When you begin to think about how difficult it is for wrestlers to remain over with the fanbase for long periods of time, you can truly appreciate the legends of the business who have managed to stay relevant for decades. Wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Randy Orton, among others, have done just that, despite all having varying levels of talent and mic skills. There isn’t a simple formula for being “over,” nor is it guaranteed to last. Look at the current NXT Champion, Drew McIntyre, for instance; he was once pegged the future of the WWE and had a decent run in which he won the Intercontinental Championship, but his time was relatively limited. The majority of Superstars, in fact, only enjoy a limited amount of time at the top before their character runs stale.
In recent years, you can look at wrestlers such as Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Dean Ambrose, and Bray Wyatt. They all had WWE Championship reigns, but have since either left the company or faded into mid-card irrelevance, with the exception of Ambrose and Sheamus, who are both in tag team hell for the time being. The legends typically don’t need to change much to remain over, but Superstars like the ones above often need a new gimmick and/or a heel or face turn to stay relevant. Or, as seen more recently, a brand change from Raw to SmackDown Live, or vice versa, can do the trick. Below are 15 WWE Superstars that could use either.
15. New Gimmick: Dolph Ziggler
This is already in the works as it was hinted on the Tuesday, August 22 edition of SmackDown and it’s long overdue. Ziggler is a two-time World Heavyweight Champion and five-time Intercontinental Champion; in fact, few superstars have had as much success as he has had in the second decade of the 2000s. However, with the influx of new talent on SmackDown Live, Ziggler, who is still immensely talented, has found himself out of the main card picture.
It got to the point where WWE took him off TV for a few weeks, which led to rumors that he was being repackaged. Given his interview on SmackDown Live, it doesn’t appear as if he’s in for a drastic gimmick change, but will instead run with the angle of the aging talented Superstar frustrated by the flashy entrances and catchphrases used by newer members on the roster. He promised to debut a lavish entrance next week complete with a song and dance routine as well as a glowing manager.
14. Brand Change: Enzo Amore
This is another move the WWE has already taken half measures in. Enzo Amore was in the perfect role as a tag team with Big Cass, and it was somewhat of a shame the team never wore tag team gold, but he now finds himself directionless since the company decided to turn Big Cass heel and give him a singles push.
That idea seemed to stall in the following weeks as the storyline was beyond boring and often featured Enzo as a human punching bag for Big Cass. The feud needed to end and WWE was perhaps gifted an opportunity with the knee injury to Big Cass that happened on last week’s Raw. The following night, it did the right thing by debuting Enzo on 205 Live, where he can spice up the Cruiserweight Division, and Big Cass can come back after recovering to start with a clean slate free from the Enzo storyline. Moving Enzo to SmackDown Live could be an intriguing option in the near future as well.
13. New Gimmick: Aiden English
We have to admit, the amount of singing in the WWE these days is a bit excessive, but Elias Samson has grown on some of us. It’s unlikely he’ll ever reach main event status, but “Walking with Elias” has become somewhat of a guilty pleasure. The same can’t be said for Aiden English, the self-proclaimed Shakespeare of Song. He was part of an effective tag team in NXT and WWE as The Vaudevillians with Simon Gotch, but as a singles star, the singing just ain’t working.
Gotch was released from the WWE in April of this past year and most fans probably wouldn’t even notice if English was released at this point. The best thing he has done as a singles wrestler is be interrupted by Bobby Roode’s entrance. At the very least, he needs to drop the singing and adopt a more angered approach to the acting angle.
12. Brand Change: Becky Lynch
For my money, Becky Lynch is one of – if not the – hottest women in the WWE and the bright orange hair is a big reason why. So we would be a little hesitant to see her adopt a new gimmick, but a brand change could certainly work wonders for her career. With Carmella as Ms. Money in the Bank, Natalya as the new SmackDown Live Women’s Champion, and Naomi due a rematch, it appears as though Becky Lynch is on the outside looking in with regard to the championship – not to mention the fact that Charlotte Flair is likely next in line. Tamina even seems to be in line for a push with Lana as a manager.
That leaves Lynch in limbo, serving as a side act to the main angles within the Women’s Division on SmackDown Live. On Raw, however, she could be well positioned to challenge either Sasha Banks or Alexa Bliss in the Raw Women’s Championship picture, especially with Bayley sidelined.
