TJR: WWE Roster Evaluation 2012 - Smackdown & Final Rankings (Part 1)
This is the second part of the 2012 WWE roster evaluation. This time I'll focus on those wrestlers listed on the 52 Smackdown performers listed on WWE.com. I'll also close out the column with a ranking of the superstars from both shows.
I assume that if you're reading this then you've already read the first part. I will not be explaining the grading process again, so in case you missed that in the Raw roster evaluation the link to that is RIGHT HERE.
The short explanation of all of the grades goes like this: The higher the letter grade, the better. If there’s a “u” or “uu” beside the letter grade it means that person has a big upside (aka a bright future) while if there’s a “d” or “dd” beside the letter grade it means that person is on the downside of their career. It’s explained in further detail in part one, so if you need a refresher check it out.
The list of talent comes from WWE.com and it will be posted in alphabetical order just like it is on their website. Beside each performer's name will be their age (as of September 22, 2012) in brackets. Once I'm done writing about the Smackdown talent I'll post a list of the top performers from the entire roster. Let's get to it.
I was a little surprised when they had current US Champion Antonio Cesaro dump her after losing a match a few weeks ago. My assumption is that she will be used more as a singles competitor due to the exodus of some divas as of late. The question is how good is she? She's been in the company for three years now, so you would think she would be ready. I've seen a bit of her in the ring. She's okay, but doesn't seem like one of the better women workers in the ring. Grade: C-
Outlook: They'll probably give her a chance as an in-ring performer. I liked her better as a manager. She's a good distraction to look at.
Alberto Del Rio (35)
I'm a Del Rio fan. To me he's a guy that does all the little things in wrestling right. When he's on offense in a match he focuses on a body part while working a safe style that looks credible too. While I wouldn't call him one of the five best in-ring performers in the company, he's certainly better than the average. If I were to be picky I would say that his style can be a bit slow at times. There are times when the crowd dies during his longer matches and that hurts him a bit. It's not a big thing, though. That's more about the style that he works.
In terms of promos he does a good job. He's far from an elite talker, but he carries himself well and he's the kind of heel that you can tell has no interest in getting cheered from the crowd. He doesn't make smartass jokes. Del Rio's very old school in a lot of things he does. That's why he's successful. When you think about what a classic wrestling heel should be, it's a picture of Del Rio. The fancy cars, the confidence, even the scarf around his neck - these are all things done to piss off the fans. And guess what? It all works.
His status in the company is secure. In 2011 he won a lot of things including the Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank and the WWE Championship two times. In 2012 he didn't win anything major. Much like The Miz, he's a guy that's in the upper midcard that has a lot of credibility and can compete for major titles, but he's not in a position where you expect him to win one of the two big titles five or six times in his career. It may not even happen again. That's alright, though, because I think he is where he belongs. He gets a B+ just like last year. Grade: B+ (Last Year: B+)
Outlook: I think where he is this year is the kind of spot he'll be in next year too. There's no face turn for this guy. Why would there be? His gimmick is a heel character and there's no reason to change that. Could be get elevated to win the WWE Title or the World Title? I don't see it happening. He'll feud with babyfaces near the top of the card, but I don't see him being the top guy again.
Alicia Fox (26)
The former on-screen "wedding planner" debuted on the main roster four years ago. She won the Divas Title in the summer of 2010, had it for about two months and hasn't had a push since. If you watch the shows from week to week it's hard to know if she is a face or a heel. She just floats around the roster while having matches every once in a while. It would be better for her career to stay in one role. Her work in the ring is pretty good. She's athletic and has credible looking offense. What she needs is for the company to get behind her as a cocky heel because that's the only way she'll make an impact on a show she is on. Grade: C+ (u) (LY: B-)
Outlook: Due to the lack of female talent on the roster I can see her getting a push again at some point. As weird as it sounds considering she is only 26 years old, she's one of the divas on the roster with the most experience.
Antonio Cesaro (31)
The current United States Champion is a "new" talent that we can write about this year. Of course before he was in WWE, he had a lot of success in Ring of Honor as Claudio Castagnoli. He's fared well in his first year on the main roster in WWE too. He presents a different look because he comes from Switzerland, which makes him unique in that he doesn't sound like everybody else. Of course in WWE if you don't sound like everybody else that makes you a heel because that's just how it is.
