NOTE: Thanks to a much heavier workload than I had been expecting I only had time to finish the Monday Night RAW portion of my rundown. Check back soon – maybe even before Sunday’s Royal Rumble – for my thoughts about the Tuesday night lineup.
Way back in November of 2015 I wrote a post about the entire WWE roster at the time and what I thought about each Superstar. I just re-read it and I mostly feel the same way about everyone I covered. Plus I actually enjoyed reading it, so I reposted it here. You might find it fun to compare my thoughts then to my thoughts now.
Roster-wise the WWE is in a golden age. They have never before had so much to-notch talent. I struggle to think of more than a few Superstars that I actively dislike. At the very least I can imagine angles in which almost anyone would be entertaining or appealing, even if WWE isn’t necessarily using them in the best way.
How WWE uses talent is really more of a problem than anything. With such a stuffed roster it’s hard to give everyone the time they deserve and it’s often difficult to become as engaged in modern WWE because a Superstar you like could get lost in the shuffle while someone who may not be to your liking gets the spotlight.
But at the end of the day, it’s all wrestling and there’s no denying that WWE is the gold standard for what is now known as Sports Entertainment.
Read on and find out how my opinions from 2015 have aged and where I stand on the huge amount of new talent that has appeared since then!
For your convenience, Superstars that were not around for that 2015 Rundown are listed in RED. Tag teams will be listed together unless I feel the individuals need singling out.
Alexa Bliss – Bliss is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable Superstars on the roster. She has very good matches, though it does depend on who she’s facing sometimes. But the most important aspect of her performance is that she is one of the few WWE workers who can be in the moment and respond to the live crowd. On more than one occasion she has shown great adaptability; whether it was course correcting for unanticipated reactions or doing her best with terrible material, Little Miss Bliss has the “IT” factor that makes good wrestlers into great Superstars.
Alicia Fox – Her crazy persona has raised her stock a bit in my eyes, but overall I still think she’s painful to watch and listen to. I appreciate her dedication and WWE’s loyalty to someone who has stuck around and done the job, but I’d rather never see her on my TV again.
Apollo Crews – It’s easy to forget just how exciting this guy is in the ring because more often than not WWE doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. He’s got a great look and that smile is meant for TV, but his freakish athleticism should have him at least at the Intercontinental division level.
Which, as of Monday night, he seems to be. And handled himself – and opponent Bobby Lashley – quite well. I just hope he didn’t screw his back up. Yikes.
The Ascension – I got heavy into NXT after these guys’ run, so to me they were always just kind of a lame combination of the Road Warriors and the Heandbangers (Headbangerz?). And in all honesty, that’s okay. Their best work has been with Breezango because they have a sort of weird lack of credibility but are very entertaining. I could see them making a bigger impact in the future, but at this point they might have been hanging around the lower midcard too long to break out.
Authors of Pain – These guys were menacing giants in NXT but have been a disaster on the main roster. I think teaming them with Drake Maverick was a weird misstep. WWE also screwed up by having them look like chumps for several weeks after their initial debut.
It’s not too late to rehabilitate their image, though. Akam is down with a knee injury, so if they can lose Maverick and come back strong they could still be an important part of the main roster tag division. Personally I’d like to see them take on New Day and be dominant despite New Day’s numbers advantage. In general I think AoP would be better served on SmackDown. Of course, a roster shakeup is likely right around the corner.
The B Team – I’m quite fond of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel and I’m glad they’ve found a niche for themselves. Individually and as a team I think they do a great job wherever they’re needed in the pecking order. At this point, WWE can essentially “turn them on” whenever they want and have either a hot babyface or solid heel team. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Baron Corbin – I know not everyone is a fan, but I think this guy has worked hard on developing a very specific character and in-ring style and that it has paid off. He’s made himself into a modern day JBL type that gets huge heat just from holding a mic. He gets genuine heel reactions and that’s a very valuable thing these days. And when he does get in the ring, he holds up his end of the deal.
I think Corbin has done the work and earned the right to be on RAW as much as he is. Good for him.
Bayley – I see people criticize Bayley and it leaves me utterly confused. I think she’s in the top tier of WWE’s female workers, she is crazy over even after a long period of being poorly booked, and even if not everyone can see it, I perceive a glimmer of an epic heel inside this California girl. She can be cute, she can be charming, but she’s also displayed an edge on more than one occasion.
