WWE.com posted a story last week that examined twelve WWE superstars to watch in 2012. The stated criteria for their selections was the following:
Which up-and-coming Superstar will break out this year? Which ring warriors will reclaim their former glory? Who will we all be tweeting about in the months ahead? Check out our list of 12 competitors we think will change the landscape of WWE this year.
Below is what WWE.com had to say about each of the twelve superstars they picked, along with whether I agree or disagree with their take and my own opinion for the folks they highlighted in this piece:
1. Dolph Ziggler
WWE.com says: This blond blowhard never resists the opportunity to show off, and as much as it pains us to say it, he backs up his boastful words with undeniably remarkable in-ring ability. In fact, Ziggler managed to cling to the illustrious United States Championship for nearly six months last year – no easy feat.
Sure, Ziggler also held the World Heavyweight Championship for 11 minutes in 2011, but something tells us this talented young Superstar will have a more substantial World Title reign to brag about before the final bells of 2012 begin to chime.
CB says: Agree — I think Ziggler is primed and ready for a huge year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he and CM Punk end up embroiled in a series of matches that extend beyond the Royal Rumble (and involve Chris Jericho) to really bring him up to main event status. Dolph has proven he can handle the WWE workload and has even pulled double-duty at times on both TV shows and PPV events, and you know that WWE loves his whole #HEEL moniker since they are so obsessed with Twitter at the moment.
My hope for Ziggler is that he actually sheds himself of Vickie Guerrero sometime this year because I feel like he no longer needs Vickie’s heat to get over. At the very least, it would be an interesting litmus test that would let us know if he really does have what it takes to stand out from the WWE lineup on his own merit.
My other hope is that WWE does NOT simply use Ziggler as a mere pawn in the chess game between CM Punk and Johnny Ace in 2012 and then completely forget about him after that storyline runs its course. Also, I’d like to see more actual wrestling matches without all the run-ins and interferences at the top of the WWE card, but that’s an entirely different problem altogether that is unrelated to Ziggler.
WWE.com says: With her stunning combination of beauty, brains and in-ring prowess, Eve will no doubt go down in WWE history as one of the most impactful Divas of all time. This bronze-skinned beauty’s continued study of Jiu-Jitsu has kept her at the apex of the Divas division, earning her a Divas Championship victory in a highly competitive Fatal 4-Way Match at the Royal Rumble last year. Will Eve net her third butterfly-emblazoned Divas Title in 2012? She’s made beliEVErs out of us.
CB says: Disagree — Listen, Eve is harmless enough, but to say she is going to be “one of the most impactful Divas of all time” is not even close to the truth. If anything, Kharma would be worth mentioning if they wanted to look at a possible breakout Diva in 2012, but the whole division hasn’t been relevant in years and it will take a whole lot more than one woman — even Kharma — to fix that.
3. Ted DiBiase
WWE.com says: Ever since this third-generation Superstar abandoned his notorious wealth-flaunting ways, he’s been on the best roll of his career – due in no small part to the support of a growing legion of WWE Universe members calling themselves the “DiBiase Posse.” Outside WWE live events across the country, the former holder of the Million Dollar Title tailgates with his Posse in the parking lot. But he’s not just getting better at grilling: DiBiase is a force between the ropes.
CB says: Disagree — DiBiase has had a million chances to stand out already, and I just don’t think he will ever have what it takes to break out from his career malaise that was further propagated by WWE’s AWFUL mismanagement of his character. He should have NEVER been billed as the “Fortunate Son”, his relationship with Maryse was horrible television, and his losing streak unbearable. I’ll hang out with the guy if he wants to buy me dinner, though.
4. Chris Jericho
WWE.com says: Following weeks of cryptic viral videos that both confused and captivated keen-eyed members of the WWE Universe, Chris Jericho made his monumental return to WWE on Jan. 2, 2012, re-emerging on Raw as thousands of WWE Universe members inside the FedEx Forum chanted his name.
