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WWE: Returning Icons and the Men Who Should Crush Them

John CobbcornAnalyst IIOctober 22, 2011

WWE: Returning Icons and the Men Who Should Crush Them

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    There has been a lot of buzz lately over the Internet about the WWE reaching out to bring in old faces from the Attitude Era, in an attempt to recapture the millions of fans they have lost over the last several years. 

    Since the first reports of these attempts have broken, several older superstars have made moves:

    Kevin Nash has returned to WWE Television...for better or for worse. (Worse.)

    Mick Foley has been confirmed to return on November 14th.

    Chris Jericho is in negotiations to return to the WWE.

    Steve Austin has mentioned he might have two good years left in him, and is interested in doing an angle with CM Punk.

    Even Shawn Michaels has done an off-camera DX reunion show with Triple H. 

    While many fans are excited about the return of these legends that we grew up with, I'm left asking one question:

    "So?"

    While I will be as excited as anyone when these men make it back to a television screen to do their thing, I'm still left wondering: "What about this generation of superstars?"

    The bottom line is that the men who are returning will be 40 and older.  They'll be working part-time and they simply just don't have that much left in their bodies to contribute long term to the product. 

    Will the WWE still be reaching out to these men when they are decrepit, old and gray? (Please don't think of Kevin Nash when I say that...)

    But in all seriousness, there will come a point in time where these superstars can't return anymore.  There will come a day, when no matter how bad they want to, it's just not feasible to wrestle anymore, because of health or other concerns. 

    This is why it is important to capitalize on them now.  It's not just about bringing in old names and faces; it's about bringing in guys and then having them help to build the next generation of superstars up. 

    Bret Hart helped to build both Shawn Micheals and Stone Cold.  The Undertaker helped to build Mick Foley.  Stone Cold and The Rock helped to build Chris Jericho. 

    It takes icons to make icons. Or, as Ric Flair would say it: "To be the man, you've got to beat the man."

    Right now, if there is anything the WWE is lacking, it's a creative writing team worth anything. (Wait, wrong time), it's superstars with mainstream appeal like their older counterparts. 

    So, in this article, I am going to take a look at the biggest possible returns to the WWE and then take a look at who should not just beat these men, but crush these men.  Not just win a match or two, but have a feud and then totally own the legend they are fighting in such a way that the WWE is going to have to pay them extra to completely job themselves out.   

    Let's take a look at who would benefit most from crushing these returning legends...

Stone Cold Steve Austin

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    Stone Cold Steve Austin is the biggest financial draw in the history of the WWE.  Bigger than even Hulk Hogan and The Rock. 

    Along with Dwayne Johnson, Stone Cold Steve Austin was the face of the WWF's most prosperous time: "The Attitude Era". 

    A six-time WWF Heavyweight Champion in an era where only worthy contenders actually held the title, (No Miz's or ADR's allowed) Steve Austin is arguably the biggest feather that any current wrestler could put in his cap from the current generation.

    Because a neck injury forced Steve Austin into early retirement in 2003, Austin remains in relatively good health even at the age of 46, and has stated he feels he can return and give at least two more years in the ring.  

    And while it's highly doubtful that Austin would actually wrestle full-time for two years, this may mean that he can have the sporadic, high-profile feud here or there for the "Big 4" PPV's: Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, The Royal Rumble and Summerslam. 

    Should Austin return, he's made it very clear who he wants to face. 

    And the wrestler he should job to?

CM Punk

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    No surprises here, this is the obvious choice. 

    Stone Cold knows it.

    CM Punk knows it.

    The fans know it.

    So, the WWE is in the process of screwing it up by trying to turn Punk into a full-on babyface, before he and Stone Cold can have their battle between rebels at WrestleMania. 

    I believe that the WWE enjoys the fans in the same way we enjoy the WWE.  We like watching them put out programming that, for the most part, we don't like and then complain about it.  That's our entertainment.

    They like watching us as they tease us with possibly great angles, and then destroy them before our very eyes.  I believe they are aroused by our groaning and complaining.  (Sickos, they are.)

    CM Punk has survived being taken off of the blazing hot angle with John Cena, pitting "Attitude" against "PG". 

    He has survived the injection of Kevin Nash into his angle, and the mismanaged turn towards Triple H and John Laurinaitis for his feud.

    He has survived having his title taken by Alberto Del Rio and momentum killing beatdowns by The Awesome Truth, while being cast as second fiddle to Triple H. 

    Whether or not he can survive being defanged so soon after bearing his true fangs this past summer remains to be seen. 

    But, if he can, it would be in the WWE's best interest to not delay a potential SCSA/CM Punk feud past this WrestleMania.

    I don't think CM Punk will be able to survive your own creative team's mind-numbing incompetence long enough to try and hold off any longer than that.  

    Austin is notorious for not wanting to lose.  Some of the better known dream matches that never occurred are Stone Cold vs. Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold vs. Brock Lesnar, because of Austin's refusal to do the job. 

    However, Austin, even if he does return, is going to be a 46-year-old part-timer, in comparison to the hottest commodity in the business right now, a 32-year-old CM Punk.  I believe even Austin knows he's going to have to lose this program in the end, for the good of the business.  

