My birthday is coming up soon, and I'm about to hit a milestone age. On July 18th, yours truly will turn 30 years old. If I can be perfectly honest for a minute, 30 is an age I didn't think I would live to see, for a few different reasons that have nothing to do with wrestling, so I won't get into them here. Now that I'm about to hit 30, though, I wanted to do a column that focused on that number. 30. The big 3-0.
I sat and I thought about it, and the only real idea I could come up with was to look at wrestlers that are in the vicinity of my age. That's when the final idea came to me.. 30 wrestlers.. 30 years old or younger. I'm going to put together a list of the top 30 wrestlers (in North America) that are 30 years old or younger, as a look at the present and the future of the pro wrestling business.
The only qualifications to make this list are pretty clear.. you have to be no older than 30 years old. If you turn 31 the day after I post this column, you're still eligible, but that's it. As long as someone meets the age requirement, they're eligible to be named. It doesn't matter if they're a former World Champion on the WWE roster or if they're an up-and-coming name on the independent scene. There's bound to be a few surprises on the list. Hell, there were names that even surprised me, because I wasn't aware certain people were still under the age of 30. Other than that, we're looking at a mix of things..
- What have these people already accomplished in their career?
- How bright does their future look?
- Where they're at right now? (For example, are they on the rise, falling off the map, etc)
Mix everything together, and I'm giving you my opinions on things. If you disagree with the rankings and placements, that's fine. I'm not sitting here and saying my thoughts are the be all end all. This is just how I view things. You clicked the link to read my opinions, and that's what I'm giving you.
Let's get this show on the road. I have a feeling that this is going to end up being a very long column. Shall I proceed? (Yes, indeed.) Less dew eet!!
30. Richie Steamboat (Age: 24, Date Of Birth: 7/7/1987) - Going through this list in the last few days, I went back and forth on including Richie Steamboat. I'm not a huge fan of the guy, but that doesn't mean I think he's terrible in the ring. It also doesn't mean I don't see anything in his future. I think he could end up being a solid midcard talent for WWE over the next decade-plus. My only problem with him is that I feel he suffers from the same issues his father did, as far as their characters go. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat spent his entire career as a face. Literally, his entire career as a face. He made his in-ring debut in February of 1976, and he hasn't spent a single day as a heel since then. That made him come across as a largely one-dimensional performer when people go back and look at things. While the younger Steamboat has played face and heel, he's clearly a better face, and just doesn't come across as natural in the slightest when he's playing a heel. In this day and age, we've seen what happens to wrestlers who play the "white bread" face characters for years on end. I worry that will be Richie Steamboat's future. At least he still has plenty of time to change things up.
29. Curt Hawkins (Age: 27, Date Of Birth: 4/20/1985) - I don't know what it is about Curt Hawkins, but even with his low standing in WWE, he seems to bring up a lot of mixed emotions from people that I talk to. People either really like him, and feel he's probably the most underrated worker in the whole company, or they really hate him, and feel he's boring and doesn't have any business taking up a valuable roster spot. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground with this guy. Personally, I'm in the group that feels he's underrated. Not quite the most underrated worker in the company, but still underrated nonetheless. Unfortunately for him, he just doesn't stand out or excel at any one thing, and when you're in a company with as much inconsistent booking as we see with WWE, not standing out means you're guaranteed to get lost in the mix. His best chance at real success is to either leave WWE and find it elsewhere, or to hope that the WWE front office gets a complete overhaul, leading to a different direction within the company. For now, he just has to keep plugging away at things, putting on good matches whenever he's given an opportunity to do so, even if it's only on Superstars for the time being.
28. Trent Barreta (Age: 25, Date Of Birth: 3/30/1987) - I know that Dolph Ziggler gets a lot of attention for his selling, and it's well deserved, but in my opinion, Trent Barreta is the best seller on the WWE roster. As good as Dolph is, there are times when he reaches the point of overselling, and can even do so comically from time-to-time. Barreta, on the other hand, works his ass off and makes his opponents look fantastic, match in and match out, without having to oversell. As someone that is smaller than Dolph is, he also has the added bonus of being able to get more sympathy from the crowd when he's on the receiving end of a beating. Barreta is such a sympathetic figure, and is such a talented seller, that I don't know if he'll ever move beyond that level while working for World Wrestling Entertainment. He's super talented, but every wrestling promotion, large or small, needs "enhancement talent", and he fits that role really well. If he does get released at some point, though, I do think he could become a big star on the indy scene. He has the talent and the skill set to be a big acquisition for a promotion like Dragon Gate USA or Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. For now, though, he remains one of the more underrated workers in wrestling today, and it's what prevents me from really ranking him any higher than this.