11. New Gimmick: Zack Ryder
There is nobody better suited to their gimmick than Mojo Rawley. The Hype Bro doesn’t even appear to be playing a character as he seems just as hype outside of the ring, as evidenced by videos with his real-life friend Rob Gronkowski. Honestly, if Gronk was forced to retire in the near future, I would pay good money to see him team with Rawley as The New Hype Bros. In the meantime, Rawley’s partner is Zack Ryder, who seems just a tad out of place.
Ryder has been with the company and its developmental territories since 2005 and has had varying levels of success. He’s a former United States and Intercontinental Champion, but has also been buried at times – such as now – and earned the Slammy Award for Most Annoying Catchphrase. He needs a refresh; even adopting the same angle as Ziggler could work, perhaps with the couple joining others to form a faction that’s upset with the way the industry is trending similar to The Hart Foundation during the height of D-X’s popularity.
10. Brand Change: Luke Harper
The Wyatt Family has given rise to quite a few Superstars in the WWE. Bray had a short run as the WWE Champion, while Braun Strowman appears poised to do so as one of the most over Superstars on the roster. For a brief period in 2017, it appeared as though Luke Harper might experience a similar rise in popularity and on-screen presence. The former Intercontinental Champion prevailed in a feud with former Wyatt Family member Erik Rowan at Backlash, but has since been relatively absent from WWE TV.
As was the case with Ziggler, recent reports have suggested that both Harper and Rowan are being repackaged, but is that really necessary? Harper is an experienced veteran in the ring who could certainly add some intrigue to Raw’s flailing mid-card. The Miz is seemingly without a challenger for the Intercontinental Championship and it’d be nice to see Harper get one last push while he’s still in his prime.
9. New Gimmick: Ariya Daivari
In July, Ariya Daivari appeared to be getting a push on 205 Live as he defeated both Neville and Akira Tozawa in successive weeks. It’s clear that he’s a talented wrestler and could be a lot more over with the fans if given the right bookings and appearances on Raw, which hasn’t been the case. However, even with an adequate push, he isn’t going to go far with the heel foreigner gimmick.
Certainly that gimmick can draw some heat when it’s given to suitable superstars – or undeserving champions like Jinder Mahal – but it’s especially wasted on Cruiserweights who are still cutting their teeth with the business. The WWE seems poised to let Neville maintain his throne as King of the Cruiserweights for quite some time, but the heel doesn’t have much in the way of suitable face contenders aside from Tozawa. It wouldn’t be easy, but a complete character change could propel Daivari to Cruiserweight Champion contender status.
8. Brand Change: Authors of Pain
Typically when a long-time NXT Champion loses the belt, he or she is shortly after moved up to either Raw or SmackDown Live. We saw that happen this past Tuesday, when Bobby Roode joined SmackDown Live after dropping the belt to Drew McIntyre and the same thing happened to Shinsuke Nakamura. Former NXT Tag Team Champions typically receive the same treatment as American Alpha, The Ascension, and others joined the main roster soon after losing the titles.
Well, at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III this past Saturday, the Authors of Pain lost their titles to SAnitY in a match that nearly stole the show. Dave Meltzer recently suggested it feels a bit early for the Authors of Pain to ascend to the main roster, but with Fish and O’Reilly seemingly set to feud with SAnitY for the titles, there’s little left for Authors of Pain to accomplish in NXT. It would be great to see the powerhouse tag team dominate contenders on SmackDown Live.
7. New Gimmick: The Hardy Boyz
Fans rejoiced when The Hardy Boyz made their much-anticipated return to WWE at WrestleMania and, although they’re still decent in-ring competitors, their personas have started to wear thin to the point where the entire WWE Universe is anticipating a return to the “Broken” Matt Hardy and Brother Nero gimmicks the two made so popular in TNA.
Currently, the team is being used to put over tag teams and is on the outside looking in with regard to the Raw Tag Team Championship. They can still entertain in the ring, but can barely cut a promo, mostly in part due to fans chanting “delete,” which can’t explicitly be used by the Hardyz due to copyright infringement. Fans are hopeful that those issues can be resolved and The Hardyz can go back to being broken again, but at worst case scenario we’d like to see them split and go into singles action.
6. Brand Change: Asuka
This is long overdue, especially considering Asuka will turn 36 years old next month and is nearing the end of her prime. For the time being, however, you could make the argument that there’s no bigger star in women’s wrestling, not even on the main roster. Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, and Sasha Banks are all talented in their own right, but neither have held the NXT Women’s Championship for as long as Asuka has. In fact, nobody has enjoyed a title reign quite like Asuka’s, which has lasted over 500 days.
