet. She's mostly been mired in an uninteresting angle with Santino Marella rather than allowed to stretch out her wings in the ring.

Her charming, fun energy pairs well with her excellent in-ring ability.

Quick and fluid between the ropes, Emma excels at telling stories during bouts. On the defensive, she is convincing at suffering blows and enduring pain. On the offensive, she employs an entertaining move set and is a skilled mat wrestler.

She showed off both those sides of her game in a match against Sasha Banks at NXT.

Since debuting on the main roster, she hasn't had many opportunities to produce bouts like that. Being one half of mixed tag team matches or being asked to compete in two-minute matches has hindered her from showing off her ring acumen and connecting with the crowd.

She will connect with fans eventually, though.

Her goofy-but-endearing shtick is sure to catch on. Emma's silly dance moves have the potential to be as infectious as Fandangoing. Those elements combined with her talent in the ring and charm will earn her a vocal fan club.

Count on her becoming Divas champ at least once as that fanbase grows.

Should WWE make full use of her character and wrestling ability, she can become a beloved figure. The company can market her to kids via her dancing and to adults by way of her other talents. 

Tapping into all of that, she could mirror Wendi Richter's career, becoming prominent, popular and champion.

 

Bo Dallas

Bet on Dallas' second run on the main roster to be far better than his first.

After a forgettable tenure early last year, he has found a compelling character. Dallas plays a condescending braggart with a big, fake smile. This gimmick is his ticket to more success this time around.

Dallas' act is entertaining and irksome at the same time.

He makes fans want to clock him or root for whoever is taking swings at him. When he tried to occupy NXT, fans turned their backs and chanted "No more Bo!"

This is the kind of moment that will propel Dallas into the upper midcard.

Don't expect him to climb much higher than that. His mic work isn't elite. His size isn't great, either.

He's only 6'1'' and 234 pounds, per WWE.com, and nowhere nearly as physically imposing as Rusev, Big E, Roman Reigns and many of the men he will be competing with.

Dallas, however, is an excellent wrestler. 

He has composed a number of high-quality matches by way of smooth footwork, dramatic body language and a talent for in-ring storytelling. Those skills have helped him produce memorable clashes against Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn and others.

This kind of production is going to have him win over his critics and eventually snag the Intercontinental Championship. 

WWE will be confident in having him fill out pay-per-views, but bigger, more magnetic stars will occupy the main event. He's fully capable of being this generation's Honky Tonk Man—the memorable midcard act that angers the crowd with his antics.

 

Paige

WWE didn't hesitate in ushering in the Paige era. Her first night on Raw saw her capture the Divas title from AJ Lee.

Only WWE's habit of not giving the Divas enough time or stories can keep Paige from being one of the most successful women in the company's history.

She's strong, a great striker and a top-notch mat wrestler. NXT fans have been aware of those skills for some time, and NXT Arrival exposed a wider audience to "The Anti-Diva." Her match with Emma was a peek at just how promising Paige's future is.

It was a physical battle that pulled the audience in.

Emma had a big part in that, but Paige has been thriving like this against just about anybody. There's an electricity to her ring work and her personality in general that has her stand out.

She commands' fans attention with her unique look, magnetic presence and hard-hitting wrestling style. At only 21, count on her getting exponentially better with added experience and confidence.

The amount of emotion she produces in big moments will win fans over as well. When she pinned AJ to win the championship, the passion that poured out of her made it easy to forget how short that match was and that the Paige Turner that ended it looked terrible.

Her ceiling would be to become the centerpiece of an improved division.

She can serve as the top Diva for as long as WWE can feed her worthy rivals. She can be as successful as Lita, including a trip to the Hall of Fame.

 

Adam Rose

Even before Rose has made his first appearance on the main roster, he's managed to generate momentum. The fun of his gimmick and entrance have fans (and wrestling media outlets) excited to see him.

That's going to be a huge boost for him going forward.

After the initial buzz wears off, though, Rose's limitations will emerge. His old South African hunter gimmick played to his strengths—power, toughness, intensity. The Rose character requires him to be silly and stray from those strengths.

He has to rely on being amusingly tricky in the ring instead.

That's going to limit him. Don't count on him having a ton of great matches. Fandango, a talented ring worker whose gimmick can be compared to Rose's, has a minimal collection of memorable bouts so far.

In addition, Rose's gimmick prevents him from being anything other than a midcard act.

Count up the men in WWE World Heavyweight Championship history with goofy gimmicks. You don't see names like Repo Man, Santino Marella or anyone from 3MB on that list. 

Still, Rose can make an impact as a memorable character with a brief run of popularity.

Eventually, though, he'll find that everyone leaves the party at some point. He'll be somewhere close to where Fandango is today—filler material for the bottom portion of the card.

 

The Bulgarian Brute

Dallas is a better overall wrestler, but Rusev has the highest ceiling of the Superstars on this list.

Being a 300-pounder and possessing an intimidating look will push him past Dallas and Rose. WWE has constructed the ideal package around the powerhouse.

Highlighting his foreignness, giving him a pre-match ritual, composing daunting entrance music for him and pairing him with Lana are all smart moves.

Lana, his hard-nosed manager, controls him like a lion tamer does lions. It's fascinating to watch.

Once the bell rings, Rusev follows all that buildup with excellence. He's surprisingly explosive, charging at his foes much like Big E does.

Swift kicks and power moves make up what is a limited repertoire so far, but he's shown far more mobility and agility than many monster heels in the past. Fans have only seen those skills in glimpses as of yet.

Count on him being more like Mark Henry during his "Hall of Pain" run than The Great Khali.

He'll have to prove that he can sustain the audience's attention in longer matches. He has the physical tools to do that. Experience will lead to him culling greatness from potential.

WWE has provided the vehicle for him to succeed. Should he continue to develop and work hard at his craft, he can be one of the company's top heels.

Expect Rusev to get the kind of attention from WWE that Roman Reigns is getting now. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy, the Money in the Bank briefcase and a number of headlining opportunities await him on the horizon.

 

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