There's a motto or mission statement WWE CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon often wants the WWE Universe to believe is true. It's that the fans dictate the direction the company goes. If the fans are clamoring for someone, they'll make them a star. If the fans don't get behind a particular character, that WWE Superstar stands little chance to get themselves over and often their careers or success in the business is cut short. McMahon and the WWE want you to believe that, but evidence has shown that it doesn't always seem to be the case.
For every Daniel Bryan that forces his way into the upper echelon of WWE programming, despite the obvious lack of push, there are 10 characters the WWE doesn't trust the fans to control. For every Damien Sandow who has a ridiculous gimmick, but somehow gets the fans behind him, there are a dozen superstars no one wants to see on television. Why then does the WWE insist on forcing fans to try and like them?
Below are 10 WWE Superstars who grace us with their presence on Raw or SmackDown Live on a weekly basis. Some of these characters the fans absolutely love and the WWE sees as less than bankable. Others the WWE is pushing to moon and stars and the WWE Universe couldn't care less. What's the disconnect? Why are some wrestlers so highly regarded in the WWE and why are some so poorly utilized? These 10 Superstars are among the most hotly debated on the roster. We'll explain the differences in the way the WWE views these Superstars and the way the fans do.
20 The Way the Fans See Cesaro
Cesaro is truly one of the most gifted athletes in the WWE. The WWE Universe gets behind his incredibly vast move set and will cheer every "Cesaro Swing" or uppercut that he lays on each and every opponent who dares enter a match with him. Known as the "Cesaro Section", Cesaro clearly has a large fan base and despite his ever- changing tag partners and different managers, he's always getting over with the WWE Universe.
Pound for pound, Cesaro is one of the strongest WWE Superstars and fans not only like him but have a ton of respect for that strength and ability. The WWE Universe understands that his skills on the mic are not the best, but they don't seem to care. They're willing to overlook it and give him time to improve.
19 The Way the McMahons See Cesaro
Vince McMahon literally said on an episode of the Stone Cold Podcast that there are some in the WWE who aren't grabbing that brass ring. McMahon was asked about Cesaro and his response was that Cesaro didn't have the "it factor." McMahon called Cesaro a phenomenal in-ring talent, but one not connecting with fans due to his inability to talk to them and get them to invest in his character.
The comments were taken as a shot towards Cesaro and the WWE Universe made their opinions known. The WWE took the backlash in stride and turned it into a storyline. It didn't last and again Cesaro was relegated to tag team action. That seems to be the WWE's fallback plan. The writers at WWE must feel that Cesaro is nothing more than a good in-ring worker who can help get people over in the ring.
18 The Way the Fans See Bray Wyatt
There is no doubt that Bray Wyatt has the ability to become the WWE's next great heel character. The fans are in love with Wyatt's creepy mannerisms and when Bray makes his entrance, the entire crowd gets involved with their cell phones and plays along. When Wyatt finally won the WWE Title, the fans popped huge. They loved the idea that "The Eater of World's" would be running the show. When he lost it mere weeks later at WrestleMania 33, everyone was confused.
Despite the fact that McMahon and company continually use Bray Wyatt to put over other stars, the WWE Universe is just waiting for Wyatt to start winning on a regular basis. They want to see a character that can truly creep them out and be a force in the ring.
17 The Way the McMahons See Bray Wyatt
To the WWE, Bray Wyatt is a serviceable talent that can win or lose and it doesn't affect his status. More often than not, Wyatt comes out on the losing end. The WWE inexplicably broke up one of the hottest factions in the Wyatt family and since that day all have struggled to gain traction individually. Some might argue that Bray Wyatt has had a strong singles push, but he's nothing more than a glorified jobber, even with the title.
The WWE is an ever-changing product. Their advancements in technology, LED lighting and effects is simply incredible and Wyatt's character is a dream come true for their production department. Lately, Wyatt can be seen as a science experiment where the WWE is trying to use new technology to enhance his character. It isn't working and his in-ring images just came off a small hokey and cheesy. They need to focus on his character and ability to capture the audience just by his presence alone.
