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The PEN15 Mightier (Dec 9) WWE's Supposed list of next breakout SuperStars
By PEN15
Dec 9, 2012 - 9:44:47 AM

Next Break Out stars

There’s no shortage of stars ready to make something of themselves in the next year. The rumor mill is churning out the apparent news that WWE is high on several stars currently spending time in the midcard. Long have we been calling for the new stars to take over for the tired main eventers WWE is insanely too dependent upon. Sure, we got our wish with CM Punk now the #2 man in the company, and there’s no denying WWE’s hopes in Sheamus to follow the role John Cena has been personifying for almost a decade. But both don’t seem to really be reaching their potential just yet. Mostly because unlike how John Cena used his first year as the face of the company going over talent like JBL, Jericho, Angle, and finally HHH, the recent generation is held a step behind. Sheamus will have his biggest win if he ever overcomes the Big Show, who also happens to the be the man Cena defeated to become a midcard champion. As for Punk, the last 3 months have been solid, but it still feels like WWE wasted a year with him as WWE Champ without headlining PPVs on regular basis.

So while I’m excited to hear WWE has a list of potential headliners, the booking will have to change to really capitalize on the talent they are eager to showcase in a broader spotlight. If the current generation of main eventers isn’t used to cinlude the new stars, and make them look at least credible and even, then there’s no hope for any of them. And it’s something that has to be done from top to bottom. Right now, Randy Orton is on his way to another top level run. I can tell, not by the rumors on line, but his win/loss record over the last year. He spent 2011 putting over Christian, and even more so Mark Henry, then started this year with a loss to Kane. He hasn’t really done much since worth noting, but he’s demolished Del Rio in their angle, and now he’s been creaming the mat of Wade Barrett, 2 of the names oft-mentioned as future stars. His PPV angles have been fairly forgettable for 2012, so expecting something new from him isn’t exactly making me Nostradamus. I still think there’s great potential with a heel turn mid-way through a face vs face angle against Sheamus, and maybe we’ll get that soon. I could see that being a golden Wrestlemania match, depending on the plans for Big Show as World Champion. It’s hard to imagine Sheamus not vanquishing the larger foe, and taking back the World Title, though there’s logic in thinking we’ll see Big Show vs Sheamus for the big gold belt at Wrestlemania instead. Both feuds could skip the belt.

But I digress.

A big issue that will hinder each of these names is how safely WWE books the December to April months. With the WWE title in a solid storyline involving The Rock, Punk, and John Cena, there’s no chance to fit a new name in the mix. On the side of the World Title, there is more options, but it’s still limited. Sheamus is the new guy that is being elevated there. To include any of the following with Sheamus would mean someone would lose at a point when no one would benefit from it. Sheamus defeating a Ziggler wouldn’t add much to Great White’s resume, while hurting Dolph’s chances to become the next Perfect/HBK. On the other hand, a win for Dolph would propel him, but would hurt Sheamus. There’s not a lot of options for any of these guys to do much of worth until after Wrestlemania 29. I could be wrong, but something tells me I’m not.

So let’s take a look at each one that has been rumored to reach the brass ring in 2013.

Antonio Cesaro

I think it’s funny to see Cesaro’s name listed so often this week as someone WWE is banking on. While I really enjoy the former Claudio Castagnoli, I don’t see what WWE sees in him as a “sports entertainer.” He is not terrible on the mic, but he’s been hindered with a very dated gimmick, which hasn’t been used much at all. While I’m glad he dropped the 5 languages, he’s been treated as a foreign wrestling machine since. That’s not a bad thing, but still odd something from the Vince McMahon company. Something tells me that this rumor isn’t as true as we’d like it to be, and that the online dirt sheet writers are playing to the online audience.

That being said, there’s still a lot of potential with Antonio. One thing that seemed incredibly obvious to me on the Dec. 3rd Raw was combining Wade Barrett and Antonio in a tag team. I am not saying do it now, nor that they should at any point. But seeing them formed as a team, if only for the 60 seconds until the match was changed to a Fatal Four Way, it just looked right. They had similar looks and builds, and as foreigners, they could easily be packaged by the WWE creative staff. It’s definitely something I would keep on a post it note in the Stanford offices if ever they are struggling to find a place for the 2. With the tag division as it is these days, I think it would be a great placeholder for them once they are ready to move on from midcard singles titles. If they want to book far ahead enough, I would even expect that team to succeed, and then split up in a face turn for one of them to lead into the standard former tag partners singles feud. I see Wade having more success as a face, but that’s because I don’t know if WWE has the faith in Antonio to do anything outside of working in the ring.