27. Willie Mack (Age: 25, Date Of Birth: 1/5/1987) - If you just looked at Willie Mack, without watching him wrestle, you'd immediately dismiss him. I guarantee it. He doesn't look like anything special. In fact, he looks like he's out of shape. He looks like someone that you'd expect to be watching wrestling instead of participating in the business. Everything changes when you watch him wrestle, though. He has really taken Pro Wrestling Guerrilla by storm in the last year-and-a-half, defeating the likes of Chris Hero and Kevin Steen in his brief time there. There's a lot of buzz about him winning the PWG World Title at some point in the not-too-distant future. That would put him in an elite category with the likes of Frankie Kazarian, AJ Styles, Kevin Steen, El Generico, Bryan Danielson, Low Ki, Chris Hero, Davey Richards and Claudio Castagnoli. Even though PWG isn't the biggest indy promotion around, they seem to have their finger on the pulse of the indy scene. They tend to only place their top title on guys who are at the top of the indy scene, or who are rapidly approaching it. At this time next year, everyone might be talking about Willie Mack. Don't say I didn't warn you.
26. Drew McIntyre (Age: 27, Date Of Birth: 6/6/1985) - Remember when Drew McIntyre was a popular pick to be the next main eventer on the WWE roster, whether people felt he deserved it or not? He was a rising star, had Vince McMahon's support on-screen (and supposedly had Vince McMahon's support off-screen, as well), and was working hard in the ring. Then, a domestic dispute between McIntyre and his wife-at-the-time, WWE Diva Tiffany, happened, and his career has been derailed ever since. She's the one that was arrested, and she's the one that was suspended, but the incident happened nearly two years ago, and in the time since, McIntyre has gone from "next WWE/World Champion" to "can't even get regular appearances on Superstars", even though he's only getting better in the ring. It's not exactly fair for him to get punished over something the company feels was the fault of his ex-wife, but it's a little too late for those complaints, I suppose. With every passing month, more and more people begin to predict McIntyre's WWE release, but he remains on the roster. If you want to look for anything close to a positive sign, I guess that's it.. the company would have released him by now if they really wanted to. Fans of his have to hope that he's getting the Hunter Hearst Helmsley treatment from the company. If you remember, Hunter was punished by the WWF for the Kliq's "Curtain Call" incident, taking the blame because Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were on their way to WCW and Shawn Michaels was the company's "golden boy" at the time. Hunter was depushed and given nothing but garbage to work with, but because he sat back and took the punishment without complaining, he was eventually rewarded, and you saw where his push led. I'm not saying Drew McIntyre will be a first-ballot WWE Hall Of Famer and having a corporate role off-screen 15 years from now, but there is a chance that he could be rewarded for not publicly complaining about his recent treatment. I hope so, anyway. He deserves it. He certainly deserves more than he's been getting, that's for sure.
25. The Usos (Age: 26, Date Of Birth: 8/22/1985) - Can I just say that I don't understand Vince McMahon and WWE officials sometimes? I really don't. In The Usos, they have a tag team that works very well in the ring, and has a level of charisma that helps them to stand out from the pack. Their entrance is even something unique. It's just too bad that they're on the WWE roster at a time when tag team wrestling isn't exactly a priority within the company. In another era, The Usos could be major stars, and probably would have had the Tag Team Titles on multiple occasions by now. It's just strange that the sons of former WWF Superstar Rikishi continue to be passed over by teams that are randomly thrown together, or who don't deserve their push.. I'm looking at you, Darren Young and Titus O'Neil. Just with the law of averages, you have to assume Jimmy & Jey will get a chance to run with the belts, but as we've seen on countless occasions, there's no such thing as a guarantee with World Wrestling Entertainment. The Usos just have youth on their side, though. They don't turn 27 until after SummerSlam, and are still really new to the WWE scene, only debuting for FCW in 2010. Personally, I think they have big things in their future. It remains to be seen if that "future" is next month, next year, or ten years from now, though.
24. Primo & Epico (Age: 29 [Primo] & 30 [Epico], Date Of Birth: 12/21/1982 [Primo] & 3/24/1982 [Epico]) - Oh, look, another WWE tag team. With Primo & Epico, though, you're talking about a team that has actually won the WWE Tag Team Titles, and look to remain involved in the title picture for a while. The only reason I don't have these guys ranked higher on this list is because I have a funny feeling they're on their way down. Don't take that as me predicting one or both of them will be released any week now, but I think we've seen the peak of their team. They both hit 30 during the 2012 calendar year, and there really isn't a whole lot of growth we could see with them. Neither of them is going to be cutting promos for an added layer of character development, and Rosa Mendes isn't going to be cutting the promos for them. When they were aligned with Abraham Washington, that seemed to be what was needed to take their team to the next level, but that ended just as quickly as it began, and they're back to just being in random matches and not standing out very much, short of Rosa dancing at speaking poor Spanish at ringside. All signs, in my opinion, are pointing to them moving back. I hope I'm wrong, though, because I like the work these two put in. Obviously, they have in-ring chemistry. It just remains to be seen if they can find more of a reason to stand out or not.
