Saying WWE have some unutilised talent is like saying the rainforest gets a bit soggy now and again. The WWE have some of the absolute best in the world under contract yet many never realise their full potential beyond the mid-card. While many of these guys are just champions and hall of famers in the waiting, but seeing how WWE treats stars we’ve all thought the same of before can we really trust them to deliver? Some of the best performers WWE has ever seen never quite grabbed that brass ring in the main event scene and no I’m not counting WWE’s relaunch of ECW why would I? It never happened, don’t bother checking the network it’s not there. Be it the WWE World Heavyweight, Universal or NXT Championship, these are ten superstars who must become the world champion of their respective brands or on their future main roster run. Only first time champions now but current main roster talent that once held the NXT title are eligible but let’s leave out the obvious Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura.
10. Bobby Roode
A somewhat obvious pick to start off with given how immensely over he’s gotten since debuting but nevertheless there’s no other way to put it, Bobby Roode is money. The man’s presence, showmanship and yes his entrance music have gotten him over far beyond anything WWE could’ve expected. He was always going to be a big deal but he became the focus of every spotlight in the centre stage NXT almost immediately. To not give him a run with the NXT championship, would be foolish. He’s a character built to be champion. Look at his Takeover entrances and say they wouldn’t look better with shimmering gold around his currently empty waste. You can’t, if you can you’re lying and that’s shameful. If he’s getting to descend from the heavens and given full choirs for an opening contest now, imagine what could be done for his championship entrance in future defences. He could become the next entrance to see at Wrestlemania like Undertaker or Triple H are now. Roode has the in ring chops to pull off a successful reign but his promo work, limelight appeal and ability to make any title the most striking jewel in the business would make that reign, dare I say…GLORIOUS!
9. Kofi Kingston
How Kofi Kingston never made it to the world title scene is beyond me. Back in 2009 it looked like Kofi was sailing on his way to paradise in the main event. Then allegedly there was trouble when a certain Viper, seemingly from out of nowhere, spoke ill of poor little Kofi backstage after a “STUPID” botch thus killing his eventual main event push. Kofi soon waddled in the mid-card scene to some success but even now with the popularity of The New Day, Kofi still has a slight shot at the big one. He’s a future Hall of Famer, the current record holder for longest combined reigns as tag team champion, on his way to the longest individual reign with New Day, a three-time United States champion and a four-time Intercontinental champion and still has never been in serious running for a world title, it’s baffling. His popularity is unquestionable, his in ring ability even more so, his mic skills have excelled over the years and with The New Day’s popularity Xavier and Big E seem like they’d be thrilled to have the Universal title on their jiggling waists. Xavier has said himself that he’d make it his mission to have Kofi hold the belt one day. Management are clearly backing the booty brigade with all their might so perhaps after they’ve lost their tag team titles (to The Revival please) they’ll consider putting Kofi in the main event as a New Day representative, given that their usual stick is getting old now and could really benefit from being altered a bit. If the phrase “and former WWE World Heavyweight (or Universal) Champion” isn’t in Kingston’s Hall of Fame video package, then that’s pure bad booking on WWE’s part.
8. Austin Aries
Straight up, Austin Aries has the chops to be a top heel on any of WWE’s brands. He’s currently edging on that in NXT, but put him on Raw or Smackdown against the likes of Ambrose, Rollins, Cena or please God a pairing with Jericho and you’re printing money. His promo work in NXT has been stellar and his in-ring character building even better, knowing exactly how and when to play to the crowd or his opponent at exactly the right time, his work practically screams for a championship to hold once he’s taken care of business. The arrogance flowing from him to the intensity he shows in ring have cemented his place as one of the top guys in all previous promotions he’s worked for that seeing him sit atop WWE’s proverbial mountain is an inevitability, be it as NXT champion or directly to a main roster world title following a quick call up that he’d definitely be ready for. His initial debut presented him as a massive deal but he was overshadowed by the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode eventually leading to his heel turn bringing out a much cockier character in Aries that is more than fitting of championship gold.