Her title defense at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III against Ember Moon stole the show, but also proved that Moon is ready to hold the title. Unfortunately, she injured her collarbone during that match and is slated to be out for up to eight weeks, so any WWE debut would have to wait. Regardless, it’ll be a grave injustice if she hasn’t reached the main roster by Royal Rumble.
5. New Gimmick: Heath Slater
The highlight of 2017 for Heath Slater was appearing in SummerSlam’s KFC commercial. That should tell you about how his year has been going in the WWE. Sure, he’s a former SmackDown Live Tag Team Championship with Rhyno, but that team has quickly become a joke on Raw and Slater hasn’t been taken serious in quite some time.
Meanwhile, his former 3MB teammates are now world champions. Jinder Mahal is the World Champion on SmackDown Live and Drew McIntyre recently won the NXT Championship. On the night of SummerSlam, Slater tweeted out that, if his “3MB math is correct,” the winner of the main event – Brock Lesnar – needs to watch out for his Universal Title. WWE Creative would be smart to have Slater turn on Rhyno and force his way into the main event picture with a new gimmick based off of the success of other 3MB members.
4. Brand Change: Gallows and Anderson
Just months ago it appeared as though the Raw Tag Team Division was at the weakest point it had ever been. Gallows and Anderson were the most over tag team in the division and fans were even then apathetic at best. In the months that followed, The Hardy Boyz returned, Sheamus and Cesaro become a legitimate team worthy of being taken serious, The Revival debuted, and The Shield – Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins – reunited.
The former NXT Tag Team Champions are still a formidable duo who work best as a tag team, so it wouldn’t make sense to split them up, but a simple brand change to SmackDown Live could help them become more relevant. There really isn’t much competition to either The New Day or The Usos right now and both teams appear poised to continue swapping the belts back and forth.
3. New Gimmick: Bayley
In NXT, Bayley was one of the most over Superstars with her innocent charm and affinity for hugging. She was extremely well liked and appeared to be on a similar path in the WWE, but poor booking has resulted in WWE fans souring on her. That became clear when, in Toronto for Raw, fans booed her quite loudly, which clearly and visibly shook Bayley. A more experienced worker like Roman Reigns can handle that, but it was obvious Bayley wasn’t prepared for it.
Her injury might have helped save her career as some time away could help fans realize how much they miss her, but it doesn’t appear that way. She could certainly benefit from a feud with longtime friend Sasha Banks, who could more comfortably play the heel, but it would be interesting and refreshing to see Bayley turn on the fans and Sasha. The only question is could she pull it off?
2. Brand Change: Roman Reigns
Speaking of Roman Reigns, the former Shield member is too far gone to ever be cheered by fans as a leading face. And it’s evident he couldn’t care less. There’s no doubt Reigns is a talented, but perhaps sometimes boring, worker in the ring, who could also use some work on the mic – yet, that hasn’t stopped fans from marking over Shinsuke Nakamura.
At best, Reigns is now a tweener, as he seems to ignore the boos, but has began chirping fans on Twitter, most recently in a Sports Illustrated video that asked fans why they boo Roman Reigns. If there’s one person he could beat to be embraced by fans it would be Jinder Mahal on SmackDown Live, but even that would be questionable. Regardless, Reigns leaving Raw for SmackDown Live would create some interesting new storylines, keep him out of the Strowman-Lesnar picture, and put to rest any notion that he might join former teammates Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins with The Shield.
1. New Gimmick: Baron Corbin
Apologies to Sami Zayn, who we believe should be pushed to main event status but don’t believe he could thrive with a different gimmick. Baron Corbin, meanwhile, is a wrestler who clearly isn’t as popular with the fans – or backstage – as Zayn, but he has the tools that Vince and Triple H look for in a main event star. As much as one might want a push for Zayn or someone like Tye Dillinger, it simply isn’t going to happen. And even with Corbin seemingly being punished for his negative behavior by losing the Money in the Bank contract, he still has a better shot at winning the WWE World Championship.
The Lone Wolf gimmick, however, simply isn’t working. That type of gimmick could work for a dominating Superstar like a Brock Lesnar or Braun Strowman, but it clearly hasn’t for Corbin. He also lacks charisma to be over as a face, but a new gimmick could help his career. It doesn’t appear to be the case, but WWE should have worked in an angle in which he refused to believe he lost the briefcase and was looking for it every week, even threatening people who he thought took it. Anything would be better than continuing what he’s doing now.
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