    Make no mistake about it, of all of the feuds listed here, this one is by far the most important for the business.  CM Punk is the new face of the WWE since this summer, overtaking John Cena in popularity, some ratings segments and merchandise. 

    It is utterly important that the biggest star of the past generation passes the torch to him, if this feud is made.  A win over Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania will launch CM Punk into the stratosphere and help to create the megastar WWE wanted Cena to be, but never could build him in to. 

    The big fear here, however, is that the WWE will keep CM Punk from being the megastar he can be, in the same way they kept that from John Cena.  

    John Cena, before the Marine, was absurdly popular.  He was a cutting edge, hip-hop rebel.  But, once the WWE decided to market him as the face of their PG company, the Cena that would toss people bags of nuts and tell them to suck on them, turned into the guy who calls people "jackwagons".  (Seriously..."Jackwagons".)

    Hopefully, they won't have CM Punk running around saying things like: "Tooty fruity, this is a job for Superman!" a year from now. 

     

Chris Jericho

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    The news circulating around the web is that the first ever Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion is in negotiations to return to the WWE for a third stint.

    This will obviously make many fans happy as Chris Jericho is easily one of the most respected performers of the past 10 years.

    The six-time former WWE and World Champion is in a different boat than many of the legends who will appear on this list, as he's only 40 years of age. 

    Chris Jericho can probably still perform at a high level for the next five or six years, so the idea of him passing the torch is still a bit premature.

    However, with Chris, you never really know when he's actually going to hang up the boots again.  He's already retired twice before he was 39 years old.  And now that he's actually 40, this may very well be his final cycle with the WWE. The next retirement could be his last, as he has never really been a wrestler who seemed addicted to the sport.  He's always had other interests that occupy his time, such as music and television projects.

    So, it isn't completely out of the question to wonder who could take out and take over for the man who is the best in the world at what he does.

    One thing to consider is this, however: The torch would need to be passed early in a Jericho return and not late.  

    The reason being is that Jericho flows in cycles.  He comes and quickly establishes himself at the top of the card.  Then he will begin a slow decent into the mid-card, and eventually go out doing the job in a humiliating way.

    For example, in both of his previous departures, he was dragged out kicking and screaming after being fired by Eric Bischoff for failing to beat John Cena the first time.  The second time, he was unceremoniously punted in the head by Randy Orton into retirement. 

    He will win World titles in the beginning, then somehow, will end up jobbing to Evan Bourne, and then be booted out in an embarrassing way into the sunset.

    So, it would be important to catch Jericho at the beginning of his next run to get the most impact out of beating him. 

    But, who would be the one who would possibly benefit the most from taking advantage of Chris Jericho early in his return?

     

Cody Rhodes

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    The narcissistic one himself, Cody Rhodes, would benefit the most from taking Jericho down. 

    However, it isn't just the act of taking Jericho out, as much as it should be in the build-up to the deed that would really help to launch Rhodes to another level. 

    Jericho and Rhodes as an arrogant tag-team would be a fantastic combination, assuming that Jericho returns as a heel. 

    The two of them should easily secure the WWE Tag Team Championships from Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne. 

    Jericho is a World Championship caliber wrestler, and so him capturing the WWE or World title, while Cody holds on to the Intercontinental Title, as they share the WWE Tag Team titles, will give both men an elite feel and will do wonders for Cody's profile. 

    Obviously, the WWE won't let two men hold three titles together for long, so a break-up would be inevitable.

    The easy play is for Cody to become jealous of the fact that Jericho has the World Title and turn on him.  This can culminate in a big PPV match in which Cody defeats Chris and becomes the World Champion. 

    Cody would benefit from not just defeating Chris, but defeating a respected seven-time WWE and World Champion to secure his first World or WWE title. 

     

Mick Foley

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    As recent news has stated, Mick Foley isn't returning, Mick Foley has returned. 

    Mick Foley has a lot to offer the WWE as an on-screen character.  His charisma and mic skills are the stuff of legend, he always keeps fans entertained and he has garnered a great deal of respect for his hardcore antics as Cactus Jack and Mankind. 

    However, it is the hardcore antics during his days in ECW and time in the WWF, doing things like letting the Undertaker throw him off of the Hell in the Cell, which makes him as equally diminished in between the ropes as he is spectacular with a microphone.

    If you watched some of Mick's final matches while in TNA, you know that he has nothing left to give in a match.  All of those years of hardcore bumps and insane spots have led to him not being able to put together a decent match without the use of hardcore elements.  

    The problem with that is that the WWE is no longer a place where hardcore matches are glorified. 

    This, overall, probably won't be a problem, as the WWE probably only intends to use Foley as a talking character, anyway. 

    While he'll probably end up back in the ring again, it will probably only be a one or two time deal in a hardcore match at a PPV. 

    Now, Mick isn't ashamed to do the job for a young and upcoming talent in a hardcore match.  Some might remember the insanely brutal matches he had with Randy Orton and Edge several years back, respectively. 