Right now his gimmick is the guy that speaks five languages. He does it in a way that makes him look smarter than the average person, but he's going to need more for his gimmick than that. I'm surprised they dropped Aksana as his manager because I think she added to his act in terms of being a distraction for his opponents. He can be successful on his own, though. Like most people, he needs a quality opponent to go up against that elevates both of them. Most titles are props. What really matters is having feuds and matches that people remember. Is that right opponent out there? I sure hope so. I want to see Cesaro having 15 minute matches on PPV. Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later. Grade: B (u)
Outlook: His former ROH tag partner Kassius Ohno (formerly Chris Hero) will likely be called up to the main roster soon. Would they pair them up? Might happen. I think it's more likely that Cesaro will have a long reign as the US Champion to try to elevate him to another level, but like I said having a memorable feud is what is really important.
Booker T (47)
I liked him more as an announcer than I do as a GM. I realize that not a lot of people liked him as an announcer, but I enjoyed his hilarious catchphrases like "aww shucky ducky quack quack" and "what da hell" among others. He added some flair to the announce table. Now that he's GM he plays a generic role that anybody could play. It takes away his personality from him. As far as his in-ring career goes, he's pretty much retired. He did have a few matches in the last year with Cody Rhodes, but for the most part that part of his life is over. Grade: C+ (LY: B-)
Outlook: Will he last a whole year as a GM? Not sure. It wouldn't surprise me if he's back at the announce table on Smackdown within the next year.
Brodus Clay (32)
I try not to be negative too much, but when it comes to Brodus Clay I need to rant a little bit. The dancing fat guy gimmick can only get you so far. Obviously we know he's there because it's a PG show, it's simple or the little kids to like and they even go the extra yard by having the kids dance in the ring with him and the Funkadactyl girls after a win. I get that. I'm just really sick of seeing this guy dance. I think even the little kids are sick of it. Maybe if he was a better wrestler I could take it, but can he even have a match that lasts over five minutes? He looks winded just from the dancing before the match. I don't know if he can have a match that would last five minutes and if he did would anybody care? All he has in the ring is the dancing, the headbutt to the sternum (Ziggler sells it better than anybody of course) and then his big splash that doesn't really look that good. Take him off TV. This character isn't working. Grade: D (LY: C+)
Outlook: Hopefully management sees that it isn't working and ends the gimmick. Turn him into a badass heel if you want to keep him around. Just end the dancing fat man character. It needs to be put to bed.
The son of Haku/Meng hasn't had that many opportunities to actually wrestle on Raw or Smackdown. He's most known for being the guy on the bike with Hunico when he heads down to the ring for a match. I have seen a bit of him on NXT. There's nothing about him that jumps out at me and at 29 years old he isn't young enough to be considered somebody with a huge upside. I'm not really sure what his role will be going forward. Grade: C-
Outlook: Perhaps a tag team with Hunico? At least it would get them on television a bit more.
Congrats on having a job where you are paid to dance and scream every once in a while. It's the American Dream isn't it? Maybe one day she'll have a match and it will become her second favorite match because we know nothing will top Melina vs. Alicia Fox. She's lucky she didn't lose her job after a DUI and then lying to the cops about what she did for a living. Hopefully she learned her lesson. I sound like a wise old man don't I? I'm not that old...yet. Grade: D
Outlook: Dancing. Yep, that's it.
I know that the "I'm a Heyman guy" thing is overplayed, but I have to start this off by saying I'm a Christian guy. Last year when I did this column he got a rating of A, which made him first on the Smackdown roster and second overall to CM Punk. That's because 2011 was the best year of his career in terms of the push he received, the character he had (I loved his heel turn) and the number of quality matches he had. What about this year? As much as I hate to state it, his status has dropped significantly.
Even though he's been durable for most of his nearly 20 year career, he got hurt late last year and for much of 2012 he was off television. The most notable things he did this year was turn babyface (ill advised in my opinion) and win the Intercontinental Title, but that was only so they can get the belt from Cody Rhodes to Miz and needed a transitional champion to do it. As a babyface Christian is just another guy. As a heel, he can be a main event player like he was in 2011. The reason for him going face is simply because there's a greater need there due to all the young heels on the roster. He's one of the best in-ring performers in the company, so it makes sense to put him in there with a heel because he makes them look great. That's what the wrestling business is all about, after all. It's also about wanting just…one…more…match. Sorry. I loved that gimmick. That's all. Grade: B (d) (LY: A)
Outlook: I don't see a main event push happening again. He's likely a midcarder for the rest of his career. If they paired him up with a younger wrestler they could make a good tag team too. A guy like Christian is important to have around.
