Prospect lists aren’t foreign to sports. Year after year, we pull apart mock drafts and rookie seasons, trying to dessiminate information, plow through the psyches of these young men and discover who exactly will be the next great superstar. Sometimes our prognostications are right on target, but for every LeBron james we have, there’s will be a Dontrelle Willis or a Peyton Hillis.
So why can’t we apply our insatiable appetite to unearth the next great one in professional wrestling? Much like basketball, football or hockey, there are tiers of performer, from the rookie scrub trying to earn his place in the hierarchy of the talent ladder, to the forgotten prospect who’s future still shines bright under the dimming lights of skepticism. Yes, wrestling isn’t the pure competitive athletic enterprise that MLB represents, but there is an element of competition within Vince McMahon’s glorified traveling circus, in which these men have to constantly improve their craft and sharpen their focus in order to be considered a luminary.
The Raw Librarian and I scanned through the WWE roster to do just that. We’ve highlighted a few grapplers that we think have the testicular fortitude to make a Hardy-esque jump up the ladder, crashing through the glass ceiling into the land where only giants – both literal and figurative – tend to leave their massive footprints. Each guy will have his own various set of skills, which he can either use for cult-like immortality, or to fade into the din of oblivion. Some of these fellows have temporarily crashed the top of the card, while others are being clearly groomed for it. However, the criteria here is simply that each guy isn’t considered by the WWE as perennial main event material.
Which of these guys could you imagine main eventing Wrestlemania? Let’s get after it.
Qualifications: 3x World Tag Team champion, 2x Intercontinental champion, 1x WWE Tag Team champion, #35 PWI top 500 wrestlers in 2011
Half brother of Goldust, son of Dusty Rhodes.
The Raw Librarian: Out of all the names on this list, I have the most confidence in Cody Rhodes being the future of World Wrestling Entertainment. I don’t think it will be this year at WM 29 in New Jersey, but I can definitely see Cody Rhodes involved in a WrestleMania main event in the very near future.. He has the look, talent, mic skills (he turned the “Big Show” into a verb) and he has wrestling in his blood. After all, it never hurts to have people in the higher ups with your best interest in mind; his father The “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes is currently a backstage booker for the WWE and he definitely has Vince McMahon’s ear. The Rhodes family name doesn’t carry the same weight as the name “Hart”, but Cody is going to get more opportunities than someone like Drew McIntyre or Heath Slater.
KOBEsh: Completely agree, good sir. Cody has everything that you’d want in a main eventer; he’s a great mat technician, is completely willing to bump around the ring for an opponent and has that unique ability to simply look like a guy you desperately want to hate. Body-wise, Rhodes has put on a massive amount of weight in the past few years, turning from a stringy son of a wrestler, into a adequately sized middleweight. Rhodes has enough size where he doesn’t necessarily look like he’s going to overpower an opponent, but isn’t small enough where the story will constantly be how he’s an underdog looking for a fluke victory, a la Rey Mysterio or even Daniel Bryan. He’s a complete mimic of Randy Orton in every way possible; but seeing how much the Viper has accomplished in WWE over the past few years, it’s certainly not a bad thing.
Verdict: 99% chance he main events a WM in the next 5 years.
Qualifications: 2x WWE Tag Team champion, #97 PWI top 500 singles wrestler 2011
TRL: Right now David Otunga should never main event an episode of Smackdown, let alone Wrestlemania. His wrestling character? Brilliant. They don’t need to change a thing. Not only is he smarter than you, but he can beat your ass as well.
His work in the ring; visually displeasing. He needs to be sent down to FCW or the WCW Power Plant for more seasoning. You can see that he is improving in the ring, but there is no way he should be wrestling on live television right now. Keep him on TV as the legal liaison to the next GM, but make him wrestle three times at all the house shows.
KOBEsh: I actually think you’re being really kind with that assessment. Even for wrestling standards, I feel like Otunga’s promos are extremely hackneyed and stale. His reactions are as textbooks as the props he has in front of him; I can tell you the exact moment he’ll throw in a sarcastic smirk or starting a sentence with “Hey, listen [wrestler X]”. You’re right in that he needs more work on the farm for his wrestling ability; the guy is more stiff than Buff Bagwell (too soon?). But I think that his character lacks complexity and the conviction of being an alternate ass-kicker to his studious out-or-ring persona.
Verdict: 3% chance he main events a WM in the next 5 years.
Qualifications: 1x World Heavyweight champion, 1x World Tag Team champion, 1x Intercontinental champion, 1x United States champion, #17 PWI top 500 singles wrestler 2011
TRL: This former World Heavyweight champion held the title for about 10 minutes (in comparison, Kane’s one day title reign seems like an eternity; by the way, do not watch that clip unless you want to lament for the next hour about Jim Ross no longer announcing). Much like Cody Rhodes, barring injury, I see Dolph Ziggler as the future of “this business.”The next few weeks are going to be huge in Ziggler’s progression. He’s been thrust into the main event spot due to the influx of injuries and suspensions. He didn’t win the title at June’s No Way Out PPV, but the former Spirit Squad member had a strong match with Sheamus and has thus far shown he can hang with the big boys. I am not in the minority in my beliefs, as Jim Ross, Joey Styles, Mick Foley, and Paul Heyman all have come out in support of Ziggler. These aren’t just former announcers everyone; these are four of the most intelligent and influential wrestling minds in the business.
If I said I could see @HEELZiggler in a WM29 main event would you think I’m crazy? #matteroftime skeptics
Joey Styles @JoeyStyles
KOBEsh: Hard to disagree with those four guys. So I won’t.
I see pieces of the following wrestlers all within Ziggler’s game: Shawn Michaels, Curt Hennig, Randy Savage, Rick Rude and Eddie Guerrero. Not a bad batch of guys to be compared to. Dolph truly has it all; the look, the confidence, the in-ring goods and most importantly, a sense of charisma he can convey to the audience. Over the past few years, he’s proven he can go blow for blow with the best technicians in the company, as well as throw himself around the ring next to much bigger and less mobile opponents. Ziggler is more than capable on the microphone, playing the smarmy heel that you love to hate, but just plainly being in matches you love to watch. There’s truly nothing that will hold him back from a Hall of Fame career, except for himself. Go get it son.
Verdict: 99.9% he main events a WM in the next 5 years.
Qualifications: 1X World Tag Team champion, 3x Intercontinental Champion, 2x United States champion, 2x WWE Tag Team champion, #26 PWI top 500 singles wrestler 2010
TRL: Do not mistake Kofi’s brief appearances in Elimination Chamber championship matches as an indication that he is viewed like a main eventer. He’s a high-flying, spot machine and without a doubt the most athletic competitor on either roster. But I am afraid the Intercontinental championship is his ceiling.
Much like John Morrison and Shelton Benjamin before him, I see Kofi as the extremely athletic guy who doesn’t quite have enough fire to connect with the entire crowd emotionally, not just the kids who are buying the multi-colored merchandise. He does have a bucket more charisma than Shelton or Morrison, but considering those guys were in the Sahara of personality, it’s not saying much.
Verdict: 15% chance he main events a WM in the next 5 years.