    Mick can do that again for another young and talented wrestler, today.  Someone who is skirting just on the outside of the main-event and can use a respect-building, hardcore win over a highly regarded legend like Foley...

     

Dolph Ziggler

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    Dolph has been hanging just outside of the main-event picture for a while now. 

    Unfortunately for him, the velocity of his career is losing steam and he may fall out of that orbit soon. 

    Lately he's been jobbing to the likes of Kingston and Bourne, being unable to secure the tag titles with Swagger, and has even been losing to the flash-in-the-pan fad that is Zach Ryder.  (Don't get me wrong, I like Zach Ryder but, a year from now, he'll be as played out as Grandmaster Sexay.)

    A big win over a hardcore icon like Foley could be just the ticket to get Dolph going back in the right direction. 

    Many times a wrestler can have all the tools, but lack that one defining moment or match that really grabs the audience and they end up missing their moment.  A particularly savage hardcore match in the vein of Edge/Foley could get Dolph a brand new level of respect, especially if he comes out on top. 

    Dolph has the ingredients to become a respected wrestler.  He has above average in-ring ability, steadily improving mic skills and a fantastic look.  The only thing killing him is the name. 

    But Dolph could easily become a popular face if he switched up his gimmick from the all too overused narcissist with a superiority complex, to a tough-as-nails brawler willing to mix it up with anyone to any degree of brutality. 

    The switch would do him good, as really, he doesn't need to be underneath Vicki Guerrero, anymore.  He's developed into a wrestler that can fly on his own and generate his own heat and/or pops. 

    One set of hardcore victories over the hardcore icon could be the thing needed for Dolph to spread his wings and fly into the main-event where many feel he belongs. 

     

John Bradshaw Layfield

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    When JBL said that "He was in the best shape of his life", he was not kidding. 

    JBL was one of the last champions of the "Attitude Era" before the rise of John Cena.  In fact, it was JBL who dropped the title to John Cena at WrestleMania 21, ending the longest World Title reign in the last 10 years and starting the birth of "Cenation". (Thank you, Layfield...we really appreciate that.) 

    JBL retired from professional wrestling in 2009, after losing to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 25 for the Intercontinental Championship in 21 seconds. 

    While JBL has previously stated he has no plans to return, he's recently softened that stance and claims that he would be willing to consider a return, but no one from the WWE has talked about it.

    At the age of 44, that return would more than likely be on a part-time basis.  JBL is a wealthy man because of his investment prowess, and is in a position where he can choose to wrestle or not based on a whim. 

    But, as one of the last champions of the Attitude Era, before the titles would be watered down by the likes of Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio and The Miz, JBL's name still holds some weight with wrestling fans.

    While beating someone like Stone Cold or The Rock would be more of a push for a younger wrestler's career, a clean win over a returning JBL wouldn't be a victory to scoff at. 

    So exactly who should JBL pass the torch to?

     

Sin Cara

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    Sin Cara is clearly the WWE's answer to an aging, frequently injured and near-retirement Rey Mysterio.

    So who better to try and get Sin Cara to Rey Mysterio type levels than the man who, along with Eddie Guerrero, helped to get Rey Mysterio to the main-event level he has enjoyed (when healthy) over the last several years?

    Rey Mysterio's feuds with JBL and Eddie Guerrero helped to position him as a highly popular main-event threat in 2005. While many feel that Rey was eventually elevated to the title out of sympathy over the passing of Eddie Guerrero, Rey would never have been in a position to get the nod in the first place if it weren't for JBL and Eddie. 

    In addition to this, JBL also had a great feud with Eddie Guerrero over the World Heavyweight Title, as well. 

    The JBL character is racist towards Latinos, which was made immediately evident from the very start, as JBL infamously hunted "illegals" on the Mexico/Texas border to start his run. 

    A character like that going after a luchadore-style character like Sin Cara is a readymade feud that would tinge on deeper aspects like immigration and race that are fuel for the more controversial (and memorable) angles the WWE used to be known for.

    Giving Sin Cara a win over a future Hall of Famer like JBL, in the middle of an angle like that, would do a great deal to boost his career and help to frame him as a "hero of the Mexican people".

Brock Lesnar

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    I believe that people are going to see the "Next Big Thing" in a WWE ring a lot sooner than many expect.

    The UFC is a very tough business.  And Dana White does not suffer losers. 

    For those unfamiliar with the UFC, it is the only game in town where any serious money can be made in Mixed Martial Arts, since they recently purchased their number one competitor: "Strikeforce".  If you think the WWE has a monopoly over professional wrestling, just imagine if it purchased TNA and ROH. That's the UFC. 

    They also have a rule where if a fighter loses three matches in a row, they are usually canned. 

    The only time they make an exception is for a seriously popular and wild fighter who throws himself at an opponent and bangs with reckless abandon. Even then, if they lose only a couple of more fights, they can still be fired.

    The UFC has about 99 of the 100 best fighters in the world, so they don't have the room to play around with guys who can't hack it.

    Brock Lesnar can cut it in MMA, that's why he's the former UFC Heavyweight Champion.  However, Brock is missing some key elements in his game. Mainly striking, striking defense, submissions and submission defense.  In his last fight, Cain Velasquez exposed that he also doesn't take punches to the face well, either. 

