Due to a word limit I couldn't post the entire Smackdown evaluation in one post. Here's the rest of the roster as well as the rankings of the top 25 male performers in WWE.
Ricardo Rodriguez (26)
I really enjoy the work of Rodriguez. He's one of those underrated talents that makes me laugh when he's out there performing. His character is basically a joke as the ring announcer of Alberto Del Rio. The cool thing is this year they've given him some more duties and even put him in some matches. Remember the feud earlier in the year with Santino? It provided some good comedy moments. Their Tuxedo match at No Way Out was one of the worst matches of the year, though. That was his low point. For the most part he's exactly what you want out of a supporting character. He knows his role, he plays his part well in terms of getting the crowd to hate him and when he gets the chance to wrestle he can be entertaining as well. Ricardo's one of the younger guys on the roster that will continue to grow with more TV time. He has a very bright future. Grade: B- (u) (LY: B-)
Outlook: I think he'll have more opportunities to wrestle. More screen time for him will be a good thing.
Rosa Mendes (31)
Rosa is arguably the best looking diva on the roster, depending on what you like to look at. As a fiery Latina that doesn't speak English as a way to get heat (remember foreign languages are evil in WWE), she knows her role. She stands at ringside during the tag matches of Primo/Epico and she provides a distraction. I'd like to see her do more to get physically involved instead of just standing there all the time. The key to a good manager is to be active in your role, so that's something she needs to improve on. In the ring she's okay. I saw her in person at a house show a few weeks back and she was very average although Natalya carried her to a good match. Despite being in the WWE system for six years it's clear that she won't improve that much more as a wrestler. Keep her as a valet. It works. Grade: C (LY: C-)
Outlook: As long as Epico and Primo remain a team she should manage them. They benefit from having her out there. I don't see her breaking out as a singles wrestler.
The wrestler formerly known as Skip Sheffield has had quite a presence on WWE programming in 2012. After suffering an ankle injury in 2010, he was held out all of last year and returned this year as Ryback. He hasn't lost a match on television or pay-per-view. The "feed me more" chants grow week after week. There are also "Goldberg" chants due to his resemblance towards the former WCW & WWE Champion. It's taken a while considering he first signed with WWE seven years ago, but I think Ryback is really becoming a big name in the company that will have a major role going forward. He's the perfect example of what I say a wrestler can be if management gets behind the gimmick and shows some faith in the performer.
What I like most about Ryback is that he's an ass-kicking machine. He walks to the ring, he destroys his opponents, he chants "feed me more" and then he leaves. There are a no boring promos. There are no poorly acted sketches. He just kicks ass. Sometimes that's all you need. It's simple, but it works. Too many times in wrestling things get complicated when they don't need to be. Ryback stands out because he's simple. Where the issues arise is what do you do when he has to wrestle a top guy (possibly CM Punk) and his match will go 15 minutes instead of two minutes? Will fans care then? That will be the test for him. Grade: B (u) (LY: Injured)
Outlook: Nothing would shock me about how far he gets pushed in the future. I think he's a pet project of Vince McMahon that will benefit from WWE knowing they need more babyface stars. The WWE or World Title is likely. A potential match with big name heels like CM Punk and Brock Lesnar are very possible too. The future for "The Ryback" (as Daniel Bryan calls him) is bright.
In the interest of full disclosure, he's the last person I'm writing about. The reason is because I wanted to cover everybody else on the roster before taking a closer look at the man that has become the face of Smackdown. It seems like the biggest goal of WWE's creative team this year was to make this guy into the "new" John Cena or at least something close to that. Cena's the top babyface on Raw. Sheamus is the top babyface on Smackdown. He's also one of the top babyfaces on Raw too because if you watch both shows he's the guy that is on WWE television more than anybody. How many matches has he lost in the last year? I doubt you need two hands to count that high. It's rare.
When he won the Royal Rumble in January a lot of us thought that it was because Chris Jericho was the obvious, so the creative team wanted to swerve us by giving the win to Sheamus. Looking back I don't think that was the case at all. Jericho didn't need the win. Sheamus did. As a newly turned babyface last year they needed to "shove the rocket up his ass" (a wonderful saying) to push him as a top dog. That's why he won the Rumble. Then he defeated Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28 because they wanted to push the idea that he had a devastating finishing move with the Brogue Kick. If you listen to the crowd reactions you can tell that it's worked. I was at a house show a couple of weeks ago where he was main eventing against Del Rio and the fans loved this guy. It was a top babyface reaction for him.
