Say what you will about WWE’s current product, it has never lacked in producing young stars that will soon be ready to take the reins.
Countless icons, such as The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and The Undertaker have grown before our eyes, becoming major world champions and some of the biggest stars the business has ever seen. Some of them even come from the independent circuit, however, when you enter the biggest platform of them all, that’s when everyone’s eyes start to turn.
Right now, WWE has a solid gang of superstars that haven’t even hit 30 years old, producing incredible talents that excel in matches and high-profile storylines. It only seems fair that we rank these past, present, and future champions, determining who has the most potential to break out into the main event scene and capture multiple titles in the near future.
Please keep in mind this applies to the WWE roster, and excludes thriving talent showcased on NXT. There are a plethora of budding prospects on the promotion’s developmental show, yet this ranking is reserved for wrestlers already on the major shows, and the NXT stars will soon get their recognition both in the limelight, and potentially on this website.
Without further ado, here is the best talents competing for WWE that haven’t hit the “dirty thirty.”
10. The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso, age 29)
They may not be the best tag team in the world, in contrast to the talent on the independent scene, or even compared to TNA World Tag Team Champions, The Wolves, but there’s a reason why The Usos are leading WWE’s tag team division as the champs. Maybe it’s because the group itself is weak, yet after years of inactivity when it came to tag teams, The Usos are doing a decent job leading the way, and have improved greatly in big matches.
The Usos are sons of former WWE superstar, Rikishi, and the Samoans are part of a long lineage of wrestlers from the country that has been producing exceptional talent for numerous decades. They’ve been in the company for four years, and Jimmy Uso, whose real name is Jonathan, has produced some hysterical moments on WWE Total Divas alongside his life partner, Naomi.
9. Bo Dallas (age 24)
It’s a tad disappointing Bo Dallas had his streak snapped for no apparent reason, and there have been rumors circulating that the youngster just wasn’t cutting it when it came to the brass’ expectations. Nevertheless, he’s quite over with the fans, based on his obnoxious and somewhat childish heel role, despite spewing positive messages every time he’s on the mic.
Being the son of the famed Mike Rotunda, who famously wrestled under Irwin R. Schyster (I.R.S.) and Michael Wallstreet, and the younger brother of a major player that will present himself on this very list, the former NXT champion would benefit from improving his move set, and potentially changing his finisher, the running tornado “Bo-Dog.” It’s been sloppy at times, although, it would be best used as a go-to move, reminiscent of Steve Austin’s Lou Thesz Press, and ameliorating his repertoire could be a wise move. He shows promise of being a good technical wrestler, it just feels as if he’s starting to scratch the surface in the ring.
8. Rusev (age 28)
There’s no denying WWE President Vince McMahon adores gigantic, larger-than-life figures, even though most of them have used their size over credibility for success, not to mention a handful unable to compete in a match for more than eight minutes. Rusev has come a long way since dropping his adopted given name and ditch the ECW Tazmaniac-inspired getup, which consisted of bringing a wooden board to the ring with his victim’s names written on the front.
Accompanied to the ring by his valet and real-life squeeze, Lana, the pair has been susceptible to controversy for depicting Russian extremists, often showing Vladimir Putin on the Titantron. This doesn’t help considering their cause considering a strained relationship between America and Russia, not to mention the Russia and Ukraine crisis, and the MH17 disaster. It’s not the first time we’ve seen religion, race, or nationality portrayed in wrestling, but it’s a little too close for comfort.
Nevertheless, Rusev remains a lauded prospect that will profit from his powerlifting and rowing backgrounds, not to mention his on-air martial arts and Sambo accolades, too. The first Bulgarian ever in WWE will need to work on cardio issues, yet the company seems to have big plans for him considering he hasn’t been outclassed in singles competition quite yet. With a little bit of fine-tuning, we may be looking at a main event player down the road.
7. AJ Lee (age 27)
Nowadays, AJ Lee is met with blistering CM Punk chants whenever she walks out of the curtain, and that kind of helps her popularity with the fans, since they can’t help but associate her with her legendary husband.
Before the WWE Divas division was really starting to produce exceptional workers, Lee was a bright prospect early on. There were other superstars like Beth Phoenix and Natalya, but Lee brought forth ridiculously amazing mic skills and an aerial-meets-technical wrestling style that suited her immensely. She’s not exactly mounting in structure, and it’s good to see her not plasticized like most of her counterparts.