    If Brock doesn't close these holes up quickly, he's going to be eaten alive.  His next match is going to be with a monster in Alistair Overeem. 

    With the exception of mat wrestling, Alistair is superior to Brock in every possible way.  If Alistair beats Brock, that's strike two, and a ton of luster off of Brock's MMA image.  One more loss and he may go the way of Fedor Emelianenko: Future Endeavored.  

    Even if Brock should win and continue winning, at his size, it will be nearly impossible for him to remain elite at 39 or 40 years old in MMA.  It's a hard sport and the only man to have serious longevity into his 40's was Randy "The Natural" Couture.  

    So, Brock should be available to return to the WWE at no later than 40, without having all of wear on his body that someone who has been wrestling full-time would have at 40.  

    Brock, who has already left the door open for a WWE return at some point in the future "if the money and opportunity is right", would easily be able to return and compete in a few years in the WWE.  (He is currently 34.)

    So, if Brock is to return, which I think he will several years from now, exactly who would benefit most from going over on him in a feud?   

Jack Swagger

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    In much the same way the WWE wants Sin Cara to be the answer for Rey Mysterio, the WWE wanted Jack Swagger to be the answer for Brock Lesnar/Kurt Angle. 

    This is because Jacob Hager (Swagger) has an impressive collegiate wrestling record at the University of Oklahoma where he scored 30 pins as an All-American amateur wrestler, the most pins ever by an amateur wrestler in a season. 

    But just like that record pales in comparison with being an NCAA Wrestling Champion with a 106-5 collegiate record (Brock Lesnar) and winning the 1996 Oylmpic Gold Medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling with a broken frickin' neck (Kurt Angle), Jack Swagger pales in comparison with both Lesnar and Angle as a WWE wrestler. 

    Fans just do not accept him as a suitable replacement for either man.  To make matters worse, the WWE tried their typical strong-arm tactics with the fans and tried to force us to embrace Swagger as a Angle-Lesnar caliber wrestler by putting the ECW and World Championships on him way too soon.

    The fans regurgitated him out quickly, the title was stripped off of him and he was relegated back to the mid-card.  Now, he's spending time with Dolph Ziggler and Vicki Guerrero getting jobbed out to Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, Sheamus and Zack Ryder.   

    However, if Brock returns, he can do a huge favor for the career of Jack Swagger by doing the job for him in a high-profile feud. 

    This naturally wouldn't be a job Lesnar would do immediately, but after rebuilding his profile in the WWE with a few big victories of his own, crossing paths with Swagger and letting Swagger win then, would be big for the floundering former World Champion.  

    Beating one of the men who you are supposed to be an imitation of would certainly gain you some respect in the eyes of the fans and help pull you out of the mid-card. 

    That is, if Swagger is still around and mid-carding by then.  Because as long as Brock Lesnar is a UFC fighter, Dana White would rather die than let him have anything to do with the WWE on TV.   So, it may still be some years, yet. 

Bill Goldberg

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    Goldberg made his legend in the WCW, not the WWE, where he is best known for his undefeated streak of 174 wins before taking his first loss in a horribly booked match.

    In that match, Scott Hall zapped him with a cattle prod, allowing Kevin Nash (Who actually was the booker for the match) to win the WCW World Heavyweight Title from him.  (Bookers who wrestle. Best idea since "Cokehead security guard.")

    Goldberg was never really the same dominant presence after that, due to poor booking in WCW. 

    When Goldberg finally made his way to the WWF, two years after the fold of WCW, he was booked as a main-event wrestler, even winning the World Heavyweight Championship once, but was still never allowed to be as dominant as he was during his streak in WCW.

    Goldberg never really got along well behind the scenes in the WWE and he and the company decided to part ways after only a year.

    It's not likely that Goldberg would ever return to the WWE. In a recent interview surrounding his return to wrestling in an event in Africa, Goldberg used profanity to describe the company and said he wouldn't be going back. Meanwhile, Triple H has mocked him in interviews saying he takes himself too seriously. 

    But "he's never coming back" has been said about a number of superstars who eventually ended up coming back to the WWE, regardless. (Bret Hart or Hulk Hogan, anyone?) 

    As Jim Ross says: "You never say never in this business."

    It's quite possible that if the money is right, that Goldberg would be willing to return for a short feud culminating at a Wrestlemania in the future.  

    This, more than likely, would be a one-and-done situation, if it ever happened. 

    But, exactly who would be best suited to face off against Goldberg and get the most out of it?

Daniel Bryan

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    From the moment that Bryan Danielson stepped foot into the WWE, they have made it a point to let the fans know that "Daniel Bryan doesn't fit the mold of a WWE Superstar."

    Every time Michael Cole opens his mouth, he's letting it be known.  Even Bryan is scripted to say it in almost every promo. 

    The worst part about it, however, is that now, Daniel Bryan is being booked as someone who shouldn't be a WWE Superstar.  Ever since he won the Smackdown Money In The Bank briefcase, he has been a whipping boy for everyone from Alberto Del Rio to Wade Barrett. 

