Hater's Guide to WWE: Exposing the Flaws of Top Raw, SmackDown Stars
Even the best Superstars WWE Raw and SmackDown have to offer have Achilles' heels.
Pro wrestling is a multifaceted medium that requires a bevy of different skills. Roman Reigns doesn't excel at all of them. Neither does Brock Lesnar or Charlotte Flair.
Some WWE Superstars fumble when it comes to promos. Some have a limited range as a character. Perfection is hard to come by.
Anyone who gets to the WWE's highest rungs is hugely talented, but weak points are unavoidable. Where do stars like Reigns, Lesnar, Flair and others fall short? The following is a look at that very question.
Finn Balor (Raw)
When five of Raw's Superstars set to battle at this year's Extreme Rules for the right to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, a debate raged on about Balor. Was he a believable threat to The Beast Incarnate?
Many pundits and fans argued that Balor was too small for that spot.
The former NXT champ certainly is no behemoth at 5'11" and 190 pounds. He would fit right in on the cover of GQ, but what about opposite a powerhouse like Lesnar?
Hall of Famer Ric Flair argued on his podcast (h/t SEScoops) that Balor should be classified as a cruiserweight and that would limit him. "I don't think we'll ever see the day, and I could be totally wrong, that a cruiserweight will ever main event a WrestleMania," he said.
In a world where Rey Mysterio and Daniel Bryan's rises were met with resistance, Balor is going to have to lean on his athletic excellence and rock star presence to counterbalance his size.
The Demon King also isn't a great talker. He doesn't come off as larger than life in his promos. He is ordinary in this facet of his game—a stark contrast to how he comes off once the bell rings.
Alexa Bliss (Raw)
Alexa Bliss is a master of all the small things, of facial expressions and character work. She's no show-stealer at this point, though.
The Raw women's champ has yet to deliver a great match to this point. She's looked like a star at points, but her list of big performances is far shorter than the likes of Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.
Dave Meltzer hasn't had to reach deep into his bag of stars when rating her matches in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t the Internet Wrestling Database).
Bliss earned a one-star rating for her match against Naomi at last year's No Mercy event; Meltzer gave her a 1.75 against Becky Lynch at TLC 2016 and a "dud" rating for her title bout against Bayley at Extreme Rules.
WWE need not fret, however. Bliss has only been wrestling since 2013. She's 25. And she's shown a great aptitude for the business.
Her in-ring resume is bound to improve in time.
John Cena (SmackDown)
When Cena appears on SmackDown on July 4, it will be the first time he's done so since before WrestleMania in April.
Cena refuses to call himself a part-time star, but that's exactly what he is. He has gone on a number of hiatuses in recent years to film movies or TV shows. That's a blessing and a curse for WWE as he's able to be a spokesman and bring buzz to the product, but he's no longer a workhorse the company can rely on over the long haul.
And while few Superstars have put together as many world-class bouts as Cena, some of his offense is downright ugly.
His punches are often below par. His dropkicks are clunky. If Jim Brunzell's version of the move is a Monet, Cena's is a finger painting.
Brock Lesnar (Raw)
Lesnar, like Cena, isn't someone WWE can rely on throughout the year. But The Beast Incarnate disappears into his lair for longer stretches than Cena.
His extremely limited schedule makes it harder to make use of his star power. Lesnar has missed three Raw-exclusive pay-per-views so far this year. He's been barely present since winning the Universal Championship.
That makes it difficult to book the title scene. As ProWrestling.net columnist Will Pruett tweeted: "Brock Lesnar title reigns plunge WWE into a holding pattern every time they happen."
And while he excels in talking about the destruction he is set to cause in taped interviews, live promos are not his forte.
There's a reason his wordsmith manager Paul Heyman does 95 percent of the talking when the two appear on Raw. The Beast Incarnate is a growler and a creator of sound bites, not a well-rounded promo artist.
Jinder Mahal (SmackDown)
Jinder Mahal's rise may end up being the best WWE story of 2017, but no one is going to confuse him with an all-around great talent.
He's improved across the board. He's looking more like a legit WWE champion. The Maharaja, though, is a mediocre in-ring performer.
Mahal isn't going to thrill you with athleticism. He hasn't shown he can carry long stretches of a match. He needs all the bells and whistles WWE can muster and a top-notch opponent to succeed.
He even had an underwhelming match against AJ Styles, as difficult as that is.