23. Chris Sabin (Age: 30, Date Of Birth: 2/4/1982) - The more I think about Chris Sabin being on this list, the sadder it makes me. He's had a really unfortunate stretch of bad luck recently, tearing his ACL & MCL, missing ten months of action, seeing his tag team partner (Alex Shelley) leave TNA a month after he returned to the ring, only to tear his other ACL a month later. The main reason he isn't ranked much higher than this are the persistent rumors that this latest injury may push him out of the business. If he was healthy, I would probably have Sabin in the top ten, and I wouldn't even blink an eye while placing him there. He's that talented. I do hope he returns from this latest injury, but it's never a good sign when you have back-to-back torn ACLs, even when they weren't on the same leg. Throw in the fact that he could be 31 by the time he returns, as well as the fact that he's a wrestler who depends on his speed and explosiveness, and it's a bad combination of signs. I'm going to say this, though.. you aren't going to see Alex Shelley make this list. It's not because I don't like him. I'm a big fan of Shelley, and have been since his days with Ring Of Honor. The reason he isn't making the list is the growing amount of rumors that he's either leaving the wrestling business, or at least taking an extended break. There are more question marks surrounding Shelley's future than Sabin's future, even with the injuries, so I included Sabin. For those wondering, though, I would have ranked Shelley in a higher spot if I did include him. He'd probably be looking at a top 15 spot, more than likely.
22. Uhaa Nation (Age: 24, Date Of Birth: 8/22/1987) - Here's another pick that sees an injury alter someone's placement on the list. Uhaa is still on the road to recovery from a knee injury, but unlike Chris Sabin, he has much more youth on his side, as well as a lesser history with serious injuries. He's on his way back sooner than later, and when he returns, everything I've said about him in previous columns only gets magnified as his hunger grows. When you have someone that has been blessed with his combination of size, speed, strength and athleticism, the sky is the limit for you, and that's how I feel about Uhaa Nation's future once he returns to the business. Every time he posts an update of his rehab on Twitter, he seems to be making great leaps and bounds on a daily basis, which makes me wonder if he's actually superhuman. I can't wait to see him make his return to the ring, and I worry about the health of his opponents. He has a lot of anger and frustration that he'll be taking out on people once he returns to wrestling. Poor, poor bastards.
21. Johnny Gargano (Age: 24, Date Of Birth: 8/14/1987) - Johnny Gargano.. now this is an interesting selection. He isn't even 25, but he's already the top title holder in Dragon Gate USA, and has also seen a lot of success in CHIKARA. He isn't "too small" for mainstream wrestling (5'10" and 200 pounds), has a variety of wrestling styles blending together in his portfolio, and has some nice, quirky natural charisma. He would be a really nice addition to the WWE roster, but especially to the TNA roster, and I think it's only a matter of time before those companies come calling. Again.. he isn't even 25 years old yet, and he continues building his profile on the indy scene. He has a ridiculous amount of potential to make a large jump in these rankings next year, with a top ten spot not out of the question at all.
20. Natalya (Age: 30, Date Of Birth: 5/27/1982) - Full disclosure.. the more I think about it, the more I feel I may have ranked Natalya a bit too high, but that's how much I enjoy and believe in her in-ring abilities. It's pretty clear that the company doesn't see her as anything more than a joke these days, saddling her with, of all things, a farting gimmick, and then taking her off of television altogether. If you know anything about the history of the company over the last few decades, especially in recent years, perhaps it has to do with Natalya being a bit.. thicker.. than the average Diva. Not only is she short for a Diva (5'3"), but she's still heavier than Divas that are taller than she is. For example, her 135 pounds of billed weight is a good 20-25 pounds more than Kelly Kelly is billed as, and Kelly is 5'5". Now, don't get me wrong.. a woman of Natalya's body type is generally much sexier than a woman of Kelly Kelly's body type, but that certainly isn't the way men like Vince McMahon view things. She's one of the best technical wrestlers in all of women's wrestling today, though. Actually, she's one of the best technical wrestlers in the history of women's wrestling. Now, if only someone with some backstage power in TitanLand could realize they only have two Divas that wrestle on even a semi-regular basis, we could get more Natalya matches, but I don't think I'll hold my breath for that.
