Saturday, March 26, 2011

JC's Take: The 27 Best Matches in Wrestlemania History

JC's Take: The 27 Best Matches in Wrestlemania History

Hey everyone. Again, I apologize for the lack of updates recently.

Anyway, Wrestlemania is one week away. With that in mind, I plan on doing a couple of postings looking back at Wrestlemania's past. This first blog will take a look back at the best matches in Wrestlemania history. This list will take into account mostly the actual in ring action, but will also be judged on drama, build to the match, and historical significance.

I don't know if any of this year's matches will make the list. HHH/Undertaker maybe.

Here are some matches that just missed the cut:
Wrestlemania V: Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage
Wrestlemania VIII: Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart
Wrestlemania XI: Diesel vs Shawn Michaels
Wrestlemania XV: Steve Austin vs The Rock
Wrestlemania XVI: The Rock vs HHH vs Mick Foley vs Big Show
Wrestlemania XVII: The Undertaker vs HHH
Wrestlemania XVII: Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit
Wrestlemania XXIV: Edge vs Undertaker

So lets get to the list, starting at 27 and working all the way to #1.

27. Wrestlemania XIV: Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to win the WWF Championship:
Match Rating: ***1/2  Drama Factor:6/10  Build:7/10  Historical Significance: 9/10
In many ways, this could be considered Shawn Michaels best performance as a WWE competitor. It wasn't his best match, but it definitely was his most gutsy performance. Shawn had a really bad back heading into the match, and you could definitely see the pain he was in throughout it. But HBK went out there and gave it his all. This match could be considered a changing of the guard in the WWF. The past two years, the company featured HBK at the top. Now, it was Austin's turn to take the ball, and he definitely rolled with it. The Austin Era began here. Mike Tyson also gave this match a big time feel to it.

26. Wrestlemania XVIII: The Rock defeated Hulk Hogan
Match Rating: ***1/2 Drama Factor:9/10  Build:7/10 Historical Significance: 10/10
Yeah, this match has high ratings. But one has to be honest: it wasn't the best wrestling match in the world. It was still good, but it wasn't great. But there is no denying the overall atmosphere the entire match brought. The Toronto crowd made this match one of the most memorable matches ever. The Rock was suppose to be the face, Hogan the heel. But they changed that aspect of the match quickly. It was one of those rare Icon vs Icon matches that you never thought you could see. You almost wish The Rock could see this again, and maybe he would like to recapture this one more time with John Cena.

25. Wrestlemania XXIII: John Cena defeated Shawn Michaels to retain the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ***1/2  Drama Factor: 8/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 5/10
I was one of the people who thought HBK was walking out with the WWE Title, especially with the match going on last. But instead, Cena retained, and the WWE made it known that it was his time. The first half of this match was very slow and methodical. When watching it I was disappointed. But the two definitely picked it up in the second half of the match. These two actually went on to have an even better match on RAW in England about a month later. Just another typical Wrestlemania performance from HBK.

24. Wrestlemania XXII: Edge defeated Mick Foley in a Hardcore Match
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
This wasn't your typical Wrestlemania match. This was the first really hardcore match at Wrestlemania. Sure there had been ladder matches, and matches for the Hardcore Title, but this was an all out slugfest. They used all of the weapons perfectly. The barbed wire, thumbtacs, and of course the flaming table. It'll be one of those matches people will remember years from now because it wasn't your traditional wrestling match. Mick Foley got his Wrestlemania moment, and Edge stepped out as a main event performer and showed he belonged at the top.
Edge and Mick Foley gave us one of the most memorable brawls in WWE History

23. Wrestlemania XXIII: Undertaker defeated Batista to win the World Heavyweight Title
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 5/10  Historical Significance: 5/10
Yes, in the past 7 Wrestlemanias, someone did have a better match than Shawn Michaels. While this match didn't go on last, it was definitely the best one at Mania 23. Both men put on a surprisingly good match. It almost seemed like these two knew they were lost in the shuffle between HBK/Cena & Trump/McMahon and wanted to go out there and put on a really good match. The crowd was firmly behind Taker here, and this match also showed the early signs that Batista could handle a heel turn down the line.

22. Wrestlemania XIX: The Rock defeated Steve Austin
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Signifcance: 7/10
The last match in the trilogy of these twos Wrestlemania battles. The build going into this match was simple: The Rock had done everything possible in his WWE career, except one thing, beat Steve Austin at Wrestlemania. The Rock was hell-bent on winning here, and he showed it throughout the match. Both of these men know how to work the crowd, and they did it beautifully here. The Rock got his win before moving on to Goldberg, while Austin walked out with his head held high in his final match in a WWE ring.

21. Wrestlemania VI: Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: ***3/4  Drama Factor: 8/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
This match is one of those matches new wrestling fans go out of their way to find. It was a rarity at the time: two fan favorites going one-on-one in a main event matches. Rewatching the match, it's obvious that the crowd was split in the Skydome. During that time period, nobody knew who was winning that match. Now if they did Title vs Title today, it'd be obvious who would win. But not back in the 90s, when there was no Internet. According to some, this match was laid out move for move well before hand. These two put on a show for the live crowd and didn't disappoint. Too bad they tried to recreate the magic at WCW Halloween Havoc, but bombed big time.