His response to the jubilant throngs? Well, verbally he said nothing, which only fanned the flames of speculation as our fans wondered why WWE’s first ever Undisputed Champion had come back to WWE. Regardless of what “began” that night, Jericho set the wheels in motion for what could be his most monumental year yet.
CB says: Agree — One thing I am absolutely sure of is that Chris Jericho is a smart man who wouldn’t waste his time with another WWE stint without having something brilliant up his sleeve. While it’s sometimes true that the best concepts can get muddled by the lack of execution, I don’t think that will happen on Jericho’s watch at this stage of his career. Throw in the idea that Jericho is likely going to feud with CM Punk and you have all the makings of sheer pro wrestling enjoyment over disappointment.
WWE.com says: Little is known about this former bearer of the “Sin Cara” mantle, but Hunico’s rugged offensive style and awe-inspiring arsenal of aerial maneuvers has helped him make a name for himself on SmackDown in a relatively short period of time. With the equally mysterious Camacho by his side, Hunico is poised for greatness in 2012.
CB says: Disagree — Has Hunico really made a name for himself on SmackDown at this point? I don’t think so. Does he really have an actual “arsenal” of “awe-inspiring” moves that WWE will actually let him maximize his TV time with, or does he have one or two “approved-by-management” moves that he can use to pop a crowd every once in awhile like Evan Bourne and Justin Gabriel? Ultimately, in a very crowded WWE Universe, I just don’t see Hunico as a guy who will be able to distinguish himself in 2012.
6. Wade Barrett
WWE.com says: He masterminded The Nexus’ assault on Monday Night Raw and united with The Corre on SmackDown, but this former Intercontinental Champion is finally forging his own path as his one-man “Barrett Barrage” rolls on. In the past year, Barrett has impressively stood toe-to-toe with the likes of Randy Orton, Sheamus and Daniel Bryan – all of whom have at some point held World Championships. If the Barrett Barrage continues, joining their ranks will be inevitable.
CB says: Agree — WWE wouldn’t have Wade Barrett take out Randy Orton if they didn’t have big plans for him in 2012. While Wade’s career really stalled after the Nexus angle ended (and it ended abruptly in my opinion), I personally have always liked Barrett’s character because he plays the part with believable conviction. On the other hand, one thing I don’t believe in is the Wasteland finisher, which always comes off as an awkward maneuver to me. Therefore, I’d like Barrett to work with WWE in 2012 to lobby for adding new moves to his skill-set and on getting a second finishing move if they don’t want to scrap the Wasteland altogether.
7. Rey Mysterio
WWE.com says: After attaining his first-ever WWE Championship back in July, only to lose it to John Cena the very same night, Rey-Rey’s 2011 took a steep downturn when his archrival Alberto Del Rio took him out of action for the remainder of the year.
In an exclusive interview with WWE.com reporters at the 2011 Slammy Awards, Rey revealed that he was hoping to be back in the ring and thrilling the WWE Universe in time for WrestleMania XXVIII. Can we expect a fully healed Ultimate Underdog to heat up Miami at The Showcase of the Immortals?
CB says: Agree — I’ve said this to my fellow IWC brethren for a long time now: Rey Mysterio is not as replaceable as WWE would like him to be. In fact, when you factor in everything — marketing, merchandise, performance, prestige and intangibles — I would say that Rey is the one of the most irreplaceable (full-time) members of the entire WWE roster, just behind John Cena and CM Punk if I had to rank them.
The point is that Rey Mysterio means the world to the SmackDown television audience, which was clearly made evident 1) when WWE made the horrible miscalculation of drafting Rey over to Raw in a failed experiment for a year; and 2) when WWE mistakenly thought that Sin Cara (Mistico) would be able to step in and easily fill Rey’s shoes as a huge draw for SmackDown’s large Hispanic TV audience on Friday nights.