16 The Way the Fans See Kevin Owens
While those behind the scenes in the WWE don't think Cesaro has "it," Kevin Owens sure does. The fans know it too. Whether he's wowing the WWE Universe with his five-star matches or being the butt-end of a comedy routine with Chris Jericho, Owens has the the WWE Universe wrapped around his little finger and hanging onto every word. He's a true star in the making and the fans are just holding on to see where the ride takes them next. He's also making strides without the typical WWE physique. That has potentially worked in his favor.
Every week the fans want to know what Owens will do. He appeared on Talking Smack after being moved to SmackDown Live and I'm sure his presence will make that a must-see enjoy his incredible in-ring banter and storytelling, they'll remian loyal to Owens for years.
15 The Way the McMahons See Kevin Owens
The WWE must surely realize they have a star in Kevin Owens. They just seem to not always know what to do with him. From week to week he's an ever-changing character. He's a vicious heel one week and a best friend the next. He's telling jokes one night and defending his or his son's honor the next. There is very little consistency to his story, but the company seems to have enough faith in his ability to put multiple titles around his waist and make him an integral part of every main event picture.
In the meantime, Owens gets placed in matches we've seen him in repeatedly. He's fought Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose and others on countless occasions. It would be nice if he'd have new feuds with new people because he can carry a match better than almost anyone. Instead, the WWE seems to want to recycle his material and that's too bad for the fans.
14 The Way the Fans See JBL
If JBL was not a part of the WWE landscape, it shouldn't come as a surprise if the WWE Universe isn't too shaken up about it. An old-school character, an old-school announcer and an over-dramatic baby who comes across as a bully, JBL has worn out what very little welcome he had. He spends more time complaining about his role in the WWE product than he does in improving it. He speaks down to fans in WWE Network programming and he's entitled.
Recent news that JBL is a driving force behind the exit Mauro Ranallo is really upsetting the fanbase who would clearly choose Ranallo over JBL. That Ranallo suffers from depression and other disorders and is now rumoured to be off-air for good means the fans lose out on one of the most passionate broadcasters who enjoyed calling the matches.
13 The Way the McMahons See JBL
JBL seems to have the world's biggest get out of jail free card. Clearly influential behind the scenes and a friend to the McMahon's, he's getting away with things that very few other superstars get away with. This goes all the way back to his days as an in-ring competitor when he played ribs and bullied to new guys via direction from those at the top of the food chain.
He's also of lessening value, which the WWE chooses to ignore. His show "Legends With JBL" was quietly canceled, he didn't even register with fans as one of wrestling's best announcers and there are plenty of people who can fill in upon his exit. Yet, he still has a job and finds a home on some of the WWE's newest shows. The McMahon's must believe a heel announcer is still important in today's wrestling landscape because JBL freely admits on social media and other outlets that he's always in heel mode, which is "his job". It just doesn't seem clear where his job ends and real life begins.
12 The Way the Fans See Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
Wrestling fans, especially the serious ones who know more about wrestling than just what they see in the WWE, know Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows well. As part of Bullet Club, they became Japan's equivalent in popularity to the nWo. Gallows and Anderson were at the top of the list of the best tag teams not in the WWE. Their international status as major players was something that they were going to bring with them when signed. Fans expected to see these two come in and dominate the tag team division.
Two experienced workers and tough in-ring performers, the WWE Universe wasn't interested in watching Gallows and Anderson take part in incredibly unfunny skits. In fact, the less talking probably meant the better. That's what the fans want. It's not what the fans have been getting.
11 The Way the McMahons See Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
Gallows and Anderson made a strong debut. After that, they were teamed up with AJ Styles to reinvent a version of the Bullet Club (called simply The Club). Together they were a formidable faction. Styles was the voice of the group and Gallows and Anderson meant to be the heavies. AJ Styles went to SmackDown Live and Gallows and Anderson fell into obscurity.