Cody Rhodes (27)
I will start this off with a statement: I believe Cody Rhodes will be a WWE or World Heavyweight Champion in 2013. Through the end of 2011 and into 2012 he had a significant reign as the Intercontinental Champion that lasted 236 days. It was the longest IC Title reign since Shelton Benjamin's 244 day reign in 2004. While I don't want to say that Rhodes made the title more important just by holding it, at least they had him bring back the old IC Title that had the white strap on it. The question is can you remember any of the feuds he had for the title? I remember the Big Show one, but that ended up with Show winning the IC Title at WrestleMania and then dropping it a month later because it really meant nothing on him. It's one thing to hold a championship. It's another to have a meaningful title reign. I don't think the reign of Rhodes meant a whole lot in the long run.
There are a lot of elements that I like with Rhodes. He carries himself well as a performer with a lot of confidence, his promos are done in a condescending tone that makes the fans want to hate him and he's always improving in the ring. The issue is he needs a dance partner. By that I mean he needs to be in a feud with a babyface performer that will elevate both of them. Remember his brief feud with Randy Orton? It led to a PPV match that Orton won. Ideally the best thing would have been a three month storyline where Rhodes won a major match that would be considered the biggest of his career, but they didn't give that feud that kind of time. Instead it came and went without meaning much for either guy.
I think it's fair to say that Rhodes is the best talent under the age of 30 that is on either Raw or Smackdown. He's also had five years of experience on the main roster. Obviously he was born to be a wrestler. If he's given the opportunity to move up the roster I think he'll be considered an elite level talent. Grade: B+ (u) (LY: B+)
Outlook: It's heel all the way for him. The current "Rhodes Scholars" team with Sandow is fun although I don't see it lasting too long. Don't be surprised if he wins a Money in the Bank briefcase in 2013. I think it's going to be a big year for him.
Curt Hawkins (27)
I'm writing some of these (mainly the lower card guys) past midnight on Thursday and as I glanced at my Twitter feed I saw this from Curt Hawkins (@TheCurtHawkins): "I wanted you all to know that I tore my PCL & Meniscus. Had to have surgery. Not sure of when my return will be but I can promise it will be a whole new look & attitude from Curt Hawkins this time around." In other words, it's a knee surgery. It will probably keep him out for about six months I'm guessing. That's a damn shame. His team with Tyler Reks had potential, but management never really got behind them so they fizzled out and then Reks left the company. As a singles wrestler Hawkins never got going. Now he's hurt. I liked a lot of his work on NXT and Superstars in the last year. His in-ring performances are solid. He's an athletic guy that can do the basics very well, but I always thought he needed to add more to get noticed. In terms of a character, he basically had that cocky heel gimmick. The problem is there are too many guys with the same character. Hopefully this time off will allow him to figure out a gimmick that will really work for him. Grade: C (u) (LY: C+)
Outlook: The injury will set him back obviously. Hopefully when he's back he can have a gimmick that separates him from the pack because if he has that I think he'll get fans to notice him more.
Damien Sandow (30)
Here's another "new" face as far as the main roster goes, but the man formerly known as Aaron "The Idol" Stevens has been a part of WWE for most of the last decade. The Sandow role is exactly the kind of thing I mean when I say a talent should try something different. Sandow's the kind of guy that doesn't want anything to do with the majority of people because he feels like they are beneath him. He's an elitist that insults opponents as a way to avoid wrestling them and of course he uses big words to make fans hate him. It's a sound strategy that works.
To this point we haven't seen Sandow in a lot of long matches on Raw or Smackdown. That was until this past Monday's Raw when he had a 15 minute match with World Champion Sheamus that, quite frankly, opened my eyes about him. While I don't love his propensity to grab the chinlock to slow a match down, it's obvious that he's very experienced, bumps well and has offense that is definitely good enough to make him a star one day. I do wish he got a finisher more painful looking than a neckbreaker where he pulls on the hands of his opponent, but that's hopefully something that can come in time for him. He has "future main eventer" written all over him. Don't be shocked if he gets there sooner rather than later. Grade: B (uu)
Outlook: He's in a spot similar to Cody Rhodes except he got there much faster. Sandow is the definition of a heel. There won't be any changes for him character is. It's just a matter of when he gets elevated to the next level.