19. Bray Wyatt (Age: 25, Date Of Birth: 5/23/1987) - This is a very interesting one, in my opinion. As Husky Harris, I was a fan of the guy, but I was also the first to point out that he needed to tweak his in-ring style a bit if he was going to succeed as a WWE superstar. His work has bordered on the downright dangerous at times, with a super stiff style. There's a reason that he was sent back down to FCW and never brought back up, folks. Some people have said it had to do with his weight, but take a look at him.. his weight hasn't changed, and he's still being used in FCW all the time. He was sent down to help tighten up his in-ring work, and I think he's been doing that, and doing it well. I think it's a good sign that he was given a new character recently, and I'm already a big fan of Bray Wyatt's Cape Fear-like persona. He's got a very marketable look. He has the bloodline (grandfather Blackjack Mulligan, father Mike "Irwin R Schyster" Rotunda, uncle Barry Windham, etc). He has a solid set of skills that he brings to the table. With the right motivation, and with the right backing from the company, you could very well see him as a WWE/World Champion at some point within the next couple years. I just worry that the WWE Creative Team will effectively neuter the Bray Wyatt character, but we'll worry more about that when he finally gets called back up to the main roster.
18. Ted DiBiase (Age: 29, Date Of Birth: 11/8/1982) - Ted DiBiase always seems to be getting booked in an.. interesting.. way. There are times when it looks like the company is really ready to get behind him for a major midcard push, and then that disappears completely, seemingly for no reason, and then he gets booked to be nothing more than a jobber.. and then it looks like the company is ready to get behind him for a major midcard push again, seemingly for no reason. They have absolutely no idea what they want to do with this guy. They don't seem to know if they view him as the future of the company, or if he's next in line for a pink slip and a spot in the unemployment line. In 2008, I infamously made the claim that DiBiase would go on to have a better singles career than his at-the-time teammate, Cody Rhodes. I guess that wasn't exactly a top notch prediction, but in my defense, let's not make it like Cody is a ten-time World Champion, either. There's still time for both men to be elevated to another level in their careers. Sure, Cody has advanced further, but again, there's still time. Ted Jr is still a solid worker, and the addition of the "DiBiase Posse" stuff, as corny as it might be to some people, only helped him to become more over with live crowds. When he returns from his injury, it wouldn't surprise anyone in the slightest if he got yet another big midcard push.
17. Ryback (Age: 30, Date Of Birth: 11/10/1981) - Ryback just barely made the cutoff point to be eligible here, but I'm still surprised that he's so young. In my initial rankings, I didn't even have him included because I just assumed he was approaching his mid-30s. Here he is, though. I've said it before, and I'll say it again.. WWE might really have something special with this guy. He'll never be the guy who is placed in 40+ minute matches, doing chain wrestling with the likes of CM Punk or Daniel Bryan, but he doesn't have to be. His comparison to Goldberg makes some sense. Goldberg, of course, didn't have to be that mat wrestling wizard to become one of the biggest faces in wrestling during the most popular stretch in the history of the business. Goldberg just went out there and was booked to be dominant, allowing him to grab everyone's attention and get over, from the beginning of the show to the midcard scene to the main event scene. Ryback has gone out there and is being booked to be dominant, and it's allowing him to grab everyone's attention and get over. He started at the beginning of the show, and he's working his way towards the midcard scene. People are already calling for him to be involved in the United States or Intercontinental Title pictures. With the reported backing of Vince McMahon himself, you have to expect some major things in Ryback's future if he continues on this steady pace of building fans every single week. Feed. Him. More.
16. Magnus (Age: 25, Date Of Birth: 11/6/1986) - If you were to look at the WWE and TNA rosters, and come up with a list of people who have made the most improvements over the last year or two with their in-ring work, Magnus would be one of the first names you list. I guarantee it. When he arrived in TNA as Brutus Magnus, I wasn't a fan. I'm sure some of you remember me saying things along those lines back then. He just didn't appeal to me at all, but as time went on, his in-ring work improved, and on top of that, his mic skills and overall charisma began to improve, as well. He just began to make great strides, and his recent tag team with Samoa Joe really began to help people see him in a different light. He's currently competing in the Bound For Glory Series, and I've seen numerous people list him as a "dark horse" to win the entire thing. He's one of the youngest members of the TNA roster, which, of course, means that he has plenty of time to continue improving in every aspect. You're looking at a future TNA World Champion, if you ask me. It's only a matter of time right now.
15. Bo Dallas (Age: 22, Date Of Birth: 5/25/1990) - In the #19 spot, I had Bray Wyatt, and here at #15, I have his younger brother, Bo Dallas. First and foremost, I have to clarify that I'm a much bigger fan of big brother, even though little brother is ranked higher. The reason for that is twofold. For one, look at Bo's date of birth. He just turned 22 years old. That means his "ceiling" is ridiculously high. The other reason I ranked him higher is because it certainly seems like WWE officials (or, at the very least, FCW officials) see a lot in him. Bo is the only three-time FCW Florida Heavyweight Champion, and again, I have to point out.. he just turned 22. He's still improving, and so much more can be done with him. Considering his age, and the fact that he has eight more years he could be eligible for a list like this, don't be surprised to see him rise even higher if I do something like this again in the future. He isn't that far away from the top ten already. If you just looked at him, you'd also think that he isn't that far away from a life sentence for some sort of kiddie-diddling, but that's a different story altogether.