Wrestlemania VI saw the Ultimate Warrior take the reigns of the WWF from Hulk Hogan

20. Wrestlemania XX: Eddie Guerrero defeated Kurt Angle to retain the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor: 6/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
There was nothing fancy about this match. Just two professionals going out there and doing what they do best: wrestle. Eddie won the WWE Title a month earlier. This was his first big match as Champ, and he didn't disappoint. I thought it was a bit slow early in the match, but it picked up in the second half. I wasn't a big fan of the finish, with Eddie cheating again and holding the ropes to win, but it was a part of his "Lie, Cheat, & Steal" gimmick. It's over-shawdowed by the other Title match, and possibly the Brock/Goldberg debacle, but it was a good match nontheless.

19. Wrestlemania XXII: John Cena defeated Triple H to retain the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor: 8/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
This match happened at the height of the Cena Hate era. Even though HHH was the heel, the majority of the crowd was behind him here. Cena had won the WWE Title a year earlier, but fans were already getting tired of his constant SuperCena antics, and the fact that his rapper gimmick became very waterdowned. Even though Cena wasn't known for it yet, he put on a surprisingly good Wrestlemania match. The two played the crowd perfectly. HHH was the cocky heel who knew he was a better wrestler than Cena. Cena was the defiant Champion who overcame everything to be where he was at the time. A surprisngly good Mania match that many, including me, didn't have high hopes for going into it.

18. Wrestlemania XIX: Shawn Michaels defeated Chris Jericho
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
Lots of people probably have this match higher. I thought I would too, but after a rewatch, there was just something I didn't like about it. It's still a good match, but it was just a bit too slow for me. It was a great performance by HBK, wrestling his first match at Wrestlemania in 5 years. The story going in was that HBK was Jericho's childhood idol, and he wanted to show that he was this generation's HBK. Jericho was good in this match mocking all of HBK's mannerisms. The one thing I did like about this match was that it ended with something other than a finisher.

17. Wrestlemania XVI: Edge & Christian defeated the Hardyz and Dudleyz in a Ladder Match to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles
Match Rating: ****  Drama Factor:7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
This match set the bar for their next two matches in the coming year. It was defintely different from the two HBK/Razor Ramon matches from the mid-90s. They used the ladders in creative ways that hadn't been used before. It was definitely unique and the best match of the night. The crowd was into it throughout the match and "oooed" and "awweeed" at every big moment. Jeff Hardy showed a bit of his high-flying style in this match by jumping off the ladder onto Bubba Ray through the table. Like I said, this set the bar for their upcoming matches, and other ladder matches to come in the WWE.

16. Wrestlemania XXI: Edge wins the 1st Ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Match Rating: ****1/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build 5/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
We're on a run of ladder matches here. This was the first ever Money in the Bank match involving Edge, Chris Benoit, Christian, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, and Kane. They used the ladders effectively here. Everyone got a nice high spot in. Shelton Benjamin had what many people considered a star-defining performance here, but it was never properly capitalized on. Chris Benoit also sold very well in this match. I remember reading people thought he was actually injured during the match. The right man went over in the end. Edge used the briefcase to catapult himself to the main event level and win his first ever WWE Title.

15. Wrestlemania XIX: Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle to win the WWE Championship
Match Rating: ****1/4  Drama Factor: 7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
I think this match suffered from being last on a stacked card. Watching it, the crowd didn't seem as into it as they should have. It followed HBK/Y2J, Hogan/Vince, and Rock/Austin. But out of all of those, it was the best wrestling match on the card. It was similar to Wrestlemania 14, where Shawn Michaels was in bad shape. Kurt Angle had a very bad neck problem at the time, and needed surgery after the match. There were concerns that he may not have even been able to wrestle at Mania. But it was a great wrestling display. It probably would have been a 1/4 star better had Lesnar hit that Shooting Star Press at the end.

Brock Lesnar went for the Show-Stealing Moment at Wrestlemania XIX but came up short

14. Wrestlemania XVII: Edge & Christian defeated the Dudleyz & Hardyz in a Tables, Ladders, & Chairs Match to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles
Match Rating: ****1/4  Drama: 7/10  Build: 6/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
This is the third match in the ladder match trilogy between these teams, and probably the best out of all of them. These three teams again managed to raise the bar on the biggest stage of them all. I'm not the biggest fan of outside interference in matches, but it played in well here because of the build to the match. The one moment that stands out from this match is Edge spearing Jeff Hardy by jumping off a ladder while Jeff was hanging from the belts. This match helped make this Wrestlemania one of the best ever.

13. Wrestlemania X: Owen Hart defeated Bret Hart
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 6/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 6/10
This is easily the best opening match in Wrestlemania history. The build to this match was great. Owen had been stuck in his brother's shadow his entire life. He was becoming frustrated with everyone loving his brother and nobody paying attention to him. This was Owen's opportunity to show he was just as good as his big brother. And he did. Bret & Owen apparently worked on this match for weeks leading up to Mania. Owen got the recognition he deserved by upsetting his brother. But again, Bret got the better of his brother at the end of the night by winning the WWF Championship. I thought the end to the show was great. Bret being celebrated in the ring as the new Champ by other top stars, and Owen standing in the entrance way, not believing that his brother got the best of him again. A good match and good storyline that lasted for a year.