The Bellas – I can’t deny that the Bellas have their fans, but I sure don’t understand them.
Bobby Lashley – I think the time I liked Lashley the most was when he was in WWECW as the champ. He had some great matches and the focus was definitely on his athletic ability. Otherwise he’s never done much for me.
Lately, though, with the addition of Lio Rush and a good heel turn Lashley’s worth has gone up. Rush is the perfect big mouth manager for a mostly mute Lashley, who as long as he doesn’t talk comes across as a sort of b-grade Brock Lesnar.
At this point he can be moved up and down the card as needed and will be a solid foil for any up-and-comers. I’m very interested to see what the future holds for his fresh IC Championship reign.
Bobby Roode – I was watching TNA back when Roode first appeared as a member of Team Canada. While I respect his abilities and obvious dedication to the sport, as a character he has never really clicked with me. In general I’ve found him to be very vanilla, whether as TNA Champ or half of Beer Money.
However, it’s obvious he’s been working as hard as ever since his NXT debut and I can’t help but be impressed. I still don’t connect with the guy, but I also don’t begrudge him any level of success he can achieve. I look forward to an upper-midcard heel Roode sooner than later because he absolutely has the tools to be an important Superstar wherever he lands.
Braun Strowman – I can’t pretend to know the reasons behind it, but WWE sure has cooled this guy off. Sure – he’s still at the top of the card, but do any of us care as much?
With several failed challenges for the Universal Championship and a program that has been meandering at best for months now, I’m no longer as interested as I was six months ago when Strowman’s (still awesome) music hits. I suppose it’s hard to make the transition from “rampaging anything can happen monster” to “patiently awaiting my next title shot”, and I’m not sure it’s a transition Strowman should have had to make.
Whatever the case, I still like the guy and think his value is inestimable as long as he can stay healthy and WWE doesn’t give him the Big Show treatment. And in all honesty, is the Big Show treatment really that bad a way to live?
Bray Wyatt – I don’t know what to do with this guy. He’s so charismatic and such a good worker, but I think this character might be dead. At this point I don’t even know if I’ll pop for him if he shows up in the Rumble as Bray Wyatt.
Now, if a different iteration of Wyatt or Rotunda or whatever made an appearance, that would be compelling, but I don’t know what that character might be. Husky Harris, anyone?
Brock Lesnar – I’m as sick of Brock as anyone, but I have to admit that when he’s motivated he can still have dynamic, compelling matches. There’s also no denying that the crowd responds when he shows up. I think as long as WWE can continue giving Lesnar opponents as compelling as Daniel Bryan and Finn Balor there’s money to be made from the Beast.
Chad Gable – Gable is an NXT favorite of mine. It’s no surprise that it’s taking time for him to find his spot on the main roster, as WWE has traditionally had problems utilizing amazing workers with charism that’s a little hard to pin down. Gable has something beyond just being one of the best in-ring guys on the roster. It’s just a matter of figuring out what it is and how to use it. But he definitely has more in him than just being second fiddle to Bobby Roode.
Curt Hawkins – I like his “Unvictorious Streak” or whatever they’re calling it. But I don’t think it’s long for this world, as the surprise Ryder/Hawkins reunion on RAW this past Monday popped the crowd and seemed intended to indicate something bigger than just a handshake. I hope so, anyway. I think both of those guys have a lot more to offer than they’ve been allowed to for the past year.
Dana Brooke – Brooke has shown herself to be capable in the ring and with character work. She doesn’t seem destined to progress beyond where she is – enhancement and support for other workers – but she does a great job and deserves to be on TV.
Dean Ambrose – I was positive a heel turn would revitalize what I perceived as a stale character, but Ambrose is only slightly more interesting now than he was before his time off. There was a time when I thought Ambrose was the future of WWE and was ready to hold him in similar esteem to CM Punk or Jake the Snake, but he seems to have leveled off in some weird way.
It’s not helping that his publically acknowledged wife is a babyface announcer on the same show where he carries out his heelish actions. It creates an awkward atmosphere that detracts from the already fragile suspension of disbelief that is required to truly enjoy Our Great Sport.