Daniel Bryan (31)
The one person on the WWE roster that made the biggest leap in terms of presence on WWE TV from last year to this year is definitely Daniel Bryan. He went from just another babyface wrestler that could have great matches in the ring to a well rounded heel character that can still have great matches in the ring because he is arguably the best in-ring performer in pro wrestling. I think Bryan had those skills as soon as he got to WWE. The difference is that in the last year management showed they believed him, put him out there in positions to show his skills and he has succeeded in becoming one of the top stars in the company.
Late last year, after winning the World Title, the decision was made to turn him heel. He went from being a babyface wrestler that cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Big Show at December's TLC pay-per-view to an egotistical jerk that thought he was better than everybody because he was the champion. I had my doubts about it. Then I went to WrestleMania 28. I listened as over 70,000 people were chanting "yes" all night long in tribute to this guy and I realized that night that the best pure wrestler in the world was on the brink of superstardom. I know that everybody will remember his 18 second loss to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28, but as weird as this sounds I think having that moment made him a bigger star. The next night on Raw, the "yes" chants were even louder and although it seemed like Bryan was on the path to being a babyface they held off on it. His character kept on growing. Bryan became a jerk to his girlfriend AJ, who loved him more than he loved her, and he dumped her for it.
If you look at his in-ring performances, he has proven that he is as good as anybody there is. I know that most people hated what happened at WrestleMania and I can totally understand that. I'd rather focus on the best two out of three falls rematch with Sheamus at Extreme Rules because that was one of the year's best matches and maybe the best match of Sheamus' career. He followed that up with a classic technical wrestling bout with WWE Champion CM Punk at Over The Limit. It might have been the match of the year. During the feud with Punk, which lasted three PPVs, the story with AJ continued while also involving Kane. While I will admit that the story with Kane, which has seen them become tag team champions, has been silly in some ways it's also an example of how multi-talented Bryan is.
When you watch Bryan, look at him as a complete entertainer. He's not just an elite in-ring performer that is average on the microphone or in backstage segments. The guy can talk. Even though the fans wanted to cheer him earlier in the year, he did such a good job of being a jerk that they kept booing him. He's so good at drawing a reaction from the fans. It's not just because he says "no" when they chant "yes" at him. It's because of what he does, how he does it and most importantly how he reacts to it. It's rare to see a performer that can have a 20 minute mat classic, deliver heel promos that make the crowd want to see him get his knocked off and then morph into a funny character if the situation calls for it. The only other person that I could see consistently do that was Kurt Angle of ten years ago. That's how rare it is.
It took ten years of wrestling before Bryan Danielson made it to WWE. Now after three years in the company he has ascended as arguably the best performer in the world. Key word: performer. He's not just a wrestler. He can do it all. Make no mistake, there have been several good things that have happened in WWE in the last year. However, nothing can top the rise of Daniel Bryan. In some ways I am surprised that Vince McMahon would push a "small" wrestler, but it's also proof that McMahon does know talent when he sees it. Now that Bryan is in the prime of his career and he's on the verge of becoming a huge babyface, the best may be yet to come. Grade: A+ (LY: B+)
The rare A+. I gave it to CM Punk. I gave it to him as well. He's earned it. Like I said the last A+ I would have given to a WWE performer was Chris Jericho in 2008. To see who is #1 overall you'll have to scroll to the bottom of this column.
Outlook: Bryan's a babyface these days for the most part. He's not sucking up to the fans, but he's being booked against heels as the partner of Kane and he's doing things that are more likable than he was before. As a smaller wrestler it makes sense for him to be a face. The roster is also loaded with heels, so that means a lot of talent are available for him to feud with. I think the WWE Title or the World Title are definitely in his future going into next year. My suggestion is Ziggler defending the World Title versus Bryan at WrestleMania 29 with Bryan leaving with the World Title this year. How amazing would that be?
