1. Seth Rollins
Without a shadow of a doubt Seth Rollins is a pivotal figure in the future of pro wrestling. It is often said that to make it in the industry you must have ability and charisma. Well this guy has those features by the bucket load. In terms of in-ring ability, he is an absolute general. Rollins is capable of pulling off the death defying aerial manoeuvres as well as the technical mat wrestling. Before his unfortunate (to say the least) injury he brought it in the squared circle night after night. There is no such thing as a boring Seth Rollins match. Even the matches on Raw that didn’t really matter were fun. He can turn an average match into the main event and somehow put on an even better performance in a big pay per view title match. On the character side of things, it is the measure of a performer that they can make you believe any personality they portray. As a heel, Rollins is the dastardly schemer, as the babyface, a hero you can root for. Oh and by the way, if you want to see some killer matches from Rollins outside of the WWE. Type “Tyler Black” into YouTube. You’re welcome.
He might not have the mic skills and character work of Seth Rollins or Kevin Owens but make no mistake, Cesaro’s athleticism in the ring is unparalleled. Cesaro, formerly Claudio Castognoli, is an insane athlete. He moves around at a quite frankly alarming pace, almost as if he does not experience lactic acid like us mere mortals. He is one of the strongest guys on the roster as he is one of the few to lift the Big Show. In terms of charisma and personality, he does possess it, WWE just need to give him the opportunity to show it. Before he suffered a shoulder injury Cesaro was wowing adoring crowds with thrilling techniques. The only problem was that he was doing this in very minor matches, he had no storyline or angle. Recently that is, as at one point he was having five star matches against John Cena for the US Title. His performance in the triple threat match with Rusev and Kevin Owens was also amazing. Where did that push go? When he returns from injury WWE need to put him in a program or high-profile match and he will show the world what he can do.
3. Finn Balor
Unfortunately Balor has also been bitten by the injury bug recently, there must be something in the water at WWE. This will put the brakes on the momentum he has built up since arriving in NXT. However, the fact remains that Finn Balor, formerly Fergal Devitt, could be WWE’s top performer at some point in the future. Like every big star in pro wrestling he has that mix of mystique and charisma. The Demon is a fascinating character. One may think that it is very similar to what we have previously seen but when you look at it further you will see that this could not be further from the truth. What is so interesting about the Finn Balor character is that he brings The Demon when it is absolutely imperative that he win. As the leather jacket wearing badass he is excellent, but as The Demon he is something else entirely. The producers at NXT have gone as far as to have him lose in his regular persona but beat that same opponent as The Demon. In the NXT Championship match against Samoa Joe, Corey Graves played on this in a way that was simple but very effective. When Samoa Joe locked Finn Balor in the Coquina Clutch he said “What would it mean for Samoa Joe to submit The Demon?” This was the perfect way to highlight that it would mean more to beat this version than the other and really raised the stakes with only a sentence. Balor’s entrance in this form is a sight to behold and would no doubt be twice as cool on the grandest stage of them all.
4. Kevin Owens
Owens has arguably the best mic skills on the entire roster. The mark of a good heel is someone who brings an element of truth to their promos. KO does this regularly, making every segment he is involved in compelling. His in-ring abilities are also some of the best in the world, his many years on the independent circuit working with all-time greats has schooled him well. He has that amazing ability to throw a working punch that looks like it is taking someone’s head off without actually making contact. In addition, he moves like someone half his size and has the general aura of a dangerous prize fighter. All of this combines to make his matches main event worthy.
5. Sasha Banks
‘The Boss’ is clearly the best female wrestler on the roster. However, with all due respect she is closely rivalled by Charlotte Flair, Bayley and Becky Lynch. Banks has ascended to this status in just a few years. The Sasha Banks we saw in her early career in NXT was very different to the one that we see now. Banks has become a confident presence in the ring, she has gone from the shy good guy to an arrogant and beliveable villain. The technicality, drama and physicality of her matches makes for engrossing television. The perfect examples of this being the Women’s Championship battles she has had against Bayley. Those two matches were ground breaking and stole the show on the specials in which they were featured.
6. AJ Styles
Despite Styles having had a storied career on the independents and in TNA, it feels like his career has been revitalised. Not that it was getting stale by any means. He has been putting on main event calibre matches all over the world up to his recent move to WWE. It is perhaps better to say that AJ’s career has entered a new phase. Even after performing at the highest level under banners like ROH, NJPW and TNA he is still as good if not better than ever. AJ Styles has already competed in dream matches involving Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle as well as more recently: Jay Lethal and Shinsuke Nakamura. Joining the WWE has opened this up to even more legendary match-ups with people like: HHH, Apollo Crews, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Cesaro. These are all people that could tell a fascinating story opposite The Phenomenal One. Styles has already done a lot for pro wrestling but I would argue that the best is yet to come.