Dolph Ziggler – Ziggler has been as good in the past few months as he’s been in years. Teaming him up with Drew McIntyre was a solid move and I had hoped that the pairing would have a longer life than it did. I don’t know what the future holds for Mr. Ziggles, but I’m always in his corner. His only limitation seems to be his level of interest, and I can’t even fault him for that with the way he’s been jerked around the card for the past decade.
Note: Dude has got to stop wearing ratty gear on TV. Twice now he’s come out in some noticeably worn out tights that looked like garbage. If I was Vince I’d fine him.
Drew McIntyre – Speaking of the Scottish Psychopath, here he is.
McIntyre is big and absolutely has a presence. He also worked his ass off on the independent scene to get where he is today. I respect that. But I haven’t bought in yet. There’s a missing piece in his game and I’m not sure what it is. I think I don’t quite buy him yet. He needs that special moment or that big story to click and I have a feeling it’ll happen before the end of the year. Best of luck to this guy.
Elias – Elias is over and he has my respect for that, but his act bores me at this point. He’s good at what he does, I’m just not interested in it.
Ember Moon – Like many of the more gimmicky NXT call-ups, Ember Moon seems to have struggled to find her place on the main roster. She has consistently great matches, but for some reason doesn’t seem to be connecting with fans like she did in NXT.
She seems to be getting more opportunities on the mic lately, so hopefully she’ll be able to round out her character a little more. I’m a fan.
Fandango – We miss you! Get well soon!
I’d love to see Fandango return, ready to resume Fashion Police activates, only to have Breeze turn on him. The feud that followed could occupy the heinous middle portion of RAW and eventually lead to each of them finding bigger and better things to do.
Obviously this will not happen.
Finn Bálor – It has taken me a long time to come around on this guy. I’ve always respected his in-ring abilities, flippity-do though they may be, but that Demon gimmick is silly to me. Plenty of fans love it and buy into it, though, and that’s what matters.
Bálor’s personality update last year went a long way. He’s now a cocky, smiling fighter who isn’t afraid to start some shit with anyone. And I can’t help but admire the whole “Bálor Club is for Everyone” idea. They haven’t gotten specific with it or pushed it too hard, but it’s an impressive move forward for WWE. Good for Bálor for representing whatever vague thing he is representing.
Goldust – Currently out for knee surgery, but always an excellent entertainer. Definite future Hall Of Famer.
Heath Slater – Another guy that can be slotted into several different positions and types of stories. Definitely a valuable hand.
Heavy Machinery – Absolutely fantastic. They have a great look, they’re high energy, and the crowds love them. I have high hopes for Tucker and Otis.
Jinder Mahal – I think he’s believable, a good talker, and a great in-ring heel. One day he will once again be at the top of the card.
Kevin Owens – The most natural professional wrestler on the roster. Nobody comes across more real than Owens. He’s fantastic in the ring and on the mic – the ultimate storyteller in both areas. I can’t wait for him to return. Apparently he’s dropped a good bit of weight and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that.
Kurt Angle – Angle is one of the all-time greats, but it’s painful to watch him compete now. Heck, it’s painful to watch him stand in the ring. I want him to be able to perform in any capacity he wants that the WWE deems safe, and we all have to operate under the assumption that WWE is ensuring his safety in this day and age, but I do have to wonder when he’s going to hang up the boots.
Lucha House Party – This might surprise you given my former gimmick, but I’m not into these guys as a team. I don’t know why Kalisto isn’t more important than he is.
Mickie James – As a long-time fan of the former Miss Laree, I always hope for the best for Mickie. While I would love to see her chasing a title, modern fans just haven’t responded to her as well as they should. Still, she is filling a very important role in helping other talent get over and every time she gets in the ring you know it’s going to be good.
Mojo Rawley – While I give Rawley tons of credit for cutting believable promos – an invaluable commodity in this day and age – he doesn’t seem to have the rest of the tools to truly be a Superstar.
Natalya – I have to admit that I feel a lot differently about Nattie than I did four years ago. I still think she’s gorgeous and powerful and she’s one of the best workers on the roster, but after a few years of bad storylines and worse character work I am not as high on her as I once was.
Don’t get me wrong – just a little rehab could turn her into a huge moneymaking opponent for anyone in the Women’s Division. But as of right now I don’t see that happening. There are simply too many other contenders with fresher faces and untapped potential.