Darren Young (28)
Young is a part of the Primetime Players tag team with Titus O'Neil. The two became a team while on NXT when O'Neil went heel to join up with Young, who was already a heel. They have developed some nice chemistry while they have been together. Obviously there's been a change recently since their agent/manager A.W. got fired. I liked A.W. with them, but he's gone and now they are on their own. Young is the better in-ring performer on his team. He moves around the ring well, his offense looks credible and he has a cool finisher known as the Gut Check where he drives his knees into the ribs of his opponent. I hope his tem with O'Neil lasts for a few years because they have the kind of chemistry that is hard to manufacture. When you have something that works it's important to maintain it. Grade: C+
Outlook: I see the Primetime Players being one of the main teams in the tag team division. Keep them as heels. Their act works. No need to change anything.
Derrick Bateman (29)
He's not actually listed on the WWE.com site, but I'm including him anyway. His future is tied to the gimmick known as "The USA Guy," which is a character he's created as far as I know. (Video) It looks to be a really campy babyface character. I'm excited to see it on Raw or Smackdown in the near future. Bateman's a good talker who has a lot of experience from before his time in WWE, but also as a regular on NXT the last few years. I like him more as a babyface because he's a funny guy that fans are going to like if he receives that push. A year ago I wanted him to be used on the main roster. It still hasn't happened. Hopefully it does soon. Grade: C+ (u)
Outlook: The USA Guy has a chance to be different and stand out from the pack. I really hope management gets behind him. I may even move from Canada to the US in support of him. Nah. I don't him like that much.
Drew McIntyre (27)
A year ago I complained about how McIntyre was barely being used. Not much has changed this year until recently when he got paired up with Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal. It's an odd trio, but it's one of those "better than nothing" deals where you just hope for the best. McIntyre's another guy loaded with talent that is still under 30 years old. I think by the time he's 30 he can be a main event level talent just as long as he's given a chance to prove himself. His body type is similar to what Triple H had when he first started in WWE. Yes, HHH was a skinny dude before he "magically" got bigger in 1999 and subsequently became a main eventer. I think McIntyre can do the same, minus the growth spurt. The important thing is an opportunity. Give him a chance and see how far he can go.
Last year when writing about him I said that he has the best entrance music in WWE. "Broken Dreams" is a fantastic song. It's a shame we don't hear it more often. His music is still the same and so is his grade from last year. I haven't seen enough, good or bad, from him to change my mind either way. Grade: C+ (u)
Outlook: Hopefully this "band" with Slater & Mahal can lead to something positive for all of them. I have a feeling it may not happen. If that's the case it would be nice to see him branch out on his own again. Or give him a manager. Paul Heyman? Vickie Guerrero? He would thrive with either one of them, especially Heyman.
I like how WWE lists her as Eve instead of Eve Torres as if having a last name is a bad thing. She's not the only diva like that and there certainly have been many in the past, but it's better to have a last name. Anyway, she is one of the most improved people on the roster this year. She went from a diva without much of a direction last year to somebody that has improved a lot thanks to a heel turn. Do you see why I suggest turns for a lot of people that are stagnant? They freshen the character up.
As a heel I actually notice her now and even look forward to seeing her because she has good presence on camera. It also helps that she's very easy on the eyes too. In the ring she's definitely improved over the years, but she doesn't have consistently good matches. If she's in there with one of the few elite in-ring performing divas then she can. That improvement will likely continue as she gets used to being a heel. Thank you to Eve for going from somebody I got bored by very easily to somebody I now look forward to seeing. Heels just want to have fun. Grade: B (LY: C)
Outlook: She won the Divas Championship recently. I think she'll have a long reign. Her biggest opponent will likely be AJ Lee. Don't be surprised if that rivalry simmers going into WrestleMania 29 season.
Ezekiel Jackson (34)
As far as I know, he's out of action after having surgery on a torn muscle in his upper body. Is that a shock to you considering how big his upper body is? Jackson's one of those guys with an imposing figures that lacks mobility or the ability to make somebody look good in a wrestling match. If you're big and you can't move then what good are you, really? I can understand why he's in WWE. I just don't think he has much value. Grade: D+ (d) (LY: C-)
Outlook: I'm not sure about his future. Singles push didn't work. Perhaps a tag team. I suggest those a lot, don't I?
The Great Khali (40)
First, I'm glad that he's doing okay after they found a tumor near his brain. He may be returning to action in the near future although if he wanted to call it a career I'd be okay with that. Second, I'm not the guy to tell people what to do with their lives, but at 40 years old it will probably take him ten minutes to even walk to the ring. Five years ago it took him about two minutes. At least it seemed that way. Thank goodness for fast forward on the DVR huh? Grade: D (dd) (LY: D)
In some instances in life multiple D's can be considered a good thing. Not in this case!