The issue I have with Sheamus is that he is pushed too strongly. It doesn't seem like anybody can beat him in any match, which I guess is fine if you consider that he'll likely lose the World Title in a cheap manner thanks to a Dolph Ziggler Money in the Bank cash-in. It makes him unlikable at times, though. That's the problem. Why should I or anybody cheer for the guy that always wins? He needs some sympathy heat once in a while. Selling an arm injury isn't enough. We like our heroes to be hurt and then fight back to attain victory. It's the simplest story there is because it works. The other thing I dislike about Sheamus the character is that the comedy promos really don’t work. I understand wanting to give him a personality, but the jokes aren't connecting as much as WWE probably hopes they would. Scale back the jokes. Let him deliver those serious "I'm going to kick your ass" type of promos because they will be much more effective.
I like him as a performer. I think his matches are very entertaining because he's perfected his craft as a brawling style of wrestler. His match with Daniel Bryan at Extreme Rules was arguably the best of his career, as I've said. I thought the Alberto Del Rio feud was good at times, but it dragged on a bit. The good thing for him is that potential feud with Dolph Ziggler will be awesome because Ziggler does such an awesome job of making his offense look deadly. There are also other good heels lined up for him to feud with down the road such as Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett and Randy Orton if he turns heel. All of those rivalries would seem fresh. That's why Sheamus has a bright future in 2012 and beyond as he reaches the prime of his career. His grade moves up a notch because I think he's improved this year. Grade: A- (LY: B+)
Outlook: Top babyface on Smackdown. Nothing will change too much for him.
Sin Cara (29)
Here's one of the most polarizing figures on the roster. He's either really liked or really hated by fans. There doesn't seem to be an in between although if there is then I would be in that place. While he's not my favorite performer, I do like him more than a lot of people that will point out every little "botch" he does in a match. A lot of wrestlers make mistakes though. It's part of the business. If it was easy to be a good wrestler then more people would do it. In his case it's partly because he wrestles a different style than most American wrestler and when you mix that in with the fast pace he works at how many people can keep up with him?
What I like about Sin Cara right now is that he's tied at the hip, so to speak, with Rey Mysterio. The idea is that Mysterio is his mentor and is trying to help him out. I don't think a heel turn is imminent for either guy. Instead of that they will likely win the tag team titles at some point and hopefully have a match at WrestleMania 29 in a face vs. face setting. "The Battle of the Masked Marvels" could be a lot of fun. Until we get there, he needs to keep up his consistency in the ring so that he can gain the trust of the higher ups that are there to decide his future. He was one of the first big signings since Triple H got his job as the head of talent relations, so you know they're going to stick by him for as long as they can. I think that's the right move. Even if he doesn't botch any moves he'll continue to have his haters. That's just how fans are. He needs to fight through it. The former Mistico was a huge draw in Mexico for a reason. He has talent. Whether he can continue to adapt and improve is up to him. I hope he makes it. I really do. Grade: B- (LY: B-)
Outlook: Like I said a lot of his future is based on where things go with Rey Mysterio as his current partner and a potential opponent down the road. It's the smart way to book both of them at this point in their careers. Tag gold is likely. Perhaps a IC or US Title run may be in his future too. Main eventer? Doubt it ever happens.
Tamina Snuka (34)
I had no idea she was that old until I just looked it up. That's surprising to me because when she debuted she looked like a younger performer that simply lacked experience and in time I thought she could become a very good in-ring performer. While she has shown some improvement, it hasn't been as rapid as I thought it would be. Now it seems like management has cooled on her. For a while they kept shoving the "she's the daughter of Jimmy Snuka" thing down our throats. Now she's disappeared from television. I'm not sure if she'll ever get that push to the Divas Title spot or if she'll just hang around for the next few years. Grade: C (LY: C)
Outlook: Like I said either management gets behind her with a major push or she continues to float around without much substance.
