Before I get into my lastest post, I just want to congratulate the Dallas Mavericks on winning the NBA Championship. Dirk Nowitzki has always been one of my favorite players, and it is great to see all of his hard work finally pay off. Man is a class act and deserved it. Same can be said for Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion. Too bad LeBron, maybe you can come up with more excuses during the off-season for when you don't win the NBA Title next year. I made a bold statement to my friends when LeBron signed with the Heat. I said that the trio of James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh would never win a NBA Championship together. I still stand by it.
So, now on to the topic of today's post. We're almost half way through the 2011 calendar year. Where has all the time gone? I think being this far into the year, we can properly look at how the WWE has done with certain talents so far this year. I'll be evaluating the talent on the rise and declining from where they started at the beginning of the year to where they are now. There are a few breakout performers, while some have taken a surprising dip. There have been two performers who the WWE has done a great job with, while there have been a couple that started off the year great and now have hit a wall. Lets take a look.
Whose Stock Is Up
I think this is the most obvious place to start. Can you tell me what R-Truth was doing in January? Yeah me neither. Now? He's easily been the most entertaining part of RAW the last 2 months. Who would have thought turning Truth heel would bring out the best character in his career? Truth's heel character has been great. He plays it off perfectly. He does look and act like someone who has just completely lost it. The way he interacts with the crowd is great.
I think the smartest thing the WWE may have done with Truth so far is that they've limited his work in ring, and let him get over as a heel mostly through talking and beatdowns. Truth is still limited in the ring. His match with Rey Mysterio was ok at Over the Limit, but it didn't go past ten minutes. With Truth main eventing Capitol Punishment, he will need to be able to put on a decent 15 minute main event match. If worked on properly before the match, Truth and Cena could do it. If Warrior and Hogan could, so can Truth and Cena. They are both ok workers who I'm sure can put on a passable *** star main event match.
My one gripe with the R-Truth push is that the WWE is rushing it to a main event match at Capitol Punishment. I think it could have been played out longer. Have him lose a #1 Contender's Match at Capitol Punishment, then lose the RAW Money in the Bank Match before finally finding a way to get a WWE Title Match at SummerSlam. Cena/Truth, if built up and played out properly, could have been a real big match at SummerSlam, possibly bigger than Del Rio/Cena, which is the current plan. Instead, the WWE is rushing the program and booking it for a PPV that is getting barely any hype on TV, and may do as many low buys as Over the Limit did (65,000). It would have been nice for the WWE to build up a long program over the summer, than have the big match at the biggest PPV of the summer.
One thing is for sure, R-Truth has fastly become the best part of RAW. You never know what crazy words will come out of his mouth every week. His antics have been entertaining and different, something we strive for as wrestling fans. Hopefully, after Truth's main event push is up, he keeps some of his momentum. He already has a big feud waiting once John Morrison comes back from injury. I'm guessing that will be his match at SummerSlam, which hopefully will have some decent heat to it.
Things appeared to be lining up perfectly for Christian when he returned at Elimination Chamber. He was immediately interjected into the Edge/Alberto del Rio feud which was the Smackdown main event for Wrestlemania. You just had to think something big was in line for him in the future. Whether he turned on Edge, Edge turned on him, or maybe he would win the World Title off of Alberto del Rio. But then Edge was forced to retire, and things were pushed to the fore-front. Christian took Edge's spot in the World Title match at Extreme Rules, and won the vacant World Heavyweight Title in a Ladder Match. Wrestling fans everywhere rejoiced. Finally, after 15+ years of work in the wrestling business, Christian was being recognized as the great worker he is. It was finally Christian's time to be at the top for a while.
All of that came to a screeching halt 2 days later, when Christian lost the World Title to Randy Orton on Smackdown. Fans everywhere were outraged. There was a lot of over reaction, even on my part. I was frustrated to see Vince put the title back on boring Randy Orton rather than try something knew with Christian. But I didn't give it a chance, as I thought Christian would be relegated back to the mid-card. But to my surprise, the WWE has gotten some great mileage out of this Christian/Orton program. They've had two very good matches: there match at Smackdown and there match at Over the Limit, which is probably wither #2 or #3 on my Match of the Year list.
The program has more legs now that Christian has turned heel. I'm hoping he wins the title this Sunday at Capitol Punishment. It's the only way to properly extend the program. Christian can't keep losing to Orton. I really think this could be stretched out to SummerSlam. At this point, Christian is the only viable candidate to face Orton at SummerSlam. The 3 next heels on Smackdown: Sheamus, Mark Henry, and Cody Rhodes, aren't at a level to main event the second biggest PPV of the year. Christian can win the belt this Sunday, retain it at Money in the Bank possibly in a triple threat or fatal four way match, then lose it to Orton at SummerSlam in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs Match.