Alright this one is pure fantasy booking but c’mon now, Neville is easily one of the top in-ring talents in the WWE, the former face of NXT and without a doubt one of the best highflyers we’ve ever seen leap off a rope…so why is it then that he’s being treated like utter trash? Neville’s main roster run has been nothing short of terrible. Given absolutely no serious chances (despite how good his title match against Rollins on Raw was, it was obvious he wasn’t going to win) next to no storylines and not even being a part of the new cruiserweight division, FOR GODS SAKE WHY NOT? THE CRISERWEIGHT TITLE WAS BUILT FOR HIM! He’s portrayed as “That short guy who does all the flips” for Vince to call out when a face needs a temporary tag partner or when a boring guy like Titus O’Neil needs a match with some sort of reaction. Neville’s crowd reactions have always been ear-poppingly loud in that the crowd love him and everything he does, so why has he never been given an actual shot at anything? If Neville was in Lucha Underground he’d be the undefeated undisputed champion of everything with the tag titles by himself, but in WWE he’s just there. He’s proven in NXT that he can have an excellent title run and be the face of a brand so give him a chance Vince.
Rusev’s monster heel run was fantastic and paved the way for the next great champion in WWE, that is until he dropped the title to Senor Cena at Wrestlemania and struggled to find his footing after being stripped of his United States Championship. The terrible love triangle square thing with Ziggler, Summer Rae and Lana was all kinds of crap and the eternally dull League of Nations didn’t do him any favours either. His second US title run was doing well but came to an end after Roman decided to Reign on his parade. Yet still throughout his entire time in WWE, Rusev has shown that he can go beyond the distance in the ring, there’s no sugar coating it he’s just really damn good. On the mic, in the ring and even on social media his Twitter account is pure gold, he’s a strong vibrant heel who can make the crowd boo him one night and love to hate him the next. The Bulgarian Brute will be Universal champion at some point, there’s no doubt there but when he’ll be treated like the main event and not just an upper-mid-card big guy and actually get to that title is still yet to be seen and honestly it’s long overdue. His resilience coupled with his pure unadulterated strength that’s outright scary at times it’d be a true testament to whoever would eventually manage to take him down. Or he could just stay as the champion forever and retire as the modern day Bruno Samartino and no one would have a problem with that. If you do, take it up with Rusev, he’d love to hear what you have to say as long as you can speak whilst in The Acolade.
5. Bray Wyatt
It may be too little too late but when he debuted Bray Wyatt was the most intriguing act in the company. Him and his Wyatt family were actually the destructive force commentary insists they still are but it’s hard to be scared of someone who’s running thing is losing every important fight he’s in and then continues on as if he won. To many people, the Wyatt’s and especially Bray are beyond repair and doomed to never gain their interest again. However, on Smackdown Live since the brand split Bray has been picking up some steam especially in his recent storyline with Randy Orton where technically he won the feud and gained The Viper as an ally which is a good start at getting the right eyes looking in his direction. Recently winning the tag titles and becoming one of the brands stand out stars he can believably be a world champion once again. He may not be quite there yet but it doesn’t seem as unreachable now as it once did. To bring legitimacy and actual investment back to The Eater of Worlds he needs to do something actually worth investing in and the World title is that thing. Bray’s descent was so damning you’d think it was in his contract with how they drove his character six-feet-under in every way expect literally in a buried alive match you’d be forgiven for thinking that but no I’m pretty sure that’s not in the fine print.
4. Eric Young
Eric Young debuted on NXT to face Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship earlier this year to a huge pop, but after losing he just vanished. He recently reappeared as the leader of new stable Sanity with Alexander Wolfe, Sawyer Fulton and the extra talented Nikki Cross. Sanity has all the power to become the next S.H.I.E.L.D. if they’re done correctly, with Cross giving them the ability to invade the entire roster. From their build up to their debut, everything was perfect. I question Wolf and Fulton’s tag loss in the Dusty Rhodes Classic and Cross’s win being taken off her following a post-match assault was just dumb, and Young going for No Way Jose of all people just feels weird. Sanity can regain their hot streak with a strong leader whipping their win/loss record back into shape. Young is over with the crowd and the prospect of Sanity is intriguing and will certainly go far should their booking stay fairly consistent on portraying them as escaped mental patients looking for a fight. If booked correctly as the S.H.I.E.L.D. of NXT we could have Young as NXT Champion, Cross as Women’s Champion and Wolf and Fulton with the tag titles, that may be pure fantasy booking but it would cement four top talents and set the stable and them as individual stars for life if done correctly. Outside NXT, Young is no stranger to being champion, just look at his TNA accomplishments to assure you he can deliver as a champion. It could be a long while away but Young as NXT champion seems like a safe bet, how will the main roster treat him? If he proves himself as a solid NXT champion, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a contender for a main roster top title as well, and bring his inmates with him to join in on the assured success.