The Miz (Raw)
The knock on The Miz used to be that he excelled with the talking side of the business but not so much with the wrestling part. The narrative has since changed. The intercontinental champion put on a career-best stretch of matches in 2016.
He's still no Cena in that department, but it's hard to say The Miz can't bring it between the ropes.
His new challenge is that he can only flourish as a heel.
Babyface Miz is sapless. He's not memorable in that role. He struggles to create pathos as a fan favorite.
Asking The Miz to be anything other than a heel is like asking a basketball player whose strength is post play to stay glued to the three-point line.
Roman Reigns (Raw)
Roman Reigns' detractors have a lengthy list of flaws ready to share to any fans of The Big Dog, but many of them are misguided or exaggerated. Anyone who says Reigns isn't an excellent pro wrestler is lying to themselves.
Reigns, though, is not without clear weaknesses.
It's no coincidence that his best mic work has been in succinct promos. Reigns doesn't have great range as a verbal performer. He can play an angry, cocky ass-kicker, and that's it.
Give him a scripted promo where he has to crack jokes and relay the plot of his latest feud and he will flounder. He's a poor straight babyface. That's evident every time WWE tries to make Reigns the second coming of Cena.
The former WWE champ's corner clotheslines deserve some derision, too.
They are the most unimpressive moves he has in his arsenal. He barely lands them sometimes, making them feather-soft strikes rather than part of an overwhelming assault.
Seth Rollins (Raw)
Rollins can be bland as a babyface.
He was compelling as a cowardly, opportunist corporate stooge when he was with The Authority. Playing the fan favorite hasn't been nearly as fruitful.
His character has felt threadbare at times.
Hall of Famer Steve Austin had similar thoughts. Stone Cold said on The Steve Austin Show: "I still don't have a sense of what or who this guy is. And so, that rests on Seth Rollins' shoulders, as an individual, as a performer, to define or create that as well as the WWE because I still don't get a sense of what kind of personality he is."
And in a world of larger-than-life figures and iconic character, a distinct and entertaining personality is paramount.
AJ Styles (SmackDown)
At this point, finding a flaw in Styles' game is an exercise in nitpicking. He's arguably the best overall wrestling in the world today. He had more top-notch matches last year than some guys have their whole career.
The Phenomenal One's mic work was generally considered his Achilles' heel during his time at Impact Wrestling. He's improved dramatically since then.
But if you're going to try to find a weakness, that's the only place worth looking, as it won't be with what he does between the ropes.
Styles leans heavily on catchphrases in his promos. He's been great when tangling with Dean Ambrose and Cena on the mic, but he isn't always on that level.
Charlotte Flair (SmackDown)
Flair is well on her way to being an all-time great. That doesn't mean that she is without a glaring flaw, though.
The Queen falls short when it comes to promos.
She's had some great heel moments on the mic, but she's highly inconsistent in that area of her game. She is sometimes stilted in her speech, inflections arriving in the most unnatural of places. ProWrestling.net writer Jake Barnett tweeted of her: "Charlotte's 'I can't inflect convincingly so I'll be really loud' voice is the one thing they really need to get her in acting classes for."
It's hard to argue with that.
Flair generally has one note in her interviews. And it's a blaring one.
Randy Orton (SmackDown)
Everything Randy Orton does in a wrestling ring is smooth and sound. But his preciseness sometimes slips into being robotic.
The WWE style is built around wrestlers having familiar patterns, but Orton is among the most repetitive performers on the roster. He rarely varies up his offense. He sticks to a script with unyielding loyalty.
The Viper can be wooden on promos, too.
His interviews suffer from being flat at times. He's a better talker than many give him credit for, but he doesn't often wow in that department.
His best work comes when he's at his most passionate, when he gets creative and lets loose, be it armed with a mic or with his wrestling boots strapped on.
Kevin Owens (SmackDown)
One's evaluation of Kevin Owens depends on how one views his physique.
He's not a bodybuilder. He's not a cover model. But he's not a massive monster, either.
Former WWE and WCW writer Vince Russo has long said that Owens hasn't looked the part of a star.
It doesn't matter to some how skilled KO is as a talker, a wrestler and a character; some critics will never see past his unsculpted body. Never mind that Dusty Rhodes and Mick Foley made it to the Hall of Fame with the same type of build—there will long be those who criticize Owens for his look.
And as long as Vince McMahon is in charge of WWE, that will matter. It's one of the reasons the company fawns over a guy like Goldberg and pushes KO to the side.