Currently, the WWE sees them as nothing more than experienced hands good for putting over the flavour of the day. They find themselves on the losing end of squash matches or teamed with less than relevant tag teams and the days of a forceful Gallows and Anderson are long gone. The WWE has potentially blown the opportunity to take advantage of the momentum those two brought with them from Japan. Once McMahon sees he can't make them the greatest heel tag team, it's pretty much over for their push.
10 The Way the Fans See Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn is the ultimate underdog. He's the people's wrestler who has to battle through adversity every night and come out sometimes the victor, sometimes defeated, but always a class act. As such, he's incredibly popular and fans love to sing his theme, cheer his comebacks and root for his matches to show the WWE he deserves better. When he wins it's always a big deal to the WWE Universe.
Zayn is also one of the most respected WWE Superstars on the roster. He was very influential in the success of NXT — arguably the WWE's hottest brand and a brand the WWE Universe views as their baby. Zayn is part and parcel to that popularity and he will always have a special place in the fans' hearts.
9 The Way the McMahons See Sami Zayn
Perhaps Sami Zayn is the Cesaro of 2016-17. Clearly still a fan favourite, Zayn doesn't seem to get that sustained push to make him a true superstar. He'll win a match of the year bout against someone like Kevin Owens and then he'll be used as a feeder for a monster like Braun Stroman.
If the WWE thought Zayn had the "it" factor, he'd at least have had a run as the Intercontinental Champion. Instead, he was a last minute throw-in to WrestleMania 33, barely on the card and making way for someone like Rob Gronkowski. Zayn was recently moved to SmackDown Live to give him a fresh start on a show that is known for superior matches. Hopefully, this will help kickstart Zayn in a more favorable direction.
Zayn was recently moved to SmackDown Live to give him a fresh start on a show that is known for superior matches. Hopefully, this will help kickstart Zayn in a more favorable direction. Perhaps he'll go back to being the underground underdog and this will be good for his character.
8 The Way the Fans See Lana and Rusev
There was a time that Rusev and Lana were the WWE's next big heel duo. They entered the WWE with attitude and ferocity and fans loved to hate their anti-American rhetoric. Rusev was the ultimate monster and Lana was so hot that you couldn't help but wait for them both to appear on weekly programming and tell you what an idiot you were.
Today, they aren't nearly as popular (or hated which is also good if you're a heel) simply because they've become a shell of their former angry selves. Wasted in feuds with the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Enzo and Cass, the WWE Universe has barely noticed they've been off tv for an extended period of time.
Recently, they were both moved to SmackDown Live, but seemingly separately. While it would have been a nice change, now it's just confusing to fans to say the least.
7 The Way the McMahons See Lana and Rusev
Despite cramming Lana and Rusev's ever-changing personas and frequently changing accents unsuccessfully down the collective throats of the WWE Universe, McMahon and company still believe fans will take them seriously. This is even after they took the "Ravishing Russian" and turned her into a Ziggler fan-girl. They've since changed her back, but it appears they just think presenting them individually and with another character change may be better.
Somehow, the WWE got it in their heads that Lana would be better suited for a singles push and somehow feel that despite her lack of wrestling experience, she's getting more prominently pushed than Rusev. Is she a wrestler? Is she a valet? Is she?... I'm not sure the WWE even knows. Where Rusev goes from here is anyone's guess. I highly doubt the WWE has thought this one through and it's going to end in disaster.
6 The Way the Fans See The Cruiserweights
If you watched the Cruiserweight Classic Tournament on the WWE Network, as a fan, you got exactly what you'd been missing since the Cruiserweight Division was a highlight of Nitro every Monday. Fast paced, unique action in a bunch of performers under 205 pounds. It was awesome and it was different. The fans ate it up and couldn't wait to see it more.
Then the WWE went a moved the Cruiserweights to Raw where they tried to make those unique assets exactly like RAW superstars in the way they talked backstage, had relationships with females who needed someone to latch onto or had short matches to fill a 5-minute segment. It seems to take more time to change the ring physically for a Cruiserweight matchup than the actual matchup does. Fans are holiding out hope, but are starting to think it's a joke.