But there’s no denying that he’s a worker that would be in dream matches with almost the entire roster for fans who appreciate the sport aspect of WWE. If he can pick up his talking, or warp his gimmick enough to get actual heat, instead of just being an arrogant foreign heel from the 70s, he’ll get somewhere. One thing I must give him credit for is how well he’s developed the US title isn’t something special again. I know WWE deserves part of the credit, as he’s been booked to look strong against some solid midcarders like R-Truth and Brodus Clay, while staying competitive against Kofi Kingston and Wade Barrett this week as well. The list of midcard feuds he can have any day is amazing, Imagine Cesaro vs Christian, Miz, Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Rey Mysterio. Any one of those matches or feuds would be great stepping stones for Antonio to reach a main event level. I’m still hesitant to say he’s main event bound, but I wouldn’t complain if he does. I just have my doubts WWE sees it the same way.

Wade Barrett

The only thing stopping Wade Barrett from reaching a World or WWE title is time. No other wrestler on the WWE roster that has yet to reach that goal is as close to being the complete package for what WWE needs out of a performer. He’s got the WWE look, he’s got the charisma, he can talk, he’s got charm, I have no doubt he can pull off being a face, he’s perfect marketing tool for European markets… he’s absolutely perfect.

Well… almost.

I’m still not sold on his wrestling. In no way do I think he’s a bum. I just think he needs seasoning. He’s got all the skills, but it just doesn’t click. I don’t think it’s a major downfall. In fact, WWE has pushed talents with less skill into bigger positions (The Miz). So the future is bright for Barrett, and there’s no disputing that.

As I mentioned, it’s only a matter of time. As much as WWE bungles a lot of pushes, it would take an intense amount of purpose to **** the Barrett Barrage up. I think the brawler gimmick is a better fit for him to reach the upper echelon. I think the true key to his success is his versatility. He can get under everyone’s skin, but you can also see he’ll be likable when the time will come.

He’s held his own in the ring with Sheamus and Randy Orton on Smackdown for longer than I can remember. It seems like he’s been in a rotating feud between both of them since late 2011. His injury took a decent chunk out of his momentum, but it’s odd how they started right where they left off. I actually don’t mind it, in the sense that it’s better to find an end to unfinished business before moving on. Of course, working Kofi is a bit of a step down from working with constant contenders to the World Title, but it’s not like he’s being buried or demoted.

And we’re only 2 names into this list, and already we’re seeing the hole WWE dug for themselves. There are so many guys who are like Wade and Antonio who are perfect for midcard titles, but obviously not everyone can hold them. In 2012, the Intercontinental Title has changed hands from Cody, to Big Show, to Cody, to Christian, to Miz, to Kofi. Seems like a lot of title changes, but it’s not like none of them deserved it. If anything, most of these names seem above a midcard title due to success in the main event positions. They’ve helped elevate the IC belt to a higher level, which makes the current feud of Kofi vs Barrett much more interesting than it was last year. I want to say Wade would be perfectly suited for a long run as champion, but it’s way too identical to what seems to be in place for Antonio Cesaro. Do they really want to copy the same gameplan? I think it lends even more possibility to the tag team in the future.

There is so much that Barrett can do in the upcoming months. I think the tag team would be a great placeholder, even if not in the tag title hunt. Just have these guys feud with Mysterio/Sin Cara in singles and tag action. He could potentially win the Royal Rumble, and announce that he’s not going after a Title, but instead wants to use his win to challenge the Undertaker’s streak. He could gain the Intercontinental Championship, and run roughshod over the midcards until he challenges a main event title holder after Mania. I do suggest he wins the IC title, because even if it similar to what Cesaro is doing, there’s a lot more promise from Wade than Kofi.

I think the key with both midcard titles is to have lots of exciting multi-challenger match ups. Single feuds won’t be bad, but they’ll be lost in the shuffle. To break it up, have 3 challengers vying for the gold, and it will help elevate the belt, and therefore the champion. And if there’s chemistry between the champion and a specific challenger, keep it in mind for later on.

But Barrett needs to gain some steam. Start with the title win, and let him move on to other challengers. He needs to win, because losing to Sheamus and Orton isn’t doing him any favors after going back and forth for over a year.