14. Zack Ryder (Age: 27, Date Of Birth: 5/14/1985) - Hello, Chrisss. Good ol' Zack Ryder. I didn't really know what to do with his placement on this list, to be honest with you. Obviously, if you look at his current standing on the proverbial WWE totem pole, it doesn't look very promising. Even with that said, there's one thing even Ryder haters can't deny.. the man remains over. He's in the type of position where he can be placed back into a midcard title picture at any time, and nobody would be surprised. I hate to say it, but Ryder is a much better choice to be the United States Champion than Santino is. The way Santino is booked has turned the United States Title into a single step above a pilonidal cyst between your ass cheeks. I must admit that I'm surprised to see Ryder on this list, though. Not because I don't think he belonged, but because I thought he was older than 30. This is going to sound like a joke, but I mean it.. I looked at his growing bald spot and his asinine (asiten, asieleven, asitwelve..) hairline, and I just associated it with him being in his early-to-mid 30s, not someone that just turned 27. As it is, he could still have a lot of big moments in his WWE career, but as long as he remains as over as he is, he's going to be in contention for lists like this.
13. Sin Cara (Age: 29, Date Of Birth: 12/22/1982) - You know what would have placed Sin Cara in a higher spot than #13 on this list? If he had faced anyone other than Hunico in the last 49 years. Every week.. every show.. Sin Cara VS Hunico. I get that it's to make Sin Cara feel more comfortable, as he's in the ring with someone who speaks Spanish fluently, but it's a massive failure for both Sin Cara and the company themselves. Sin Cara had plenty of time to brush up on his English while he was out with his injury, and the company should have done everything in their power to make sure he didn't return to the company until he had at least a basic grasp of the language to get him through his matches. He doesn't need to be able to cut Shakespearean monologues or anything, but he should know enough to get through a five-to-ten minute match with, say, a Heath Slater, a Damien Sandow or a Cody Rhodes. Either way, it's pretty clear the company wants to do something with the guy. Everyone and their mother was positive that Sin Cara would get "future endeavored" after being injured, but he's obviously still around and still getting regular television time. While he might never get the type of push that I, and his other fans, expected him to receive when he first signed his WWE deal, but he's going to continue getting pushed. He's too valuable to the company in Spanish-speaking countries to not get pushed, and could grow to be a very good midcard champion for years to come. Could. We'll see.
12. Kofi Kingston (Age: 30, Date Of Birth: 8/14/1981) - It almost hurts my feelings to have Kofi Kingston ranked this low. As you would know if you've been reading my columns since the beginning, I've been calling for WWE to pull the trigger on a main event push for Kofi going back to his feud with Randy Orton in 2009. He isn't the best in-ring worker around, but he has the style of offense that gets live crowds to pop and to keep them interested in what's going on. He's been built up to the cusp of the main event scene on multiple occasions, but it never amounts to much, and he moves back down eventually. Sure, he always seems to be involved in the WWE Tag Team Title picture, with what seems like an endless line of tag partners, but I will continue to say that he's "above" that. He can still be placed in the main event scene at any time, though. If he isn't a part of a Tag Team Title match at Money In The Bank, you have to assume that he'll be a part of a Money In The Bank match. With the rules of the briefcase basically allowing for someone to be built up for a year, it is the perfect opportunity for someone like Kofi to win, as the company will have a full year to take Kofi from where he is right now to being looked at as someone who could main event a pay-per-view. I'm getting ahead of myself, though. As it currently stands, Kofi is in a good spot, but it could be a much better spot. It should be a much better spot.
11. Seth Rollins (Age: 26, Date Of Birth: 5/28/1986) - I don't even know what to say about Seth Rollins, at this point. Once again, this is someone you'd know I've been a fan of if you've been reading my columns for a while. I think he has a boatload of potential. However, at the same time, he's been in FCW for nearly two years now, while other names get called up to the main roster ahead of him. Yes, he's about to debut on the new version of NXT, but that's still not Raw or Smackdown, which means I still don't consider it a main roster call up. Don't get me wrong.. he's been successful in FCW during those two years. He won the Jack Brisco Classic Tournament, crowning him as the very first FCW 15 Champion. He has a Florida Tag Team Title reign with Richie Steamboat. He also has a FCW Florida Heavyweight Title reign. He has worked his way to the top of FCW, coming at the time he moves on to NXT, but the fact remains.. he made his FCW debut in September 2010, and he still hasn't made it to the main roster. That concerns me. He's still moving up in the world, but it isn't happening at anywhere near the pace most people expected when he signed with the company in 2010. There's still plenty of time for it to happen, though. He just turned 26. He's not going anywhere. Big things could/should still be coming.