I will be the first to admit that I over-reacted to Christian losing the belt so quickly. He's actually done quite well for himself since then, and it is the longest main event push he has received in his long career. Vince obviously has faith in him to work a program with Orton, who Vince sees as his #2 man in the WWE. It's great to see Christian finally have an extended reign at the top.
3. Cody Rhodes
He may currently be stuck in limbo on Smackdown, but there is no denying Rhodes great work from January to April. His program with Rey Mysterio was great. I've always been a Cody Rhodes supporter. I saw one of his first matches here in Buffalo on an episode of RAW. Me and my friends were impressed with him and have rooted for him ever since. We like to say that we are the original members of the Cody Rhodes Fan Club. I met him during my Wrestlemania Weekend and he was a really nice guy, making sure to have a brief conversation with every fan he met.
When Cody was first given his "Dashing" gimmick, I thought it was a complete joke. I thought there was no way it would get over. It seemed too early 90s. But Cody worked hard at it, and he made it work. After his "injury" at the hands of Rey Mysterio, he took the gimmick to a whole new level. He went from being pretty boy, good-looking boy to a serious, dark, demented Cody Rhodes. You could almost say he is a more civilized and tame version of R-Truth. I loved his program with Rey, it was great to see him get a win over Rey at Wrestlemania. His promo on Smackdown after he attacked Rey was great. I wish he would have also won at Extreme Rules in the rubber match. It would have been a nice rub for Cody.
Cody seems to be in the middle of something with Daniel Bryan and Sin Cara. I hope he gets a PPV match with one or both of them. I'd love to see a 10-15 minute match between them. It'd be great. I think once Randy Orton is done with Christian on Smackdown, Cody Rhodes is more than likely next in line. I think he is the top candidate to win the Smackdown Money in the Bank Match, and is more than likely the next young breakout star in the WWE. I could easily see Cody being World Champion by the end of the year, and I hope he at least gets the opportunity to do so. He's shown the ability to get over, now he needs the WWE to show the faith in him to get him to the next level.
4. Alex Riley
If I had done this piece a month ago, Alex Riley's name wouldn't even been worth mentioning, for anything. He was still in his role as Miz's lackey, the guy who took the beating when Miz would run off. He's had his share of screw-ups: his DUI, his slip that caused his early elimination from the Royal Rumble. Up until a few weeks ago, Riley never showed any signs of doing anything in the WWE.
Then it happened. Alex Riley became sick of everything the Miz was putting him through. He was sick of the Miz blaming him for not winning the WWE Championship, and for costing him it. Riley, fed up with the Miz, snapped and attacked him. To the surprise of many I'm sure, Riley received a pretty big ovation from the crowd. He got a pretty big Riley chant. He carried the momentum over to the next week on RAW when he shoved down Michael Cole and chased the Miz off. Riley now has the chance to face the Miz at Capitol Punishment. It is easily the biggest opportunity of Riley's career.
The WWE has a great opportunity here with Riley. They can take somebody who was once considered a laughing stock and make him a solid mid-card babyface. The question will be whether or not the WWE wants to put him over the man they consider to be the future of the company. A win for Riley would do wonders for his career. I would say he could carry the momentum over to Smackdown, but he's apparently been signed by the RAW GM. Who said the Draft is important? While R-Truth may be the most entertaining part of RAW, Riley may be the hottest prospect on RAW. It is certainly in interesting situation that one hopes the WWE does not screw up.
Whose Stock is Down
1. C.M. Punk
The most obvious person to start with. By now, I'm assuming everyone has heard the rumors. Punk's contract is up in July, and right now it doesn't look like he is re-signing. That's a shame. Punk is one of the most entertaining characters to watch every week. His mic work is superb, and it matches his in-ring work. But every wrestler needs a break now and then, and if Punk wants some time off, he deserves it. I feel, however, that this situation is what has caused Punk to drop down on the card.
When Punk took over as the new leader of Nexus, it appeared to be a new start to the group. Instead, the group was fed once again to John Cena. After being taken out by Cena, they were then all taken out one-by-one by Randy Orton. Orton looked dominant over Punk in the entire program. Orton beat Punk at Wrestlemania. Then Orton beat Punk in a Last Man Standing Match at Extreme Rules. Punk and Mason Ryan briefly feuded with the tag champs Big Show and Kane. Now Punk seems to be back in a feud with Rey Mysterio. I don't have a problem with that. The two can put on an entertaining match, but Punk could be used so much more effectively.
Unfortunately for Punk, unless he signs a new contract, I don't see things getting any better for him. The one redeeming quality Punk has is that he can get heat back on him in a heartbeat. He's that great of a talker. Punk can be put in a program with anybody and he can make it work. But Punk has also fallen down the card on the heel side of things. Right now I'd say he is behind Miz, Alberto del Rio, and R-Truth on the RAW side.