Outlook: He's really near the end of his career and if he does come back I think it would only be in a part-time or comedy type of role.
Heath Slater (29)
The one man rock band has made an impression on me this year. Throughout this evaluation you have seen me say that people have to do things to differentiate themselves from the pack in order to stand out. Look at Slater. He looks different than anybody on the roster. He's got this "one man rock band" gimmick that allows him to be an over the top heel that makes fans want to see him get his ass kicked. Aside from the brutal segment with Cyndi Lauper, I thought having legends destroy him week after week this summer was a lot of fun. It allowed him to show his personality, which is what character development is all about. I've also taken notice of his work in the ring. The guy always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Also unlike some people on the roster his offense actually looks good.
I realize that the general consensus is that he's an annoying heel, but the thing is he's that annoying heel that knows what he's doing! The crowd hates him because he does all of the little things right to make them hate him. Now that's he's in this stable with Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre perhaps he'll slowly climb up the roster to show what he can do. Slater's easy to make fun of, but he's also doing his job well. With experience he'll continue to grow. I'm glad he's getting the opportunities to improve. He's earned it. Grade: B- (u) (LY: C)
Outlook: Heel is definitely the role for him. Don't be surprised if he's in the hunt for the IC or US Title over the next year.
He's been in WWE for six years. Six years! Yes it's been that long. The good news is that he's barely on WWE TV these days. I have no problem with that at all. At least he can talk now. Congrats on that. Why was he a mute anyway? Never mind. Grade: D (LY: C-)
Outlook: He's there to entertain the kids and annoy the rest of us.
A year ago when I wrote about him it was as "Sin Cara Heel." They really didn't do anything to distinguish between him and the regular Sin Cara except for the color differences that would happen later. Since he's been working as Hunico he got a decent push in the early going, but now he's basically a lower midcard guy that is barely getting TV time. Hunico looks the part of a skilled worker to me. I just don't think he adds anything extra to move him up the ladder, so to speak. Grade: C (LY: B-)
Outlook: It wouldn't surprise me to see him teaming with Camacho on a full time basis.
Jey Uso (27)
I'm surprised that WWE didn't push them more in the last year. Their position hasn't changed much in the company except that there are a number of tag teams that have leapfrogged over them in terms of moving up the ladder. They have the makings of an exciting babyface tag team with a lot of energy put into their matches and the kind of chemistry that's rare because as twin brothers they are obviously born with that. Instead of moving up they have stayed stagnant. Obviously, though, they're still young so time is on their side. And hey, at least they have that cool entrance. That's something unique about them. They need to do more to stand out. Grade: C (LY: C+)
Outlook: The Usos tag team still has a lot of time to grow. They won't be split up in the near future. That would be counterproductive.
Jimmy Uso (27)
The same things I wrote for his brother up above apply to him. Grade: C (LY: C+)
Outlook: He's a tag wrestler. He's good at it. Keep him in that role.
Jinder Mahal (26)
Mahal hasn't progressed much in the last year. He's still a heel that gets booed simply because of demeanor. He rarely gets promo time. If he does they have speak in a foreign language because as I have said many times when it comes to WWE booking, foreign language means evil. The only change for him is the new stable with Slater and McIntyre that is still in its infant stages, so we'll see where it goes. He's young enough that I think he has the potential to be featured in the midcard more, but it's going to take time and some more investment in his career. He needs to be more than a rich guy that talks in a foreign language. Is it too much to ask for more with some of these characters? Grade: C (LY: C)
Outlook: Since he's still in his mid-20s he'll continue to grow as a performer. The alliance with Slater and McIntyre will hopefully lead to more opportunities for all of them. Obviously he'll remain in the heel role.
Johnny Curtis (29)
Remember the promos he did talking about how he was going to debut? They used a lot of clichés as a way to debut him. Then they put him on the show and he lost a few matches. Then he was gone. I wrote this last year about him: "The problem is like a lot of guys he has no gimmick. He's just another guy that looks like so many of the other guys with short black hair, a tan and muscles. The question is what makes him stand out?" What has changed in twelve months? Nothing. Still barely on Raw or Smackdown. He's still without a gimmick unless you count his "creepy guy" character that was on NXT, but if it was on NXT does it really count? I'm not sure. Grade: C (LY: C)
Outlook: He's teamed with Michael McGillicutty enough to make me think that they have a future together as a team if creative gets behind it. If not he'll likely toil in the midcard. Do something with him. Give him a chance.
