The WWE is currently in an odd situation right now due to their reliance on legends. At WrestleMania, it’s always fun to see the greats of our generation’s past compete, like The Undertaker, Triple H, Sting and The Rock. The dangerous side is that we only want to see them due to WWE’s poor use of its actual roster. The wrestlers who work every week have not blossomed into top flight starts because of stop and start pushes and a lack of commitment. Right now, the top stars in the company based off their on-screen presentation and overall presences are all stars made from 10+ years ago aside from the members of The Shield (mostly Seth Rollins).
Most of the roster is full of wrestlers in their 30s that have yet to hit their potential and are in the middle of the pack when it comes to their place in the WWE. Certain wrestlers like Kevin Owens, Bray Wyatt and Paige have excelled since coming up from NXT, creating a successful spot on the card for themselves, but for the most part, everyone debuts with a nice push, before it slows down and the wrestler is stuck in an average position that’s non-threatening to the main event scene. The WWE has to make an honest attempt at pushing some of these stars to a higher level quickly or they’ll be in some real trouble.
The roster is full of promising talent in their prime. Some are at the latter end of their prime years and only have a few good years left. Many are in a position where they’ve been around so long that there’s “midcard stink” on them, so fans need something more to invest in them. A few of the NXT stars are also in a spot where they are in danger of peaking in developmental before moving up to the main roster. All of these things are in play as we look at talents the WWE needs to push before it becomes too late.
15. Rusev with Lana
Ever since splitting, Rusev and Lana have both been sinking in their new pairings. Lana was originally rumored to become the next big female WWE personality and a mega-star due to her look and ability to connect with the crowd. Instead she’s wearing a jean jacket with Dolph Ziggler. Rusev has been even worse off following the breakup, making fans forget that he was undefeated and John Cena’s opponent at WrestleMania. Rusev and Lana are clearly better together as the act was tremendous before the breakup storyline started. If this isn’t fixed, both could falter more by the end of the year and become totally irrelevant by 2016.
14. Tyler Breeze
Despite being only 27 years old, it feels like a now or never situation for Tyler Breeze if he’ll ever have success on the main roster. Breeze has been one of the consistent talents to grow and hold a spot towards the top of the card at NXT. Right now is the time for Breeze to make his debut in WWE, as he’s been in NXT for so long that there’s a risk that the fun of the gimmick will lose its luster by the time he brings it to Monday nights. The success and growth of NXT has it at its hottest as well, so if a standout talent from the brand makes the jump to Raw and SmackDown, the timing is perfect.
13. King Barrett
Wade Barrett has been rumored to be on the verge of the main event picture for years, but it has never panned out for him whether it is due to injuries, bad luck or poor timing. Barrett is still very talented with all the tools needed to be a credible main event act. Having Barrett wrestle R-Truth for weeks or walk around with a crown and cape have taken away most of his 2015, but with WWE needing to try new things due to poor ratings, perhaps a true push for a new main eventer would help things out.
Much like Tyler Breeze, Bayley is one of the few original NXT stars that has yet to make their debut on the main roster. After winning the NXT Women’s Championship, Bayley has accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish in the NXT world. While there’s enough for her to do for the rest of the year in NXT, WWE has to wisely debut her in a way that sets her apart from everyone else, unlike with the Divas Revolution concept. Bayley is at her absolute best right now and you can’t wait too long on a money making act like hers. If pushed right, Bayley could be the female talent that all the young kids want to see and support, like they do with John Cena.
11. Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose has lost a lot of what originally made him stand out as the member of The Shield, when many thought he might be the most successful of the group. Falling behind Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, Ambrose has credibility but not main event level respect from the audience. Rollins is 100% established for the future and Reigns is on the precipice, so now is the time to elevate Ambrose. Whether it’s pushing him hard as a top babyface act or turning him heel around WrestleMania as a villain equal to Reigns’ face character, something needs to be done soon. Ambrose is popular but is close to falling into the area of guys like Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus – successful members of the roster, but not main eventers.
Emma deserves better. She does not need to be the champion or even someone that wins matches every week, but she’s too talented to not have a role on the roster. Even in NXT, Emma is being used in a secondary role to the inferior Dana Brooks. It just doesn’t add up. With Paige currently working against the “Divas Revolution,” having Emma pair up with her would be fitting. The two have excellent chemistry and Emma can be a more effective sidekick or tag partner (see Brie Bella to Nikki Bella) with Paige, cutting the promos and being the spotlighted star.
9. Dolph Ziggler
No one has fallen harder over the last few years than Dolph Ziggler. It was just a couple of years ago at WrestleMania where fans were practically begging for Ziggler to cash in his Money in the Bank and become World Champion. When he did cash in, it created one of the biggest pops in WWE history. As recently as last year, Ziggler was shining in a storyline with The Authority but it once again led to nothing. Ziggler is now on the verge of irrelevance due to a terrible storyline with Rusev. WWE’s last chance is now to push Ziggler if they have any hopes of him being more.