It’s tough to say if she was the first anti-Diva, but her cutting-edge promos and shoots would confirm she was definitely the one that made it cool. Now participating in a program with current WWE Divas Champion, Paige, it’s given the fans arguably the most refreshing Divas feud in the history of the company, based on their in-ring credentials alone.
6. Paige (age 22)
Speaking of the WWE Divas Champion, Paige is arguably the brightest prospect to ever come out of the WWE’s womens division, bringing forth a dose of technical wrestling and madness fused together perfectly.
Formerly known as Britani Knight in her native England and in the SHIMMER Womens Athletes promotion, the youngster rose to prominence when “The Wrestlers: Fighting with my Family” documentary was seen across North America, following Paige’s ascension from the independent scene in England all the way to the WWE developmental program. She was already making proper noise in NXT, capturing the NXT Women’s Championship, but truly became a star the night after WrestleMania 30, beating Lee in an impromptu match to acquire the WWE Divas Championship.
Maybe it’s a little weak that WWE feels the need to promote promiscuity between both athletes, because they’re two competitors that truly don’t need to indulge in that sort of affair. At only 22 years of age, and a big-time program with Lee having the WWE Universe excited, it’s almost scary to think what her career could look like in a decade’s time.
5. Bray Wyatt (age 28)
“The Eater of Worlds” is a far cry from Husky Harris, and with proper booking, we may have a future world champion on our hands. Wyatt has some of the best promos in wrestling today, and it’s still unclear what type of message he’s trying to send. It’s obvious he’s telling the world he’s a monster, however, there’s so much ambiguity behind his words. Where does he come from? What are his true goals? Who the hell will turn out to be Sister Abigail?
The Wyatt Family, including Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, are quite over with the fans, but bad booking decisions have left them out in the cold, and more so, leaves Bray’s future a tad unclear. Had the leader beat John Cena at WrestleMania 30, after beating Daniel Bryan clean at WWE Royal Rumble 2014, it would have changed his entire scenario. Then again, you can’t have evil conquering good in pro wrestling, yet it proved nothing about Wyatt, despite incredible storytelling. Now drifting off in a meaningless feud against Chris Jericho, it leaves Harper and Rowan as jobbers to other tag teams in the division, and if Wyatt can’t find himself in an important battle, or at least one with significance that can lead him to some sort of title picture, what else can he offer?
With that said, the current version of Wyatt is the best we’ve seen from him in terms of wrestling, but there needs to be someone across from him that extenuates his presence.
Also, he’s Bo Dallas’ older brother. That’s a talented wrestling family.
4. Dean Ambrose (age 28)
There was once a time when Dean Ambrose, the man formerly known as Jon Moxley who tore himself to pieces in a bunch of hardcore matches for Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) and Dragon Gate USA, was regarded as the leader of The Shield. He was the best talker, the most eccentric performer, and he seemed built for the leading role.
Now that the influential group has been disbanded, Ambrose was seen as the last guy out of the three to get the big push, primarily because we saw him lose a couple of matches on Raw and SmackDown, and seeing how the crowd goes bonkers for Roman Reigns and even Seth Rollins.
But, the longest reigning WWE United States Champion (who must have defended that belt like, a total of five times) is more than a force to be reckoned with, and his madman persona is just the beginning of showing the fans what a complex character he is. Similar to Wyatt, he’s got a story we don’t yet know.
It’s apparent WWE has big plans for his former partners, and we’re starting to see similar treatment for the Cincinnati-born wrestler. Coming off a write-off, he’s definitely going to continue his feud against Rollins, which can only do great things for his career, seeing how popular their battles have become. Also, there hasn’t been someone as fresh as his character since Brian Pillman, who was also a heavily underrated presence in the business.
3. Cody Rhodes (age 29)
When Cody Rhodes started to generate popularity alongside Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase Jr. in Legacy, this writer would have been the first person to tell you he was going to be the one ousted out of the three. He looked a bit lost in the shuffle, despite forming a decent partnership with DiBiase.
Years later, it turns out Orton is a WWE staple and DiBiase is not even with the company. Rhodes, who is currently teaming up with his older brother, Goldust, has one of the funniest yet acceptable gimmicks with Stardust, and unless officials decide to break up the brotherhood, they seem destined to hoist the tag titles yet again.
