WWE | Pro Wrestling

Inside The Wheelhouse – ECW’s Next Big Star?

Vladimir Kozlov WWE gets a lot of flack from the way they handled ECW and rightfully so. Back in 2006 most wrestling fans were under the impression that they were getting the ECW they knew and loved back on television under the WWE banner.

You had Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Sandman, Paul Heyman and some WWE names like Kurt Angle thrown into the new ECW mix. The entrance resembled the old ECW entrance; the way they shot the matches was the same camera angle as the old ECW. There was excitement in the air for ECW fans and wrestling fans in general as it was a different outlet.

But as time went on WWE showed their hand on how they were handling ECW by turning it into another WWE brand with nothing different then anything you see on Monday’s and Friday’s. As time grew on and the ECW originals were either released or moved to different brands we began to see what ECW was becoming, a training ground for future stars, almost a transition brand from developmental (Florida Championship Wrestling) to the main roster.
Once I put away my feelings of hoping that one day this would be ECW again and accepted the fact that this was to be a training ground for future WWE Superstars I began to embrace the new ECW. The new ECW gave us a Main Event feud that one day will more then likely headline a Wrestlemania in CM Punk vs. John Morrison. The new ECW gave us The Miz & Morrison possibly one of the best Tag Teams in the last decade for the WWE. While ECW introduced us to future stars like Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger.

With that being said I thought I’d take a look at the ECW roster as of right now in October and predict who in a year from now will be superstars while some wrestlers will be “future endeavored”. This list does not include already cemented superstars like Christian, Shelton Benjamin, William Regal, Goldust and Tommy Dreammer.

Future Stars:

Zack Ryder – Ryder has come a long way from his days as part of The Major Brothers/Hawkings & Ryder/Edgeheads days. For a while when paired up with Edge as part of “La Familia” it looked like Ryder would become another low-card talent to get a small rub from a huge star only to be released at some point (i.e. Luthur Reigns, Orlando Jordan, The Bashams etc.). But since coming to ECW under a new gimmick he has been able to show that he has the chances of being a talented worker.

WWE gave Ryder the opportunity to show off his craft against veteran and ECW Champion Christian who made Zack Ryder look like a star at the end of the night. Despite losing Ryder came out looking like a better wrestler then when he entered the ring, which is one of the reasons why WWE has put Christian in ECW. There is a possibility that at some point we could see Ryder with the ECW Championship around his waist. Come around draft time it is more then likely he will be moved to a different brand and hopefully to the Smackdown brand where he could potentially slide into a Intercontental title picture.

Woo Woo Woo. You know it.

Ezekiel Jackson – This guy looks like a future star. He reminds a lot of when Batista used to be Reverend D-Von’s manager, Deacon Batista and from what I’ve read the guy is a sponge when it comes to learning new wrestling skills. To me he has the better chances of being a strong face rather then a heel, I get the feeling that the fans want to embrace but can’t right now due to his backseat role with William Regal.

The thing about Big Zeke is that when it comes time for him to “graduate” from ECW he is a believable wrestler to be a force on a brand like RAW. It’s not secret that WWE needs fresh faces and having a fresh face on the RAW brand is something that is desperately needed. A face Big Zeke could be huge for the WWE. Unlike Zack Ryder this guy has future Main Eventer written all of him; hopefully in a year this guy will have a decent program going with a heel character like a Big Show; a veteran that can elevate his game to huge proportions.

Abraham Washington – Now this pick may surprise some. I’m not saying Abraham Washington will become an amazing wrestler, for one because we haven’t even seen him wrestle yet. I believe that at some point Abraham Washington will make a great manager or announcer for one of the brands similar to the path that Matt Striker road down that last couple of years.

As much as I’d hate to say it Jim Ross does not have many years left in him behind the booth hence one of the reasons why Todd Grisham was moved to Smackdown as an announcer. When good ol’ JR finally hangs up the microphone for good look for Matt Striker to move to the blue brand leaving a spot open at the ECW announce table. To me Abraham Washington can fill that spot very well. He seems to have a decent microphone presence and have the throwback skills to be the heel announcer during a show similar to the back when Jerry Lawler would work heel every Monday night.

But for the time being I’d like to see them hang the “Late Night” gimmick up for him and have him hooked up with a young superstar. With the best fit for Abraham being someone like an Ezekiel Jackson who let’s his in-ring work do the talking but when it comes to the promos needs that guy to put him over big. I love the old school idea of an actual manager patrolling the ring and I think Abraham Washington could fill that role well. While not a future Champion, he does have a potential future of being a decent announcer.

On The Fence:

Sheamus – The Celtic Warrior is someone that could make a big splash a year from now if the cards are dealt to him. He has the potential to be an upper mid-carder at best or go down a road like Mike Knox; where you get a push then creative pulls you back in. Come draft time it will be interesting to see what road creative takes him down cause that could really determine the future for Sheamus in WWE.

If the Celtic Warrior is drafted or moved to Smackdown you have to figure he is on pace for a feud with Finlay for obvious reasons. If that is the case Finlay will make that kid into a future star by making him a better in-ring worker, if moved to RAW you have to think he will get put in a face roll with Hornswoggle as it was rumored at one point. While being paired with Hornswoggle will get you decent television time and over large with children, I feel that Sheamus only needs that one feud to ignite a mid-card level for himself in the WWE.

