WWE has set up an interesting future with the success of NXT, interesting new signings and a different approach to business. The brand split has given a newfound excitement to wrestling fans with the product truly being shaken up for the first time in many years. Opportunities will be opening up with everyone needing to step up with the rosters split in half. Everyone should realistically have the chance to move up the card through improvement and fan support. Just one week into the brand split, we are already seeing new talents get pushed much harder than anyone could have expected.
The next few years will be the true test of the brand split. New stars have to be made for this to work. WWE will try to push quite a few different names to the top of their respective divisions. Some of them are talents the general population enjoys watching and will want to support to the next step in their careers. A few of them are less desirable with flaws that get overlooked due to various reasons. We’ll try to forecast the future and hopefully prevent it in some cases. Here are eight WWE stars we want to see thrive in the near future and another seven that we definitely don’t.
15 Want: Sami Zayn
The ascension of Sami Zayn in NXT made him a fan favorite before he even made his main roster debut. NXT made strides forward with Zayn’s incredible matches leading the way into the future. Following a long stint in NXT, Zayn finally made his way on the main roster full time around WrestleMania 32. Zayn has become a beloved figure thanks to his intense rivalry with Kevin Owens showcasing how talented he truly is.
WWE refers to Zayn as the underdog of the underground for good reason. No one currently plays the underdog role better than Zayn. Very few wrestlers can make you believe in them and force you to invest in their careers. His work hits fans in a way that has been missing since Daniel Bryan’s rise to the top. Zayn isn’t at that level just yet, but we are all hoping he can get there and thrive at the top of the company.
14 Don’t: Bray Wyatt
There are mixed opinions about Bray Wyatt these days after years of horrible booking. Some fans still want to see him get pushed to the top of the card with a World Title reign but many of us have jumped off the bandwagon. An act like Wyatt’s has to grow and mature, but he has been in the same spot for years now. Wyatt has a fascinating character and can cut tremendous promos, but his role in WWE has ruined him.
The once captivating promos now come off as irrelevant due to the lack of meaning behind them. Wyatt has suffered defeat or humiliation at the hands of John Cena, Roman Reigns, The Undertaker and The Rock after guaranteeing victory. His in-ring work has gone downhill too, with it being a difficult task to remember his most recent impressive singles match. We are at the point of no return and it’s time to root against Wyatt in favor of others with a legitimate chance to move upwards.
13 Want: American Alpha
The most exciting SmackDown pick during the brand extension draft was definitely American Alpha. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan dominated the NXT tag team division with exciting matches on a consistent basis. Fans gravitated towards American Alpha as the next big team. Wrestling historian Dave Meltzer has gone on the record to say they are WWE’s best tag team in about fifteen years. Both men instantly connected and showed they are perfect tag partners.
American Alpha is definitely going to be slotted in the top tag team position on SmackDown and we are all rooting for them. SmackDown had a terrible draft and the roster already appears to lack depth. The success of Jordan and Gable is imperative to the future of the brand. Young stars with legitimate potential to change the entire show for the better have to get the ball to run with as soon as possible. American Alpha deserves to be the first tag champs on the Tuesday show and fans will support the journey.
12 Don’t: The Shining Stars
The importance given to tag teams in the WWE following the brand split is one of the better changes. New Day, The Club and Big Cass & Enzo Amore are all great enough to create a great division on Raw. SmackDown has American Alpha, The Usos and Breezeango leading the way. One team that just doesn’t fit in is The Shining Stars. Primo and Epico have never been able to connect with the WWE Universe through various gimmicks and repackaging.
WWE clearly wants them to get over, but their lack of personality always hurts their potential. The Shining Stars have adopted a heel gimmick talking down to fans and claiming their home of Puerto Rico is a better place than the United States of America. Primo and Epico were forced off television after a failed introduction in their first match under the new gimmick until the brand split. We can only hope they are sent to Main Event and Superstars where we never have to watch them on Raw again.