Josh Mathews (31)
He's one of the announcers on Smackdown along with Michael Cole. Mathews has some personality, but he doesn't show it enough. He's very vanilla as an announcer, which is how WWE likes a lot of their announcers to be. I guess he's learned that "skill" in his decade of being in WWE. When he's on Raw he is only there to be a backstage interviewer. There's nothing wrong with Mathews as an announcer, but there's nothing about him that makes him stand out either. I will give him some props for being pretty good on the YouTube show "Are You Serious" that he hosts with Road Dogg. It's an entertaining program. Grade: C+ (LY: B-)
Outlook: I assume he'll stay in the same spot he's in now. I doubt he moves to Raw or gets removed from Smackdown.
Justin Gabriel (31)
I think Gabriel has been put in a role that suits him well. For the most part he's being booked as the babyface tag team partner in the team known as International Airstrike. I'm not sure how good of a name that is, but if you look at their talent it has the potential to be a very successful team. When Gabriel debuted he was a heel as part of the Nexus stable. If you look at him in the ring he's clearly a guy with babyface skills. Not only does he look like a babyface more than a heel, but his fast paced offense works a lot better as a face. He's one of the more exciting in-ring performers in the company. As part of a team, he's able to showcase that more often. Gabriel is a good talent. His 450 splash may be the most impressive move in WWE even if we don't see it as often these days. Grade: B- (LY: C+)
Outlook: I think his team with Tyson Kidd will be where he's predominantly featured in the next year. They can gain some steam as a babyface team as long as they are given the opportunity to show just how good they are.
There are a lot of things I like about Kaitlyn. Mainly I like that she's young, pretty, energetic and has shown a good personality when she was given the chance on NXT. Plus on Twitter she has a lot of random Simpsons quotes, so that's huge with me. As a worker she's still very green in a lot of ways. While her look is impressive due to her physique, I think she's having a tough time figuring out if she's a power wrestler or a speed wrestler. I think she should focus on her power more. It could make her stand out a bit more. With Beth Phoenix on the way out, she has a chance to move up the ranks. It's up to her to improve her in-ring performances. Grade: C (u) (LY: C-)
Outlook: Don't be surprised if she gets a push. It might be a case of the divas roster being so thin that she does win the Divas Title within the next year. I'd hold off on it. Build her up more. There's no rush.
I think she's miscast in the babyface role. I enjoyed her heel work with Michelle McCool so much a few years ago. As a babyface she's become generic like the other girls that just smile randomly even if bad things are happening to them. When she came back from injury they put the Divas Title because apparently people thought it was going to be Kharma, so she was given the title as a swerve on internet fans that think they know too much. Really? As a result the divas division is at its lowest point these days and her title reign didn't help her. I hope that the creative team realizes she's better off in the heel role. At least she had a personality when she was acting that way. Grade: C+ (LY: Injured)
Outlook: She's one of the longest tenured divas on the roster, so there is a spot for her. I hope that a heel turn is in her future because that was her best role.
Lilian Garcia (46)
She looks younger than her age so that's a testament to her. I think Lilian (once called Vivian by Chris Jericho) does a good job of announcing. They don't use her in storylines anymore, which is fine by me. No grade for ring announcers.
Mark Henry (42)
Henry is at a crossroads in his career. In 2011 he received the biggest push of his career. He became a World Champion for the first time. Earlier this year he was hovering around the top of the card, but wasn't a major threat to win a title again. Then in May he announced he had shoulder surgery that threatened the rest of his career. Five months after his surgery we don't really know if his career is going to continue. I wouldn't be shocked if he tries to come back for one final match at WrestleMania before wrapping up, but I think his days as a full time performer are over. For a man of his size and his age it's going to be difficult to resume his career. I'm glad that he was able to reach main event status for a brief period of time, though. While I admit to never being a huge fan, he's proof of a guy that worked hard for the majority of his 16 year WWE career and accomplished more than many of us (including myself) thought he would. No grade due to injury
Outlook: I really think this is the end of his career aside from maybe a few matches before WrestleMania where he will call it a career. Everybody wants to end at a WrestleMania, of course.