3. Chad Gable
Fantasy booking again I know but American Alpha’s Chad Gable is one of the best pure wrestlers in WWE. His credentials in an amateur/Olympic background have gained respect among fans and his downright insanely well flowing grapple and submission style make him a joy to behold. While as a team with Jason Jordan they’re easily one of the top teams in the world, just watch their trio of NXT matches with The Revival for proof of that. They’re unrealised on the main roster due to a lack of legitimate challenge being the best team on either brand by a country mile. While the team splitting up is very unlikely both could work well individually though it’s clear that Gable would have the more successful career, being the standout member of the team. Nothing against Jordan but Gable is just a better all-around wrestler and just looks to have the brighter future. The split could come from the next draft, Gable winning the rumble or Money in the Bank, a Jordan heel turn (Soon calling himself ‘The Omega’ Jason Jordan to ‘The Alpha’ Chad Gable in a teammate v teammate rivalry just throwing it out there) or if Jordan’s injured Gable can still compete in singles and no doubt impress the higher ups while he’s at it. Unlike Enzo and Cass it’s unlikely to see one becoming a manager for the other so a split would be required, if even on good terms. Gable has everything in him to make him the next Kurt Angle or Chris Benoit; the look, the talent, the support of crowds, it’s all there. It may be a good while away but Chad Gable must have a solo run and in that run there’ll be title, the Intercontinental Championship for sure and you can bet when his time comes for a shot at the big time gold he’ll be ready, willing and Gable.
2. Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn is one of WWE’s brightest upcoming stars. The Underdog from the Underground is a former NXT champion and had a terrific run with Kevin Owens this year culminating at Battleground where Zayn took home the win, he was heavily involved in the Intercontinental title scene for months and has proven himself as simply one of the greatest performers working today. Everything about Zayn is entertainment incarnate. His light hearted personality is infectious and pumps up crowds every night, his signature moves are unique and spellbinding in some situations, he can make botches look intentional and save matches with that skill, he’s one of the best sellers working today, he’s been involved in many of WWE’s Match of the Year contenders, he’s damn near perfected in-ring story-telling and character building, but most of all he’s just damn fun to watch. You’ll rarely be disappointed with a Sami Zayn match and you’ll at least see the unprecedented devotion he brings to the ring each and every time he steps in it before diving back out again. A future world title run has to be on the cards for him, it’s shocking that he hasn’t been put in that scene yet, especially with Kevin Owens as current champ, a man he beat not too long ago. Zayn’s popularity and proven track-record mixed with his abilities and constant praise should earn him a main event push in the future (though we all said the same about Neville AND I’M STILL SALTY ABOUT THAT) and it’d be surprising if he still doesn’t have the World/Universal championship accolade around his waist by this time next year.
The fact the Swiss Superman hasn’t been a World Champion already is sickening. Easily one of the best all-around technical wrestlers on the planet, seeing him stuck in the mid-card is crushing to any member of the WWE Universe. A beautiful mix of technical grappling talent and strong style strikes (oh those delicious uppercuts) make him an absolute gift to watch. If booked to his ability, Cesaro would be the undisputed ten-time WWE World Heavyweight champion. Easily. And if WWE gave Cesaro that run the we’ve been clamouring for for so many years now then they’d see just what he can bring to the table, before uppercuting it over. Being a one-time United States and Tag champion are his only championship wins in WWE and that is damn well unacceptable, in fact it’s an insult to him. The resident King of Swing, the people’s VIP, is currently teaming with Sheamus in what is admittedly a fun dynamic but we don’t want him stuck in a light hearted tag team feud, we want him ruling the company from his throne on top of a mountain, gazing down at the men he’s defeated, Universal championship resting on his shoulder with Vince on his hands and knees pleading for forgiveness after his years of mistreatment towards the dominant champion, only to be hit with a gotch neutraliser while Cesaro chuckles to himself. With everyone backstage from Ziggler to Regal saying he’s everything you could want in a wrestler, what’s the hold up on his main event title reign?
Remember that insanely good ladder jump into a springboard uppercut from Money in the Bank? Not getting a shot of any title after a move like that is ridiculous.