In my selfish way, I want C.M. Punk to re-sign. I enjoy him on RAW every week. But I respect his decision if he feels that he needs some time off. Punk has been on the road for some time now and deserves a break. It's a shame, however, that the WWE has felt the need to bury him on the roster. He's been constantly losing PPV matches and hasn't looked strong since the Royal Rumble. But the one thing I guarantee is, when Punk comes back from his break, he will be just as good as he is today.
2. Alberto del Rio
At the beginning of 2011, Alberto del Rio was the hottest star in the WWE. He won the 2011 Royal Rumble, and was over as a heel. Everyone assumed that he would win the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania, but that didn't happen. He ended up losing to Edge. Then after Edge retired, everyone assumed that he would win the vacant World Title at Extreme Rules. Instead, Del Rio was moved to RAW, pretty much making it a lock that he would not win, which he didn't.
Ever since Del Rio has been on RAW, he's been stuck with pretty much nothing. He started off wrestling Rey Mysterio, which was done to death on Smackdown. He didn't have a match at Over the Limit. Now he's stuck in a feud with Big Show and Kane. Hopefully, Del Rio goes over in this program. There is no reason to give Kane or Big Show any rub from this feud. They don't need it. Del Rio does.
At one point Del Rio looked like the next top star in the WWE. Now? His push has been put on hold. As I already said, the word is that the WWE wants to do Cena/Del Rio at SummerSlam. The problem is: Has the WWE already killed off too much of Del Rio's momentum to make this match feel big time. Before Cena/Rock was announced for Wrestlemania 28, I thought for sure this would be the main event of that show. Now it is rushed to SummerSlam, but you have to worry if it will have the same heat it would have had a few months ago. Even if Del Rio does come out on top in this Big Show program, you have to wonder if it will do anything for his heat. Del Rio has went from someone whose stock was as high as it could be, but you have to wonder if some are giving up on the belief that Del Rio will be the star everyone thought he could be.
3. Wade Barrett
Before Alberto del Rio, Wade Barrett looked like the breakout star of 2010. He was the leader of a group of rebels known as the Nexus. The Nexus angle was one of the best things the WWE had done in years. It was new and refreshing. Barrett was handling himself well on the mic and in the ring. At one point, it appeared that he may win the WWE Championship at the end of 2010.
But then the curse of Super Cena happened. Cena and company defeated the Nexus at SummerSlam. Then when Cena was finally forced to join Nexus, he still got the better of him. Then Cena beat Barrett at TLC and effectively killed any momentum he had left. Barrett was then kicked out of Nexus and moved over to Smackdown, where he formed the Corre. For the first month, all Barrett and company did was beat up the Big Show. Barrett won the Intercontinental Title , but it was a small consolation prize. Barrett has done next to nothing on Smackdown. The Corre has gotten jobbed out, as has Barrett.
With the lack of top stars on Smackdown, you would think that the WWE would try to build Barrett back up as a force. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened yet. Barrett continues to dwell in mid-card purgatory and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Barrett is still young and has tones of untapped potential, so there is time to build him back up, but it may take a long time before he is considered a main event threat in the eyes of WWE fans.
4. Sin Cara
Sin Cara received a lot of hype coming in. He was billed as the biggest star coming from Mexico ever. His in ring skills were hyped to be the best that the WWE Universe would ever see. The WWE banked on him being the next Rey Mysterio. They wanted him to be the ultimate cross over star for them in Mexico. They figured that if he could live up to the hype, he could help out there International business greatly.
Unfortunately for the WWE, Sin Cara has struggled in his first 2 months in the WWE. His stock was as high as it possible could be before he even appeared on TV, but it's dropped a great deal since then. His debut entrance was botched, as he almost didn't make it into the ring properly when he jumped off his trampoline. Then his first official match was against Primo, a guy who is essentially a jobber in the WWE. Cara "struggled" to beat him. Then at Over the Limit, Cara missed a few spots against Chavo. After debuting on RAW, Sin Cara was drafted to Smackdown. Essentially, it was to cover up his botched spots. Nobody will ever admit that, but it is hard to argue against hit.
Sin Cara still has backers in the WWE. He was Triple H's first project as head of WWE Talent Development. He's not giving up on him. He's also very capable of putting on a good match. Just watch his tapes from Mexico. Sure that's not WWE style, but it is a move set that can get over in the WWE. Sin Cara probably needed some time to adjust to the WWE life, but that adjustment time should be over by now. Eventually, you have to fit in, and Cara needs to do that soon or risk losing all of his momentum and huge money drawing potential that he had down the line.
There you have it. You could make arguments for others to be included on the list, but that is all I'm going to put on this one.
I will have a Capitol Punishment Preview up on Thursday.
Until next time,