Pro Wrestling

15 Superstars On Raw Who Were More Impressive Than Roman Reigns Source:

On the first Raw after the Royal Rumble, which saw Triple H win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the 14th time and screw over Roman Reigns in the process, The Authority kicked off the show by demanding that the Superstars of WWE “impress them” in order to earn a chance at becoming Triple H’s opponent in the main event of WrestleMania. And then they just decided to put Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns in a match at Fastlane in order to determine who will get to challenge Triple H. Yes, it’s another blatant attempt to make Roman Reigns look good, but over the course of Raw, WWE somehow managed to make him look worse than almost everyone else who appeared. In deference to finding the Superstars who truly deserve their shot, we thought we’d go through Raw and look at all the people who were far more impressive than the man who is ultimately destined to main event WrestleMania.

15. Kevin Owens

Admittedly, we’re already pretty vocal members of the Kevin Owens Fan Club (a group which Kevin Owens refuses to admit exists and probably hates), so it’s not hard to throw him on his list. But we have to give him credit for actually selling his injuries from the Last Man Standing match at the Rumble into the next evening. We’ve grown far too used to the idea that wrestlers recover inhumanly fast, both in real life and on TV, and WWE has created this problem by having brutal matches on PPV, then having the participants wrestle matches the very next night on Raw without showing any ill effects beyond the occasional bandage. Injured body parts are a huge part of wrestling psychology, and as we’ll talk about later with Dean Ambrose, it’s an excellent way to make someone seem tough but vulnerable, garnering crowd sympathy. In Owens’ case, since he’s the least sympathetic person on the planet, it manifests as respect, and makes him seem like a tougher heel that will be an even bigger challenge than previously thought. After all, if he can fight through what happened at the Rumble and still dispose of Dolph Ziggler, how hard is he to beat at 100%? It’s one of those lost arts of subtlety that needs to come back. But he’s being saved for someone else (possibly The Undertaker, if rumors can be believed), so he’s out.;jsessionid=B6FC3B27DEBED968E9C36999B743422E?r30_r1_r1:page=1 Source:

14. Bo Dallas

If you haven’t see the video yet, you probably should. How does someone who purports to be a professional rapper allow themselves to get completely schooled by a guy pretending to be a goofy motivational speaker using the lamest lines since Kurt Angle tried to battle rap John Cena? Of course, the fans are willing to get behind “Bo Rida’s” infectiously cheerful goofiness, while Flo Rida looked like he’d memorized the lines given to him a few minutes before the show (which is probably fairly close to the truth), and the result was embarrassing for Flo Rida while being great for Bo Dallas and his crew. The fact that WWE almost certainly wrote Flo Rida’s lines for him is all sorts of ridiculous, but let’s stick with the Social Outcasts. Despite being crazy, wacky, and not making all that much sense, the crowd has clearly grown attached to them because it’s something different and entertaining. But, there aren’t actually any plans that have the Social Outcasts as anything but comedy losers, so their entire purpose was to have Michael Cole pretend that they lost to Flo Rida, then actually lose to the Dudley Boyz, whose career path has involved constantly losing to the Wyatt Family for two months straight. Heaven forbid that someone get over who wasn’t expressly intended to and maybe become a unplanned star as a result.–curtis-axel-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=9 Source:

13. AJ Styles

His t-shirt is already sold out on WWEShop, but relic of a bygone era Vince Russo doesn’t think he’s popular enough to survive in WWE. We’ll reserve full judgement on AJ Styles until he’s got a few more big matches under his belt in WWE, but the fans, at least, seem willing to treat him like a big star, and even the commentary reflects the fact that they haven’t brought Styles in to waste his talents, at least not intentionally. Despite his shorter stature, AJ Styles simply has that presence that screams “star”, and you’d have to be an idiot to not be able to make money having him wrestle for your organization on a weekly basis (#LOLTNA). Unfortunately, even though it’s pretty clear that the fans would have accepted him as an entry into a match to face the WWE World Heavyweight Champion right away, WWE is going to take the long approach, which means we’ll still get great matches, but Styles’ ultimate ascension will clearly have to wait. After all, why would you push someone as a big star right on their debut, right? They might seem like a huge deal and be something fresh and new, and we’d rather have them pay dues for a while first, even if he’s been wrestling for nearly two decades outside WWE at this point. Source:

12. Chris Jericho

Jericho is clearly not the wrestler he once was, and it’s hard to blame him for that, because his time at the top has passed and age has caught up to him due to not training for wrestling every day of his life anymore. That said, he’s still the respected and talented veteran that you can put in the ring and trust to get a decent match out of anyone, even after spending an entire hour running the Rumble match from inside the ring the night before. Plus, even though he’s lost a lot over the past few years, he’s still got enough credibility and wrestling ability to give someone like AJ Styles “the rub”. Also, it’s becoming clearer that a Jericho heel turn based around the fact that he can’t accept that he’s getting too old to hang with the top stars anymore, and that means we could possibly be seeing a Pay Per View-quality match between Jericho and Styles as soon as WrestleMania. You have to believe Jericho would work his butt off to try and steal the show one more time. But, even if we can still hope for at least one more great match, nobody reasonably expects Chris Jericho to main event WrestleMania, so he’s not going to get that shot here. Source:

11. Charlotte

A month or so ago, Charlotte was floundering beneath the weight of a failed Divas Revolution and her own family legacy, but by fully embracing the latter, she may have saved the former, as last night featured the audience completely buying into her heel character and giving her the heat she so richly deserves. And although WWE has basically given up on calling it a Divas Revolution, the segment between Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky was pretty much what we expecting out of them when they made their WWE main roster debut last summer. The match between Sasha and Becky was short and interrupted by a run-in, but that’s okay, because they’ll have a better match on Pay Per View down the road. More importantly, it featured all three women playing defined characters that are more than just “crazy women who all hate each other”. Becky was betrayed by Charlotte and wants revenge, Sasha wants to be the best by whatever means necessary, and Charlotte is living the Flair legacy of protecting her title at any cost, and by cutting any corners she possibly can. And all these motivations are based around winning the Divas title, which makes the championship, and the division, seem more important. Obviously, they’re not getting any WWE World Heavyweight title shots, but last night they proved that they are three of the best characters on the roster. Source:

10. The Rock

Look, we’ll admit it’s easy to dislike The Rock’s character. He’s so clearly stuck in the Attitude Era that it’s sometimes incredibly cringe-worthy, especially when he’s interacting with women, as he did with Lana last night. But in the bigger picture, The Rock has such an infinite well of charisma that even if there are parts of his act that you might not like, he’ll just keep going until there’s so much volume of content being delivered that you almost always find something that you can point to and say “That was awesome”. And The Rock was in fine form in his hometown, keeping up a running patter that, even when he’s not actually saying anything, begs you to pay attention in case you miss something important. Granted, he’s probably the only human being on the planet who can literally go “Screw it” and veer wildly off-script because he’s thought of something funny that will go viral five seconds later (and, of course, it did) without getting horribly punished by Vince McMahon (which just speaks to the larger problem within WWE). And yeah, he’s a guest star getting one over on the full-time wrestlers because of he’s a big star from the past. But you can’t really blame for WWE just being thankful that they can have the #1 international box office movie star in the world make drop-in appearances whenever he feels like it, and being willing to bend over backwards to give him whatever he wants. Source:

9. The Big Show

Okay, so absolutely nobody is calling for Big Show to main-event WrestleMania, or even wrestle ever again, and that’s totally fair. His best in-ring days are well behind him, he’s done pretty much everything there is to do in pro wrestling, and the fans are clearly tired of his act. But if there’s one thing that will never stop surprising us, it’s the acting abilities of Big Show. Admit it, when the Rock was recounting all the things in Big Show’s life that could have gone differently if only he’d actually gotten credit for winning the 2000 Royal Rumble (which, technically, he did, but WWE won’t officially recognize the victory), you felt really bad for Show as he grew visibly more and more depressed, didn’t you? Like him or not, Big show can act. Although we were less impressed with him breaking a laptop in half by folding it the wrong way. It looks good, but we’ve done that ourselves, it’s not that hard. But like we said, nobody wants to see him main event WrestleMania at this point, so great job giving us a case of the feels, but no thanks, Show. Source:

