When John Cena was forced to miss some television time due to a recent long overdue elbow surgery, Monday Night Raw turned in its lowest rating in 15 years. Granted, that wasn't entirely due to the absence of the biggest star the company has but his presence certainly would have made a big difference.
This has forced everyone to take a long, hard look at the WWE roster and the state it's currently in.
Assuming Cena will eventually come to terms with the fact that he's human and his body can only put up with so much wear and tear, the promotion will have to find another star to take his place at the top of the pro wrestling world. The question is whether or not that guy is currently on the roster.
We're in the middle of examining as much in this two-part series breaking down both the babyface and heel side of the roster. We covered the babyfaces yesterday (click here to read it), now it's time to get to the heels.
Let's do this.
The Top Stars
- CM Punk
- Daniel Bryan
- Alberto Del Rio
- Big Show
- Mark Henry
A fairly strong group at a glance but a deeper look reveals a few flaws. Punk is rock solid but he's talked openly about leaving the business sooner than we would all like him to. At 33-years-old and having already had a long and successful career, that really shouldn't be all that surprising.
Bryan is as hot as it gets right now and with his world heavyweight championship reign being what it was, he can be relied on to be the guy. Arenas light up when his music hits and he's become the product of good booking meeting a supremely talented performer and the crowd catching on to the brilliance of it all. At 31 and showing no signs of slowing down, he's probably even more solid than Punk.
This is where it gets tricky.
Del Rio has been sold as a main event talent, pushed to the moon and given multiple title shots at multiple pay-per-view events. But he's failed to catch on and isn't exactly the most dependable guy. He knows he can make a ton of money in Mexico and, quite frankly, he doesn't need this gig. He's also 35-years-old and while he can still go, how many truly special Del Rio matches can you think of since he came to WWE?
Here's where the big drop off happens.
Kane, Show and Henry are all fantastic performers whose careers have all received a shot in the arm recently. Kane is teamed up with Bryan and the beneficiary of heat by association. That's not to take away from him at all, he's been great with everything they've asked him to do lately. The same goes for Show, who has been performing better than he ever has, not to mention putting guys over left and right. He probably doesn't get enough credit for his work, actually. As for Henry, he was never stronger as recently as one year ago when he won the world heavyweight title from Randy Orton and became the best heel in professional wrestling, embarking on an incredible but short run that saw him finally put everything together after 15 years in the business.
Here's the problem, though: All three are in their 40s. Kane is 45, Show is 40 and Henry is 41. Kane and Show are still seemingly going strong but that can't last forever and the time to get in guys in their spots is right now. Henry has been out injured, a problem that has plagued him his entire career, and has openly admitted that if he can't come back 100-percent from this injury, he'll retire.
Thankfully, this next group looks good.
- The Miz
- Antonio Cesaro
- Dolph Ziggler
- Damien Sandow
- Cody Rhodes
- Wade Barrett
This might be the only group of wrestlers in this entire series WWE should feel really good about. I'm no Miz fan but he's a guy who can get good heat and wrestle solid matches against top stars. Hell, he legitimately headlined a WrestleMania opposite John Cena and came away with the WWE championship. Even if The Rock was the catalyst for that, it's something the company can always use to keep him relevant. That's big.
Cesaro, Sandow, Rhodes, and Barrett are all guys who are basically cutting their teeth on their way to the main event. Barrett has been there and done that but he just recently got a fresh coat of paint and is headed back there. Anytime he's not there, he can be here where he'll always be servicable.
Rhodes might be a career mid-card act if they don't commit to a big push at some point soon. Cesaro has all the tools to make the jump but he's serviceable here and the sky is the limit for Sandow. He's got absolutely everything a guy needs to get to the main event, he just needs to get the experience and build his name, which is what he's doing right now. Teaming him with Rhodes was probably a great idea, not just because of their characters but because both could have such bright futures.
As for Ziggler, well, he's been flirting with top star status for so long now it feels tired. He tasted the main event scene all the way back when he was a member of the Spirit Squad (remember those loons?) and he's occasionally been called up to give a great match to a headliner to make them look good. Now that he's got the Money in the Bank briefcase, he's destined to finally make that next step. How things go once he gets there will be key but he's so close we can all taste it.
And it tastes good.
- Darren Young
- Titus O'Neil
- David Otunga
This is a truly sad group, if only because it's so small. It's also entirely possible I'm the only one who thinks Otunga has a bright future if he can put it all together inside the ring. He's good enough on the stick with a smarmy enough character that if he could wrestle at the level of a guy like say, Lex Luger, he could really make it work.
As for Young and O'Neil, they're collective unit, the Prime Time Players, is getting enough of a push that they're starting to slowly but surely get the necessary exposure to show the world how good they can be, especially O'Neil. His size and considerable athletic ability are a great starting point but once he got angry and cut a mean promo on Monday Night Raw a few weeks ago, it was clear as day he can be a star.
There's just doubt he'll ever be booked like one. We'll see.
- Curt Hawkins
- Drew McIntyre
- Heath Slater
- Jack Swagger
- Jinder Mahal
Quite the group of misfits, no? McIntyre had potential at one time but he's been buried due to backstage politics. Tensai is in hot water over his failed push upon returning from Japan and sandbagging Ryback (which isn't confirmed but seriously, watch the video, it's pretty clear). Swagger is actually a former world heavyweight champion but he fell out of favor and was booked for a three month losing streak before going on hiatus over a month ago with no signs of a return any time soon.
Slater had a nice run as the guy getting killed by returning Legends leading up to Raw 1000 but since then creative hasn't really had anything for him and it's unlikely he'll ever climb out of the "Wendy" hole John Cena dug for him. He's currently in a mini-stable with McIntyre and Mahal but it's more of a JOB squad than anything else.
Epico and Primo are on the rise if only because the tag team division has been revitalized but if Rosa Mendez wasn't strutting her stuff alongside them, would they get TV time at all? It's sad to say but that's a legitimate question.
Speaking of tag teams, Hawkins just lost his partner to retirement but even worse, he blew his knee out and is gone indefinitely after surgery.
Hunico and Camacho? Who?
As you can see, the heels are far better off in WWE right now than the babyfaces but there aren't nearly enough up-and-coming stars who could carry the company in the event the current main event scene goes to hell. A big enough injury to John Cena combined with a less than enthusiastic Punk calling it quits earlier than we all think he will could equal disaster.
As usual, Cagesiders, I'm looking forward to your thoughts here.