If I was to say that this column was inspired by something that I’d read then I would be dangerously close to suggesting that 1) my egomaniacal bile equates to inspiration and 2) that I can actually read, when we all know that I stare blankly at the page and just look at the pretty pictures. However, I have seen lots of recent instances of people stating that this wrestler or that wrestler would be no loss to the WWE based mostly around the idea that they will never make the main event scene or draw money for Vince on the strength of their name alone. As I’ve said before, a wrestler’s tenure in the WWE does not rely on their potential to become World Champion and there are an awful lot of other spots that need filling up and down the card. I’ve also proclaimed Kurt Angle to be the best all round performer the WWE has right now but even with his broad sweep of abilities it would be difficult to fill all the current gimmicks if everyone in WWE had Kurt’s talents. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the combined Raw and Smackdown rosters and see who is the best at filling the necessary character spots and also who is left at the end and should be shaking in their wrestling boots when Vince does some employee spring cleaning next year. Each name will only appear in one category and some names have been omitted for various reasons.
HHH, HBK, Angle, Cena, Orton, JBL, Carlito, Masters, Edge, Stratus, James.
More than any of the other categories, I want to make it clear that grouping these people together is not an equation of talent. I am deeming someone an ‘all-rounder’ if they are in receipt of some sort of push where it is necessary for them to wrestle proper matches, deliver promos and to act in more than just the basic psychology of a contest. In fairness, the two female inclusions are there because the women’s division should be seen as a separate entity but it is undeniable that Stratus and James are doing a credible job of fulfilling the ‘all-rounder’ position in their group. For me, the most contentious male performers in this section are Masters and Edge. In fact, if it wasn’t for that damn Masterlock Challenge we had to sit through for so long then Chris probably wouldn’t have made it in. But regardless of whether you can bear his nasal drawl or not, Masters is getting more than a ‘wrestling’ push right now and faith in him from management seems quite strong. Edge has still failed to secure a main event circle spot despite being in the ready position for quite some time and his recent injury obviously hasn’t helped. But his promos are some of the strongest in WWE at this time and he seems a certainty to ascend when Angle, HHH and HBK have to reduce their schedules. No surprise that I place Kurt at the top of my list, although I’ll be interested to see how far his stock falls should Vince do the unthinkable and allow Cena to come out of their feud still carrying the title and subsequently drop Angle down to the mid-card.
Benoit, Benjamin, Booker T, Holly, Regal, Mysterio, Chavo, Victoria, Juventud, Hardy, Crazy, Psicosis, Mercury, Nitro.
I know, looking down the list there are several that could possibly be dumped in the section for those who don’t have a spot but it’s more than just isolating the good wrestlers. The members of MNM and The Mexicools are receiving a tentative group push right now and the foundation of that prod comes from their ring skills. The fur-coated paparazzi routine and the lawn mower riding are merely fluff and colour and wouldn’t be enough to justify management’s endorsement if they weren’t exciting young talents. Hardy, Regal and Mysterio have all been involved in storylines where the matches are secondary to the storyline but their fall-back positions always seems to be less build up and a concentration on the match itself. Victoria is still the wrestling equal of Stratus and James but her character insanity has quietened in recent months to the point where the only thing that differentiates her from her female heel cohorts is her ring skills. The fact that I give Benoit the tip doesn’t mean I think he’s the best wrestler in WWE (though he is) but it shows he’s the most applicable to this booking spot and should be used therein as often as possible. Thankfully, the best-of-seven series with Booker T is about as good an example of this as you could ask for.
Batista, Undertaker, Kane, Show, Boogeyman, Lashley, Snitsky, Viscera, Heidenreich.
As World champion you might expect Batista to be included in the ‘all-rounder’ section but I’m taking into account the prevailing character trait and he currently falls into the section where size, strength and dominance precludes wrestling or promo ability. Batista’s a good worker and he’s improved and relaxed on the microphone but neither of these two factors make him championship material. Take away his physical presence, muscularity and fearless attitude and he would be mid-card for life, which at his age wouldn’t be long. As for who’s the best right now; Boogeyman and Lashley are unproven, Viscera, Snitsky and Heidenreich have proved all to often that they aren’t worth whatever it is they’re being paid and Undertaker is still too part-time to be relevant. Kane is definitely the lesser of the two tag champs so that just leaves Batista and Big Show, and I’ll go with the latter. Even ignoring Batista’s injury problems, Show is getting a great push against HHH, considering his previous sloth, and it seems to be lighting a fire under him so I can’t begrudge him his current position.