Matt Striker (38)
I don't know who he pissed off in WWE that led to his removal as an announcer on Raw or Smackdown. Remember he was doing PPVs too? Now he's relegated to Superstars duty, which isn't even shown on American television. Last year I wrote that maybe WWE should consider him for a managerial role. It's better than being a roving backstage interviewer, which is all he does now. While I don't think he has value as a wrestler, I think he can contribute as an announcer on a main show or a manager. Grade: C (LY: C+)
Outlook: There are a number of people on the roster that could benefit from an effective manager, so why not him?
She's a Funkadactyl dancer as well. Unlike Cameron, though, I know she's had significant training in the ring and the reports I've read/heard have suggested that she has some talent. She's obviously in the early stages of her career, but it wouldn't surprise me if she becomes a regular in-ring competitor within the next year. Just don't let Cameron drive. Grade: C- (u)
Outlook: I'm not sure how long the Brodus Clay gimmick is going to last. If it ends she'll wrestle. If they keep it going then she'll keep on dancing, most likely.
If you've read my work in the past few years then you know that my favorite diva is definitely Natalya. She represents what I want to see in a WWE Diva. Not only is she easy on the eyes and with a strong personality, but she's the most skilled women's wrestler on Raw or Smackdown. Whenever she has a match she finds a way to make it entertaining. Often times I see her in matches with the younger, less experienced girls and she makes them look credible. She is the perfect combination of speed and power without overshadowing anybody she is in the ring against. I love her offense with the Natty By Nature spinning clothesline, the Pinup Strong submission hold and of course the Sharpshooter that she uses to finish off her opponents.
Personally my favorite role for her is as a heel. She's so good at being a jerk. It's funny because personality wise it seems like she is one of the nicest people in the business, but that's what being a performer is all about. Be different. Make yourself stand out. I think she does that. They need to be consistent with her character. Either stay heel or stay face. Her gimmick changes are too frequent. Hopefully with a thinning divas roster she can be elevated to a position where she can win the Divas Championship. Nobody deserves it more, in my opinion. Grade: B (LY: B)
Outlook: A run as Divas Champion? I hope so. Also, I would love to see newly signed Sara Del Rey used on Raw or Smackdown for a match with her. Right now Sara is working just a trainer in NXT/FCW, but they could definitely use her. I know they've wrestled before Natalya was in WWE. I would love to see it on a bigger stage.
Randy Orton (32)
I think last year was the best year of Randy Orton's career in terms of his in-ring performances. His feud with Christian was excellent. It elevated both guys, which is what feuds are supposed to do. After dropping the World Title to Mark Henry last fall he moved down the roster a bit and never really got back into the World Title picture on a regular basis. I was really hoping for a feud with Daniel Bryan, but that never happened. The feud with Dolph Ziggler was pretty good although it was far too short. I thought it was a story that could went multiple PPVs. Instead it was just one show. I wanted more.
As a babyface Orton's matches have been better, but his gimmick has suffered. I also question how much fun he's having as a babyface. When he was suspended for 60 days for his second Wellness Policy violation I thought that it would allow him to freshen up his babyface act. It didn't really happen. He's spoken openly about how he wants to turn heel again. Part of the reason it hasn't happened is likely because the babyface side of the roster is pretty thin. However I think with Daniel Bryan working as a babyface for the near future that they should have enough top tier talent on that side. It wouldn't surprise me to see Orton back in his heel role, which may be for the best. What's amazing to see is how popular the RKO still is. No move in WWE generates a bigger reaction than that move. If he's a heel again will fans boo it or keep cheering? It will be interesting to see what happens there.
I think it's fair to say that Orton is at a crossroads. He's been a main event level player for eight years now. What more can he do? All there is for him are feuds with new opponents and to win more titles. His promos were never his strong suit. His look carried him a long way. And in the last couple of years his in-ring performances have raised his stock in my eyes. Will management push him to win the WWE or World Title again? I'm not sure. With two Wellness Policy strikes against him it's a bit of a risk. Hopefully he still has the desire to be the best because he's still in the prime of his career and there are a lot of talented guys on the roster that can benefit from working with him. Grade: B+ (LY: A-)
Outlook: I think the heel turn is inevitable. It's likely for the end of the year or Royal Rumble time. Hopefully that rivalry with Daniel Bryan happens because I think it would be excellent.
There's a word posting limit on the site so that's the end of this first part of the Smackdown roster.