Ted Dibiase (29)
It's been a rough year for Dibiase professionally. A year ago he was a babyface that was doing a great job of interacting with fans at shows with his "Dibiase Posse" idea that I thought was smart of him. Then he got hurt with multiple injuries. He's been on the shelf for much of the year until returning recently with no fanfare. It's not a good sign when your return is during a battle royal and nobody treats it like a big deal. Wade Barrett got video packages. Dibiase got nothing. It shows you where he is on the radar. There's still talent there. His matches are okay. His promos can be good. It's just a matter of finding the right role for him. Grade: C (LY: B)
Outlook: I'm not sure if his future is as a heel or face, but I would suggest a tag team with some heel in the midcard because as I have said many times it's better than nothing. It wouldn't shock me if he got lost in the shuffle, though.
Theodore Long (65)
I don't intend to be mean when I say this, but if Teddy Long disappeared from WWE television I'd be fine with that. He's been an on-air performer in WWE for so many years and even when his team lost at WrestleMania to the team of John Laurinaitis they still put him on TV every week. Now he's a senior adviser of Booker T. His legacy is that he's the guy that loves to make tag team matches. Because of that there's this hilarious Teddy Long Tag Match Dubstep video that may be the best thing he's ever done in his career. Holla holla holla. Grade: C- (dd) (LY: C)
Outlook: If the character retires that would be wonderful. If he sticks around he'll continue to be featured in some kind of management role on Smackdown.
Titus O'Neil (35)
A lot of what I wrote for Darren Young earlier applies for him as well. The difference is I think Young is better in the ring. What O'Neil has going for him is he's a bigger guy. Sometimes, though, he gets lost in a longer match. I saw that a lot when I watched him on NXT. That's probably why it took him two years of being on that show to become a regular on Raw and Smackdown. Now that he's in a heel tag team it's the perfect role for him. Grade: C
Outlook: I think the Primetime Players will be a team for the next few years. At least they should be. Stick with them, WWE. They have something there.
Congrats on being listed on the Smackdown roster page. He's not the ring announcer for Raw or Smackdown, but he has been with the company for over two decades and still works on the road. No grade for you, Mr. Voice Cracking During Edge's Intro Guy.
Trent Barreta (25)
He was sidelined most of the year with a knee injury. His absence led to the "Where's Trent?" phenomenon (that may be pushing it) created by his peers that even led to t-shirts being made. He returned to action on NXT result. At 25 years old he's one of the younger guys on the roster so they can certainly take their time in terms of using him more. His in-ring skills are very good. While he hasn't had many matches on Raw or Smackdown, there have been matches on Superstars and NXT that have shown me has a lot of potential. That's why you don't give up on a guy with an injury. You have to hope he comes back strong and when the time is right a guy like Barreta can prove to be a valuable asset in the long term. Grade: C (u) (LY: C+)
Outlook: I think the best use of Barreta would be in a tag team. He's an athletic guy who can work a fast pace, so you can either pair him up with another guy that has similar skills or find a big guy to make them an odd couple type of team.
Tyson Kidd (32)
I see the term "underrated" used when people talk about Kidd, who is a favorite of mine. I don't think he's underrated by his peers in WWE who probably know he's one of the best workers in the world. The ones doing the underrating are WWE management because they are not using him to the best of his abilities. The thing is he has had a lot of chances to prove himself over the last year with a lot of matches on shows like NXT and Superstars, but it's rare to see him showcase that talent on Raw or Smackdown. My opinion is that if he got the chance to have a 10 minute match with another good worker he would wow the crowd and it would raise his status in the company.
Remember Money in the Bank? He was a participant in that match. He earned a good reaction from the fans during the match. Then what? Back to barely getting TV time. The good thing is he's paired up with Justin Gabriel as a tag team with a lot of potential. While I would like to see more from Kidd, it is an improvement on where he was last year. Hopefully by this time next year he's even more of a presence on WWE TV. Grade: B- (u)
Outlook: The tag team with Gabriel feels like a permanent thing. I have no problem with that. Keep it going.
