The new era in the WWE has brought more optimism and excitement from fans than any other recent time frame. NXT reaching great success as a touring brand and tens of thousands of fans paying to see these “developmental brand” stars helped WWE realize they have a rich depth of talent right now. The hope that came with Shane McMahon returning and promising change also sparked the desire of a new era. WWE debuted many new stars in the past few months and are giving us exciting new feuds to show that things are no longer stagnant like in recent history.
Raw and SmackDown becoming separate shows with unique rosters is the main key in the new era. A brand split is a huge decision and WWE pulled the trigger by going all in. You have to give them credit for showing faith and investing in their talent. The brand split represents new stars getting the time and opportunity to be showcased. Everything is evolving with the company hoping to set up a stronger future. Who will be the ones to excel under the changes taking place? We’ll take a look here and find the top 15 stars that will lead us into the new era of WWE.
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15 American Alpha
The tag team of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are ready to make waves on the main roster. Known as American Alpha, the duo shockingly lost the NXT Tag Team Championship to The Revival at TakeOver: The End but the brand split made that decision clearer. Gable and Jordan connect with the fan base at NXT and are among the most popular acts who are definitely in a position to excel on the big stage.
A brand split will need two credible rosters and that puts more emphasis on various tag teams to succeed. Each show has to have a strong division and that should give American Alpha a position on television. Gable and Jordan have the potential to top New Day and Big Cass & Enzo Amore as the most popular unit in WWE. New fans will fall in love with American Alpha and they’ll help prove why the brand extension is a good idea.
14 Roman Reigns
WWE’s trust in Roman Reigns being “The Guy” turned into a disaster when the WWE's former World Champion was forced to drop the title after violating the Wellness Policy. Reigns will still be a massive part of the brand split experiment. You would assume John Cena is the top face on one of the shows and that would naturally have Reigns serve that role on the other show. Reigns’ 30 day suspension should hurt his momentum but not end his time as a main event star.
Reigns is still Vince McMahon’s chosen one and that will reflect in the booking. It will take a long time before you can escape Reigns being the face of whichever brand he appears on. The days of Reigns holding the title every time you watch him is likely going to be put on pause for the time being. We will see how fans react to Reigns’ return but you should expect him to be a huge part of the new era.
One promising star that the wrestling world is forgetting about due to injury is Neville. The high-flying master dazzles us every time he is in a ring and his chances of moving up the card will be there during the brand split. Neville gets a great deal of support from the diehard fans due to his in-ring work and is equally popular among the family audiences at the live events. That’s the perfect combination for a star in the WWE.
The return of Neville should be saved for the draft as a way to position him as an important figure on the show of his employment. WWE badly needs new stars to step up to represent the new era as a true mindset rather than simply buzz words. Neville developed respect from the viewers but has yet to peak on the main roster. His talent should help get him to the next level as one of the pivotal pieces to the brand split giving us a new direction on WWE TV.
Cesaro isn’t among the younger talents on the roster but he is a tremendously talented performer that has many years left. Fans and wrestling personalities have called out WWE for not giving a fair opportunity to Cesaro to move up the card into a potential main event position. The new era was born on the Raw after WrestleMania with Cesaro returning to a huge response. WWE has not capitalized on it but the brand split should help his chances.
SmackDown is likely going to be the show for the diehard fans and that could spell a big push for Cesaro. Talents like his are significant for the success of the brand’s identity. Cesaro will finally get an opportunity to be a semi-main eventer if the brand extension is truly being treated with the respect it deserves by management. The Swiss Superman will steal the show many more times and lead us into the next stage of WWE.
11 Becky Lynch
The women will play a very important role in the new era of the WWE. We all saw the way the triple threat match for the Women’s Championship was presented at WrestleMania 32. The ineffective booking has stalled the momentum of the women’s division but a brand split will force them to change that. Two separate shows will mean two to four storylines involving the female talent going on at the same time.