    However, it would be absolutely nothing for them to turn around and unleash the true skill of Bryan Danielson, who is better in that ring than every single wrestler currently employed by the WWE, even CM Punk. 

    What better way to turn things around than to have Bill Goldberg, not just the archetypical giant bruiser, but the man who was once synonymous with physical dominance, emerge to try and crush Daniel Bryan at a Wrestlemania? Only for Daniel Bryan to do, in kayfabe, what Chris Jericho did in real life: Choke him out.  

    What would really get Daniel Bryan over, is if he did it the same night that he cashes in the Money In The Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania to win the title and do both at the same event. 

    It would be almost similar to when Chris Jericho defeated both The Rock and Stone Cold, in the same night, to become the first ever Undisputed Champion. (Ironically, ten years ago at Vengeance in 2001.) 

    From that night forward, Bryan could be booked like the nigh-unbeatable submission machine he used to be when he was The American Dragon.  

    But, as it stands, this is just a piece of fantasy booking more than it is something that would ever actually happen in a WWE ring. 

    Here's to hoping they just let him win a match again, as opposed to letting him lose the briefcase in some match, then boot him out of the company, while still claiming that every person who ever won the briefcase also won the title and start acting like he never existed...EX-IS-TED.   

Dave Batista

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    When Batista walked away from the WWE last year because he didn't like the direction that the company was going in, it was a massive blow to the WWE's main-event scene. 

    Since 2002, the WWE had focused the lion's share of its attention on elevating John Cena, Randy Orton and Dave Batista. 

    Batista, at many times, was set up to be the cooler and more animalistic alternative to the kid-friendly John Cena. 

    Without him, there hasn't really been anyone who could reliably break the monotony of John Cena's reign at the top.  Especially since men like Kane, The Undertaker and Rey Mysterio's bodies are so unreliable, you never know when they may have to leave due to another injury.  

    The WWE has tried to establish men like Sheamus, The Miz and Alberto Del Rio to be those foils to John Cena, but they have had limited to no success.  They just haven't had the build up like Batista did as he grew up along side Cena. 

    In many ways, Batista was the "Lex Luthor" to John Cena's "Superman".  He was the other major draw that the WWE could fall back on, when fans tired of seeing Cena with the title.  It's the absence of Batista that has forced Randy Orton into the face role, even though he's far more suited to be a heel. 

    In many ways, the six-time Heavyweight Champion leaving, hurt the promotion. 

    But a return could be down the road for Batista sooner than later. 

    Batista had been focusing all of his energy into a foray into MMA, and it looked as though he was going to get signed by Strikeforce.  That was until Zuffa, LLC, the owners of the UFC, acquired Strikeforce and killed the deal back in April of this year. 

    With nowhere to go, Batista has just been training himself oddly thin, while milling around the MMA fight scene, talking about who and where he would want to fight and shooting roles for B-rate movies that make WWE Films look like Steven Spielberg blockbusters. (It's kind of sad, really.)

    It might not be too long before Batista decides to return to where he started in the WWE. Afterall, that's where the exposure and the money is and he is making zero headway in MMA.

    The WWE would certainly want him back in order to fill the hole he left in the main-event scene that still hasn't been adequately filled since his departure.

    But at 42, Batista doesn't have a great deal of time left to stand at the main-event scene in the WWE, even if he should return. 

    He's getting to the age that if he does make a return, it's going to be a part-time deal or a one-off.  So, which wrestler would get the most benefit out of destroying The Animal?   

Brodus Clay

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    Bet you thought it was going to be Mason Ryan, huh? 

    No, I'd rather the rub goes to a guy who can actually wrestle and talk on a microphone. 

    The bottom line is that Brodus is going to be a star no matter what. The WWE is going to make sure of that just because he's 6'7" and 400 pounds.  He also has a unique look, charisma, and mic skills. 

    But, what's most important, is that as a "giant", he can wrestle better than just about any big man that's entered the WWE since the Undertaker changed his style up. 

    Brodus brings an arsenal of slams, suplexes and impact moves that make some consider him a gigantic version of Taz, minus the submissions. 

    However, what would really solidify Brodus as a true monster is in destroying the highest quality beasts he can get his hands on. 

    In his career, more than likely, he'll beat Kane and The Big Show to try and solidify his status, but everyone beats Kane and The Big Show to solidify their status.

    Quality wins over someone like a returning Batista would immediately elevate Brodus to the top of the card in a way dominating the standard fare would not. 

    The fact that Brodus can actually talk will help to keep him at the top, and wouldn't be wasted on him like pushes to men such as Umaga and The Great Khali, ultimately were.  

Shawn Michaels

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    To the WWE itself, and to many fans around the world, he is the greatest WWF/E wrestler of all time.

    The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels.

    He revolutionized the sport, performing suicide planchas and dives like a Luchadore, in a WWF where many wrestlers were still just punching and kicking with the occasional suplex.

    Some of the greatest matches in the history of this business belong to Shawn Michaels, whether it was his Iron Man match with Bret Hart, his retirement matches against Ric Flair and The Undertaker, or technical classics with men like Kurt Angle, Shelton Benjamin and Chris Benoit.  