5 The Way the McMahons See The Cruiserweights
The Cruiserweights were once a new concept that was long overdue and potentially could create a whole new audience for the WWE. In the same way NXT created a brand that fans love, the WWE hoped 205 Live would take off and create more programming, income and merchandise opportunities. Now, the Cruiserweights appear to be viewed as a different way to fill a three-hour Raw program.
Some of the WWe's best Cruiserweights are being used as comedy acts, love interests and talents are being asked to speak more than wrestle. It's the wrong way to go, but it isn't stopping the WWE from trying. The latest episode of Raw finally gave some new life to the division. This is after Neville, and Austin Aries have sort of grabbed the division by the horns in an attempt not to let it die. With Kalisto on the way and a heel turn for TJ Perkins, the WWE may finally be starting to get it.
The latest episode of Raw finally gave some new life to the division. This is after Neville, and Austin Aries have sort of grabbed the division by the horns in an attempt not to let it die. With Kalisto on the way and a heel turn for TJ Perkins, the WWE may finally be starting to get it.
4 The Way the Fans See John Cena
Only in the most recent weeks has the WWE Universe laid off John Cena a little. That's not because Cena has been less the machine that the WWE wants you to eat up and pour your hard-earned cash into, but because Roman Reigns is the new whipping boy and on the receiving end of most fans ire.
Fans respect what Cena has done for the business and the time he puts in working, visiting kids and promoting the WWE. A bunch of fans are starting to find a new respect for his recent work as an actor too. At the end of the day, fans hate being told who to cheer for. Cena was that guy for a decade. It's not necessarily his fault, but the fans grew to resent him for it.
He'd be helping his image a bit if he didn't always come to the ring like a walking billboard.
3 The Way the McMahons John Cena
John Cena is the man. He's the highest grossing WWE Superstar in years, he's been helping sell out arenas and he's been the face of the WWE forever. As such, he's untouchable and can basically say, do or get away with anything he wants.
The only reason he's getting less attention now, is because he's taking steps in his acting career and a John Cena who is a big star, but also a life-long WWE Superstar is good promotion for the WWE. If Cena truly never plans to leave the WWE in some capacity, he'll forever be welcomed by McMahon and company. He'll show up when he wants, where he wants and he'll beat who he wants. Hopefully, he understands that giving back is the way to go as his in-ring career winds down.
2 The Way the Fans See Roman Reigns
Where John Cena was, Roman Reigns is now. It's actually quite an amazing transformation considering Reigns didn't actually do anything to deserve the boos and jeers he gets. At one time, he was the most popular member of The Shield and was deemed the "it" guy by the fans. No one got more cheers or pops that Reigns. WWE fans could only dream of this group reuniting and making things whole again.
But, now that the WWE has gotten behind Reigns and potentially pushed him quicker as a singles competitor than some might like, those cheers went south in a hurry and he's hated by as many as those who love him. A variety of fans have thrown out all respect they have for him and how much he's hated after defeating The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 goes to show that if the WWE doesn't turn him heel, he'll be in for a rough ride.
1 The Way the McMahons See Roman Reigns
The WWE has determined Roman Reigns is the next big thing. He's in it for the long haul on a full-time performers deal, he's got the look, the size, the agility and has a history once as a fan favorite (even if it was only as a member of The Shield). That's all the WWE need to hitch their horse to Reigns and see where he could take them.
His discretions (failing a Wellness Policy test) and shortcomings (not a strong mic worker) have been essentially overlooked and despite the tremendous mixed reaction turning to mostly boos, the WWE feels they can out-wait the WWE Universe, eventually get their way and make Reigns the next big star. Their booking of Reigns this past Monday on Raw as the victim of a vicious attack by Braun Stroman only goes to show the WWE doesn't get it. They want fans to feel bad for Reigns. Instead, fans are cheering Stroman's destruction.
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