10. El Generico (Age: 27, Date Of Birth: 7/12/1984) - I remember back to when El Generico first arrived in Ring Of Honor, and I was getting my first exposure to his work and to his character. He was teaming with Kevin Steen at the time, and I liked what he could do in the ring. I liked the fact that he's a Luchadore that is clearly a ginger guy from Canada. However, I wondered how much he could succeed as a singles worker when all he can say in his promos is a simple "Ole!" occasionally. Well, it's been a few years now, and El Generico has become a singles star on the indy scene, both in Ring Of Honor and elsewhere. He still isn't cutting promos and talking for several minutes at a time. That's one of the major differences between the indy scene and the more "mainstream" scene. It's incredibly rare that a wrestler could succeed in the world of WWE without cutting promos, unless he had a manager, and we all know those barely exist anymore. Generico could be fun in TNA, and even with WWE, but I don't know if you could see him truly succeed as a singles worker in either company. He's in a really good spot now, though. He's one of the top names on the indy scene, and incredibly over everywhere he goes. He's a much better worker now than he was a couple years back, incorporating more mat work into his matches now. If you take mic skills out of the equation, Generico might very well be the most well-rounded male worker on the indy scene today.
9. Evan Bourne (Age: 29, Date Of Birth: 3/19/1983) - Hmm.. this is another one that I look at, now that I have my entire list typed out, and feel that I might have ranked too high. For one, Evan is injured, and he hasn't wrestled a match in five months, thanks to said injury and a Wellness Policy violation thrown in for good measure. When he isn't injured and/or serving a suspension, though, there's no denying that he's one of the more fun people to watch on the entire WWE roster. His style of offense is exciting, and is often breathtaking for people not overly familiar with the high-flying indy vibe. I don't think there's any way he reaches the main event, though. I just can't see it. Not with his lack of mic skills. Unlike his former tag team partner, Kofi Kingston, Bourne isn't all high flying and jumping around. He has much better mat-based offense than Kofi does, and is also a better seller. That's why I have him ranked ahead of Kofi, even with his injury. What will be interesting to see is if John Cena continues to support Evan, on and off-screen, now that he has two Wellness Policy violations under his belt. You wouldn't think so, but stranger things have certainly happened.
8. Davey Richards (Age: 29, Date Of Birth: 3/1/1983) - I think this is proof positive that I can be objective in my columns, no matter what my personal opinions of someone happen to be. If you've been reading my columns, you know that I absolutely can't stand to watch Davey Richards wrestle. He has never been a terrible worker, but him bringing that "I MOAR MMA FYTER DEN RESSLER RAWR RAWR RAWR" bullshit to the table just makes me sick to my stomach. He completely bypasses things like psychology and pacing in his matches, in an attempt to no-sell as many moves as possible and throw some stupid kicks all over the place. No matter what I say, though.. no matter what my opinions are of his matches, especially over the last three or four years.. he's still one of the top names on the indy wrestling scene. That means he can step into any indy promotion around and immediately be involved in their main event scene. If you believe him, he has turned down a WWE contract on at least two different occasions, so his "ceiling" isn't all that particularly high, especially with word that he wants to retire soon, but for now, he's always going to be successful. I can hear some of you crying already.
7. Jack Swagger (Age: 30, Date Of Birth: 3/24/1982) - This placement is going to be quite controversial, more than likely. If you look at what Jack Swagger is up to these days, a placement this high might be a bit of a surprise, but Swagger is someone like Zack Ryder, in that he can easily be placed back into a midcard title scene in the WWE without any real warning at all. As far as being a "complete package", Swagger is in the upper echelon on the WWE roster, in my opinion. A great technical wrestler with raw strength and solid athleticism, he has also shown he can handle playing both a comedic role, as well as a serious role. If I can be totally honest, the guy deserves to be in the main event scene. Unfortunately, he's quite the distance away from being at that level, but again, his booking has changed so many times in the last few years, and WWE is so inconsistent with their booking of the midcard scene, that Swagger could be WWE/World Champion by the end of 2012 and I wouldn't even be shocked.