7. Jay Lethal
After a run in TNA in which he paid tribute to Randy Savage with a Macho Man gimmick he returned to the independents. In recent years he has been killing it in ROH, putting on some amazing main events as a part of The House of Truth. Currently he is the reigning, defending, ROH World Champion. Lethal is very believable as a champion and a compelling character. What is so interesting about Lethal is that although he does heelish things, he is incredible in the ring. Similar to Seth Rollins, he is the bad guy who can back-up a lot of the bravado. His charismatic screen presence and distinct voice make him excellent at promos. Everything Jay Lethal is involved in is intensely dramatic. You only have to look at his battles with Roderick Strong for the ROH Television Championship for an example of this. Those matches were very physical and technical while also telling a story. WWE would be foolish not to sign Jay Lethal. However, whatever happens it is clear that Lethal was never meant to be a midcarder, regardless of where he ends up he will be in the main event.
8. The Young Bucks
Matt and Nick Jackson are one of the most athletic and exciting tag teams in wrestling today. The two of them perform some insane manoeuvres in the ring and are not afraid to take ridiculous bumps. They are of course huge fans of Shawn Michaels, paying tribute to him when they perform the DX crotch chop and many superkicks. The superkick has become their signature move, it is actually a major part of their persona. It certainly isn’t a bad idea to emulate one of the greatest of all time. Although I would like to see them work a program with The New Day, I think they are better placed in ROH and NJPW at the moment. They obviously think the same as they have turned down the the opportunity to tryout for WWE. They have more creative freedom where they are at the moment. Not only that, I feel that it would be a demotion for them. I am not surprised that they are reluctant to go to WWE as the tag team division there is treat very unfairly. Despite the fact that The New Day are one of the most entertaining aspects of every show they are featured on, WWE continue to treat the tag team division like the ugly stepchild. In contrast, in NJPW and ROH, the tag team matches are a massive part of the company and the overarching story.
9. Pentagon Jr.
If you aren’t absolutely terrified of Pentagon Jr., well then you are a braver person than me. Lucha Underground is amazing, one of the many reasons it is so good is because it has some genuinely threatening villains. I wrote a separate article on why LU is so good which you can read here. However, for now let’s just talk about Pentagon Jr., the arc that we have seen this character on since the beginning of Lucha Undeground has been gripping. He is a dangerous and frightening luchador with a penchant for breaking his opponent’s arm when he is done with them. He refers to all of the people he beats in the ring as an offering to his master. His atrocities brought anger from former pro wrestler Vampiro who is of course on commentary with Matt Striker. The feud came to a boil in the season finale of the show’s inaugural season when the two had a brutal hardcore match. If anything this made Pentagon Jr. even more intimidating as he withstood and dished out some unbelievable punishment. Upon the conclusion of the match it was revealed that Vampiro was in fact Pentagon’s master all along. This twist was shocking and has helped to elevate the character considerably. I think seeing this storyline would silence a lot of jaded critics of the industry. There is something about this story arc and his opposing appearance, as well as what he can do in the ring that makes him seem like the most dangerous man on the planet.
10. Cody Rhodes
The Rhodes Family are synonymous with pro wrestling. Dusty Rhodes (R.I.P) was an absolute master of his craft and has clearly passed his talent down to his children. Goldust is a legend in the business, one of the entertaining and colourful characters in WWE as well as a seriously technical performer inside the ropes. His younger brother Cody, in my opinion, is one of many underrated workers on the roster. He is a talented athlete and has all of the charisma you would expect from a direct relation of The American Dream. WWE just need to give him a chance and he will run with it. In fact, let’s get the hashtag trending. Everybody tweet: #GiveCodyAChance. I am not one of the people that believes it is necessary for him to drop the Stardust gimmick. Not at all. As long as it is done right it is very entertaining. I wish they had ran with the Stardust vs Goldust feud. Their match at Fastlane was just a hint at how fun their feud could have been had it went all the way to Wrestlemania. Cody was fantastic in that match. When he made his entrance in different attire it was almost as if he had ascended to a new level. It was as if he had fully embraced the dark side and evolved like a Pokemon to a new level of villany. If WWE were to give Cody a good storyline with considerable TV time he could make some really gripping television. Ideally I would like to see Rhodes in the main event, but if not, put him back into the Intercontinental Championship picture. He had a brilliant run with the IC Title as the heel champion.
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