The Undertaker (47)
I'm not sure why he's listed on the Smackdown roster. He's a legendary performer that wrestles once a year and that's it. He did appear on the July 23rd episode of Raw, but that was a nostalgia thing more than anything. Will he wrestle at WrestleMania 29 to try to go 21-0 at the biggest event of the year? Maybe. We don't really know at this point. There's still another six months to try to figure it out. Good luck with that. No rating due to inactivity
Outlook: He's basically retired without announcing it. If he has another match it's going to be at WrestleMania 29. I'm fine with it whether he wrestles or doesn't because if he wrestles the match is usually great. If he doesn't then that means more time for the rest of the roster.
Wade Barrett (32)
Barrett has main eventer written all over him. The broken elbow injury he suffered back in February was a terrible thing that happened live on Raw. He was out of action for half of the year partly because of the recovery from injury and partly because they wanted to wait for the right time to bring him back. Now that he's back they are pushing the idea that his "Barrett Barrage" gimmick represents what his life was like before he was in WWE when he was a bare knuckle finisher. His new finisher, a devastating forearm to the face called The Souvenir, is different than what you will normally see as a finishing move. To me it's an improvement over what he was doing before his injury.
There are two things that Barrett has going for him: 1) He's a bigger wrestler. We know Vince McMahon loves that. 2) He's proven himself to be a skilled talker. That's very important too. Because of those skills he has the chance to become a star. Where he needs to improve is in his matches. The one thing I notice with him during matches is there are instances where the crowd will die during his matches because he slows down the pace far too much. What he needs to do is keep them more involved. Simplify the offense a bit more. I think he'll improve on that over time and when that happens he'll have all the tools needed to be a main event player. Barrett still needs to improve on things, but I think he'll get there. Grade: B (u) (LY: B)
Outlook: I thought he would have been the WWE or World Champion by now. The injury prevented that from happening this year. Next year I think he'll reach that level.
William Regal (44)
He's my favorite announcer in WWE right now. The problem is he's only on NXT when he should be one of the main announcers on Raw. Forget about just being on Smackdown. This guy needs to be on Raw every Monday night because nobody does a better job of putting over the talent in the ring as well as actually calling moves by their name. Not only that, but he explains why moves work! It's a simple concept that most WWE announcers have forgotten about probably because the producers have trained them that way. That's why I enjoy his commentary so much. As an in-ring performer, he has matches once in a while on house shows. It's rare to see him in a TV match, though. Regal's carved a nice career for himself, though, so he can do whatever he wants behind the scenes and the business is better off for having him in it. Grade: B- (u - as an announcer) (LY: B-)
Outlook: I hope he gets promoted to a spot where he can be an announcer on Raw or Smackdown. He's earned it. Will it happen? Your guess is as good as mine on that one.
Yoshi Tatsu (35)
Tatsu is barely on the roster. He's relegated to Superstars duty except he's not even winning many matches on that show. He's one of the lowest guys on the totem pole. That doesn't mean he's a bad worker. He's fine in the ring. I just don't think there's anything about him that will cause management to say: "Hey let's use Yoshi Tatsu more." It's like he's the new Funaki. That's a guy that hangs around for many years, doesn't do a whole lot except for comedic purposes and fades away. If you save your money, though, you can make a good living as a jobber. It beats working somewhere else. Grade: D+ (LY: C+)
Outlook: Like I said he's barely hanging on at this point in his career. It wouldn't surprise me to see him get released. If they keep him around he'll continue his work as a jobber. I don't see them pushing him now in his mid-30s when there are so many other talented performers on the roster.
Here's the list of male and female wrestlers that I evaluated as part of the Smackdown roster. You will see the letter grade that was given as well as the upside or downside associated with them where it applies. Announcers are not included in this list. FYI: William Regal is considered an announcer.
