5 WWE Superstars Primed for a Better 2nd Half of 2014
The first half of 2014 has seen the rise of several Superstars, including the likes of Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt and Cesaro. Whether it was winning the main event of WrestleMania, defeating John Cena or becoming a "Paul Heyman Guy," all three of these individuals have made a lasting impact this year that has solidified their spots atop the card.
Not everyone on the roster has flourished this year, however. There are a number of competitors who have either been underutilized, overlooked or simply lost their way in the first few months of 2014.
The month of July marks the halfway point of the year where Superstars will look to see whether the resolutions they made in January have been met. It also marks a turning point for Superstars who have not yet seen their goals met.
If recent weeks have been any indication, the following wrestlers are all primed for a better second half of 2014. They may have disappointed as of late, but each of them have a lot of potential just waiting to be tapped into in the coming months.
Four years ago, The Miz scored the biggest victory of his career up to that point when he won the Raw Money in the Bank Ladder match. In November 2010, he cashed in his contract on Randy Orton to win the WWE championship for the first and only time in his career.
Miz was arguably the company's biggest heel at the time, headlining pay-per-views (including WrestleMania 27) against the likes of Orton and Cena. His mic skills were also top-notch, and he made any program he was involved in entertaining.
Once he dropped the strap to Cena at the 2011 Extreme Rules event, Miz never came close to the main event scene again. His matches were still solid, but his mic skills seemed be on the decline and he accomplished nothing of note for the longest time.
WWE Creative attempted to rejuvenate the Miz character in late 2012 when it turned him face, but his run as a fan favorite was so poorly booked that it had no other choice but to revert him back to a heel the following year. He spent the first half of 2014 as a tweener before taking time off to film The Marine 4 shortly after WrestleMania 30.
After a several-month hiatus, Miz returned on the June 30 Raw as the heavily hyped former WWE champion. He sported a new haircut, entrance video and clothing, claiming to be unappreciated by the WWE Universe and that he belongs in Hollywood.
It was by far the best promo he cut in recent memory, and he showed a great deal of potential in his new Hollywood role. The Awesome One is at his best when he's portraying a full-fledged heel, and he's long overdue for a meaningful program.
Chris Jericho is currently set to feud with Wyatt, but a rivalry with Miz down the line would be desirable. The two are so similar in their egotistical personas that a feud between them could create magic.
Jack Swagger showed tremendous promise when he first debuted on WWE's ECW brand in late 2008, but he seemed to lose his way when he jumped ship to Raw in 2009. He won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in April 2010, but after being cast as an enhancement talent for so long, his reign was ultimately a flop.
Since then, he has done next to nothing in WWE. He was on the cusp of winning back the world title in 2013 after returning with a head of steam and with Zeb Colter as his mouthpiece, but a DUI arrest in February ruined any chance he had of returning to glory.
He and Cesaro had a good thing going as part of The Real Americans for the second half of the year, but they were never able to win championship gold. Cesaro was spotlighted coming out of the team's split following WrestleMania 30, and Swagger has been mostly directionless.
However, that all changed when Swagger came to the aid of America on the June 30 Raw when he interrupted Rusev and Lana mid-promo. Colter claimed that Rusev had yet to take out a real American in Swagger, leading the crowd to a thunderous "We the People" chant.
Swagger cleared the ring of the Bulgarian Brut, cementing his face turn in the process. Swagger has done everything there is to do as a heel, so his transition into a fan favorite was welcome.
Swagger will probably come out of his feud with Rusev on the losing end, but here's hoping that the rivalry can rejuvenate his stale character in the long term.
Paige was one of NXT's best and brightest prospects from her debut in WWE's developmental system in 2012. She dominated the NXT scene for all of 2013, winning a tournament in August to become the inaugural NXT Women's Champion.
Her matches with Summer Rae, Natalya and especially Emma were all highly regarded among fans, so it was only a matter of time before she was called up to the main roster. She made her Raw debut one night removed from WrestleMania 30, defeating AJ Lee to win the WWE Divas Championship in shocking fashion.
Despite having an unforgettable first night, her reign as Divas champion from that point forward felt lackluster. She successfully defended the gold against Tamina Snuka, Alicia Fox and Naomi, but she was failing to get over with the audience in the way officials hoped she would.
