Over the past five years, we have seen significant changes in the way WWE conducts business, handles the roster, and showcases their brand. We've seen certain wrestlers fall in and out of favor, the rise of the women's division, and a wealth of new stars on both the main roster and NXT. It's an exciting time for WWE, which has as big a grasp on the mainstream wrestling world as they ever have, and they seem to be expanding and experimenting in new ways to keep the product fresh. Stagnation is one of the worst things that can happen to a wrestling promotion, and measures need to be taken to make sure that it doesn't happen.
That's why it's a good time to highlight the individual talents who have benefited from the shift in WWE's philosophy. While the company has held on to several key veteran wrestlers from years past, there's been much more of an emphasis on promoting new stars. While several big names have been taken down a notch in the WWE landscape, many more new ones are entering the prime of their careers with an important place in the roster. It's a new era in WWE, and a wealth of new main event talent is on the horizon.
Ranked below are 15 current WWE stars who have transformed the most in the past five years.
13 Bray Wyatt
He's gone through multiple characters and personas during his WWE tenure, but Wyatt is still going strong. Originally a member of Nexus back in 2010 as Husky Harris, he's competed in singles and tag competition, and alternated between the developmental FCW promotion, NXT and WWE. Now a member of the Wyatt Family, which has been active for the past three years or so, he's seemed to have found his niche in the company, and has a marked identity moving forward. The stable is currently in limbo, but will still be able to be used in storylines for the foreseeable future. Wyatt is a confirmed WWE veteran at this point, and is worth keeping on the roster. He may not regain the clout that he once had, but it's probably a good idea to keep him around at this point.
12 Becky Lynch
Just five years ago, Lynch was wrestling in various Indy promotions, trying to establish herself as an in-ring talent. As a native of Ireland, she spent a lot of her early career in European promotions, and clearly had a natural ability in the ring. Now, she's found her way as one of the marquee figures of the burgeoning women's division in WWE. The current Women's Champion on SmackDown, she began her WWE tenure in NXT during 2013, and has only progressed from there. A certified fan-favorite and world-traveled in her professional wrestling career, Lynch can be counted on to provide great matches, and serves as a binding force for the women's division as a whole. This won't be her last title run with the company, and she has a bright career ahead of her at the age of 29.
Before he joined NXT in 2012, Enzo had no wrestling experience, and started out his career at the top of the food chain. He hasn't disappointed, and along with Big Cass, has become a part of one of the most entertaining, up-and-coming tag teams in WWE. He's progressed quickly, with sharp mic skills and a formidable in-ring style. He made his main roster debut in 2016, and has placed himself as one of the brightest young stars in the company. His charisma warrants significant longevity, and will be a focal point of various storylines for years to come. Several years ago, he wasn't even in the business, and now sits as a key player in the biggest promotion of them all. That's pretty impressive, especially for someone who hasn't even hit their peak as a wrestler yet.
10 Sasha Banks
In the past five years, Sasha Banks has grown from a competitor on the Indy scene, to perhaps the most talented wrestler in the women's division. Currently the Women's Champion on Raw, she combines great wrestling technique, with stunning athleticism. She went from an NXT contract, and is now one of the biggest stars in women's wrestling, primed to lead the division in the coming years. The entire roster of women's wrestlers is strong right now in WWE, but Banks may just be the cream of the crop. She's excelled massively in her first several years in the company, and there is no telling the heights she may be able to eventually reach. Along with a few others, she is the face of the division.
9 Sami Zayn
Zayn dominated the Indy scene for years as his El Generico character, and recently has taken his career to the next level in WWE. Starting out in NXT in 2013, he was already a veteran of the wrestling industry. For the first ten years of his career, he was cast as a makeshift luchadore, in his Generico garb, and it probably did better than anyone expected. Since 2015, he's been on the main roster, and his career has gotten a boost ever since. Still in his early-30s, the sky is the limit for Zayn, who has all the traits to be a top-level talent for years to come. Frankly, WWE was really one of the only promotions he still had to prove himself in, and he's done so over the past four years. Zayn's story isn't over yet, so it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
One half of the current tag team along with Tyler Breeze, Fandango was originally known as Johnny Curtis in his earlier days in the developmental territories. The gimmick was a bit faceless, so when he moved up to the main roster he was given his current moniker, which was that of a ballroom dancer, giving him a bit more color and flair. It worked, and he's been prevalent in the tag division, which has needed a boost in general, for the past several years. While perhaps slightly corny, his gimmick is definitely WWE-certified, and it has allowed him to climb the ranks higher than he otherwise would have. There's no indication that he's going anywhere, and his tandem with Breeze certainly has more room to grow in the next year or so.