12. Wrestlemania XII: Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart in a 60 Minute Iron Man Match to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 6/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
This was the beginning of the Shawn Michaels Era in the WWF. Shawn had been putting on great matches for the last two years, and his time had finally come. There were a lot of people who didn't think these two could put on a good 60 minute match without losing crowd interest. But these are two of the best in ring workers in wrestling history, and they put on a classic. Lots of in-ring psychology went into this match. That's what you have to do to make a match like this work. The build up to this was good. Shawn was chasing his boyhood dream, Bret was trying to hang on to his title. With the bad blood that was starting to boil between these two at this point, it was nice to see them go out there and put on a good match.

HBK's Boyhood Dream Came True at Wrestlemania XII

11. Wrestlemania VIII: Randy Savage defeated Ric Flair to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
This was the first Wrestlemania where the WWF Champion was not in the last match of the show. That's because of Hulk Hogan. But this was easily the best match of the show. Mr. Perfect's outside interference took away from the match a little bit, but Savage & Flair put on a great performance here. Bobby Heenan added a lot on commentary here, with an obvious bias towards Ric Flair. I liked the angle leading up to the match, with Ric Flair implying he had slept with Elizabeth, which got Savage mad. That was the first time that type of angle had been done in the WWE. The crowd was definitely into this match, which helped as well.

10. Wrestlemania VII: Ultimate Warrior defeated Randy Savage in a Career Ending Match
Match Rating: ****1/2  Drama: 8/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
Who would have ever thought Ultimate Warrior would be in a Top 10 best match list? This was easily the best match of Warrior's career. Randy Savage apparently planned out this match well in advance to make sure it played out perfectly. And it did. The crowd was very much into it, knowing both men's careers were on the line. Macho Man's multiple Elbow drops, then Warrior's multiple Shoulder Tackles just showed how much both men wanted it. The reuniting on Macho Man and Elizabeth at the end of the match was one of the classic Mania moments that they show in highlight packages. The stipulation didn't stick, because Warrior was the one who was gone in six months and Vince needed Savage back. But this is a classic Mania match that I would recommend people go out of their way to see.

9. Wrestlemania XXIV: Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair in a Career Ending Match
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama: 8/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
Sometimes matches are good because they tell a great story in the ring. This is exactly what this match did. Ric Flair had been wrestling with the stipulation for months: He could keep wrestling as long as he kept winning. Ric Flair was announced to go into the Hall of Fame, and he wanted to wrestle HBK in what could be his last Wrestlemania match. Michaels was reluctant at first, but accepted. Both men went out there at Wrestlemania and put on a great match. Flair was giving it his all in his final WWE performance. The crowd was behind Flair. Most of them knew the end was coming, but they just didn't know when. The final images of the match were perfect. Flair telling HBK to bring it, then Michaels saying, "I'm sorry, I love you." before hitting the Superkick. The match would probably be higher on the list had Ric Flair actually retired, but his run in TNA ruined this moment a little bit.

8. Wrestlemania XXI: Kurt Angle defeated Shawn Michaels
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama:7/10  Build:7/10  Historical Significance: 7/10
Leading up to Wrestlemania 21, this was the match everybody was hoping for. It was obvious that the title matches were being built up to transition the top guys from the veterans (JBL & HHH) to the new guys (Cena & Batista). The undercard gave the WWE an opportunity to put this classic together. HBK and Kurt Angle were the two best in-ring workers at the time in the company. It was a dream match that everyone wanted to see. The build up to the match was simple. It did give us the great scene of Kurt Angle singing HBK's theme with Sensational Sherri. For me, the only thing that kept this match from being 5 stars was the slow mat work in the beginning of the match. But they kicked it into high gear halfway through. I was surprised how there was a good amount of the crowd supporting Kurt Angle. These two veterans put on a show that got the crowd into. It lead to a rematch in the summer that was just as good.

7. Wrestlemania XXVI: Undertaker defeated Shawn Michaels to end HBK's career
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama: 9/10  Build: 10/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
I think this would have been a five star match had it not had to live up to the hype of the previous year's match. The build was definitely better than the previous years because of everything that was on the line: The Undertaker's streak and HBK's career. When the stipulation was announced there were some people, including me, who thought HBK could win. Some of us didn't believe that Shawn was ready to retire. He was still going out there putting on great matches. But HBK thought it was time, and he went out swinging. The crowd was into every near fall. I liked the ending. Shawn knew he couldn't win and signaled the end to Taker, and Taker gave HBK the mega Tombstone for the three. It seemed like a proper ending for Shawn Michaels: Mr.Wrestlemania going out as the show came to a close.

Shawn Michaels and Undertaker put on Classics two years in a row

6. Wrestlemania III: Ricky Steamboat defeated Randy Savage to win the WWF Intercontinental Title
Match Rating: ****3/4  Drama: 9/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
This one will always stand the test of time. It will always be talked about in the history of pro wrestling. There are many reason it stands out. It was the first Wrestlemania classic match. Also, the WWE wasn't known for putting on great technical matches at the time. But Rick Steamboat and Randy Savage were the WWE's two best in ring workers at the time, and they put on one of the best matches ever. It was short, but they fit a lot into a short time. There were so many near falls in this match that it was tough to keep count. But the near falls and counters sucked in the crowd. There are some people who say that these two were criticized after for putting on such a good match, and taking heat off of Andre/Hogan. Who cares. It would have been great to see Steamboat get more of a push, but there was no way he could pass Hogan as the top face in the WWF. Plus, urban legend has it that Hogan was nervous that Steamboat would overtake his top spot in the company, and Hogan helped get Steamboat released. The only thing that kept this from being 5 stars was the ref bump, and the George "The Animal" Steele involvement in the finish. It would have been nice to see a clean finish, but it doesn't take away from this match being a classic.