8. The New Day

These guys have been so good that they’ve inadvertently destroyed the tag division by virtue of being so far above everyone that there are no real opponents left (to be fair, Sin Cara also did his part to accelerate the dissolution of most of WWE’s major tag teams). Sure, they couldn’t get the better of The Rock, but nobody can, and they’ll almost certainly have little trouble disposing of The Usos yet another time, after cleanly beating them again at the Rumble. Seriously, though, NXT is full of tag teams that could at least give The New Day something interesting to do, instead of wasting time with The Usos, who were the fifth or sixth most interesting part of their segment with The Rock and The New Day. And as for The New Day, if you didn’t stick around after Raw to watch Ride Along on the WWE Network, you should really make the time to do so, as it’s a fun look at WWE Superstars driving between shows, and reveals that The New Day are exactly the same in real life. Also, Kofi’s the responsible one. Source:

7. Bray Wyatt

Yes, it’s time for Bray Wyatt’s annual WrestleMania push, where he gets made to seem like a powerful threat so that he can lose to someone at the biggest show of the year. Maybe, if he keeps at it long enough, in twenty-odd years he’ll finally be able to end his Reverse Streak and get his first victory to climb to 1-21. We’re being facetious, of course, but Bray is current 0-2 to start his young career at WrestleMania, and he’ll almost certainly be 0-3 if the plan continues to lead him towards a match with Brock Lesnar, which is almost certainly does. That said, while his match last night wasn’t technically anything good, Wyatt manhandled Kane in a way few have been able to over the Big Red Machine’s long career. If only there was some way they could make him look this strong over a longer period of time, he might actually become something important beyond the occasional run as “guy who loses to someone above him in the pecking order in big matches”. But like we said, he’s on a collision course with Lesnar, and while he may be involved in the Fastlane match, he was never in consideration for actually earning a shot at the title. Source:

6. Kalisto

Clearly, the word is not good on Sin Cara’s injury, and it looks like Kalisto might be getting a real shot with the United States title (well, at least he’s held it longer than one day this time). And if the fact that he didn’t immediately have to face Alberto Del Rio in another match, and instead got to have a decent little fight with Miz instead, is any indication, he may actually get a decent run and possibly even a feud for WrestleMania. The thing about Kalisto is, he actually does fill that void left by Rey Mysterio. He’s a smaller guy in a mask doing all those flippy spots that Rey did, plus more, because he’s not all broken down yet. He’s an eternal underdog who dresses like a superhero (technically, he dresses like a dragon, but dragons are also cool), and what member of WWE’s target demographic wouldn’t love to cheer for that? Last night showed how ready the crowd is for Kalisto to become a featured player, as for possibly the first time since his main roster debut, they performed his “lucha” chant and gestures without being exhorted to be Kalisto. If you can get spontaneous crowd interaction just by wrestling, you’re already most of the way to being a star. But he’s not Rey Mysterio yet, so there’s no chance at a Mania main event at this point in his career.

5. The Miz

Everyone hates the Miz. And that’s a good thing, because you’re supposed to hate him. It means he’s doing his job incredibly well. Behind the scenes, The Miz is probably just a normal guy (and as WWE Network shows like Table For 3 and the new Ride Along show, he pretty much is), but on TV, he’s an arrogant faux-Hollywood movie star that you enjoy watching regularly get his comeuppance. And Miz got his share of knocks last night, between getting blown off by The Rock and treated like a parking attendant, to getting interrupted from complaining about that by Kalisto, and ultimately losing the match. But there’s an entertainment factor to The Miz that should actually make him an even bigger star. He’s the bad guy who you just can’t wait to see get his, and unlike other heels in WWE, he always does, often immediately and in incredibly humiliating fashion. He knows his role in WWE, and he plays it to the hilt. Plus, he’s a solid wrestler who’s great for things like getting a fresh new United States champion over by selling all of their moves like death. We’re not saying we want to see Miz main event WrestleMania, but when we’re talking about things that entertained and impressed us on Raw, The Miz should always merit a mention. Source:

4. Rusev

You may have heard somewhere, or noticed if you were paying attention, that Rusev stole a TV monitor from the destroyed announce table at the Rumble and walked away with it. It’s ludicrous and makes no immediate sense, at least unless you follow Rusev on Twitter and find out that he did it so he could declare himself the very first WWE TV Champion. That’s the kind of creativity you just can’t buy, so of course, WWE didn’t mention it at all on Raw, and Rusev ended up powerbombed through the announce table and largely forgotten about. But in an impressive dedication to a clever bit that should earn him more opportunities on TV but probably won’t, Rusev made sure that once he recovered from his injuries at ringside and headed to the back, that he took another TV monitor with it, successfully defending his reign as TV Champion. It almost certainly won’t actually lead anywhere on TV, but you have to respect the work Rusev is putting in to keep himself in the spotlight (on Twitter, anyway), which far outstrips the minimal work WWE’s creative team is putting into his character.

