Thanks to the barrage of injuries suffered in recent months, the WWE is hurting for depth at the main event level. In fact, enough big names have missed time due to injury that the mid-card is beginning to suffer as well.
Plans for Wrestlemania 32 have been sent into a tailspin since Seth Rollins, Sting, and John Cena were hurt. Not to mention, Randy Orton, Nikki Bella, Cesaro, and Daniel Bryan, all significant contributors to the upper levels of the card, are out as well. Even Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio have been reported to sustain injuries (though they shouldn’t keep the two out of action for long).
The Rock cannot wrestle in Arlington due to an insurance conflict. Triple H, Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar are all part-time wrestlers. That leaves a small handful of talent for the WWE to rely upon week in and week out.
Such a problem hasn’t reared its ugly head since 2004, when the brand split between Raw and Smackdown was beginning to stall. It was a time that saw guys like Eugene, Rene Dupree, Gene Snitsky, and Luther Reigns receive pushes. No offense to any of those performers, but it’s hardly a murderer’s row of wrestling legends.
It marked a transition between the departure of stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Brock Lesnar and the arrival of stars like John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, and Edge.
The WWE was forced to create new stars, and they did so in a hurry. Men like Eddie Guerrero, JBL, Booker T, and Christian solidified Hall of Fame careers by ascending to the main event during this time period.
While the circumstance are much different than 2004, the WWE is now once again in a position in which up and coming talent is not in a position to fill the void left by an exodus of superstars (for whatever reason).
Some have argued that this is the deepest roster that the WWE has ever had. Maybe it’s time for the creative team to see what they have in certain talents, and see what happens if they really get behind them and give them the push they’ve earned.
Who deserves a chance to become the next JBL or King Booker?
It’s hard to put Rusev in this category after receiving such a monstrous push in late 2014/early 2015. However, in hindsight, it was all in an effort to give Cena yet another big program win. Since his feud with Cena, Rusev was involved in a fledgling ‘love triangle’ program with Dolph Ziggler, Lana, and Summer Rae. His character has fizzled into being booked as the third most important member of the League of Nations, a stable that has still yet to truly resonate with fans.
All this seems in spite of the fact that Rusev is one of the most gifted performers and all-around entertainers in the company. He can put on a high quality match with anyone, and has shown an underrated ability in promo work. Why hasn’t he become a central figure in the WWE?
O’Neil is the perfect portrait of what a WWE main eventer should be – five-star look, a wealth of charisma, and an ability to connect with fans. It looks like he may be finally getting the singles push he deserves, but it’s long overdue.
Give him a few more quality wins, then put him in a major program with someone like Kevin Owens, and I’d be willing to bet he shows that he belongs with upper echelon of entertainers.
How has the push died already? Breeze was a fresh face in the WWE mid-card, and even earned a spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament back in November. Now, he’s little more than enhancement talent.
Where did things go wrong? Breeze is a tremendous in-ring performer with a well-defined persona that was over. In no way, shape, or form did he deserve to be given up on so quickly, especially when the show is in such need of star power.
As NXT Champion, Adrian Neville made the main event feel like the main event. He was an uber competitive, somewhat cocky, titleholder who would not back down from anyone because he knew he could beat everyone.
For whatever reason, he was handed a cape and hokey superhero-esque gimmick upon being called up to the main roster. While he still presents innovative offense and an electric skillset to the show, it’s time for the NXT Championship-winning “Man that Gravity Forgot” to show back up and be featured more prominently on the card.
He’s shown that he can hang with elite WWE talent, and he’s certainly shown that he can entertain with the best of them. No matter what type of ridiculous gimmick was thrown his way, he excelled to the point that arenas chanted for him wherever he went.
Now, he’s returned to portraying his debut character, and he’s as over as ever. It’s time for him to get the big singles push he deserves.
Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, is a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot, and is the Editor for The SoBros Network. Follow on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley, @pfspot, and @SoBrosNetwork.