For the first time in a long time, something didn't happen in the WWE last year. No superstar one their first WWE or World Title last year. C.M. Punk held the WWE Title the entire calendar year of 2012. On the World Title side, Sheamus won at Wrestlemania (had previously won WWE Title) and Big Show defeated him for it (previously held both WWE and World Title). Since the inception of the World Title in the WWE, this has never happened. Every year, someone has catapulted into the main event scene and won their first WWE or World Title.
So is this a sign of future booking from the WWE? Or just a one year anomaly? My guess would be the latter. Once The Rock announced his WWE Title Match at the Royal Rumble, you could almost guarantee that C.M. Punk was going to hold the WWE Title until then. On the World Title side, I expected Sheamus to drop the Title to either Dolph Ziggler or Wade Barrett eventually, and that did not happen. Instead Big Show got himself a World Title run.
It would be in the best interest of the WWE to reverse last year's trend. Not just for the short term, but also for the long term future of the company. Guys like John Cena, Randy Orton and C.M. Punk aren't getting any younger. All of them are in their 30s. If the WWE hasn't started planning on finding their next big breakout star, then they are in some serious trouble. Dolph Ziggler is the obvious choice, but he has technically already won his first World Title. Yeah it was a crap win, but the WWE will not hype up his MITB cash in as his first World Title win.
Looking at the WWE roster, I think there are 3 candidates to win their first WWE or World Title this year. Lets take a look at each one.
When I look back on 2012, I think Ryback got over a little bit more than the WWE expected. And then they didn't know what to do with him. Ryback looked set for an IC Title feud in the fall with Miz, but the WWE decided to bypass that and shot him straight up the card into the WWE Title picture. It was a simple case of being pushed too soon for Ryback. John Cena was injured, and the WWE had nobody else to place in the WWE Title Match at Hell In A Cell. Of course, they have no one else to blame except themselves for that one.
Had the WWE not pushed Ryback so heavily right away, he could have easily been groomed to take the WWE Title off of C.M. Punk at Wrestlemania this year. Would it have been the match I wanted to see Punk in? No. But the story would have at least made sense. C.M. Punk would have had the Title for almost 500 days, and here is your new star Ryback to take the Title off of him. Instead, the WWE over exposed Ryback and now he is suffering because of it. He's already lost to C.M. Punk twice. He was also on the losing end of his match at TLC and did not win at Survivor Series. You don't want to have a potential new star lose as much as Ryback did, especially on PPV.
If you are looking for a face to win his first Title in 203, Ryback is the obvious choice. But another problem you run into with him is that he cannot work a long match. He looked bad and winded in his match with Antonio Cesaro this past week on RAW. He doesn't have the charisma like Goldberg had either. If someone like Mark Henry wins the World Title in the near future, I could see a feud with Ryback down the line and Ryback taking the Title off Henry. I don't think Ryback would win the WWE Title. The World Title seems to be the one reserved for the "big guys" in the WWE. Big Show, Kane and Mark Henry have all won it in the last five years. My guess is Ryback wins the World Title at some point in 2013.
2. Wade Barrett
I was a huge proponent of Wade Barrett winning the WWE Title when he was the leader of Nexus. It is one of the biggest mistakes the WWE made. The booking of Nexus from that year's SummerSlam on effectively killed the group and made them lose whatever heat they had. Barrett held himself well as the leader of the group. His mic skills have always been good and he works and moves well for a big man in the WWE.
But like pretty much every other mid card talent with potential, the WWE has screwed up Wade Barrett. He seemed destined for a big push in 2012 and there were even rumors Money in the Bank was going to be brought back at Wrestlemania and Barrett was going to win it. But Barrett suffered a bad elbow injury in February that forced him out of action for months. Had Barrett not been injured, he may have very well won a WWE or World Title in 2012. When Barrett came back the WWE had nothing for him. They gave him a new finisher but had no set feud. He won the Intercontinental Title. There was going to be a tournament to determine a challenger for the Title, but that was cancelled. Barrett has wrestled Randy Orton about 100 times. And he lost to him clean on RAW. Once again, the WWE failing in making the mid card Champs look strong.
In my humble opinion, I think Barrett is the best "big man" worker in the WWE. Better than Sheamus. Better than Kane. All of those guys. He's agile for his size. I definitely said this in 2012, and I will say it again in 2013. If Wade Barrett does not win his first WWE or World Title in 2013, all hope is lost. He was inured for most of 2012, so I can give the WWE a pass there. With John Cena and C.M. Punk likely hovering around the WWE Title scene in 2013, I would love to see Barrett work his way into that picture. Barrett has history with both men. And there feud was long enough ago that it wouldn't seem stale. (Yes, 2 years ago is a long time in WWE land). It may not be until after the Rock is fully gone for a few months, but Barrett would fit well in the WWE Title picture. Despite their best attempts, I don't think the WWE has ruined Barrett quite yet.
3. Antonio Cesaro
Cesaro may be the most long term prospect out of these three, but there is no denying the potential that he has for the WWE. The one thing you have to like about Cesaro is his big move offense. Some of the power moves he hits are just outstanding. It still amazes me that he was able to hit the Neutralizer on Cesaro. Twice. Whenever he delivers his uppercut it actually looks like it delivers a devastating impact. Cesaro has the ideal size and look that the WWE likes in there top guys.
The problem with Cesaro is that he doesn't seem to be connecting with the audience. Sure, the Internet marks love him. But the rest of the audience doesn't seem to care too much for him yet. If he continues to milk the anti-American gimmick with the U.S. Title, it should garner him some more heat. But again, the WWE doesn't book their mid-card Champs strong enough to make people care about them. Case in point, Cesaro was jobbed out to Ryback on RAW this past Monday. I won't continue to harp on that point.
Despite all of that, I still think Cesaro is a future main eventer. He has too much natural ability in the ring to not work his way there at some point. But if Cesaro were to win a major Title this year, I don't think it will happen until late in 2013. In fact, if we were taking early bets, Cesaro would be my pick to win one of the Money in the Bank contracts this year. He's a guy that is not quite at the main event level yet, but would get even better if he won the MITB contract. While Cesaro may be a fringe candidate to win a Title in 2013, you never know what could happen when the MITB contract is involved.
Some people may want to throw in Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes, or even Kofi Kingston. But I don't think those three are ahead of Ryback, Barrett or Cesaro.
So what do you think? Who will win their first WWE or World Title this year?
Until Next Time,
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