5. Wrestlemania XX: Chris Benoit defeated HHH and Shawn Michaels in a Triple Threat Match to win the World Heavweight Title
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 8/10
Now we are getting into the classics. These are the matches that were perfect. You could not get any better than these five matches. I'm not taking anything that happened with Chris Benoit's personal life into account here. The build was good. Chris Benoit's dream was to be a World Champion. He'd been in wrestling for years at this point, but never at the top. He won the Royal Rumble from the #1 spot. He was the guy the crowd was behind. The fans could associate with Benoit as the hard working guy who never got his due. Here he was going against two established main eventers who have been at the top forever. All three guys worked their asses off here. I'm assuming they put Michaels in because they were nervous Benoit/HHH wouldn't sell on its own. The crowd made this match great. When Benoit was on the outside laid out after being out through a table, and HBK/HHH took over in the ring, the crowd started chanting for Benoit. Seeing Benoit win at the time before everything happened was a great Wrestlemania moment, and lead to the Benoit/Eddie Guerrero hug in the ring, which now is tarnished forever. But just an absolute classic that justified the triple threat stipulation.

4. Wrestlemania X: Razor Ramon defeated Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 7/10  Build: 7/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
This was the first big time ladder match in wrestling. It happened before in the WWF, and in other wrestling territories, but it never happened on this grand of a stage. In lots of ways, as Ric Flair said, it was Shawn Michaels vs a Ladder, and there just happened to be another guy in the ring. But you can't take away from Razor Ramon's performance in the match. But there is no doubt that HBK was the star. Some of the spots he took with the ladder were great. His dive off the ladder was awesome. This was something new in wrestling at the time. Now compared to ladder matches of today, it'd be considered boring and dull. But looking at it when it happened, 1994, it was unique and exciting. This was also the launching point of Shawn Michaels single's career. He had wrestled some top matches before, but this showed that he was more than capable of being a top guy to potentially build the WWF around in the future.

Shawn Michaels stole the show at Wrestlemania X

3. Wrestlemania XIII: Bret Hart defeated Shawn Michaels in a Submission Match
Match Rating: *****  Drama:8/10  Build:8/10  Historical Significance: 10/10
While Wrestlemania XIV officially began the Austin Era, this match made that Era happen. By this point, Austin had been climbig the ranks of the WWF. The fans were starting to get behind him, and the whole attitude of the WWF began to change. The company was moving from the "New Generation" era to the "Attitude" era. This match was just an all out brawl. They brawled ringside, through the crowd, and of course in the ring itself. This match showed Austin was capable of handling a role on the main event level. Bret Hart of course deserves credit here as well. They pretty much pulled off a double turn in this match. Austin began transitioning into a top face, while Bret became more of a heel before his exit from the company later that November. Even in losing, Austin was put over here. He never tapped out, he passed out while in the Sharpshooter. Any Austin doubters or haters were silenced after this match. This match was the launching point for Austin into stardom.

2. Wrestlemania XVII: Steve Austin defeated The Rock to win the WWF Championship
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 9/10  Build: 10/10  Historical Significance: 9/10
I was really debating between this match and my #1 choice, but if I'm making my decsions mostly on in ring work, this has to come #2. This was a 5 star match based on everything that happened during the match. The build was great. One of the best, if not THE best, promo packages of all time was the one for this match. Austin needed to the WWF Title, he said he would do anything to get it. And he did in the end. Austin used the help of Vince McMahon, his archnemesis, to help him win it. This was the one time where outside interference played in perfectly. Austin was willing to go to any lengths to regain the top prize in the business, and he did here. The crowd was very pro-Austin here, mostly because it was in his home state of Texas. Austin & Rock brought out the best in each other when they were in the ring. They're two of the best of all time. This match was also important from a historical perspective. It all but ended the Attitude Era, and launched the Austin heel era, which wasn't as great as some hoped for. But this match is a great one and made Wrestlemania 17 one of the best Wrestlemania's of all time.

Steve Austin made a "Deal with the Devil" to win the WWF Title at Wrestlemania 17

1. Wrestlemania XXV: The Undertaker defeated Shawn Michaels
Match Rating: *****  Drama: 9/10  Build: 8/10  Historical Significance: 9/10
This match may have lower secondary ratings, but it was one of the best in ring matches of all time. Shawn Michaels showed that he was Mr. Wrestlemania. Undertaker showed that when given the right opponent, he can be just as good as anyone in the ring. Right after this match ended, I said to myself, "I just watched one of the best matches ever." People had high expectations for this match, and it didn't disappoint. While the rematch had more on the line, this one was just better from an all-around in ring perspective. Nobody, myself included, was expecting HBK to kick out of the Tombstone. But he did. This is the kind of performance that solidifies both guys status in wrestling, and Wrestlemania history. Shawn Michaels is Mr. Wrestlemania, Undertaker has his Wrestlemania streak. They are arguably the two biggest wrestlers associated with Wrestlemania. There's nothing else that can be said about this one.

So there you have it. This week, I'll definitely be doing a Wrestlemania preview, and I'm going to try to rank every Wrestlemania as well.