Becky Lynch has become the most underrated woman in the company in recent months. Sasha Banks is set up as the top hero of the Women’s Division and Charlotte is the dominant heel champion. Lynch is lost in the shuffle but has been on television almost every week delivering entertaining matches. The smaller rosters will allow Becky to blossom into a top face on one of the shows. Lynch has a charming personality and genuine likability that is hard to replicate. Expect her stock to rise with the brand split and become a leader of the new era for women’s wrestling.
10 Sami Zayn
NXT’s greatest star has finally made it to the main roster this year and WWE sees something special in him. Recent reports have indicated WWE intentionally portrays Zayn as an underdog and has him lose a great deal of matches to get fans to view him as a sympathetic figure. The Daniel Bryan story was very similar with losses in great matches making him eventually become a star when pushed effectively. Zayn has the skills to do the same and it’s likely he’ll shock the world.
Zayn is currently in the process of ending his feud with Kevin Owens before the brand split officially begins. John Cena, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose are the top three faces in the company right now and there will be opportunity for others to move up in the rankings considering the two separate shows. Zayn proved in NXT he could make fans invest in his story if put in the position to succeed. The new era represents the cream rising to the top and Zayn will be a big player.
Things change quickly in the wrestling world. It feels like Rusev was just the new top heel feuding with John Cena heading into WrestleMania. The Bulgarian Brute has suffered a decline since then due to horrible booking decisions such as losing Lana and joining The League of Nations. There’s reason for optimism with Rusev and Lana back together and no League of Nations teammates dragging him down. Rusev is getting heat once again as the United States Champion and is back at the top of his game.
The ability to get the fans to despise you is an art Rusev excels at and he can make it to the main event level with his current act. Lana perfectly adds to his act and the package duo is absolutely money together. Seth Rollins is the only elite main event heel on the WWE roster right now and he gets cheered half of the time. Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles are near that level but Rusev can easily leap past them with his opportunity coming to achieve his potential.
8 Finn Balor
NXT’s success is truly what started the new era. The red hot brand created a group of new stars and a new atmosphere that grew in interest with each show. TakeOver live specials are among the most exciting things in the wrestling world today. Finn Balor has spent a full year as the face of the franchise but is bound to move up to the main roster. The NXT Championship loss to Samoa Joe and the draft coming up means it’s time.
Balor is a ready-made top star that will thrive in any role he’s put in. The brass ring will be in reach for many of the stars with the brand split forcing WWE to rely on new talent becoming Superstars. Between his superb matches and the theatrics associated with his Demon character, Balor deserves to be on the biggest stage in the wrestling world. No one can stop Finn after he has been waiting a long time to finally become one of the biggest stars in the WWE.
7 Dean Ambrose
The improbable WWE World Championship win by Dean Ambrose at Money in the Bank was a result of the new era. Ambrose would have never been even discussed to win the big title in past eras of WWE but things have changed and they are looking to give the ball to anyone ready to run with it. Fans have grown attached to Ambrose following the breakup of The Shield.
Seth Rollins has been the most hated villain in the company and Roman Reigns has been the most hated face. That allowed Ambrose to slowly become a beloved figure and one of the most popular acts enjoyed by both the diehard fan and family crowd. Ambrose getting an opportunity as the champion heading into the draft proves he is an important part of the plans for the new era. The early 2016 months of working with Triple H and Brock Lesnar was an indication of Ambrose’s position in WWE, making him pivotal to the new era.
6 Enzo Amore and Big Cass
The electrifying tag team of Enzo Amore and Big Cass already has fans already eating out of their palms with each promo. They have yet to get placed in a captivating story or pull off a memorable match on the main roster, but they are among the most popular talents. The promos before their matches are very similar to The New Age Outlaws' promos, as they became the most popular tag team in WWE during the Attitude Era.