The bottom line is this: Rey Mysterio has finally had time to have surgery and heal, and WWE has finally come to realize the value of Rey Mysterio in WWE. Those two factors will make for a huge 2012 for Mysterio, and he just might give Jericho (and presumably Taker) a run for their money as the comeback story of the year in all of wrestling before all is said and done.
8. Zack Ryder
WWE.com says: Will Zack Ryder continue to flourish in 2012? #AreYouSeriousBro? Using his smash-hit YouTube show and the power of social media to cultivate a passionate fan following, the 2011 Trending Star of the Year capped off last year with an incredible U.S. Championship victory over Dolph Ziggler – a bout made possible thanks to the thousands of Broskis who signed Ryder’s online petition. Now that he’s joined the ranks of such ring icons as Bret Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Sgt. Slaughter and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper by attaining the illustrious star-spangled prize, the “Ryder Revolution” is finally in full effect.
CB says: Disagree — This may come as a surprise, but I actually disagree with the idea that Zack Ryder will break through in 2012 anymore than he already has. Part of the problem is that I don’t think WWE will ever give Ryder palpable material that will enable fans to really take him seriously as a wrestler, and after awhile this lack of seriousness will render all of the Twitter/YouTube buzz essentially meaningless and slow down the live crowd reactions to a crawl. I hope I’m wrong about this, but history isn’t all-too-kind to comedy wrestling acts in terms of being able to maintain their long-term credibility.
9. Cody Rhodes
WWE.com says: Plumbing the deepest recesses of his twisted mind following a disfiguring nose injury, the formerly “dashing” Cody Rhodes underwent a startling psychological metamorphosis in 2011 that fueled his innate desire for championship gold. After soundly defeating his rival Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania XXVII, this multi-generation competitor went on to capture the Intercontinental Championship and embark on a mission to restore the illustrious prize to its former glory. Whether or not the WWE Universe agrees with his self-aggrandizing quest is of little consequence to this unruly loose cannon, who will no doubt continue putting the entire SmackDown roster on notice in the New Year.
CB says: Agree — Last week on SmackDown, Cody Rhodes cut a promo claiming that he wants to pull an Ultimate Warrior. No, Cody wasn’t talking about trashing Kevin Nash and Triple H, but what Rhodes does want to do is become a double champion on SmackDown and hold both the Intercontinental and World Heavyweight titles all at once. While it remains to be seen if Cody can be successfully elevated to the main event level and stay there, he does have enough going for him in WWE where it is not out of the realm of possibility. After all, WWE loves their second-generation wrestlers (not named Sim Snuka at least) and they will give them every chance to succeed when warranted.
I say “when warranted” because as I said earlier, I think Ted DiBiase’s ship has sailed due to gross character mismanagement that will be hard to recover from, and other second-generation guys like Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty are still too green to make any sort of impact along with being saddled with rushed, poorly planned out gimmicks as well.
As for Rhodes, 2012 will prove whether or not Cody can build upon the success he achieved last year when he really turned the corner thanks to going all-in with his character, and I personally feel like he will do just that. I know he has his doubters about his wrestling ability, and I do agree that Rhodes needs to prove himself more inside the ring. However, if a guy like Mark Henry can get a World Heavyweight title run on SmackDown and surprise everyone with his effort, then there’s no reason why Cody Rhodes can’t do the same over on the blue show this year.
WWE.com says: After standing up to a rampaging Mark Henry last summer, this hot-head has been a major player on SmackDown. Cutting a swath through the competition with his feared Brogue Kick and his formidable High Cross, this two-time WWE Champion has already vowed to win the 2012 Royal Rumble Match. On Jan. 29, there will be blood in the water as The Great White attempts to sink his teeth into a guaranteed World Heavyweight Championship opportunity at WrestleMania XXVIII.