Dolph Ziggler

How many times have I proclaimed him to be then ext breakout star. Well, he’s feuding with the biggest guy in the company, and in my last column I said he should lose the next match.

And while I didn’t expect many to agree, I forgot about the vitriol I bring out of the ignorant masses.

I feel like I need to re-explain myself, which might mean I didn’t do a strong enough job in that column, which is possible.

WWE needs to use Ziggler well, because as long as this list may be, I don’t think anyone can reach the WWE expectation of finding a new HBK. While they are hard driven to find a new Rock/Austin, they need to find guys who fit around the top stars and still had credibility like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Dolph Ziggler is easily the best candidate to follow in the same blue print.

Now, how does that relate to WWE 2012? Well, it WWE took a lot of time in developing and pushing these stars to the top. And they were usually elevated when they didn’t have someone like a Hogan/Austin/Cena to take the spotlight. Ziggler is a great and deserving talent, but there’s no denying that his position will be to deliver in so many ways, while still making others look even better.

And that’s what he’s done, and what I expect to happen at TLC. I am not saying Ziggler shouldn’t main event. I am not saying I prefer John Cena. I am not saying Cena isn’t stale.

What I’m saying is that WWE plays it so safe, that there’s very little chance for Ziggler to do something of interest in the next few months. I’d love to be wrong, and for WWE to pull something grand out of their ass for Ziggler to be included in the World title picture. But Show vs Sheamus is a huge angle at this time, and is built on making Sheamus an even more important and credible talent. Sheamus is going to use the next few months on the blue brand, but is most likely going to end up spending more and more time on Raw after April, included in the picture with Cena and Punk. For this to work, he’s going to need to win. Meaning, getting Ziggler involved will just be to lose.

A responder to my last column PEEP made a good point about Ziggler not needing to cash in before or at Wrestlemania. He can escape TLC with the briefcase, and still not cash in until after the Road to Mania. I would be all for that. The issue I see is that it means keeping his momentum going. Ziggler has been on the cusp of breaking out for so long that he’s worked with so many names that he’d confront for the top gold. He’s working with Cena, and has history with Orton, Sheamus, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, and Rey Mysterio. Who does that leave for him to work with on the side of faces? Christian, Kane, The Miz, Ryback (they only had quick one off matches, no real angles)… Not too much to get excited over. I really think a face turn might be right for him.

You’ll notice that only 2 of the 8 names on this list are faces at this time (and Daniel Bryan is a tweener, but I’ll count it for now). I’ll also point out that of the current top main eventers, there are only 3 full time roster members who are faces with Cena, Orton and Sheamus. WWE have much more room for a new face to work their way into the title picture, and Ziggler would have a lot more options for opponents if he switches sides. Maybe it take a turn against Vickie Guerrero after a win over Cena. Maybe Cena shakes his hand afterwards, and starts a major push for Ziggler as the next rising fan favorite.

I really think he can pull it off. The problem isn’t his ability, but rather that it’ll be forced. HBK turned face in 95 almost naturally, whereas Ziggler seems to be only doing it because he ran out of options as a heel.

But, that could change if they let Ziggler loose a little bit. Maybe with a win over Cena, and staying heel, and following up with some impressive promos and continuing his great matches, but this time with more victories, things would change. He was on a roll at TLC in 2010, and was in the perfect position to follow this path, as the fans were starting to cheer him. At No Way Out this year, he was getting a strong reaction against Sheamus. It’s faded away, but it wouldn’t take much to get back. And THAT could be the great way to turn him.

Or, he can do something that hasn’t been done yet with the Money in the Bank cash-ins: he can turn face with the surprise challenge. Let him keep the briefcase at TLC. Follow that match up with Big Show demolishing Sheamus in a close bout. Then have Ziggler cash-in and win the World Title. The surprise will help get the fans interested, and doing it against a heel will help them cheer him on to do it. If the match with Cena is booked right, that can add even more to it. By the end of TLC, Ziggler can be the biggest thing in wrestling if WWE uses the PPV properly for the entire 3 hours.

But, does anyone see that possibly happening? There has to be some realism here. It’s very unlikely for Ziggler to take over the bandwagon from Sheamus. I wouldn’t be against it, but WWE has shown so much time and interest in getting Sheamus over to the point of being a go-to guy, which would be solidified with a win over Big Show. As I’ve mentioned, the title picture is seemingly booked months in advance for the men involved that it’s hard to see a new name thrown into the mix.