Until next time,
Justin C

Monday, March 7, 2011

JC's Take: Analyzing the WWE's Youth Movement

JC's Take: Analyzing the WWE's Youth Movement

Hey everyone. First of all let me apologize for the lack of blogging the last 2 weeks. My work schedule was different than normal the last 2 weeks, and I had to rearrange some things to get other stuff done. While I love blogging, it had to be put on hold for a little bit.

Now, onto more important matters. Wrestlemania 27 is a month away. While this card looks good from a wrestling standpoint, it doesn't have that marquee match-up like HBK/Taker in the past 2 years. HHH/Taker should be good, but it doesn't have that hook to draw in casual viewers. That is why The Rock was brought in for this year's Mania. He has the star power and history with the WWE to draw in everyone from the normal viewer, to the casual viewer, to the viewer who hasn't watched since The Rock left.

While having The Rock back is great, it points to a glaring problem that the WWE is facing right now. Right now, the WWE is seriously lacking in the "new" star department. What do I mean by new star? It's simple: people who have not been in the main event scene, or people that were there for a short time and have since been relegated back to the mid card.

In the most recent WWE Conference Call for their shareholders, Vince McMahon said they were looking at Wrestlemania this year as a chance to launch new stars. Well, if things continue to look like they do now, it appears that Vince's wishes will only be half meet.

Building new stars has been a struggle in the last few years. This past Elimination Chamber PPV marked the first time since 2008 that neither John Cena, HHH, or Randy Orton were involved in the WWE Title Match. But who was the challenger to Miz's WWE Title? Jerry Lawler. While the storyline was good, it tells you all you need to know about the state of the WWE's future.

Now while the WWE has struggled in the new star department, they haven't struggled completely. They made The Miz the WWE Champion. He hasn't really looked all that strong while holding the belt, but he's been able to hold his own. On Smackdown, Alberto del Rio won the Royal Rumble and will face Edge for the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania. I think Alberto del Rio has the chance to be better than the Miz as champion. While Del Rio won't be as mainstream as The Miz, I think he will be better from a wrestling standpoint. Unlike The Miz, del Rio has looked strong in the last couple months. The WWE has done a good job protecting him. I think he has a good chance of being a long-term champion on Smackdown. I could see him holding the World Heavyweight Title all the way to SummerSlam.

So what is the long introduction all leading to? A look at the WWE's current crop of young wrestlers, where they stand now, and where they could be in a few months, or a few years time.

John Morrison

After The Miz and Alberto del Rio, I think John Morrison would have to be considered the next breakout star in the WWE. He's gotten a decent push in the past couple months. He put on a good match with The Miz on the first RAW of the year. He had a serious of good matches with Sheamus throughout the end of 2010. Morrison's parkour style gives him a unique offensive move set that makes him different from any other star in the WWE. That's a good thing when looking for a new star. Having one unique characteristic that fan's can identify you with can go a long way.

Many people are comparing John Morrison to Jeff Hardy. That is a fair comparison. Obviously Morrison has his personal life in better order than Hardy. Morrison isn't facing federal drug charges. But both men do have a similar unique style of offense. Unlike John Cena, both men seem to be over with everyone in the crowd. While John Cena is over with only the young and girl demographic, Morrison is over with everyone. Just like when Hardy was getting over, Morrison is the guy fans can identify with as the underdog looking to grab his big moment. Wrestling needs that every once in a while. That's why fans get tired of the likes of John Cena and HHH: NOBODY buys them as an underdog in any situation. Put Morrison out there as a challenger to the WWE or World Title, and people will believe he is the underdog in the match no matter what.

Right now, John Morrison is as close as one can be to the main event without being in it. After he won the #1 Contender's Match at TLC, I thought he would be fighting The Miz for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. They had 6 weeks to build Morrison up as a threat for the WWE Title. With the Rumble match selling that PPV alone, I thought having a Morrison/Miz WWE Title Match would have been worth the risk. But instead, the WWE put the match on an episode of RAW. Morrison and Miz could have put on a much better match than Randy Orton and Miz did at the Royal Rumble. Why did the WWE not pull the trigger on the match? Maybe they didn't have confidence in Morrison's mic skills which, just like Jeff Hardy's, aren't very strong. Instead Morrison was in the Rumble match. While his parkour style saved him from being eliminated, it won't be something that will be remembered long term. His spot from the top of the Elimination Chamber was also unique, but it didn't help him win the match. Sooner or later, the WWE needs to pull the trigger fully on John Morrison.

So when does the WWE pull the trigger on John Morrison? If it was up to me, I'd say SummerSlam. While it'd be nice to have Morrison built up huge, win the Royal Rumble and then main event Wrestlemania 28, I don't think the WWE can wait that long without the risk of fans losing interest in him. Morrison has a ready made feud with C.M. Punk after Wrestlemania, although I'm sure Punk will continue his feud with Randy Orton for a bit after. Morrison currently has nothing lined up for Wrestlemania, which worries me a bit. Especially considering the fact that there is no Money in the Bank match at this year's Wrestlemania. If I was booking, I would have Morrison feud with C.M. Punk for a few weeks, leading to a match at Over the Limit. Put him in the WWE Title match at the Fatal 4 Way PPV, only to see C.M. Punk walk away with the WWE Title. Then at the Money in the Bank PPV, have him win the RAW briefcase. Instead of having Morrison cash in his briefcase on a vulnerable champion, have him come out the next night and say he wants to cash in his briefcase at SummerSlam against Punk. The announcers can then question Morrison's decision leading to SummerSlam, only to have him win in the end, proving everyone wrong. That may be the best way to make John Morrison a star.