CB says: Agree — One of the biggest surprises of 2011 was the success that Sheamus achieved after turning face. This character change seemed to reinvigorate the Celtic Warrior, though I honestly hate the whole “Great White” moniker that has also been assigned to him. Sheamus is a prototypical big man that Vince McMahon fawns over, but regardless of that I’ve personally liked him ever since his first real feud with Goldust that took place over at the now-defunct ECW TV show.
What like about Sheamus is that he has enough versatility to slide up and down the ladder. One minute he can pose a credible threat to John Cena, and the next he can turn Tea Time with Santino into comic gold. He has also worked hard to add some nuances to his character, and I think Sheamus will become even more likable to more fans as he continues to develop as am imposing force worth rooting for.
At the same time, one of the biggest issues that could prevent Sheamus from really breaking out in 2012 is that WWE Creative seems to be getting lazy with his character lately and right now he is currently facing off against
lost causes guys like Jinder Mahal on SmackDown. If Sheamus doesn’t end up with anything interesting to do, then the crowd’s interest in him will also fade as a result.
WWE.com says: Through hellfire and brimstone, Kane returned to his more monstrous roots in late 2011, targeting John Cena and tempting the Cenation leader not to “Rise Above Hate,” but embrace it as the evil 7-footer does. Donning his signature red mask for the first time in eight years, The Devil’s Favorite Demon is arguably more terrifying than ever as he casts his chilling gaze on the year ahead.
CB says: Disagree — Even if his latest round of mind games with John Cena ultimately leads to an epic Cena heel turn at WrestleMania (I bet it won’t), I still think that Kane’s return will wind up being looked at as one of the hokiest missteps in pro wrestling history. Let me explain why.
When CM Punk was chasing the WWE Championship, he said he was going “change the culture” of the WWE if he won. Well, Punk did win, but nothing has really fundamentally changed in WWE. After all, John Cena is still slotted at the top of the hour at 11:00 pm on Raw on most nights and corporate figureheads are feuding with anti-corporate champions so that WWE can try once again to recapture the magic of Austin-McMahon that they lost a long, long time ago.
To make matters worse, all of those casual fans who were possibly going to check out WWE again because that CM Punk guy cut some great promos over the summer have clearly tuned back out by this point, why? Because when you (as the casual fan) flips the channel over to Raw, you are likely to see people talking about Twitter; a highly annoying heel announcer ripping on everyone in the company; and at that time just before 11:00 pm when you think you would see the most important moment of the night, you see a guy getting pulled out of the ring before the ring erupts in fire, and then one week later you see that same guy fumbling to fix a flat tire for 15 minutes, a painstakingly long time that then interrupts the actual wrestling main event of the night so that Kane — the guy you vaguely remember as Undertaker’s brother and/or as the guy whose dead girlfriend’s corpse was once violated by Triple H — can hit a couple of Choke Slams before Raw fades to black.
So no, I don’t think Kane adds any value to WWE in 2012, and as he is booked right now, I think he is doing long-term damage in every way, shape and form.
WWE.com says: One month after being taken out of action by his former tag team partner The Miz with a Skull-Crushing Finale onto the stage, this rhyming renegade returned to Raw SuperShow in late 2011 to humble The Awesome One with a ferocious beatdown that had even “Little Jimmys” standing up and cheering. As he told WWE.com moments after the incident, that initial attack was “only the beginning.” We certainly wouldn’t want to be The Miz – or anyone else that crosses Truth – in the coming year.
CB says: Disagree — Simply put, I think R-Truth topped out in 2011. You can only do the crazed conspiracy theorist for so long, and the same thing could be said for using water bottles to the face as foreign objects. I feel like Truth’s forced hiatus due to his WWE Wellness violation will further cripple R-Truth’s character progression because he had to be written off the show and so with limited options WWE chose to have Miz attack him to take him out of action. This made R-Truth a baby face by default when he came back, and all I can see is a creative dead end sooner than later, or whenever his return feud with Miz wraps up.
That’s all from me – CB.
What do you think of WWE’s twelve to watch in 2012 and CB’s commentary? Sound off in the comments section below.