6. Jay & Mark Briscoe (Age: 28 [Jay] & 27 [Mark], Date Of Birth: 1/24/1984 [Jay] & 1/17/1985 [Mark]) - I have no idea why TNA wouldn't do everything in their power to sign The Briscoes. I get why WWE wouldn't do it. They run a TV-PG product, and The Briscoes are far from TV-PG personalities. On top of that, Jimmy & Jey Uso are basically the Samoan versions of Jay & Mark, down to the way they sound when they talk and their tag team moves. There's just nothing left for The Briscoes to accomplish with Ring Of Honor. In the company's history, there have been 32 Tag Team Title reigns.. Jay & Mark own seven of them. No other team in the history of RoH has more than two Tag Team Title reigns. It's really only a matter of time before they get their eighth title reign. It's really time for them to move on, and holy hell, it would behoove TNA to throw some money in their direction to help give the tag team division a serious boost. As it is, though, I still think this is the best tag team in all of wrestling today, even though they don't have the RoH Tag Team Titles in their possession.
5. AJ Lee (Age: 25, Date Of Birth: 3/19/1987) - What is there to say about AJ and how quickly she went from NXT contestant to being the key piece of a WWE Title storyline that is getting plenty of television time on both Raw and Smackdown every week. She's doing it all without even having to wrestle, which makes the entire thing that much more incredible. In a storyline with the WWE Champion, a first ballot WWE Hall Of Famer and one of the more over names in the business today, it's AJ that is getting the attention. Check your favorite social media site. All of the talk is about AJ. How cute she is. How hot she is. How well she's playing her character. Wondering how much of her "crazy chick" routine is acting, and how much of it is how she really is. That type of attention just doesn't happen. Not for a WWE Diva. I've said it before, and I'll say it again.. WWE needs to take advantage of AJ's new popularity, and they need to use her to help try to rebuild the damaged Divas division. They can't just sit back and let her popularity hit a peak before dwindling down further and further. They just can't. It's that "promise" that helps me rank her so high here. It sounds almost ridiculous at face value, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.. AJ Lee could very well be the "savior" of the Divas division, and, in a lesser extent, the "savior" of women's wrestling on a mainstream, televised level. Just think about it, folks. Eyes are on her. Eyes will follow her as she competes in the Divas division. Those extra eyes can stay focused on the Divas division, depending on how the company decides to book things. Those extra eyes equal extra ratings for Divas matches and segments. The company notices the extra ratings, and they put more focus on the Divas division, maybe even changing their hiring practices. It might seem far fetched to some of you, I'm sure, but remember.. I'm not saying it will happen. I'm saying it should happen.
4. Kevin Steen (Age: 28, Date Of Birth: 5/7/1984) - If I were doing this list a few months ago, I think Kevin Steen would have placed higher than this, even having a compelling argument to take the top spot. His momentum has seriously stalled, though. He was unsuccessful in winning the CHIKARA Grand Championship. He's been on the receiving end of some strange booking with Ring Of Honor, as they're trying to shove a heel turn down everyone's throats, but the RoH fans aren't buying it at all. RoH, as a whole, continues to take major hits with their iPPV issues, although they just had an iPPV that was successful yesterday (I haven't seen any complaints about the quality or the connection yet, anyway). There was a lot of interest in Steen's rise to the top of RoH. The storyline of RoH management working against him was fun, and it was enough to capture attention. Once he won the RoH World Title, though, a lot of that interest disappeared. It pretty much turned into "alright, he's the champion, cool" and nothing more. What works in his favor is that he has the ability to regain interest at any time, whether it's with his "worked shoot" promo style or the fact that he likes to go after people on Twitter. It really wouldn't take much effort at all for him to build momentum again. RoH could really help him out by placing a challenger or two in front of him that will really make people care. There aren't many people on the RoH roster, main event scene or not, who fit that description, and that's the next hurdle for the company to overcome. It remains to be seen if they can do it or not. They aren't exactly on a roll right now.
2.97 Jessicka Havok (Age: 26, Date Of Birth: 6/20/1986) - Her being on the list probably doesn't surprise anyone, but her placement on the list might. It shouldn't. To paraphrase a great philosopher, Jessicka Havok has the internet goin' nuts. Everywhere I turn, people are talking about her now. People are talking about how she's spearheading the campaign to bring relevancy back to women's wrestling after the damage that WWE and TNA have done in recent years. People are talking about how she's a breath of fresh air for women's wrestling, both with her ability to push the envelope in what she says and for how different her character is. People are talking about the level of success she has achieved, rising to the top of Women Superstars Uncensored, one of the top women's wrestling promotions in the country. People are talking on Twitter. People are talking on Facebook. People are talking on podcasts. People are talking on message boards. I've been thinking about this situation a lot recently, and in all my years of watching wrestling, I can't recall the last time I saw someone basically come out of left field to dominate so much conversation, especially without having to make regular appearances on television or in front of millions on pay-per-view. I damn sure can't recall the last time I saw it happen to a woman. This even goes back to the days when ECW was starting to really become a cult favorite, before they were on TNN and before they were on pay-per-view. Even then, with the likes of Sabu, Taz, Rob Van Dam, Raven, etc on the roster, I wasn't seeing this type of groundswell for someone. Making it even better is the fact that it doesn't appear to be going away at any point in the near future. If anything, she's only going to get more buzz and more publicity. She's the best in the world at what she does, and I don't even think there's a debate over that right now. There isn't a woman alive that I would pick over the woman affectionately known as J-Hav. While you shouldn't expect to see her on Raw or Smackdown anytime soon, you can expect to see her continue placing well in these rankings for the next few years. I don't see her momentum slowing down at any point soon, while the two names ahead of her (no spoilers yet) have legit reasons why they could slide down the list next year, and the two names behind her can't realistically be expected to keep their momentum up to this level. In Jessicka Havok, could we realistically be looking at the #1 entrant for the 2013 edition of this list? Before anyone thinks I'm playing favorites, or that I'm out of my mind, know this.. since I began telling people about this column, I've had multiple people tell me she should be ranked in the top spot this year, and even more saying that she should have a top ten spot this year and a chance at the top spot in the next edition with another big year. Watch out, world. The Era Of Havok is upon us. Roll with it, or get rolled over.