Dolph Ziggler

From Spirit Squad to World Title contender, that's the story of Dolph Ziggler. When Dolph Ziggler first debuted with his new gimmick, I thought there'd be no way he would get to where he is today. "Hi, I'm Dolph Ziggler." just seemed very stale and bad. But to his credit, Dolph has done very well over the last couple months. Being paired with Vickie Guerrero hasn't hurt either. Vickie is a heat magnet, and being with her instantly puts heat on Ziggler. Being with Vickie also helps hide the fact that Ziggler's mic skills, just like John Morrison's, aren't the best. While letting Vickie do all the talking helps, it also takes some of the  focus off of Dolph.

One thing is for sure, however. Dolph Ziggler gets all the focus put back on him once the match starts. I don't think I've been more impressed with the overall improvement of one wrestler in the ring like I have been with Dolph Ziggler in the last few months. Ziggler has put on some good to great matches in the last half year. He had an impressive set of matches with Jack Swagger and Kofi Kingston throughout the late part of 2010. He had a late Match of the Year candidate against Daniel Bryan at Bragging Rights. But perhaps his two best performances came against John Cena on RAW and Smackdown in late December. The match on RAW especially stood out. Ziggler stood toe-to-toe with John Cena in the ring, and it looked like he belonged. Ziggler carried that momentum into his first main event program with Edge. Ziggler and Edge then went on to have a great match at Royal Rumble. It was easily Edge's best singles match since he returned from injury in 2009. They had the crowd into the last half of it, and Ziggler was even getting some fans behind him. It'll be interesting to see where Ziggler's current firing storyline goes, because I think it could be something that either makes him into a star, or drags him down into an afterthought in the minds of the fans.

When will Ziggler get his first title reign? I know "technically" he already had one, but we won't count that for the purposes of this blog. If he stays on Smackdown, he may have to wait a while. Alberto del Rio is the top heel there, and as I said in the beginning, I think he will be a long term champion. The same would go for him if he were moved to RAW. So I would say at the earliest, he may have to wait til late 2011. If he stays on Smackdown, he could be a favorite to win the Money in the Bank briefcase. As much as Ziggler has excelled in the ring, I don't think he is the type of guy the WWE sees as winning the Royal Rumble then main eventing Wrestlemania. I don't have an exact scenario to play out for Ziggler, but I do think he will have the World Title again before the end of 2011, with Survivor Series being my first guess as to when he will win it.


Nobody has taken a bigger fall from the top in the last year than Sheamus. At the end of 2009, Sheamus shocked the wrestling world when he defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship. Many people said he wasn't ready for the top spot. But to Sheamus's credit, he held his own at the top. Triple H apparently saw something in him and was the main catalyst behind his push. Sheamus went on to feud with HHH and the two had some good matches. Sheamus ended up putting HHH out of action until recently. He won the WWE Title back and held it until September, where he lost it to Randy Orton. Since his program with Orton ended, Sheamus seems to have been lost in the shuffle. He jobbed to Santino on RAW, which set-up his program with John Morrison. Even though he won the King of the Ring Tournament, he hasn't done much with it. First of all, he looks like a goof wearing the king attire. Second of all, he hasn't done anything worthy since winning it. He lost his program with John Morrison, he lost cleanly to Mark Henry, and lost a battle royal to Jerry Lawler. Then when HHH, the man he put out of action for 9 months, returns to RAW, Sheamus gets taken out by "The Game" in a matter of minutes, then loses to Evan Bourne.

Sheamus is in need of some serious reconstruction. He's rumored to be in line to face Daniel Bryan for the United States Championship at Wrestlemania. That is a step in the right direction. The two had a short but decent match on RAW a while back. Plus it at least gives Sheamus a program heading into Wrestlemania. Would it have been better for Sheamus to take on HHH in his return match at Wrestlemania? Absolutely. But Sheamus image was too far down by the time HHH returned to make him seem like a worthy Wrestlemania opponent for Hunter.

I think the best thing that could happen for Sheamus right now would be a move to Smackdown. There is nothing left for him on RAW. He has a handful of fresh feuds waiting for him over there with the likes of Edge, Rey Mysterio, and even The Undertaker if Taker can stay healthy. Sheamus could also benefit from some time off, but that is something the WWE would never do. One of the best scenarios, at least in my mind, would be to keep Sheamus off of TV for a couple of months. After the time off you can have him return by beating down a top star, like an Edge or even The Undertaker. It makes the fans think he can take on any top babyface in the company, and erases the last couple of months of bad booking Sheamus has gone through. Sheamus is the type of guy that if re-established properly can be a top wrestler in this company down the line. He has the ability to slide into the main event slot and hold his own with the top guys in the company. Sheamus is in the position where instead of worrying about his next title reign, he needs to worry about re-establishing himself as a threat in the eyes of fans who now look at him as an afterthought.

Wade Barrett

I don't know if anybody saw Wade Barrett coming last summer. Sure he won Season 1 of NXT, but nobody expected him to get to the top so quickly. Barrett was thrust into the spotlight by being the leader of the Nexus angle. The Nexus angle was one of the best ideas the WWE had come up with in years. It's a shame that it died the way it did. It would have been nice and refreshing to see a dominant heel faction on top of the WWE. But there is no denying that Barrett showed his worth to the WWE long term as a main event talent. He was outstanding on the mic while he was on top. Some of his comebacks while he was bossing around John Cena were great. I think as an overall talent, Barrett is ahead of Sheamus. I like his mic work and overall presence more than Sheamus. And even though Sheamus can be built up as a monster heel, Wade Barrett has the better look for it.

