It's been a while since we last took inventory of the WWE roster and assessed its current standing. The quality of wrestling in the ring over the past year or so has been stellar, no doubt about that, and with the rise of acts like The Shield, The Wyatt Family, and others, one could argue the roster is as deep as its ever been.
But is that really the case?
Here, we will run down each member of the roster (based on the Superstar listing at WWE.com, which means some names will not appear, like Brie Bella and Batista), starting with the heels. We'll break them down into three tiers, list them alphabetically, then assess whether they're hurting or healthy.
AJ Lee: Currently off television and has been since the episode of Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania 30. Recently married CM Punk and rumors have it that she may be pregnant, though that is not confirmed.
Bray Wyatt: Spent the early part of the year in a program with Daniel Bryan before moving on to a months long feud with John Cena. He's now chasing the WWE world heavyweight championship.
Brock Lesnar: Has an advocate who is a master strategist who helped him conquer the Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Should return to TV in about a month or so.
THE DEMON KANE: Spent the beginning of the year as Corporate Kane before Stephanie McMahon unleashed THE DEMON KANE to do her bidding.
Randy Orton: The former "face of WWE" and WWE world heavyweight champion, he's always hovering around the main event and will vie for the WWE world heavyweight championship at Money in the Bank.
Seth Rollins: Formerly of The Shield, he turned heel by betraying Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose to go off on his own, aligning himself with Triple H in the process.
Stephanie McMahon: One half of The Authority, she is a "principle co-owner" of WWE who has spent most of the year cozying up with Triple H to destroy Daniel Bryan.
Triple H: The other half of The Authority and COO of WWE, he has run the show on Raw and SmackDown, wrestled in the big PPV events (WrestleMania, Extreme Rules, Payback), reformed Evolution, and become a puppet master.
At full strength, this is a formidable group. However, AJ is out and may not ever return, Lesnar is a valuable commodity but can only be used sparingly, and, well, THE DEMON KANE is in there. Wyatt may be turning babyface here soon -- he's already mostly treated like one by fans. Rollins injected some fresh blood here and looking it over written out like this, they badly needed him to. Orton suffers from longevity insomuch as his work is fine but he's been around so long it's difficult to keep him fresh. Thankfully, at least, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are damn near batting 1.000 this year.
Grade: Still healthy but showing symptoms
Alberto Del Rio: Set for the WWE world heavyweight championship Money in the Bank ladder match. Briefly feuded with Batista this year but hasn't been featured much otherwise.
Alicia Fox: Has been given a strong push of late thanks to a character change to an emotionally unstable, physically aggressive brute.
Bad News Barrett: The current Intercontinental champion. Once the creative powers figured out a way to best utilize his new character he's been given a consistent role on television and the more important of the mid-card titles.
Bo Dallas: A recent call up from NXT who has a great deal of potential and is taking the necessary steps to get where he's going.
Cesaro: Set for the WWE world heavyweight championship Money in the Bank ladder match but has been toiling away in the mid-card in programs with the likes of Jack Swagger, Rob Van Dam, and Sheamus.
Erick Rowan: A member of The Wyatt Family, he mostly runs around with Bray while also tagging with Luke Harper. Currently in the tag team title picture.
Fandango: A dancer Vince McMahon refuses to give up on, he's involved in a love triangle with Summer Rae and Layla. The fact that he gets actual stories for television makes him mid-card worthy.
Jack Swagger: A former champion, he's been relegated to the lower mid-card, where he does jobs for incoming talent.
Lana: A powerful woman who manages, speaks for, and completely controls the Bulgarian Brute Rusev.
Layla: Was off television for a long while but returned when a story opened up with Summer Rae and Fandango.
Luke Harper: A member of The Wyatt Family, he mostly runs around with Bray while also tagging with Erick Rowan. Currently in the tag team title picture.
Paul Heyman: His client, Brock Lesnar, conquered the Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania. He's mid-card now only for his association with mid-carder Cesaro, but that distinction can and will change once he hooks back up with Lesnar upon his return.
Rusev: A Bulgarian Brute led around by the lovely Lana. He's debuted and destroyed (almost) all who have gone up against him. He's on the rise.
Summer Rae: A cast member on Total Divas, she's been emphasized ever since joining the show. A brief hiatus to film a movie with The Miz gave way to a love triangle story with Fandango and Layla upon her return.
Vickie Guerrero: In charge of running SmackDown, and sometimes Raw, and sometimes Main Event, but other times not, but maybe if Stephanie is puking she's the boss. Who knows? Latest reports indicate she will be departing soon.
Zeb Colter: Manager and mouthpiece for Jack Swagger, his main claim to fame at this point is how entertaining he is when reacting to Swagger's losses.
Like any good mid-card, there's plenty of potential here. There's also a lot of fat that needs trimming. The love triangle hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire, knocking off three members of the group immediately and their being placed here is likely already generous. Lana and Colter are both great as managers with mixed results in regards to who they preside over. Rusev is the prototypical mid-card talent, a guy with great potential not yet realized. Swagger, meanwhile, was at the top and bumped back down because he never quite caught on proper. Del Rio has faded so thoroughly he was talking about leaving the promotion just a few months ago. The good news is Barrett, Dallas, Cesaro, Rowan, and Harper is a very good five-piece of talent, all of whom could stick around right where they are but could also make the jump to become a main player sometime in the future. Also, Fox has been a delight recently. (Editor's note: Apologies for forgetting Paul Heyman, who has now been included in the list.)
Curtis Axel: One half of a not so successful tag team with Ryback. He's used but often disappears for multiple shows at a time before reappearing to do jobs.
Damien Sandow: A jobber who has made the most of what he's been given, which is to become the greatest character actor in pro wrestling history.
David Otunga: Currently off television with no signs of returning any time soon.
Heath Slater: A sad panda after losing his bandmates, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal, to budget cuts, he continues the proud tradition of doing the best jobs he can.
Hornswoggle: Same situation as Slater, though modified because he has a movie coming out soon and, well, he's just sort of here.
Ryback: One half of a not so successful tag team with Curtis Axel. He's used but often disappears for multiple shows at a time before reappearing to do jobs. At one point was triple powerbombed by The Shield 68 times.
Tamina Snuka: Was AJ Lee's muscle but that ended when AJ left. A loss in a Divas title match was followed by a knee injury that has her currently rehabbing with the hopes of returning early next year.
Titus O'Neil: Charisma and a big personality haven't saved him from becoming a jobber after his split from Darren Young.
This is a solid group, all things considered. I'm stubbornly sticking with my belief that O'Neil could do so much more with a few character tweaks. Slater is one of the greatest jobbers of all time. Sandow is the greatest character actor in pro wrestling history. Ryback, damaged as he is after WWE creatively backed themselves into a corner and killed all his heat, has found a way to make himself entertaining despite his current predicament. He could break out of this group when they decide to push him as a singles star again.
Overall, the heel side of the roster isn't quite an ox but there's certainly no reason to fear for its long term health and stability ... yet. When Lesnar returns, the main players will be that much stronger, if only for the duration of his latest stint.
Look for part two tomorrow looking at the babyfaces.
In the meantime, let's get your assessment on the current roster of heels in WWE.