Originally from Bulgaria, Rusev employs a traditional power-style of wrestling that WWE has made use of for decades. He began in the FCW developmental ranks in 2010, and since then has climbed onto the main roster, and carved out a role for himself. He's sported several different gimmicks, was a member of The League Of Nations stable, and has been a United States Champion as well. He's able to play the old-school heel character well, and has shown that he is adaptable to multiple storylines. Considering that he's only been within the United States for a little over a decade, it's impressive that Rusev has made himself such a staple on the WWE roster. He figures to have just as much of role going forward, and is useful as an established veteran at this point.
7 Tyler Breeze
Adapting the Tyler Breeze character while in NXT, he's quietly been developing into a consistent main roster presence on SmackDown, after working his way through the WWE developmental territories. He began his career with the relatively bland, Mike Dalton character, and parlayed it into the Breeze moniker that he currently uses. The character and appearance is a mix between old-school high-flyer, and a more youthful persona. He successfully stood out in a crowded NXT roster, and is now bound for a title run of some kind with the main group. Currently in the tag division, the future is bright for Breeze, and the next year should see him reach even greater heights. There's no question that he's on the right path.
Like several performers, five years ago, Eva Marie wasn't even in the wrestling business at all. She started training with WWE in 2013, and made her main roster debut relatively quickly after that. She's spent time in NXT as well, and been a part of the Total Divas show, which debuted in her rookie year. It is possible that WWE didn't plan on keeping for very long after the show ended, but her in-ring work was good enough to establish some kind of longevity with the company. She's taken to the ring relatively quickly, and looks to be a part of the women's division for the near future. There are no guarantees of course, but all things considered, she's progressed so quickly that it makes sense to keep her around to see if she can elevate even further.
6 Roman Reigns
The current United States Champion, Reigns has been a main event fixture on the main roster since he made his debut. He's gone through numerous changes to his gimmick, which included time with The Shield stable. There's been mixed reception to Reigns and his performance, but there's no questioning that he's seen as a major piece to the long term puzzle of the company. He made a quick jump from the WWE developmental territories to the main roster, and hasn't looked back since. His reign as U.S. Champion only adds to his resume, and shows that creative is more than willing to keep giving him title runs in the future. No matter how much some fans may not like it, Reigns seems destined to be on the roster for the foreseeable future.
Having been both a heel and a face over her time on the main roster, Paige has proven to be an integral part of the women's division. She's held numerous titles and been involved in a ton of major storylines. She began in the WWE developmental territory FCW as Saraya, but quickly made the change to the Paige character, and has been using that ever since. Her current persona is basically an amped up version of what she was using on the Indy scene from early in her career, and she's benefited greatly from the switch. Currently out of action, when she returns, she'll no doubt regain her footing as one of the best the women's division has to offer, and likely have another title run on her hands.
4 Rich Swann
Swann was a staple in the Super-Indy promotion PWG, and established himself as one of the best high-flyers in the business. This led to an NXT signing, and he's transferred those same awe-inspiring skills over to the WWE landscape. It all culminated in the Summer, when he received a spot on the main roster after participating in the highly-successful Cruiserweight Classic Tournament, and Swann looks to be a focal point of the newly revamped Cruiserweight Division. His quick rise to the top is a testament to his in-ring skills, which are unquestionably jaw-dropping. There's lots of room for growth still, but Swann has made quite the career jump in the last five years.
Based in California, Bayley worked her way through the Indy scene, dominating in promotions such as Big Time Wrestling, and NWA Wrestling From Hollywood. She hit her peak in time to be noticed for the recent push of the WWEs women's division, and has been a hit ever since. She spent four years in NXT, and just this year made the jump to the main roster. She'll no doubt receive a title run in the future, and is in the midst of establishing herself as a go-to star in the women's ranks. In the traditional fashion, Bayley has paid her dues in the Indys, and has a certified role now with WWE, with a bright future on the horizon.
2 Kevin Owens
Known throughout most of his wrestling career as Kevin Steen when he dominated the indy scene for years, Owens is truly a rising star within the company. After years of competing in ROH, PWG and other major Indy promotions, he joined NXT where he had instant success. It was clear that Owens would eventually be making a main roster debut, and he currently sits with the WWE Universal Title, proceeding an Intercontinental Title run before that. Owens doesn't possess the stereotypical make-up of a wrestler, but that hasn't stopped him from the climbing the ranks of the WWE roster. He's good in the ring, and has the charisma to go far. As much progress as he's made in the past few years, his story is likely only beginning to unfold.
1 Seth Rollins
It's an arguable assertion, but Rollins may just be the single most important wrestler on the planet today. After paying his dues, and excelling in ROH, he joined WWE and hasn't looked back since. He's held a bevy of titles, and has all the poise and charisma necessary to be a major, main event star for a long time. He simply doesn't possess a single flaw right now, and in a matter of four years, has risen to the stop of the totem pole in WWE. As far as he's come in the past five years, everything seems to be aligning for Rollins to progress even further in the future. A talent like his understandably had a quick ascension to the top, and the WWE seems to have found their top star for the duration of The New Era.
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