Flair, Hogan, Foley, Austin, Animal, Piper, Bob Orton.
Not so easy to figure out this one because a veteran will normally work part-time and mostly wrestle in ‘celebration’ style matches that only serve to bring back some long forgotten memories. Ric Flair and Animal are the only two of this group wrestling anything like a full schedule and in Animal’s case I am using the word ‘wrestle’ like Coach applies to the word ‘announcer’. If that just leaves Flair then we’re in deep trouble because even though Vince knows there’s no such thing as bad publicity it is unlikely that he wants an alleged road-raging wife beater as his IC champion. Until further notice, I guess that just leaves Cowboy Bob as the most productive veteran in the WWE. He may not be a unique attraction but he doesn’t wander off when he’s asked to lose, he doesn’t demand title shots, he doesn’t have a book to promote and the last time I checked you won’t find his name in the papers next to the words ‘arrest’ or ‘spousal’.
Dean, Daivari, Coach, Maria, Funaki.
Pretty self-explanatory. However, of the names listed I would say that Maria is the one that makes me laugh the most right now, but again that in no way suggests that she’s the best in this spot. He may not induce that much laughter in fans but Coach is the most accomplished sole comedy performer on either show, as demonstrated by his decent showing in the ‘trial of Eric Bischoff’ segments on last week’s Raw. If I was including those whose only job is to announce (Coach does more than this) then I would more than likely give Lawler or Styles the nod depending on which one of them strayed from their schtick on a given night and relied on their quickness to be funny. Of course, allow a McMahon into the equation and it’s a no-contest. Vince is a complete riot whether he’s leering at bimbos, strutting down to ringside or lying to gullible Canadians.
Even in the realms of smiling and skirt-lifting, competition is fierce and a spot has to be protected in order to keep it. I know that Lita stands out in this group but she hasn’t wrestled a match in ages and she wouldn’t get the same volume of microphone time if it wasn’t for her association with Edge and those tops she wears that show off most of her breasts. When you consider that Stacey Keibler is the reigning ‘WWE Babe of the year’, and therefore the ‘fans’ choice, it is amazing how little she does now. The current leader of this group has to be Candice Michelle. She’s Vince’s first choice for PPV press conferences, she’ll be appearing in Playboy next year and you can’t move on wwe.com without seeing her kissing Victoria or her ass failing out of her pants. Thing is, half a decade ago Trish Stratus would have topped this list and any suggestion at the time that she would be in the all-rounder category would have been laughable. Discounting Lita, who is a wrestler of moderate ability but is being pushed in a different direction, any of these women strike you as future all-rounders? I’ll ask you again in five years.
WITHOUT A SPOT
Romeo, Antonio, Danny Basham, Doug Basham, Cade, Murdoch, Dupree, Conway, Rosey, Tomko, Venis, Kendrick, Vito, London, Jordan, Burchill, Scotty, Richards, Sylvan, Striker, Nunzio.
The list of those currently without a spot conjures up some interesting differences too. It’s a mixture of guys left reeling from the dissolution of the tag team division, rookies who have as yet remained un-pushed, the underused cruiserweight division and those who had some mild characterisation added recently but failed to make a lasting impression with the fans. Back in the day, both WWF and WCW had an extensive list of bland jobbers who would lose on a regular basis to justify their meagre wages. Whilst not in the same league as Barry Horrowitz or Iron Mike Sharpe, it is now the requirement of these wrestlers to do the jobs, make those with a push look like a million bucks and wait until the writers give you a better response than “we don’t have anything for you to do at this time”.
If this proves anything, it shows that WWE values marketability over everything else. The list of those without a spot includes some good wrestlers and the only thing missing in most cases appears to be that popular connection with the audience. But if creative types knew how to manufacture that then shows like American Idol and The X Factor would be won by everyone. It is also a fact that all of the WWE releases over the last two years have come from this last section of the roster or from the bottom feeders of each spot. Luckily, when Vince does cast of the dead weight from those with a spot it appears to fall primarily from the accessory categories like the eye candy and comedy performers. Can anyone think of an all-rounder that’s been released from the WWE? I can’t. But then, go back to the late eighties and tell fans that the blonde one from the Rockers and the dull one from the Hart Foundation would be future world champions and certain hall of famers and you’d have been drugs tested faster than Eugene coming out of Lex Luger’s house.