8. Enzo and Big Cass
One of the hottest acts in NXT right now is the tag team of Enzo Amore and Big Cass. The charisma and promos by the team usually leads to one of the biggest pops of the night. On a couple of occasions, fans have even chanted “How You Doin’” during boring matches on Raw as a way to show that they want Cass and Enzo on the main roster. The gimmick of the “realest guys in the room” is a bit risky as it could become a fad, but if there’s any chance of it succeeding on national television, they need to debut in the near future. If the Raw after WrestleMania 32 does not feature Enzo and Big Cass soaking in the massive chants for them, WWE will have dropped the ball.
Kalisto is the case of an NXT star that has been lost in the shuffle since debuting on the main roster. Bringing the Lucha Dragons tag team with Sin Cara over to Raw and SmackDown, the act has failed to develop a secure spot on television. Anyone who has seen the team on multiple occasions can determine that Kalisto is significantly better than Sin Cara. With the ability to become the first lucha star on WWE television since Rey Mysterio, WWE needs to end this tag team and push Kalisto as a singles star. It’s obviously going to happen at some point but it needs to happen soon before the majority of fans view him as the guy from secondary shows like Main Event or Superstars.
6. Stardust/Cody Rhodes
Whether it’s Cody Rhodes or the Stardust gimmick, this promising talent has been in WWE for eight years and has yet to truly break out. Some of his stints like the “Dashing” character or teaming with Goldust to feud with The Authority have been very successful, but he’s never taken the next step closer to the top of WWE. At the same time, Rhodes is only 30 years old, which is younger than many of the stars coming up from NXT viewed as the future. Something that works against him, and many other current stars, is that if you’re in the midcard for too long treading water, fans have a harder time keeping a connection with you. It means WWE has to work more to commit to a push and, with Cody, the time is now as he’s in his prime and can give you another decade if it works.
5. Damien Sandow
One of the most under-appreciated wrestlers in the business today has to be Damien Sandow, who’s actually currently siting on the sidelines. Sandow has showed the ability to get over as a heel with his gimmick of an elitist scholar or as a face when he was The Miz’s stunt double. Fans were hoping his breakup with The Miz would lead to a great opportunity for Sandow as a singles wrestler. Instead, it led to him imitating Randy Savage on the internet exclusive Main Event program. Sandow is in a terrible spot right now, rarely appearing on television and already in his mid-30s. We’ve seen him deliver, so it will be a shame if Sandow doesn’t get something to work with before it’s too late.
4. Samoa Joe
A theme on this list is wrestlers with value that are getting up there in age. Samoa Joe is very new to WWE with his big debut coming a couple of months ago in NXT, but he’s a product of the new generation of wrestling fans that have watched talent from all over the world due to the internet. Samoa Joe is a star in NXT and gets a good reaction at bigger arenas when working dark matches because of his reputation before going to WWE. The problem is Samoa Joe is already 36 years old with a lot of wear and tear on his body. Given that his impressive merchandise sales were one of the big reasons WWE gave him an official contract, the window is extremely tight if they want to make more money off him on the main roster.
3. Roman Reigns
The story of Roman Reigns is tricky. When WWE tried to push him as the new face of the company, fans rejected his Royal Rumble win and he became one of the most hated wrestlers on the roster, depending on the location. WWE has since slowed down his push, moved him down the card, paired him with Dean Ambrose and allowed him to continue to develop. These are all great things on paper, but it’s still not really working. Reigns is still booed in places like New York and Chicago and his reactions in other cities that were usually more positive are weakening. WWE has to push Reigns as a polarizing figure knowing a large percentage of the crowd will boo him if they want him to become the level of star they’re expecting. Prolonging it will further damage his chaarcter.
2. Finn Balor
Finn Balor is the top answer for most fans when asked who they believe is the WWE’s next big star. Breaking down the NXT roster, Balor has the skill, the look and the “it factor” to become a huge success on any show he’s on. Balor is also surprisingly 34 years old and still in NXT. To compare properly: Balor is the same age as Daniel Bryan. Balor is just two years younger than CM Punk. Balor is FIVE years older than Seth Rollins. Think about what stage each of those men are in their careers or post-careers in comparison to Finn. Using him to ensure the NXT brand grows is important but his move to the main roster has to happen soon or he won’t have a very long run as a WWE superstar.
Between his superhuman look, his second to none ability to excel in a wrestling ring and a growing fan base, it’s shocking WWE has never given Cesaro a genuine push into the upper card. Cesaro’s accent may prevent him from cutting a promo like The Rock or CM Punk, but he has a unique and quirky personality that shows when he’s allowed to speak. The culmination of the Cesaro Section and his stellar matches with John Cena and Kevin Owens mean the time is now to push Cesaro or he’s going to wallow away in obscurity for the rest of his WWE career. Seeing his recent work take place against Bo Dallas on SmackDown and Main Event is not very promising for Cesaro fans.
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