- Daniel Bryan: A+
- Sheamus: A-
- Randy Orton: B+
- Alberto Del Rio: B+
- Cody Rhodes: B+ (u)
- Damien Sandow: B (uu)
- Wade Barrett: B (u)
- Ryback: B (u)
- Antonio Cesaro: B (u)
- Christian: B (d)
- Natalya: B
- Eve: B
- Tyson Kidd: B- (u)
- Heath Slater: B- (u)
- Sin Cara: B-
- Ricardo Rodriguez: B- (u)
- Justin Gabriel: B-
- Booker T: C+
- Darren Young: C+
- Derrick Bateman: C+ (u)
- Drew McIntyre: C+ (u)
- Layla: C+
- Alicia Fox: C+ (u)
- Ted Dibiase: C
- Curt Hawkins: C (u)
- Titus O'Neil: C
- Jinder Mahal: C
- Kaitlyn: C
- Trent Barreta: C (u)
- Hunico: C
- Jey Uso: C
- Jimmy Uso: C
- Johnny Curtis: C
- Tamina Snuka: C
- Rosa Mendes: C
- Camacho: C-
- Naomi: C- (u)
- Aksana: C-
- Theodore Long: C-
- Yoshi Tatsu: D+
- Ezekiel Jackson: D (d)
- Cameron: D
- Brodus Clay: D
- The Great Khali: D (dd)
- Hornswoggle: D
No grade due to major injury or inactivity: Mark Henry, Undertaker
Thoughts: Bryan is clearly first. No question in my mind…Sheamus is better than he was last year and if he keeps it going he could get an even higher grade. I don't know if he can. He may be at his peak right now…Orton dropped a bit because it wasn’t as good of a year for him. A heel turn will help…Del Rio's solid, but I wouldn't be shocked if he dropped next year…Do you see the letter "u" beside those guys from spots 5 through 9? They're all on the rise. A sign of a strong roster…Most of the people in the C+ or C range are people that are either on the rise or simply need more TV time…As for the bottom of the roster, those are a lot of expendable names taking up roster spots.
Top 25 Male Wrestlers in WWE
The heading says it all. I thought it would be interesting to put it all together to make a final top 25 list of the best male performers in WWE. Note: I’m going wrestlers only here and no announcers. When there’s a tie, I will break it by going with the person that I feel is the best.
- Daniel Bryan: A+
- CM Punk: A+
- Dolph Ziggler: A-
- John Cena: A-
- Sheamus: A-
- Randy Orton: B+
- Alberto Del Rio: B+
- The Miz: B+
- Cody Rhodes: B+
- Big Show: B
- Damien Sandow: B
- Rey Mysterio: B
- Kane: B
- Wade Barrett: B
- Ryback: B
- Antonio Cesaro: B
- Christian: B
- Kofi Kingston: B-
- Tyson Kidd: B-
- Heath Slater: B-
- Santino Marella: B-
- R-Truth: B-
- Sin Cara: B-
- Zack Ryder: B-
- (tie) Ricardo Rodriguez: B- & (tie) Justin Gabriel: B-
I cheated at the end there. There were 26 people ranked B- and above, so I just put a tie for the bottom two because 25 is a much cooler list than 26.
As for the top of the order, I went Daniel Bryan in the top slot over CM Punk. It was a very difficult position. I think both guys are performing at a very high level and I found myself thinking about the placement for weeks. I'm sure that will be the most argued about topic amongst the reader, but I want to advise you that I really had a tough time picking one of them.
The one thing I've taken away from writing this column is that the WWE roster is loaded with a lot of young talent that is ready to break through to the main event. There are so many wrestlers in their early 30s that are seasoned pros that are at the age considered the prime of their careers. In some ways that can lead to problems because there are so many guys that deserve a push, but you obviously can't do it all at once.
I think a rich roster of talent is a positive thing in the long run, though. It allows you to try different things, turn people heel or face if you feel they are better in that role and hopefully build up the younger guys by using the established guys to put them over.
Who will rise next year? Who will fall? As always it will be interesting to see what happens.
We have come to the conclusion of the column. The first part was over 10,000 words. You can read that here if you missed it. This one just topped 12,000 words because there were more names on the Smackdown brand. If you hung around to read all 22,000 words I thank you very much. I wrote most of it in the last week, so needless to say I'm glad that it's over.
If you're one of those people that reads my work, but never responds I'd like to say to you that I hope you contact me about this because I worked really hard on it. If you're only going to respond to one thing I write then let it be this. That's all I'm saying.
Thoughts? Comments? My contact info is below. Don't be shy.
Until next fall, that's the end of this year's WWE Roster Evaluation. Thanks for reading.
John Canton - email@example.com
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