    He was at the forefront of the Attitude Era with Stone Cold Steve Austin, flashing his penis to audiences and wearing protective masks when dealing with Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter as a member of Degeneration-X.

    He is the first ever Grand Slam Champion and 4-Time WWF/E and World Champion.

    But he swears that his time is done and that the Undertaker officially ended his career at Wrestlemania 26.  

    But, let me ask you this question: Does anyone ever actually walk away from pro-wrestling? Especially when they've achieved the success that Shawn Michaels has?  Especially when the fans are still clamoring for more?

    When you know you still have it in you because your final match was not only voted PWI's match of the year, but was the seventh consecutive year that you won the honor?

    Very few ever truly walk away from this sport.  They are usually forced out by injury, family issues, legal issues or by burning bridges.  

    Shawn will be back, even though he promised he wouldn't be and we'll be glad to have him.  There's a reason why he's doing off-camera DX appearances and keeps sniffing around, instead of staying away.  It's the "itch".  He'll definitely scratch, eventually. 

    The larger question is this: Shawn, like everyone else on this list, can't keep doing this forever.  The only reason why Shawn is still so good at the age of 46 is that from 1998 to 2002, he didn't wrestle due to his back injury.  It spared him four years of wear and tear. 

    But, eventually, he will have to pass the torch.

    So exactly who should Shawn pass his torch to? 

Alex Riley

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    Now, let's face it, there isn't a single person today who will ever be able to put on matches the quality of a Shawn Michaels. 

    HBK is an 11-time PWI Match of the Year winner, with many of them coming in his forties, and to be honest, with the exception of guys like Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, HBK was carrying them every single time.  

    Triple H, John Cena and The Undertaker are not "Match of the Year" Wrestlers, if you catch my drift. Daniel Bryan may be the only man in the WWE currently, who can match Shawn Michaels in a match. Dolph Ziggler may be able to do it with about another six or seven years of seasoning.

    But for right now, HBK is on such another stratosphere when it comes to putting together legendary matches, that selecting the recipient of his torch based on that factor, can't even be considered. 

    And so, based solely upon charisma, mic ability and "it" factor, the man who should be allowed to get the Shawn Michaels rub is Alex Riley.

    If the WWE creative team weren't comprised of writers struggling with Asperger's Syndrome, Riley wouldn't even need to be placed on this list. 

    Riley was already highly popular after coming out on top in his feud with The Miz and the fans were eager to embrace him. 

    In response, the WWE decided to push him to the United States Champio---excuse me---take him off television. 

    (That's because they are smart.)

    A-Ry is now rarely ever seen, when the man has charisma and mic skills out of this world, and isn't too shabby in the ring, if not a slight shade of green. 

    But what would put Alex back on the people's radar in a serious way, is not just beating Shawn Michaels, but having an extended feud with the man.  The war on the mic would be phenomenal and Shawn would make sure their in-ring work would match up with it. 

    This is a case where not only could Alex Riley benefit from having Shawn pass him the torch, but his career could benefit as a whole, as Shawn teaches him how to truly handle himself in a top program. 

    Alex would learn from the best on putting together stellar matches and would hone his mic skills even more by going back and forth with a talker the caliber of HBK.  Call it "hands on training" for a Champion in the making. 

Kevin Nash

18 of 24

    There's no nice way to put this, so I'll just say it:

    Kevin Nash is a washed up, over-the-hill, old man, who can't walk in a wrestling ring without tearing a quad and can't even talk on the mic anymore, without boring a crowd. 

    His return to the WWE this past Summer was an absolute debacle that was mismanaged from all possible standpoints, and totally killed even the one-off push he could've given a wrestler with a quick loss for a fast paycheck. 

    CM Punk defeating Kevin Nash would do absolutely nothing for Punk's career.  Nothing.

    In fact, any main-eventer defeating Kevin Nash, from Randy Orton to The Big Show, means absolutely nothing as far as elevating their career. 

    Kevin Nash has long since burned through his "legend" credibility he gained as "Big Daddy Cool Diesel" and a founding father of the New World Order.  At this point, his association with the business is a joke, as he can't even properly book or contribute behind the scenes, either.

    Which is why Kevin Nash should be fed to a young monster and sent packing quickly. 

    The only redeeming quality Nash has at this point, is that he understands that the WWE is bringing him in to do the job for a guy like Punk at some point.

    But Punk doesn't need him. 

    So, instead, he should be fed to a young up and comer as a key victory to get some attention with the fans.  That's all Nash is good for at this point.

    The man who should get this very small "feather" in his cap?

Skip Sheffield

19 of 24

    When I first saw Skip Sheffield on NXT, I thought he was an idiot.  He had clear charisma and mic ability for sure, but his whole "Cornfed Meathead" gimmick was one of the dumbest I had seen in a long time.

    But then, the final episode of NXT came about and they asked Skip, who was in the audience, who he thought should win between David Otunga and Wade Barrett.  Skip's answer was a simple: "I don't care."

    But with those three simple words, I saw a side of Skip Sheffield that told me that the man could be a serious superstar. 