As I said, it's disappointing that the Nexus angle ended with Wade Barrett never winning the WWE Title. I thought Barrett would have been more than capable of holding his own as the Champion. There would have been tremendous crowd heat in a John Cena/Wade Barrett WWE Championship match, especially at Wrestlemania. I don't know if they could have held that match off for so long, but the build would have been worth it.

Like Dolph Ziggler, however, Barrett is stuck in a bit of a bind on Smackdown. With Alberto del Rio as the top guy and potential long term champion, there isn't much for Barrett to do. But unlike Ziggler, Barrett wouldn't have fresh match-ups on RAW. He's already gone after all the top stars there. I think he will eventually get The Undertaker down the line. If the WWE would be willing to take the risk, I could see the possibility of a Barrett face turn. But I don't see that happening in the near future. I can see Barrett bouncing between feuds the months after Wrestlemania. He will probably be in the World Championship match at the Fatal 4 Way PPV. If he can stay strong enough in the eyes of fans, I could see him as the leading candidate to win next year's Royal Rumble and headline Wrestlemania. Barrett needs to continue to improve in the ring. He already has the talent on the mic to be in the main event, now he just needs to add a bit more to his in ring work in order to maintain his status as a top guy now and down the line.

"Dashing" Cody Rhodes

I was on the fence about including Cody on my in-depth portion of this outlook, but I think there is potential for Cody Rhodes on the main event stage down the line. It will take some work, but Cody's gimmick is very much over as a heel right now. I would say at this stage, he has more of a chance of being a WWE or World Champion down the line than Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre, and Ted DiBiase.

The big key for Cody Rhodes will be how he comes out of this program with Rey Mysterio. Obviously the two are building towards a match at Wrestlemania. Rey apparently hand-picked Cody as the man he wanted to face at Mania. That has to be a good sign for Cody. With Rey being a top guy in the company, he would want to wrestle someone at Wrestlemania that he knows he would have a good match with. He also probably sees something in Cody, and Rey thinks that this can help Cody get to the next level down the line.

But like I said, I don't think this will be happening anytime soon. I would say Cody still has a year before he can be considered as a top guy. His mic work with this Dashing gimmick is very good. I didn't think the gimmick would last this long, but Cody is doing a tremendous job of making it work. Hopefully he can keep it going because it is a nice "change of pace" gimmick in the WWE. I would like to see Cody get an extended run with either the Intercontinental or United States Championship. Even though those titles have been devalued in recent years, they still mean something if you can defend it successfully on a constant basis. Cody Rhodes is somebody I can see in the Spring or Summer of 2012 as a man ready to finally compete for a World Title, and ready to win it as well.

Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan is a favorite amongst the "smart" wrestling fans. Bryan is everything they like. A good worker in the ring capable of putting on an entertaining match with anyone. In his time in the WWE so far, you could say he has gotten the best matches out of The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, and Ted DiBiase Jr. Bryan's work on the Indy scene as gone a long way in helping him garner early success in the WWE. It also helps that he was trained by Shawn Michaels and William Regal.

Bryan currently seems to be stuck in limbo. Sure he is the United States Champion, but he really has no direction as a character. The whole "Lady's Man" thing appears to have been played out. As I said in my recap of Sheamus, it appears him and Bryan may be headed to a match at Wrestlemania. I think that's good for both of them, especially Bryan. For people who are ordering the PPV for The Rock, he has the chance to put on a good match with a much bigger opponent. He can show people in the wrestling world just how good of a natural wrestler he is.

From my standpoint, I think Daniel Bryan has the potential to be a main event guy. From a WRESTLING standpoint, he reminds me a lot of Chris Benoit. I know that's a name people hate to bring up, and I'm sure there will be people who hate me for using him to compare with Daniel Bryan, but they do have some similarities. They both can put on outstanding matches in the ring. That's how Benoit won fans over, and that's how Bryan can win fans over. Benoit wasn't as strong on the mic as he needed to be, and neither is Bryan. Bryan wins fans over by his performance in the ring, just like Benoit did. Bryan has the opportunity to improve on the mic, and I think he has the capability to do it.

As with Cody Rhodes, Bryan is probably at least a year away from competing for the WWE or World Title. Bryan winning his first title in a big city like New York, Boston, Chicago or Philadelphia would be good for him. Those cities are full of "smart" fans who would pop huge for his win. Unlike Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes, I think Bryan is the type of guy who can main event Wrestlemania if built up like Benoit was during his run to the World Title at Wrestlemania XX. I would say to watch for the Summer of 2012 or maybe even as late as Wrestlemania 29 for Bryan's first main event title run.

Other Young Talents to Watch

Kofi Kingston

Kofi Kingston appeared to be the next breakout star in the WWE in late 2009. While on RAW, he was put into a feud with Randy Orton. He looked great in the beginning, constantly getting the better of Orton. Then he was made to look like a megastar in front of the sold-out New York City fans in Madison Square Garden. Then, it all went away. No one really knows what happened. We know Orton yelled "STUPID!!!" at him once in a one-on-one match, but that shouldn't have been enough to warrant a de-push.