The other option is to let Ziggler win, and stay out of the picture. But what would he do until May? The same as the last 2 years, and be stuck in tag matches with him outside of the focal point.

So, I’d be fine with him losing the briefcase, and regaining momentum after Mania. Taking their time with him hasn’t hurt him so far, it won’t hurt to wait a few more months.

Is it the perfect solution? No ****ing way. But it’s the most logical when knowing how WWE books this season and John Cena in particular.

Cody Rhodes

There was a lot of talk in seeing Cody Rhodes move up to a higher position when he brought back the white IC belt. Naturally, that petered off once he lost to Big show, and lost direction. He was another name losti n the shuffle of potential break out stars. WWE is not lacking in this department, so it will take something special for Rhodes to stand out. While he’s shown a lot of talent in all departments, he’s definitely going to lose WWE points due to his size. Other than Daniel Bryan, there is no one on this list smaller than Cody.

The problem facing smaller guys is that they are almost typecast as faces. It’s easier to believe the smaller guy can overcome the adversity and cheer them on to do it, than it is to take them seriously as a heel threat to clean cut guys like Cena and Sheamus. Cody has been a face already, but there’s no denying he truly shines as a heel. I think his injury came at a bad time, because the hot topic of finding the next superstar certainly hit the dirtsheets when he isn’t around to be part of the discussion. I think he’s almost going to have to start from scratch. Thankfully, the renewed tag division will be a terrific spot for him for once he returns. I think the chemistry he had with Damien Sandow is worth recapturing. I think a tag team is a role Rhodes should force himself to get comfortable with, because the more other stars with larger frames continue to impress, the harder it will be for him to reach the level of main event.

Damien Sandow

Cody’s recent partner is now on his second attempt to find success as a singles star. I’m enjoying the new “apprentice” angle, and think it will pay off in dividends. It might even be too good. With so many guys looking to make a name for themselves, and so many limited spots, Damian should get some time to slowly develop himself. Dolph Ziggler is just now reaching the top echelon, but Damian Sandow has a gimmick that is easily going to outshine the Show Off in terms of persona. Now, while I can understand the argument of letting Sandow push through faster, I think the growing trend of seeing so many guys tread in the same spot for too long time is what he’ll face if he catches on too quickly. Again, I keep coming back to it, but there’s so many potential new stars, but only so many spots for them. In a way, that’s a good thing, as that means WWE can pick and choose the cream of the crop. The other side of the coin though is that it means the frustration surrounding the rise of guys like Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk, who many fans KNEW WWE wasn’t using them enough, but they just couldn’t find a way to let them take off.

So, Sandow is using this new pre-match heat segment against talent that he’s already defeated in the first few months since his debut and has easily surpassed on the ladder. Wow, he’s already spinning his wheels.

At least in a tag team, it’ll give him an opportunity to not only grow as a character, but to work with different levels of opponents. As a singles stars he’s above the guys like Ryder and Santino, but isn’t viable for a midcard title while the concentration is on Cesaro, Kofi and Barrett. In a tag team, it levels the playing field. Rey Mysterio is a former WWE champion, and is most likely regarded as someone Sandow would have trouble defeating because of Rey’s past credentials. Yet, Rhodes Scholars vs Mysterio/Sin Cara, or Rhodes Scholars vs Ryder/Marella ends up being a fair fight for everyone. Tag team wrestling opens up the playing field in that way. Ride the tag team storm while the iron is hot, and when the time is right to get him in the US or IC title hunt in 2013, I have no doubt Sandow will make a fine champion.

Jack Swagger

How the **** did Swagger get his name included here?

Well, I think WWE realizes the potential they have with this guy. He’s definitely a great in-ring performer, and has a terrific look that will benefit him in the WWE. He lost a lot of his luster since dropping the World title after winning it way too early. But no matter how laughable that push may be, there’s no denying that you can tell that something about him fit in that position. Too early is much better than “it never should have happened.”

Jack Swagger is a talent that can do a lot in WWE if booked properly. And you know Vince and Helmsley realize this. They don’t take people off TV for no reason. The decision to let Swagger take some time out of the continuous exposure was because they realized they needed to start fresh. This sort of treatment doesn’t happen often, no matter how beneficial it can be to talents. Swagger was on a major losing streak, and had no credibility left when he decided to walk off Raw. Something needed to change. In the old territory days, Jack would have packed his bags and headed elsewhere to start over. In 2012, that’s a bit harder to do.