On the June 30 Raw, Paige claimed to have proven why she belongs in WWE only to be interrupted by a returning Lee. AJ manipulated Paige into putting her Divas title up for grabs—shades of their post-WrestleMania encounter.
Sure enough, Paige accepted the challenge. No more than a minute or so later, AJ caught Paige in an inside cradle to win back her precious prize. The way it all went down seemed to indicate that AJ is now the babyface while Paige is the heel.
Paige shined as NXT's resident anti-Diva in 2012, so it's possible she'll bring that persona back now that she's being cast as a villain. Her feud with AJ over the title has the potential to be great, and Paige can finally settle into the role where she's most comfortable.
Ryback had arguably one of the fastest rises to superstardom in WWE history in 2012, breaking into the main event scene months removed from his main roster debut. One of his biggest claims to fame was his "Feed Me More" chant that quickly got over with the WWE audience.
By October, he was headlining pay-per-views and countless episodes of Raw and SmackDown with the likes of CM Punk and Cena for the WWE Championship. In his various attempts to win the WWE title in late 2012 and early 2013, Ryback was never successful.
Fed up (no pun intended) up with constantly coming up short, Ryback turned his back on the WWE Universe one night removed from WrestleMania 29, when he attacked Cena. In turning heel, Ryback was stripped of everything that got him over to begin with: his catchphrases, his mannerisms and especially his "Feed Me More" mantra.
Even as a heel, Ryback was unable to capture the title from Cena in their long, drawn-out feud from April to June 2013. Ryback then went on to be cast as an enhancement talent for the remainder of the year before joining forces with Curtis Axel to form Rybaxel.
At the age of 32, there's still time for Ryback's career to be resurrected from the ashes, but only if he were go back to being a fan favorite. His run as a heel had potential at first, but it's been so poorly mishandled that he has no other choice.
At both Money in the Bank and at the next night's Raw, the fans chanted "Feed Me More" at Ryback during his match to which he looked at the camera and exclaimed, "I still got it!" While a part of a panel during WrestleMania week on the WWE Network, Ryback mentioned that the popular catchphrase will be brought back at some point. One has to wonder if that time has finally come.
While Rybaxel are one of the few remaining tandems in the tag team division at the moment, let's face it: They'll never win the WWE Tag Team Championship. They've already faced The Usos, and Cody Rhodes and Goldust, and I'm unsure as to what they have left to accomplish.
It'd be best for The Big Guy to separate himself as soon as possible and revert back to his babyface persona. It's unknown if he'd be able to get as over as he was prior to his heel turn, but hey, it's worth a shot.
For the latter half of 2013, Cody Rhodes was arguably one of the hottest babyfaces on the rise in WWE. His show-stealing performance in the SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder match essentially turned him face, leading him to defeat former friend Damien Sandow at SummerSlam.
Shortly thereafter, Cody was "fired" from WWE by Triple H, cutting one of the best promos of his career on his way out. He'd return several weeks later with real-life brother Goldust at his side to wreak havoc against The Authority on Raw.
The duo won their jobs back in an amazing matchup at Battleground before capturing the WWE Tag Team Championship together eight days later on Raw. Over the next three months, Cody and Goldust would light the entire tag team division on fire and solidify their status as WWE's greatest tandem in recent memory.
2014, however, hasn't been as kind to the Rhodes brothers. They dropped the straps to The New Age Outlaws at the Royal Rumble and failed to regain them in the weeks that followed.
Cody and Goldust struggled to find success from that point forward, losing almost every match they competed in. Why they didn't have a bigger role at WrestleMania 30 remains a mystery to many.
They started to tease tension with each other starting in late April, but it ultimately led nowhere when Cody made the transformation into Stardust in mid-June. If the end game isn't a match between the siblings at SummerSlam, then what was the point of repackaging Cody at all?
I, personally, am still of the mindset that there is still much more money left to be made in the Cody character. At the age of 29, he still has his entire career ahead of him, but I'd rather see him get his due in the main event sooner rather than later.
Either way, after seemingly falling off the face of the earth in the first half of 2014, the second-generation star is destined for success in the months to come. Whether it be as Cody or as Stardust, the former intercontinental champion makes anything he's involved in entertaining and will surely make an impact on his own sometime in the very near future.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.