    Then the Nexus came into being, and my suspicions were confirmed.

    Gone was the "Cornfed Meathead" cowboy and in its place was a man who seemed as though he just did very horrible things to hardened killers on D-Block in Riker's Island.  

    The man has a "I will destroy your face with violence" appeal that I haven't seen since Brock Lesnar, and honestly, he's much better at conveying it than Brock Lesnar was.  In addition to his attitude and mic skills, the man can actually wrestle for someone who clearly looks like a muscle-bound goon.  His ability to work a match was one of the reasons the WWE would initially hide David Otunga behind him in tag matches. 

    Unfortunately, a broken ankle sidelined Skip before he could really accomplish much. 

    That might have been a blessing in disguise for Skip, because he's been sidelined for so long, he was able to avoid the travesty that was "The New Nexus" and "The Corre" and hasn't been completely ruined like everyone from Justin Gabriel to Michael McGillicutty has. 

    Rumor has it, that Skip will be returning soon.  (And that the WWE is looking to give him some sort of "Terminator" gimmick. If this is true, please do not give him a gimmick like that, WWE.

    If Skip is coming back to action soon, Kevin Nash would be a nice wrestler for Skip to crush in a match on Raw or at a smaller PPV. 

    Nash being buried won't do much for many, but in this situation, he might be just the ticket to get a returning Skip Sheffield some needed attention.  

    But whether or not Nash ever does the job for Skip, I truly believe Skip Sheffield will go down as one of the greatest wrestlers of this generation, if he can stay healthy. 

    Quote me. 

The Rock

20 of 24

    "The Most Electrifying Man In Sports and Entertainment" has been on television more regularly since making his return last year before Wrestlemania. (Not much more, but still more than the past seven years...)

    He's currently scheduled to return to the ring at Survivor Series next month and will make an appearance or two on Raw.  In addition, he's also scheduled to wrestle John Cena in the main event of next year's Wrestlemania as well. 

    While not as often as most fans would like, The Rock, in a way, is already back in the fold of the WWE. 

    With his sudden willingness to get back into the thick of things and mix it up after eight years of absence, it provides a monstrous opportunity for young up and comers to make a name for themselves by beating him.

    The Rock is, without a doubt, one of the biggest superstars in the history of the industry.  Alongside of Steve Austin, he helped to buoy the Attitude Era and is the single biggest crossover star in pro-wrestling's history, becoming an even bigger success in mainstream media than the iconic Hulk Hogan. 

    A nine-time WWF/E and World Champion and a regular staple on "greatest of all-time", "most charismatic of all time", and "best mic-worker of all time" lists around the world, having a chance at defeating the Rock is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many current stars that might never come again, as there isn't a single active wrestler whose fame and acclaim overshadows The Rock's.  

    While it's clearly understood why John Cena is getting the nod at Wrestlemania to face The Rock, (because at the time, he was the biggest star in the business, but is now being overstepped by CM Punk), John Cena is not the man who should get the honor of beating The Rock.

    One, John Cena isn't going to go any further than he already has.  He's been given the top straps literally a dozen times, he's been shoehorned into bad film after bad film, his image has been plastered all over anything you can sell, and he is still hated by half the fanbase, still has no effect on the slow downward spiral of the Raw rating from 5's to 3's and still can't use his name recognition to make a WWE Studio film more than a box office bust or straight-to-DVD dud.

    Contrarily, CM Punk being unleashed on the mic a few times this Summer already has made him a bigger quarterly ratings and merchandise draw than Cena, that has ESPN and Maxim contacting the WWE to talk to him, as opposed to the WWE trying to push Punk on to them.  (Proving, once again, that it is the fans who decide the draws, not the company.)

    So, who is the guy that would be worthy of taking the Rock down and having the torch passed to him?

    Ironically, the same guy that the WWE tried passing the torch to a little bit too early in his career... 

Sheamus

21 of 24

    To the WWE's credit, they saw what they had in Sheamus right from the beginning. 

    Sheamus is a very talented brawler-type, with an infectious accent, distinct look and vacillating charisma that can switch from the heel to face with ease.

    But in a case of too much, too soon, they immediately threw him at John Cena and the WWE title, and then ran him straight into Triple H, before fans could really get a grasp on who the man was. 

    When the WWE tries to force feed wrestlers down the fans throats, it's almost always met with either derision or apathy.  (A lesson they still haven't learned after all this time.)

    Sheamus caught more apathy than he did derision.  His reigns ended up being lackluster, even though many appreciated what he brought to the table as a performer.  

    To make matters worse, is that the WWE began to book his character as the basic, cowardly, archetypical heel, instead of the in-your-face smashmouth heel that people were growing accustomed to.  He went from brutalizing Triple H and putting him on the shelf, to running for his life from the Nexus and trying to weasel his way out of losing his Championship. 

    Eventually, he would lose it to Randy Orton in his second reign and be demoted to the mid-card.  

    It wouldn't be until recently that Sheamus would reconnect with fans as a brash fighter not afraid to back down from the likes of Mark Henry.  But still, Sheamus is lost in that murky area just beneath the main-event.  Not lost in the shuffle, but not involved in anything that really makes him stand out from the rest.