2. Dean Ambrose (Age: 26, Date Of Birth: 12/7/1985) - It still amazes me when I talk to people on Twitter and Facebook, and they tell me how excited they are to see Dean Ambrose make his WWE main roster debut. Some of these people have been fans of the guy going back to his days on the independent scene as Jon Moxley. Some of these people have only watched a promo or two of his, based on my recommendation in previous columns. No matter how much exposure to the guy they have, though, everyone seems to be buzzing about him. In recent years, with the addition of more and more "indy darlings" to the WWE roster, we've seen a lot of buzz. A lot of "man, I can't wait until so-and-so gets called up and gets a chance to shine" comments. We've seen it with CM Punk, with Daniel Bryan, with Evan Bourne, with Antonio Cesaro and others. However.. and this might sound a little crazy.. I think the buzz and the excitement for Ambrose tops the buzz and excitement for all of the aforementioned names. People are dying to see what the company does to his character for a main roster run, and how much they'll take advantage of his one-of-a-kind charisma, mic skills and mannerisms. I have one fear about Dean's future, but it's a major, major fear. I hate to continue beating a dead horse here, but you've all seen how disappointing the WWE Creative Team has been recently. They've had countless things that looked like they couldn't be screwed up.. and they've screwed every single one of those things up. It doesn't matter how much hype surrounds this guy as he makes his way to the main roster. It doesn't matter how much ability he possesses, both in the ring and on the mic. None of that matters when his future is dependent on no-talent monkeys that are writing his storylines for him. It will be a real test for him to fight through the garbage that he will inevitably be given and still become the major star that people are expecting him to be. Can he do it? We could be on the verge of finding out very soon.
1. Cody Rhodes (Age: 26, Date Of Birth: 6/30/1985) - With as tired as I am of Cody Rhodes' schtick, it almost hurts my feeling to give him the top spot here. No matter how much I feel he has been jogging in place for the last four or five years, he's still very young, very talented, and could be moved to the main event scene at any time. It's almost a consensus that he's going to be in the next generation of main event stars on the WWE roster, and the best thing he has working for him is his age. He's a few days away from turning 27, but because he has the business in his blood, and because he started his career off at such a young age, he's more advanced than the average 27 year old is at this stage. My biggest concern for Cody is how well he performs as a heel, to the point where there are serious questions as to whether or not he could play a successful face. If not, you have to think that will seriously handicap him moving forward, as it leaves him open to be more of a one-dimensional character for the rest of his time in the business. That all remains to be seen, of course, but the key for him.. what will keep him in the top spot in future years, ahead of the Dean Ambroses, Kevin Steens, Jessicka Havoks and AJ Lees of the wrestling world.. is that kooky WWE booking. The company absolutely, positively needs to do something different with him. As I said, he's been jogging in place for the last four or five years, and if that continues, it's going to irrevocably hurt him, and you'll have to expect him to slide in these rankings next year. Even his biggest fans and supporters won't be able to continue praising him if he doesn't have any upwards movement in his career soon. That doesn't matter much right now, because he still takes the top spot on this list, and while an argument can be made for a few other people, I don't think anyone will be too upset over Cody being #1 here.
There you have it. I've been going over this list for a couple weeks now, with several different variations. Some of the names you see here weren't on the original versions of this list. Some of the names on the original versions of the list didn't make this list. Now, I turn things over to you, ReaderLand. You certainly don't have to give me your own list of names that runs 30 deep, but I'd love to see who you would rank as your top name, or even your top five/ten, if you want to go that far, just to see if opinions really differ from my own that much. The floor is yours, ladies and gentlemen. Holla at ya boy and let me know what's on your mind.