Vladimir Kozlov – At one point that made Kozlov into a juggernaut on the Smackdown brand, so much so that he was headline a Main Event for No Way Out this past February and headlining the Survivor Series PPV with Triple H & Jeff Hardy. Eventually creative saw that despite making him undefeated and juggernaut his in-ring work was not getting over with fans. His gimmick was out-played and the fans wanted something different.

They moved him over to the ECW brand in early part of this year only for him to be floating around up until recently when he was place with William Regal and Big Zeke. You can tell that stable will eventually disband with Kozlov staying a heel to feud with a face Big Zeke, hopefully giving Big Zeke the push heading towards a different brand. Kozlov is beginning to wear out his welcome in WWE and won’t surprise me if he becomes future endeavored come 2010.

The Bella Twins – Ever since The Bella Twins came to WWE they really haven’t don’t much except being moved around from brand to brand in less then a year. While both being stunningly beautiful the gimmick of twins really hasn’t worked in the WWE simply for the fact because creative seems to not know what to do with them except announce matches.

The only time I really felt like they had the right thing going for The Bella Twins was when they had them each managing a Tag Team (The Colons and Miz & Morrison) around Wrestlemania 25. One it gave us great Tag Team wrestling which is something wrestling fans craved, two it gave us finally managers for tag teams something wrestling fans also craved and three they had an actual storyline. Since then The Bellas just seem to hang out with a different guest host each week and tell us Yoshi Tatsu’s weight.

While both stunningly beautiful women they are leaning more towards the future endeavored side then anything else. Hopefully they go back to what they had for the twins in the early part of the year by placing them with an up and coming team separately.

Katie Lea Burchill – To me Katie Lea has the look of a potential wrestler in the women’s division similar to Victoria. She can be that psychotic looking diva who you know is ready for a fight and not a bikini contest. Just by her looks alone she would make a believable opponent for any face Women’s or Diva Champion.

Her time with her “brother” will more then likely end some point in 2010 whether by draft or by release (see below). Giving the opportunity for Katie Lea to become a powerful diva either the RAW or Smackdown brands wrestling for a championship. I feel like Katie Lea has more upside then either one of The Bella Twins when it comes to Divas.

Future Endeavored:

Paul Burchill – Does anyone remember Paul Burchill being teamed up with William Regal or does anyone remember the Pirate gimmick he did with Shelly Martinez? Well if you don’t youtube it now because I’m sure Paul Burchill would like to forget about it. It’s sad for me to put Burchill on this list because he is so talented but he has Elijah Burke syndrome written all over him where he is to talented to ever break through in the WWE.

Burchill could be a star if he went with his “ripper” gimmick that he’s currently using in a brand like TNA or even a ROH. While just like Elijah Burke who looked like could one day be a future headliner or upper-midcarder for some reason the creative team just can’t get him over in their eyes. He’s been with the company since 2006 and sporadically has shown up on television ever since. I’d hate to see it happen but I see Burchill being future endeavored from WWE, allowing Katie Lea to be elevated as a top Diva wrestler.

Yoshi Tatsu – Despite getting large pushes as of late on ECW television I just don’t see Yoshi Tatsu being a star. While he has decent in-ring work the WWE has never been to give a decent push with wrestlers of Asian minority like Yoshi. I’m not calling the WWE racist or knocking Asian wrestling at all, just the track record in WWE hasn’t been too good.

If anything Yoshi will become a comedy act like Kung Fu Naki is or like Tajiri was. All three of them are great in-ring workers but never seem to click with audience. If Yoshi is to ever make it as star in ECW he needs to stay in ECW longer then the other wrestlers. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Yoshi gets future endeavored sometime in the summer to early Fall of 2010.

Tyler Reks – It appears that of all the wrestlers on this list that Tyler Reks might be the most well rounded wrestler. They placed the Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) World Championship on him which makes me think that the kid has some sort of talent in the ring. But the biggest downside to that is that the gimmick they gave him, a surfer gimmick?

Seriously what is the 1992? You’re going to place a surfer gimmick on someone in 2009? Does creative expect the audience to pop whenever he says “cowabunga?” While it appears he is talented in the ring he has been given a horrible gimmick much like our last person on this list…

DJ Gabriel – Where has he been? One moment he was dancing to the ring with the very hot Alicia Fox and the next minute he’s off of television. When he was on television he looked very green as well. The kid clearly has the look to be a star but under the circumstances of a “dancing-Alex Wright-like” gimmick no way. While it appears he is the one wrestler most likely to be future endeavored, he better pray that they repackage him fast because despite having the look, he may be heading down the road of unemployment before 2009 runs out.

I like any old ECW fan have been disappointed with the way ECW has been handled by WWE. But the days of “hardcore wrestling” are basically done for the time being before being reinvention and revolutionized somewhere down the line again in the world of wrestling. But if I am to applaud anything WWE has done with ECW thus far it has to be the fact that it has become a good place to make future talent stars.

It’s brought up CM Punk, John Morrison, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger. Wrestlers that in 2 to 3 years can be the top draws in the WWE and headlining Wrestlemania’s. We will look back at this time and remember that we first saw CM Punk vs. John Morrison in ECW and where Evan Bourne flew off the top rope.

One thing old school ECW and new ECW fans alike can find common ground on agreeing on is that despite it not being the old barbed wire, hat guy or sign guy in the front row, just like the old ECW it introduced new wrestlers and made them into stars right before our eyes. While not breaking tables, throwing thumbtacks down on the mat and operating in bingo halls, the spirit of ECW of turning a nobody into a somebody lives on to this day.

E-C-W! E-C-W! E-C-W!

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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