3. Dean Ambrose

Here we have the curious case of Dean Ambrose. He clearly works extremely hard (he did 90% of the work in the main event match last night) and has enough support in WWE that ensures he’s at least got a regular spot on TV. He’s not the best wrestler in the world, but he’s pretty good, and he brings an emotional component to his matches through his never-say-die attitude that makes up for his technical shortcomings. He dresses like a regular guy (in fact, his ring wear reminds us John McClane in Die Hard, which can only be considered a plus), he talks like a regular (albeit slightly unhinged) guy, and the fans clearly identify with him. Hell, even his attempt at a WWE Film in 12 Rounds III wasn’t bad. Well, actually, it was pretty bad, but he was good in it. No matter how poorly he’s booked, losing to exploding TV’s and holograms, the fans seem to really get behind him every time he wrestles. In fact, there are rumors that will never get confirmed that WWE called an audible at the Rumble and had him outlast Reigns in order to ensure the right crowd reactions for the finish. So, with all that going for him, why is he stuck in a sidekick role next to Roman Reigns instead of actually getting the push to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion? He has everything that WWE wishes Reigns did, with a fraction of the effort from WWE! We’re not saying Dean Ambrose is the secret to turning business around and entering another wrestling Golden Age, but he sure seems to have all the tools necessary to be WWE Champion, and it continues to baffle us why instead of getting a legitimate shot, he’s the third wheel in the Fastlane match who will almost certainly take the pinfall in order to keep his other two opponents strong. Source:

2. Brock Lesnar

He must have been impressive, he got into the match at Fastlane without actually appearing on Raw. But in fact, even in absentia, Brock Lesnar is one of the most impressive Superstars in WWE. And when he’s not on the show, people are always going to question “Where’s Brock?” He’s like Poochie, if Poochie were a gigantic rage monster that people actually enjoy watching. Admittedly, part of that is the aura he’s allowed to generate by being able to show up, wreck stuff, and then disappear again for a few months like some sort of muscle-bound force of nature. But the fact that Brock is so popular with fans despite not regularly appearing on a weekly basis (and, in fact, it’s partly because he’s not there all time time), only speaks to the growing belief that WWE needs to find a way to have the freedom to take wrestlers off TV for stretches of time to recharge them, both their physical bodies and their characters, which tend to get overexposed by being present on TV multiple times a week for years. But Brock’s almost certainly got a date with Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, so after all that, we’re left with only one option… Source:

1. (Anyone But) Roman Reigns

When you get down to it, Roman Reigns didn’t do anything impressive on Raw. He powerbombed Rusev through an announce table, sure, but that was accomplished with Ambrose’s assistance (and he still nearly failed to pull it off, struggling to lift the Bulgarian Brute), and besides, Rusev’s three-table swan dive from the Rumble was far more visually spectacular. In the end, Reigns won a match that his best friend did most of the work in, which somehow impressed the Authority (who rigged an entire Royal Rumble match just to screw him out of the WWE World Heavyweight title) into giving him another chance to win back the title. This is where the disconnect with Roman Reigns’s story comes in. He’s portrayed as an underdog who is getting screwed at every turn by people who don’t want him as champion, but they do this by putting him in situations where he wins effortlessly and then gets handed additional title shots. Even if there’s allegedly long odds against him winning the title, why should they give him any chance at all? The way that WWE is blatantly trying to will the fans into sympathizing with the “underdog” Roman while simultaneously making sure he looks strong every week is having the reverse effect, as fans clearly don’t appreciate being openly manipulated. Wrestling fans have historically been willing to “play along” with whomever WWE wants to be the next big star, but they need to feel like it’s even partially their choice. WWE has done a horrible job in making Reigns’ rise feel natural in that respect, and after nearly two years of trying, things are no better off, and perhaps worse, with no end in sight. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.