WWE didn’t want to sacrifice him any longer, and have kept him on the payroll. Again, not everyone is that lucky. Unless there’s a backstage story we don’t know, he was in an enviable position. He could have asked for his release, gone to Japan or TNA, and honestly, he’d be fine doing that. There’s no way those companies wouldn’t have shelled out money to get a talent like Swagger on the roster. That’s why WWE did the right thing.

So, he can come back, and be better than ever. I think there’s room for a face Jack Swagger, but I’m unconvinced that he could pull it off. He should be a pure wrestling machine. I’d even go as far as having have “corner man” like in MMA as a coach/manager. Let him look like he’s taking it with complete super serial seriousness. He was best as ECW champion where he just out muscled and outworked his opponents to succeed. He needs to finds that path again.

Also, he’s a prime choice for a tag partner for lots of the guys on the current roster. There’s been talks of a Varsity-type group with Alex Riley, he can be tied to Brad Maddox for all we know maybe in bodyguard role, he can do the opposite and return to debut his new partner out of NXT, he could take a spot next to Sandow while Rhodes is out, and if they want to sway away from the serious Swagger, I can’t deny he’d fit in the goofiness that is 3MB. Lots of options for Swagger. Let’s hope WWE sees it too.

Daniel Bryan

A bit of an odd name to include seeing as he’s been World champion, and was in one of the marquee matches at Wrestlemania for the big gold belt. It was all booked to help skyrocket Sheamus into the top spectrum, but WWE couldn’t ignore that it was Daniel Bryan who stole the show. That’s why post-Mania 28, Bryan was booked along equally hot CM Punk for the WWE title for 3 PPVs straight. Since then, WWE hasn’t been sure what to do with him. He is still a heel character, but he’s been cheered pretty much throughout his entire run. He’s been used in a tweener capacity in the tag team with Kane in Team Hell No, and to the shock of many, he still continues to get among the best reaction out of the entire WWE roster.

So, how can I include Daniel Bryan in the list of breakout stars? Because I still don’t think he’s broken out just yet. Sure, he had an amazing 2012, and lots of time in the main event. But there’s still more to do with Bryan. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Daniel Bryan is the PERFECT underdog face that fans want to get behind. Sure, it’s similar to what I described Ziggler to be doing, but Bryan is potentially an even better version of it. Due to his size, being a submission specialist means that there will be a great storyline where he is chasing a heel champ who is twice his size, and can’t seem to make him tap. Compare it to how hot the NYC crowd was for Chris Benoit vs HBK vs HHH at Wrestlemania XX. MSG ERUPTED when HHH tapped to the Crippler Crossface. Daniel Bryan will definitely have a similar moment one day. Could it be in 2013? Possibly. I think it’ll be hard for WWE to find something else to do with him once it’s time to split up from Kane.

So I’d expect Bryan to be the perfect name to slide into the main event scene once again. It’ll most likely be due to an injury to someone else. And honestly, there’s a perfect opponent for him to reach this goal against, if the heel turn rumors are true. There’s money in Daniel Bryan chasing the title from heel “Viper” Randy Orton. It’s something that can only happen down the line when Orton is champion again, but I’m hard pressed to find a more satisfying moment than to chase an evil heel like Orton perfectly portrays, like The Game used to be in 2004, and making them tap.


Monster for hire. It might be months away, but we’re going to have to accept that Ryback’s drop from stardom will most likely be just as sudden as the rise. With characters this one dimensional, it’ll be hard for WWE’s creative brain trust to keep finding new ways to stop the unstoppable monster. Eventually, he’ll need to be tested against the Sheamuses, Big Shows, Ortons and Cenas in the WWE. And while the temptation will be there for him to smash these guys, much like Goldberg, Batista, and Ultimate Warrior before him, the well will dry faster than they’d like.

So, a heel turn will be in his future. Near future. He’ll most likely win a major title at or before WrestleMania to capitalize on his immediate popularity. Sooner or later, he’ll lose steam and drop the title to a dastardly heel. It won’t be long after that he’ll find his evil side. I really don’t see him being a fan favorite past Royal Rumble 2014.

And on that note, peace out.

Feel free to email me a comment (Email PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
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