As you may have noticed lately, a lot of new and returning faces have been making their way onto WWE television as of late. Generally speaking, this is about the time of year when this kind of thing happens. Wrestlemania basically ends the WWE’s, for lack of a better word, “season” for the year, and shortly thereafter is when new feuds begin to start, new angles are crafted, and new stars begin migrating to the main rosters. This year, we’ve already seen a half-dozen or so new or returning faces make their way onto our television screens, and they are certainly not going to be the last of the new crop. While I said that this kind of thing usually happens every year, I think this year is going to be different.
This kind of trend looks to continue throughout the year, and there are a handful of fresh faces on the roster already who could be next in line to “grab the brass ring”. Note: Although a case could be made, I am not including Brock Lesnar on this list for the simple fact that he is a part-time wrestler, and once his one-year deal is up, there’s no guarantee he’ll re-sign as a permanent one.
Lord Tensai: Although he’s actually a return to the company, many fans who watch today may not be familiar with his past run, and that works in his favor. While the former Prince Albert/Albert/Hip-Hop Hippo/A-Train had a very disappointing run his first time out, the man who would later become Giant Bernard and Lord Tensai in Japan has seen a career rebirth. Thanks to his time oversees, Tensai was able to crank up his game and really fine-tune his skills, not to mention learn the intricacies of wrestling from puroresu, unquestionably the toughest, most hard-hitting form of wrestling on the planet. Tensai has already shown what he can do in WWE, staying undefeated for the past month-and-a-half, including dominant wins over both John Cena and CM Punk. Generally speaking, when you beat the former WWE Champion as well as the current one in matches that span less than a month, chances are you’re on track to main event the roster and carry the title. With Tensai rumored to be moving into a feud with Punk, I would not be surprised if he’s champion by the end of the year.
Brodus Clay: Although he actually made his “debut” several months before ‘Mania, I’m still counting him. Clay has found a very unique gimmick to work with in that he’s simultaneously a comedy wrestler and a wrecking machine. Much like Tensai, he’s currently undefeated, and has defeated former World Champions Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler, as well as former WWE Champion The Miz in back-to-back matches, all cleanly and in dominant fashion. When you add in the fact that Clay is very charismatic, plays his role to the hilt, connects with fans and very agile for a big man, his future with the company is looking very good. I don’t know if I see top championships for him using this gimmick, but a run with the IC or US title is not out of the question. If he eventually turns heel, a top championship reign is much more possible.
Antonio Cesaro: Cesaro is the complete package when it comes to an ideal WWE Superstar. He’s got a great look, incredibly charismatic, has international appeal thanks to his Swiss heritage, is legitimately tough, and one of the best pure wrestlers currently on WWE’s roster. While pairing him with Aksana was a strange choice considering she’s about as useful to a wrestler as Dixie Carter is to the entire sport, everything else is working in his favor.
Not only is Vince McMahon a big fan, but Cesaro spent less than a year in developmental before getting “the call”. 9 times out of 10, any time a wrestler spends such a little amount of time in WWE developmental, it’s generally a sign they are a step or two above their peers, and big things are on the horizon. Considering what has happened with fellow independent and ROH graduates Punk and Bryan, Cesaro’s future is looking very, very bright.
Ryback: The man formerly known as Skip Sheffield has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, including a release from developmental before spending several years there again after being re-signed. With the ill-fated Nexus angle, it looked as though he was looking towards a bright future, being booked as the group’s “enforcer” and (storyline) injuring wrestlers with a nasty lariat. Unfortunately, things once again took a turn for the worse for him as he went down with an injury at the height of the group’s domination of WWE.
Upon returning once more, Sheffield was repackaged as Ryback, a gimmick he used while in developmental albeit slightly tweaked. Instead of portraying a half-man, half-cyborg like he did in FCW, Ryback is now simply being booked as an unstoppable monster, in the same vein as guys like former World Champion Goldberg and the Road Warriors. If history has taught us anything, this gimmick always works. Fans love a monster who just crushes opponent after opponent until they get to the top, and considering Ryback is a favorite of Vince McMahon, he’s on the same track to success.
Ryback has cut through every single opponent thus far like a hot knife through butter, and I don’t expect him to get defeated any time soon. In all honesty, considering he’s been booked like Goldberg (including “stealing” Goldberg’s gorilla-press into a powerslam because, you know, he somehow invented it and all), I would not be surprised if a match-counting streak gimmick was added down the road. Although he’s still fresh, Ryback has slowly been catching on with fans, and it’s only a matter of time before he moves on from crush mid-card scrubs to taking down main eventers.
Damien Sandow: We now come to the guy who is practically guaranteed to be World Champion in the future. Again, this is a return to WWE, but most fans don’t know that, as his first run as “Idol Stevens” was pretty unremarkable. After re-signing with WWE in 2010 after a 2007 release, Sandow picked up his game and began perfecting the gimmick you now see every week on Smackdown! Honestly, I don’t recall a gimmick quite like this one ever existing. Sandow is a pompous ass who speaks like a Shakespearean actor, lacing his promos with ten-dollar words while giving all of the fans back-handed compliments about how he is only here to help us and save us from our misery.
When you combine that with a look that I can best describe as a cross between Lou Thesz, Bob Backlund and Randy Savage, and what you have is something incredibly unique. Thus far, he has refused to take a match, stating that the opponents lined up for him are beneath him, and it’s only adding to his gimmick. Fans are already booing him mercilessly, chomping at the bit to see him get his comeuppance. This, despite having yet to wrestle a single match.
While these gentlemen are the most recent additions to the WWE roster, they won’t be the last. Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero), Husky Harris, Xavier Woods, Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley) and Seth Rollins (Tyler Black) are all expected to get “the call” in the next couple of months, with all expecting to receive some heavy-duty pushes in the same manner as the men listed above.
It’s been said numerous times that wrestling popularity can turn around at any time, with something as simple as a hot new gimmick or storyline, and this theory has been proven on numerous occasions in the past. Although 2012 may not spark a new “boom period” in wrestling, I think these guys have as good of a chance as making it happen as anyone.
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