The Back Story
Professional Wrestling, or Sports Entertainment as WWE would like to call it, has seen many eras come and go each complete with their crop of stars that define their given generation. In the original days of professional wrestling it was George Hackenschmidt and Frank Gotch. Later it was people like Lou Thez and Buddy Rogers. As the sport evolved and became a larger presence on television we had the influx of characters. These characters captivated audiences with their larger than life personas that added storytelling and flamboyance to the shows. Gorgeous George and Haystacks Calhoun brought personality to their in ring work. Eventually, new types of stars made a name for themselves. The 1970s saw the rising of Superstar Billy Graham, Bobo Brazil, Ken Patera, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Bruno Sammartino, Harley Race, Nick Bockwinkel, and Verne Gagne.
No one could envision how much things would change though when Jim Crockett Promotions and the World Wrestling Federation fundamentally changed the wrestling landscape when they cultivated closed circuit broadcasts and weekly cable television programs. They needed to appeal to the masses and specifically children which led to the creation of new Mega Stars. These stars would be the flag bearers for their brands. The NWA was led by “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the Four Horseman. They had “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, The Rock N Roll Express, and Magnum T.A.. Conversely, the WWF had Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, the British Bulldogs, and the “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
As the business grew in popularity, fans grew tired of the same old faces yet again and we saw the emergence of the new era of wrestling eventually leading to the Attitude Era. This included stars in both WCW and the WWE like Bret “Hitman” Hart, The Undertaker, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Psycho Sid, Booker T, Chris Benoit, Lex Luger, Yokozuna, Tatanka, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kane, Mankind, Hall & Nash, Rey Mysterio, and a host of others.
As the Attitude Era was winding down, the development of new stars became a focal point once again. There was John Bradshaw Layfield, Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Christian, CM Punk, RVD, Kurt Angle, and many more who would be used to retain as many viewers as possible coming out of the Monday Night Wars.
Who Should it Be?
Today, we have a whole new issue in the WWE and in wrestling in general. The issue we have now is to determine who should be elevated to superstardom next. There are several talents on the main roster who are capable and if built properly would be fantastic flag bearers of the current product. Sure we have AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler but who will be the next group to be worthy of carrying the brand going forward? Who will be elevated to a level that allows them to get over with the fans in a way that continues to cultivate a new young loyal fan base? After much deliberation, I have highlighted 10 wrestlers who WWE and mainstream wrestling organizations need to focus on elevating in 2018 to help foster the continued growth of the business in 2018.
10) Bobby Roode - Bobby Roode is an established star who has been relatively successful wherever he has gone. He is a former TNA World Champion and has held the NXT and United States Championship since arriving in WWE. At this point, the fans are either going to buy into him as world championship material or they will not. I propose we find out by giving him a run with the WWE Championship. He has done a great job as United States Champion but after rubbing shoulders with wrestlers like Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton, it is time to consider him a main eventer and a direct threat to the WWE champion.
9) Neville - Yes I know Neville is not on the active roster right now but you have to know that not being included as a main event talent had to play a role in his decision to leave. Bringing Neville back as a premier talent and pushing him to be a singles star would be a huge gain for WWE. With the manner in which he disappeared from television, he would receive a huge pop upon returning to the ring and could easily be pushed to the top of the card.
8) Apollo - The artist formerly known as Apollo Crews has all the tools and in ring ability to be a major player. His alliance with Titus Worldwide has only helped bring him more exposure and helped to keep him from being relegated to dark matches. His move set is unique and his personality is infectious. It is time for WWE to get a return on their investment with Apollo and push him hard.
7) Pete Dunne - Dunne had an amazing year in 2017 and is definitely a candidate for a main roster push. Despite his size, the fans really respond to him and show genuine interest in his matches. It is mind boggling that WWE hasn’t seen this yet. He is another tough nosed bruiser and would be a great heel on the Blue Brand where a feud with AJ Styles could only be a good thing for his long term booking.
6) Eric Young - Eric Young was a bonafide star in Impact Wrestling. He is a former TNA World Champion and has been a focal point of NXT programming with the faction sAnity for quite some time. The group has accomplished so much and perhaps the entire group should be pushed hard in 2018 but Eric Young is the most tenured talent in the group and should be placed in some high profile matches that would be highly entertaining. I would love to see sAnity versus the Hardys. Perhaps Young challenges Bray Wyatt. Whatever presentation WWE chooses, Eric Young is being wasted in NXT at this point and is definitely a main event level talent.
5) Breezango - Breezango have done everything they have been asked and more. They have been cast as a comedy act on Smackdown for what seems like forever but in the process have done something that WWE probably never thought possible. They got over! WWE fans love Breezango. By this point, they should have been multiple time Smackdown Tag Team Champions. They were cast as silly side acts in vignettes for 6 months only to have the fans turn their portion of Smackdown Live into some of the highest rated segments on the show. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon has often said he doesn’t give guarantees only opportunities. Well it is time to give Breezango a World Tag Team Championship opportunity.
4) Kenny Omega - Despite not being a WWE contracted talent and despite being in 3 of the greatest matches of all time in 2017, Kenny Omega still hasn’t been pushed properly. Despite being the true draw at Wrestle Kingdom 12 against Chris Jericho, he has consistently been overshadowed by Kazuchika Okada. He has not been given an IWGP Championship run despite his drawing power and mainstream appeal that have helped solidify New Japan as a force in the global wrestling community. Despite putting on 6 star quality matches, he is out of the championship picture right now and it is a travesty. Despite the fact that Okada may be one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots, he does not draw people in as well as Omega. It is time either New Japan push Omega as their #1 star or it is time for Omega to seek greener pastures and for him to go to WWE for them to push him to the moon against AJ Styles.
3) Drew Galloway - Galloway has been surging over the past year until his most recent injury and loss of the NXT championship. Upon his return, one can easily see where WWE will attempt to have him seek revenge on the current NXT champion and attempt to regain his title. Unfortunately, WWE doesn’t see the bigger picture. He is bigger, faster, meaner, and better in the ring now than in his first main roster stint and WWE needs to strike while the iron is hot. Galloway could walk on to either program and be an instant challenger for either major championship. Delaying his ascent to the World or Universal Championships is only costing WWE viewers and money.
2) Cesaro - This one has been a long time coming. Cesaro has done an amazing job as a tag team wrestler and I take nothing away from his time as a member of the Bar but Sheamus has been champion in the past. Cesaro has yet to reach the mountaintop. WWE needs to listen to their fans on this one and start to push Cesaro like never before. He has everything you can ask for in a major superstar yet he has never been given a substantial world championship level run. This needs to happen and it needs to happen in 2018!
1) Braun Strowman - Brauuuunnn has been booked so strong over the last year and many would say he is already been pushed to the top of the card. That is true. He has had several main event matches over the last year. The reason Braun is on this list as the #1 talent is because he needs to be the one to end Brock Lesnar’s reign as Universal Champion. He is the one the WWE Universe is dying to see as its flag bearer. He is the one who should cast fear in the hearts of both rosters. I would even love to see him be a free agent like John Cena and utterly destroy both brands. He is the best WWE homegrown talent since “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and they need to make the push immediately to cement Braun as the foundation of the company.