11 Want: Samoa Joe
WWE fans have wanted Samoa Joe on the main roster for over a decade now and we are finally getting closer to it happening. The wrestling landscape truly changed when Joe debuted in NXT last year and got to wrestle under his name. Joe keeping his identity and persona instantly made him a huge star for NXT. The long rivalry with Finn Balor ended with Joe winning the NXT Championship before Balor moved on to the main roster.
Joe has proved leaving TNA was the right decision as he’s already a valued commodity in WWE with bigger things on the horizon. There’s no doubt the future of Joe is on the main roster and he should be there by 2017. His work has impressed the wrestling world for such a long time and everyone is hoping for him to become a huge star in the upper echelon of WWE.
10 Don’t: Nia Jax
The biggest form of resentment from fans these days come from getting wrestlers shoved down their throats. WWE still likes to pick and choose their favorite prospects to get television time and a huge push, even if fans aren’t buying into it. It is already predictable that Nia Jax will be in line for many opportunities in WWE. As The Rock’s cousin, Jax was given an instant push on NXT and is already being positioned for a big role on WWE TV.
Jax is still inexperienced and is nowhere near ready enough to make it on the main roster against the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Paige. The rest of the division will have to limit their greatness to work towards Jax’s strength and try to carry her. WWE is just now giving the women’s division credibility and Jax getting put in a title program soon can ruin it. Let’s just all get together and hope Jax remains in harmless enhancement matches for quite some time.
9 Want: Shinsuke Nakamura
NXT has changed the game in WWE and the big signings just continue to add new stars to the roster. Shinsuke Nakamura signed with the company earlier this year and is already the most popular star in NXT. The t-shirt sales and fan interest in Nakamura may put him above most of the main roster talents as well. Fans of all demographics are captivated by the theatrics of Nakamura. His personality and in-ring work has made him the name everyone wants to get called up.
WWE reportedly pays Nakamura a main roster level contract, despite still being in NXT. The investment and popularity of Nakamura has to lead to a call-up in the very near future. Nakamura is a once in a generation kind of talent that transcends languages. WWE has a terrible track record with pushing Japanese talent but Nakamura is the right man to break the mold. Fans are going to try to propel him to the top of WWE and the steps have already begun.
8 Don’t: Braun Strowman
Vince McMahon still loves the big men. Don’t let recent history fool you. Most of the successful stars in the past few years have been untraditional choices for WWE, due to fan support speaking loudly. One pet project of McMahon that he is hoping can blossom into a monster heel is Braun Strowman. The mystery giant in The Wyatt Family was split from his faction peers in the brand split.
Strowman is already getting a singles push on Raw and demolished local enhancement talent to get across his dominance. The old school giant will get every chance to succeed as a singles star. You can just read McMahon’s mind to see the dreams of a big WrestleMania match between Strowman and Roman Reigns. There is some potential in Strowman but he doesn’t belong anywhere near the main event picture. Fans should be worried about Strowman getting a huge push before he deserves it and can only hope he doesn’t thrive.
7 Want: Finn Balor
The aftermath of Raw showed just how much fans loved Finn Balor. Following the first episode of Raw under the brand split, Balor won two superb matches and pinned Roman Reigns cleanly to get a spot in the WWE Universal Championship match against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. The opportunity was well deserved after a lengthy stay as the face of the NXT brand. Balor has everything you could want in a professional wrestler.
The look, character depth with the demon and in-ring excitement all makes Balor one of the potential top new stars for WWE. SummerSlam being the show Balor gets such an important match tells us all we need to know about how much WWE believes in his potential. The time is now for Finn and he has to thrive to hold the top face spot on the Raw roster. Balor represents the face of change. Wrestling fans are dreaming of him becoming one of the top stars in the company.
6 Don’t: Eva Marie
WWE’s tendency to overpush performers clearly not suitable for the has ruined a number of talents as they try to improve. That’s the story of Eva Marie’s career. From day one, Eva has been a hot commodity in the WWE due to her look. The stunning appeal of Marie has given her many more chances than anyone else would receive for her limitations. Eva has completely failed any time she has tried to get established on the main roster.