The partnership he formed with his older brother is satisfactory, mainly because of the chemistry, yet Rhodes could very well be in major storylines at the top of the heap already. He’s already won seven championships in WWE, and he wasn’t exactly misused as a WWE Intercontinental Champion (especially selling his phony facial injuries), however, he wasn’t profiled as a major player and often lost non-title matches to the higher ups.
It all depends on where his Stardust character goes from here on out. He’s likely to break apart from his brother in the near future, and there’s no question Goldust has to put him over. It remains to be seen how WWE will handle him, and seeing how he’s been improving at an incredible rate with his in-ring skills, it can’t come any sooner.
2. Roman Reigns (age 29)
It’s obvious WWE is promoting Roman Reigns as the next big thing, and rightfully so. He’s got the look, frame, and power to become a star. If there are criticisms to be made, it’s that the former Georgia Tech defensive tackle could improve his repertoire in terms of moves. The mic skills will come, as they do with all superstars (well, maybe not “The Viper”), but he really needs to start increasing his move collection.
Then again, patience is a virtue.
It’s weird that Reigns generates criticism from fans, and that’s maybe because his singles matches are a little off. He’s had stinkers against Orton and Kane, and maybe fans remember him for coming in the ring as part of The Shield and taking out three guys at once. But, that may say something about the fandom, too, since they’ve grown tired of the same old superstars (Orton, John Cena, etc.), but don’t give the younger ones time to grow. Wrestling is a demanding business, yet Reigns isn’t far off from having it all.
He’s a member of the Anoa’i family, one of wrestling’s most decorated Samoan classes, and he’s already accomplished some great things in two years, having left WWE NXT for the big leagues.
He currently holds the record for most eliminations in a single Royal Rumble match, clocking in at 12, not to mention also having a tied a record for most eliminations in a single Survivor Series match with four, (despite Rollins, his partner at the time, being a pesky rat that enabled him to do the work). Apart from being a tag team champion in The Shield, Reigns has already acquired a title shot (even though it was in a Fatal Four-Way), and it seems as if sky’s the limit for the muscular barbarian.
If one comparison could be made, it’s that Reigns will draw a correlation to The Rock, who is also Samoan, and came from a football background. It remains to be seen if he can even come close to the mega star Dwayne Johnson was, and even though Reigns is unlikely to be a Hollywood star, he could be one of the biggest superstars of the modern era.
1. Seth Rollins (age 28)
Maybe you wouldn’t have chosen Rollins to top the list, yet there’s pretty good reasons as to why he should.
First off, his heel character is simply amazing. He’s the current Money In The Bank contract holder, and performed a classic “sell out” move by turning on his brothers in arms and aligning himself with The Authority. You should also consider the risks he takes in the squared circle. He was often referred as “The Architect” of The Shield, and WWE fans sort of expected him to be third on the rankings when the time came for the group to break up. He was good, yet it seemed like Ambrose and Reigns were just a tad ahead of him.
All that has changed.
We started to see his full potential in The Shield’s rivalry against The Wyatt Family, and he’s still taking some pretty psychotic bumps all by himself. Even as a member of The Shield, he had some classic singles matches against Cena and Daniel Bryan, but his work against the latter was nothing new for diehard wrestling aficionados.
Rollins was known as Tyler Black in Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla, where he had some memorable feuds against Bryan (then Bryan Danielson), Austin Aries, and Roderick Strong, to name a few. His moves have been dumbed down, too, since he was a high-flyer that was able to have a technical match against just about anyone. He performed such moves as the Phoenix Splash (check YouTube), God’s Last Gift (basically, a Fisherman Buster morphed into a small package, or inverted DDT), and Paroxysm (imagine a Perfect Plex concluded by a DDT drive), as well as an abundance of superkicks. He was even in the controversial Age of the Fall faction alongside Jimmy Jacobs.
He hasn’t really lost clean since his role as a bad guy, which means the promotion is selling him well in his triumphs. The Iowan has been moving the needle, and despite the WWE Universe booing him heavily, he’s a lovable character based on his work ethic and the fact that you simply can’t knock on a wrestler of his talent.
Call him an innovator or just flat-out crazy, Rollins can be a future WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and even though he may be behind his peers in the pecking order, there wouldn’t be any issues with that.
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