Kofi has been stuck in mid-card hell for almost his whole career. He recently had a decent run with Alberto del Rio. Despite losing both matches, he still looked like he belonged in the ring with him. I think Kofi is a guy that if the WWE decided to get behind him again, he would answer the call and the fans would get behind him. But unfortunately for Kofi, his time may have come and gone.

Drew McIntyre

The 'Chosen One" according to Vince McMahon. I think McIntyre got too much too quickly. He looked dominant as IC champ, and appeared to be headed to the main event sooner rather than later. But crazy Vince decided to change his mind again, and McIntyre was cooled down.

Just like Kofi, McIntyre has looked better recently. He had a strong showing in the Smackdown Elimination Chamber. The only problem is that he has nothing going for him headed into Wrestlemania. I also think he is #3 in the young, big man pecking order in the WWE behind Wade Barrett and Sheamus. Drew still has room for improvement in the ring. Unlike Kofi, however, I still Drew with the potential to creep up into the main event picture somewhere down the line.


Yes I know: Christian wouldn't be someone you would consider young in the WWE. The guy has been in wrestling since the Attitude Era. But Christian is someone who I have fellt has been EXTREMELY under-utilized in his WWE career. He appeared to be on a main event breakthrough in 2005 as it looked like he was ready to face John Cena 1-on-1 on PPV. But they decided to put Chris Jericho in the match, making int a triple threat. After that Christian's push vanished. He was relegated to the mid-card before leaving the WWE to go to TNA.

Christian returned to the WWE in 2009 on ECW. But only recently has it looked like Christian may finally be making is way to the top of the ladder. He returned at the Elimination Chamber PPV by saving Edge from an attack by Alberto del Rio, the same man who put Christian out of action. Christian saved Edge again this past Friday on Smackdown. Where this is leading to no one really knows yet. Could he be put into the World Title match at Wrestlemania, making it a triple threat? Possibly. I think the more likely scenario is that he is in Edge's corner during the match.

Internet fans would love to see Christian as a Champion. To the non-smart fan, however, I don't know if they could buy Christian as a WWE or World Champion. With the proper build-up, of course they would. I think Christian is someone who could be seen as a transitional champion. A guy that could hold the belt for a month or two before passing it on to someone who will be more of a long term champion. Christian deserves it for the time spent in the company, but I don't know if Vince & Co. see it the same way I do.

Jack Swagger

Swagger has already had a run as World Heavyweight Champion, but it has to be considered a disappointment. He never really looked strong as Champ. He defintely has the ability to be Champion again, he just needs the backing of Vince and creative.

I think he caught a break by being named the trainer of Michael Cole for his match against Jerry Lawler at Wrestlemania. Despite the lack of wrestling that will happen in the match, it is arguably the hottest angle in the company. Swagger will get more heat through his association with Cole then he did when he was World Champ. Right now, I think Swagger is a guy that could be inserted into the main event if needed for a one month thing. But to be taken seriously as a long term champion again, he needs to be given a proper one-on-one program with someone that will make him look good in the ring, and get over his natural wrestling ability.

I thought about including Ted DiBiase Jr. on this list, but I feel he is beyond repair.

With the currnet state of WWE TV as it is, the so called "youth movement" that Vince talked about is in slow motion. The Miz is WWE Champ, and Alberto del Rio appears destined to win the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania. Other than that, the mid-card is in shambles. Almost all of the guys I mentioned on this list have no definitive program heading into Wrestlemania. If the WWE pu more time into developing their mid-card talent into serious wrestlers, maybe they wouldn't have had to resort to bringing in The Rock as guest host of Wrestlemania. I'm not saying I'm not happy having The Rock back, I am, but he is nothing more than a short term fix for the WWE. I would love to see him comeback and wrestle John Cena at some point, maybe at SummerSlam in LA. But the WWE still needs to push their young talent as threats and develop them all around as more serious wrestler to the fans.

I know we haven't even gotten to Wrestlemania, but I'm someone who loves to look ahead. I think this summer, the WWE would have the perfect opportunity to push some of their young talent to the next level in the company. If they built up the guys mentioned above as threats throughout the summer, I think it good culminate in a type of "changing of the guard" at SummerSlam. What do I mean by that? Here would be a preview of a card I'd love to see.

WWE Championship: C.M. Punk (c) vs John Morrison
World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto del Rio (c) vs Sin Cara
John Cena vs Dolph Ziggler
Edge vs Christian
Randy Orton vs Cody Rhodes
The Undertaker & HHH vs Sheamus & Wade Barrett
Daniel Bryan vs Jack Swagger
Rey Mysterio vs The Miz

Notice a theme with that card. All but two guys I listed (sorry Kofi & Drew) are on that card against established main event guys, other than Daniel Bryan vs Jack Swagger, which is two young guys facing each other. That card would also take into effect the Draft, as well as the "brand-split relaxation" that usually takes place around big PPV time. This card would represent the perfect type of changing of the guard that the WWE is looking for. And for those of you who don't know who Sin Cara is, he is an outstanding wrestler from Mexico that the WWE just signed. He was formerly known as Mistico. I didn't include him on the list because I feel that he is already an established talent, and will get to the top soon enough.

This blog takes the place of my typical WWE Week in Review column that I usually do, that should be back next week. I hope you all enjoy this longer than normal piece from me.

NFL Mock Draft Version 2 will most likely be up this week.

Until next time,
Justin C