She was sent down to NXT to learn more and hopefully become halfway competent. Marie has not shown much improvement as an in-ring worker but her personality has played a role in her getting called back up to SmackDown in the draft. WWE has embraced the hate towards Eva and are hoping the dislike for her will make her one of the top heels in the women’s division. Fans hoping the momentum of the women’s division will continue have reason to root against Eva Marie’s push.
5 Want: Bayley
The woman we all want to see become the face of the division as we head into the future is Bayley. NXT has been home to many great stars over the past few years but no one has developed as much as Bayley in the time frame. She went from being the afterthought behind Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch into arguably having the highest potential. Bayley’s charming personality connects with younger fans and her in-ring work makes the older fan base appreciate her as well.
The chance to sell merchandise on the main roster is enough to make Bayley a huge money maker for the company. We just want to see one of the most talented stars get a chance to shine on the big stage. WWE will have failed if Bayley isn’t in a big match at WrestleMania 33. Her classic matches against Sasha Banks deserve to be spotlighted again in front of a bigger crowd at Raw or SmackDown. We’re all behind Bayley to take over the WWE world as soon as possible.
4 Don’t: Dolph Ziggler
Let’s be honest. Most of us were disappointed at the end of the first SmackDown in the brand split era when Dolph Ziggler emerged as the “new” star to enter the main event picture. Ziggler defeated A.J. Styles, John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin to earn a WWE Championship match against Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam but no one is excited. The push is about four years too late and very few fans still care enough to support Ziggler.
The time has passed and Ziggler will always be viewed as a talented midcarder but nothing more. Ziggler getting the renewed push at such a random time just hurts the SmackDown brand as it is already being established as the B-show. The talent of Ziggler is still impressive but he has certainly regressed a bit in recent years. Other wrestlers passing him in the pecking order makes us want him to go back down the card for the more compelling choices.
3 Want: Big Cass and Enzo Amore
It has been years since an odd couple tag team like Big Cass and Enzo Amore has been this successful. The unlikely duo proved to have great chemistry in NXT. Enzo has the tremendous promo skills to talk his way into cheers from any crowd and Cass is one of the most intimidating wrestlers on the entire roster. They have been highly popular since getting called up from NXT following WrestleMania 32 and currently play a big role on the Raw brand.
Rumors circulated that WWE may already be considering breaking up the tag team after Enzo suffered an injury for a few weeks and Cass stepped up without his partner. Fans worried we would never get to see them achieve their potential as a team but them being drafted together to Raw gave us hope. The best outcome for us all is Big Cass and Enzo becoming an elite tag team for a few years before splitting them up for singles pushes.
2 Don’t: Roman Reigns
The most certain thing in WWE right now is fans love to boo Roman Reigns. One of the biggest singles pushes in company history forced fans to develop resentment for the former popular Shield member. The presentation of Reigns made it clear the WWE cared more about building him up at the expense of almost everyone else on the roster. Fans have booed him out of the building for about a year and a half now with no end in sight.
Reigns violating the WWE wellness policy has ended his push and he is currently eating some humble pie. The fan base appears to be happy with others getting chances and Reigns sliding a bit lower down the card for the time being. That likely won’t last very long before WWE goes all in on Reigns again, but the fans at live shows will continue to backlash against him. The downfall of Reigns is starting and many are hoping it continues.
1 Want: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens has been the most entertaining performer on the main roster since getting called up a little over a year ago. The talent of Owens is unquestionable but other factors made it unlikely he would ever get to WWE. Owens loves to prove others wrong and did it again by instantly becoming a star by defeating John Cena cleanly in his first match on the main roster. The entertainment value of Owens has been second to none with outstanding matches and hilarious one-liners.
Fans appreciate his work and ability to always deliver, regardless of his spot on the card. The next few months should see Owens rise in the rankings of the WWE with a brand split needing new stars to step up. KO is one of the few performers that will always run with the ball and we are hoping he gets the opportunity to score touchdowns at the top of the card. Every diehard wrestling fan has to be in the rooting section of Kevin Owens hoping he thrives.