Nia Jax – Nia needs a lot of work. She had two outstanding matches with Ronda Rousey and nothing can take that away from her, but she is torture to listen to on the mic and doesn’t seem nearly as successful in other matches.
No Way Jose – I couldn’t see how this gimmick could translate to success on the main roster, and it seems that wasn’t a lack of imagination on my part. Jose is a gifted performer, but he unfortunately has a lame gimmick around his neck. And one that is fresh in our memory thanks to Adam Rose.
The Revival – They were hands-down my favorite tag team ever in NXT. Injuries have sidelined every push they’ve been slotted for on the main roster. They’re currently in a big, kind of weird feud with Gable and Roode and important in the RAW tag division, so my hope is that they’re finally going to get a shot. They are one of the best teams in WWE right now, but you wouldn’t know it as a casual viewer.
Rhyno – I love Rhyno. I got into ECW (the real, original ECW) a little bit right at the end and he really impressed me. I never felt like WWE used him to his full potential, but I’m always happy to see him on screen and he definitely seems to be having fun, so good for him.
The Riott Squad – Ruby Riott has been one of the most surprisingly effective NXT call-ups. She is a great worker and character, but she adjusted to the main roster with a surprising quickness, quickly becoming an essential foil for anyone in the Women’s Division that needed one. In a year when most of my favorite WWE performers were women, Riott was one of the best.
Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan have proven to be excellent companions for Riott’s diabolical villain. They each have their own characters, but so far are content to be henchwomen.
I love this faction and hope that they can stay together for a good long while; hopefully long enough to see some championship gold.
Roman Reigns – In much the way that I finally had to acknowledge that John Cena was one of the greats, over the past year or so I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that while Reigns might not have been booked in a way that I found ideal, there was no denying that he was living up to the task of being not just a Main Eventer, but a centerpiece of the WWE. When the time came, he delivered. And I’d be lying if I said I was a little relived that I came to this realization before the revelation of his bouts with leukemia.
Obviously I’m wishing the best for Roman and his family as he deals with his terrible illness. Get well, Joe.
Ronda Rousey – Rousey is WWE’s MVP. She has taken to pro wrestling almost as fast as Kurt Angle. Every time she gets in the ring or on the mic she shows marked improvement, and that’s from a starting place of “pretty damned good”.
Her character is unique in WWE history – she is a vulnerable, earnest fan and competitor who will also rip your gotdamn arm off if you make her angry.
Beyond that, she has the “IT” factor, star power, charm, class, and more charisma than any crossover star WWE could ask for. She will be their next Rock, mark my words.
Sami Zayn – Zayn is a pure dynamo. He’s brilliant in the ring and on the mic and is one of the most consistently entertaining people on the roster. Last year he proved he could heel just as well as he could face, which to me is kind of the ultimate test of a true wrestling legend. I hope when he comes back it’s as big as it should be. This guy should be at the top of the card every night.
Sasha Banks – Hell Sasha seems to be coming back and that’s a good thig because some folks just aren’t as good as babyfaces and Banks is one of those folks. She’s been great lately, but throughout last year I found her ringwork lacking and I know she’s better than that. It’s worth noting that her NXT Takeover match against Bayley is one of my top 5 favorite matches ever.
Seth Rollins – I can’t deny how over he is, but I’m not a huge fan. His promos sound hollow to me and his matches, while exciting, don’t feel as spontaneous as I like.
The Singh Brothers – Indispensable goons. They are so damn good at what they do. I’m always afraid one of them is going to get broken, though.
Tamina – She’s serving her purpose lately as a big bruiser who never wins. I thought the best I’d seen her was when she faced off against Nia in a battle royal (possibly even last year’s Rumble) and I was excited at the possibility of a feud between the two big women.
Naturally WWE took the opportunity and made them a team.
Titus O’Neil – I still love Titus! He’s big and fun and has charisma. A weird, can’t-look-away charisma, but not everyone can be The Rock.
Tyler Breeze – There’s so much potential her if WWE could just give Breeze the right opportunity. He’s excellent in the ring and does great character work.
Zack Ryder – Another guy that I am always delighted to see on TV. He might be as high on the card as he deserves, but he seems to be living the dream. I hope he can spend the next forty years in WWE in one capacity or another.
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