    Sheamus is resonating with the fans as a face.  And now that most people are connected with who he is and his character, it would be a good time to elevate him back to the main-event in a big way.  

    A simple run in with The Rock, considering both of their short fuses and unwillingness to back down, would be easy enough to spark the flames of a major feud, with the fans deciding who to boo or cheer. (The Rock would obviously win that.) 

    However, Sheamus getting the better of that feud, would launch him right back into the top of the card, this time, after the fans decide they like him there, as opposed to the company trying to force him there. 

    With Sheamus' personality and in-ring ability, he could remain at the top of the card and in the title picture for a very long time as a fixture that fits naturally, as opposed to being shoe-horned in prematurely.   

The Undertaker*

22 of 24

    The Asterisk besides The Undertaker's name is because The Undertaker has never actually left the WWE.

    However, due to The Undertaker's age at 46, and the fact that he has been an active wrestler for most of his career, his body can no longer take the constant rigors of the business, and many times, he takes months off at a time, only returning for the occasional big feud with the likes of Shawn Michaels or Triple H. 

    The Undertaker has been amazingly resilient considering his size and the fact that most men his height don't last as long as he has at the top of the business. 

    However, his time is winding down.

    Which leads us to the ever important question: "Who gets the crown jewel of professional wrestling pushes? 20 years in the making, who gets to break the fabled 'Streak'"? 

    The man who pins the shoulders of Mark Calloway to the mat at Wrestlemania will be getting a push bigger than any title could ever give him. 

    It will automatically launch him to the status of legend and secure his place in the annals of WWE history, forever.  Even if his career immediately flops, he will forever be known as the man who beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. 

    It has to be someone who has all the tools to be a main-eventer for life.  It has to be someone with charisma and appeal that is beyond the norm for the average wrestler and even main-event talent.

    I personally believe that there is only one man out of this new generation of wrestlers that has shown me that he can carry a ball of that magnitude and not drop it. 

    Some will not agree with the choice, but that one man is...

Hornswoggle

23 of 24

    At first, it would seem like an unconventional choice. 

    Hornswoggle is just the affable midget wrestler who pretends to be a leprechaun on NXT.

    However, hidden underneath the goofy visage of a mythical creature is an uber-talented performer who has what it takes to be the premier wrestler of the WWE.

    First let's think about the media coverage.  Outlets everywhere will be covering the fact that for the first time in history, a vertically challenged wrestler...alright, I'm just screwing with you.  Let's get to the real pick. 

Wade Barrett

24 of 24

    From the moment Wade Barrett stepped onto the scene on WWE NXT, most people could take one look and know he was something special.  He had that look and swagger that said: "I'm a superstar."

    And when he opened his mouth and spoke for the first time, you knew: "This guy is a future World Champion for sure."

    And when he cut his "Winds of Change" promo on NXT, you knew that he was something even more than just a future champion, because even The Miz was a champion, you knew that this man was the real deal. This man is what legends are made of. 

    The fact that he was big, and yet, didn't embarrass himself in the ring was the icing on the cake. 

    Many look for a flaw in this man's game and many fail to find it.  (Though, I believe "The Wasteland" is one flaw. It's a simply putrid finisher.  He should go with that pump handle slam he used on Daniel Bryan this past Smackdown.  Much better.) 

    Wade Barrett is that rare "right out of the box" superstar that the WWF used to know how to capitalize on. 

    He's not like a John Cena, who nobody saw coming when he came out to wrestle Kurt Angle in his debut in 2002. 

    He's not like a Randy Orton who you suspected would be something, but wasn't sure, because he had clear flaws, like a robotic microphone delivery and weak in-ring ability that needed to be worked out.

    Wade debuted, formed the Nexus, went right at alpha-dog John Cena, and it just seemed like him becoming the superior champion to Cena was a foregone conclusion. 

    Of course, because this is the WWE and not the WWF, they blew everything, destroyed the Nexus, kept Cena on top in spite of sagging ratings, and nearly ruined the careers of everyone associated with the group, including dragging down CM Punk and Ezekiel Jackson with The New Nexus and The Corre.   

    The WWE seems to only recently be interested in utilizing his extreme talents again, as evidenced by giving him a prominent role in the (also botched) Raw Walk Out and now proclaiming that the "Barrett Revolution" or something like that, has begun on Smackdown with a win over Daniel Bryan.

    But talent, no matter how mismanaged by others it may be, never goes away.  And Wade is still the same performer he was when he appeared on NXT.  At 31, he has an entire decade of dominance ahead of him. 

    And personally, I think there would be no better person to gamble The Streak on, than Wade Barrett. 

    Wade is the only one who seems to me, that if you give him the ball, he won't drop it. 

    Even after all of the sabotaging that WWE has done to his fledgling career, the fans still respond whenever they see him.  They still boo him whenever he touches a mic.   He's still just as ready for the big-leagues as ever. 

    The golden touch he has? That comes along only once or twice in a decade.  Wade Barrett is this generation's lighting in a bottle. 

    And I think giving him the Streak is the best way to capitalize on it. 

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