Enzo and Big Cass have the talent to back up their actions and better direction in the brand split will showcase that. The big man and the master of the microphone each bring a unique skillset to the table and it leads to excitement every time they are in the ring. Most of us want to see them remain a tag team and bring relevancy to the tag divisions. Regardless of if they are in a team or separated, both are going to be among the most popular faces of the new era.
5 Sasha Banks
Everyone thinks about The Four Horsewomen of the WWE when looking at what truly started the women’s revolution last year. Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley are all incredibly talented but Sasha Banks was always the one to stand out most. Banks at her best is as good as anyone on the main roster, male or female. The moment where Sasha captures the Women’s Championship has been saved and it's bound to happen very soon as a staple memory of the new era.
Banks has to be the champion for the majority of the second half of 2016 for the Raw or SmackDown brand to excel. Banks's talent can’t be replicated or easily replaced. WWE has to stop waiting and finally pull the trigger by putting the machine behind her. Bayley likely making her debut on the main roster soon will also add another bonus of Banks leading the new era when they square off in more classic matches.
4 Bray Wyatt
The deceptively young Bray Wyatt has a chance to be one of the top stars over the next decade and his big push should start very soon. Wyatt has a special charisma but his character has yet to hit his full potential. Triple H raves about Bray any time he is asked about the top young stars in the company and that gives an insight into how he is viewed backstage. If WWE has two World Titles, Wyatt would be a great choice to win the new one.
The Wyatt Family stable may be on its last legs as a faction. Luke Harper is injured, exposing just how weak the depth of the group really is without his in-ring work. Vince McMahon will want the very inexperienced Braun Strowman on his own very soon to test his potential. Erick Rowan is arguably the most irrelevant person getting consistent television time. Wyatt’s greatest chance at success may just be on his own as a singles face taking down the establishment on his own as the new voice of the new era.
3 Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens getting signed by WWE, dominating NXT and making his way to the main roster in less than a year was truly a sign of the times changing. Just as recently as a few years ago, Owens would have been laughed out of the venue due to his look and wrestling style. Now, Owens is on the verge of becoming a top star with a great body of work put out in the past year.
Most new talents to the main roster have ups and downs, but KO has remained consistently entertaining and relevant. The roster split may be the best thing for his career with having less competition of established names to compete against. If Seth Rollins is on another show or turns face, Owens is automatically the top heel on a show. The Kevin Owens Show is coming to whichever brand he gets drafted on and he is bound to become a main event Superstar.
The popularity of Bayley in NXT is extremely unique. Her character connects with the younger audience of little girls in a way that is very similar to what John Cena brings to the table for family audiences. Bayley makes kids wants to come to the show and believe in her. Her potential for huge success on the main roster is there and WWE can’t possibly screw up something this good. Bayley’s main roster call-up has been strategically postponed until the right time.
A brand split gives her the opportunity to make her debut on the big stage and instantly move up the pecking order. Aside from Sasha Banks, no one comes close to Bayley’s all-around greatness as a performer. Something will have gone horribly wrong if Bayley isn’t in a high profile match at WrestleMania 33. The new era was made for the best talent to get opportunities and create change. This is the story of Bayley’s career and she will become one of the faces of the women’s wrestling.
1 Seth Rollins
At the end of the day, no one is more prone to be the face of new era than Seth Rollins. The moment of him cashing in Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 31 showed us the WWE had a core of young hungry stars ready to take over the company. Rollins is second to none in the ring and will always guarantee a good match regardless of his opponent. The growth of Rollins as a character has made him an elite performer.
Rollins is incredible as the calculated heel, manipulating others to get to the top and the character can go on for a long time. The option to turn him face is also very tempting given the crowd’s natural instinct being to cheer for him. Rollins has the wrestling style of a face and the WWE 24 special of his journey recovering from injury gave us reasons to appreciate his love of the industry. There’s no situation or character that Rollins will not hit a home run with and he is “the man” that will lead the new era into the brand split and beyond.
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