Counterfeit Pennies: Five Wrestlers to Watch in WWE and TNA

Thanks to the resurrection of the Monday Night Wars (though it’s not really a war just yet), I have decided it’s time that I at least try to post more regularly when I have something to say.

I figured I’d kick things off in this space with the simple idea of giving you five wrestlers each from both WWE and TNA that have sparked my interest/curiosity as a long-time pro wrestling fan.

Five Wrestlers to Watch in WWE:

1. Beth Phoenix: Believe it or not, Beth Phoenix has been one of the most versatile Divas in the WWE in a long, long time. She easily sets the bar high for WWE standards in terms of wrestling skills, and she thoroughly entertained me on a weekly basis when she was paired up with Santino Marella too.

If you look at SmackDown right now, one of the most interesting angles on the show is the feud that is developing between Beth, Mickie James, Layla, and Michelle McCool, and I credit Beth here for really bringing this whole thing together. Beth’s versatility enables her to believably bounce back and forth between taking out Lay-Cool while pouncing on Mickie, and her desire to be the dominant Diva on SmackDown comes through as very real and, in this case, meaningful.

I really don’t remember the last time I said that about a WWE Divas angle since Trish and Lita left, so kudos to Beth Phoenix and her cohorts for that.

2. CM Punk: No surprise here, but I can’t help but praise CM Punk for establishing himself as a true heel (thanks in part to Jeff Hardy, but more on that in the TNA section below), and I happen to love the current angle on SmackDown where Punk saved Luke Gallows (formerly Festus) and now he’s out to save us too by getting audience members to swear off lives that are misguidedly fueled by alcohol, drug, and prescription pill addictions.

Of course, perhaps Punk should focus less on saving us and more on saving his fellow wrestlers in the back, but hypocrisy aside I think Punk has really taken off as a strong heel and now what he needs are equally strong faces to go up against in the ring. I don’t know where that’s going to come from on SmackDown, and it’s a shame there’s not another draft soon because I would love to see Punk and Kofi Kingston feud now that the Orton-Kofi stuff is starting to get stale.

Of course, Punk could also be poised for a solid feud with Christian too, pending the results of the ECW Homecoming tournament, and I’d certainly sign up for that storyline in a heartbeat.

3. The Miz: That’s right, I’m saying it right now to all the Miz-Haters out there: I like The Miz. Since a rocky start to his WWE career, The Miz has improved tremendously both in and out of the ring. I loved the run that he and John Morrison had as multi-Slammy Award-winning tag champions, and Miz, whether you like it or not, can hold his own as U.S. Champion.

I’m not saying The Miz will ever be the best wrestler in the world or the top guy in the promotion, but the mid-card can be just as important as the main event and Miz is perfectly suited for maintaining an entertaining presence and adequate wrestler as that smarmy mid-card heel we love to rally against in both singles and tag matches.

4. Jack Swagger: Swagger has impressed me since he debuted in WWE with a solid ECW run, and unlike The Miz I feel like Swagger has a legitimate shot at becoming at least a fringe main event star someday. After all, at some point Kane will have to retire, and Swagger would fit the bill as a bigger guy who can hang around a long time if he’s given the right material to work with.

I do not like the way WWE has used Swagger lately, but I am still hopeful that The All American American can raise his game to really hit that next level that I hope he finds at some point in his career.

5. Vance Archer: I wanted to make sure to include at least one ECW wrestler on this list, and so I was debating whether or not to discuss Vance Archer, Zack Ryder, or Yoshi Tatsu (Christian goes without saying as someone to watch and Barretta and Croft absolutely suck). I chose Archer because while he is relatively new to the ECW scene, I thought it would be an interesting counterpoint to the Jeff Hardy situation (more on that below) to examine how far Archer can go in WWE as opposed to how far he went as Lance Hoyt in TNA.

Honestly, I never really cared for Hoyt in TNA, but since his ECW debut I’ve been impressed with Vance Archer’s look and style. If WWE can turn Archer into a useful mid-carder or better, it will just prove that they are still better than TNA right now when it comes to creating stars where others can’t. As a result, I am definitely interested in seeing how Archer’s career goes from this point forward, and that’s definitely something to watch that I don’t think others in the IWC have touched upon just yet.

Five Wrestlers to Watch in TNA:

1. Hamada: Hamada has been fun to watch especially in a increasingly strong TNA Knockouts division. She has overseas experience which always helps, and I really think TNA found someone in Hamada who is versatile and exciting to watch. She can wrestle, she can spot wrestle, and she can even be used as a “Tweener” who toes the line between babyface and heel status. Hamada has everything it takes to become a real force in the Knockouts Division, and I like the pairing of her and Awesome Kong together as a starting point for what can be a great if not epic run in TNA for her.

2. Desmond Wolfe: I would have said that this goes without saying, but let me make it clear to TNA management that Desmond Wolfe’s talent and ability should not be wasted in three-minute throwaway matches, ESPECIALLY on three-hour shows. It was a true disservice to fans that Wolfe’s match with The Pope on last Monday’s Impact was that short because this could have been both Wolfe and Pope’s coming out party as two true blue-chip stars in the making.

Think about this TNA: You could have rid yourself of 1 Hogan skit or EVERY Nasty Boys skit and added 7 to 10 minutes to this match. Or, at the very least, you could have done something that WWE does better than anybody and shown a recap of Desmond Wolfe’s feud with Kurt Angle before reintroducing him here, and STILL had 7 to 10 minutes added to this match.

Either way, I love Wolfe’s style, his in-ring presence, and his overall ability. TNA, please, for your sake, ELEVATE THIS GUY NOW!

3. “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero: Even with all of the reasons I mentioned above for extending the Wolfe-Dinero match, I wouldn’t have wanted such an extension if I didn’t believe that both wrestlers involved in the match weren’t worthy of the time. While Wolfe honed his craft in ROH and has already had a rub with Kurt Angle, I think Dinero has gotten overlooked in the IWC as another guy who has all the ability in the world to step up.

I have held The Pope in high regard since he was Elijah Burke in ECW, as he always produced an entertaining promo and solid matches to go with better-than-average mic skills. What I would like to see now in TNA is growth and improvement in both areas, and if Hogan is true to his word, then Dinero should immediately knock on Hulk’s door and give him a laundry list of ideas and suggestions for his character and possible feuds.

If TNA doesn’t want to re-elevate Wolfe on his own right away, I would love to see Wolfe and Dinero lock in on a strongly promoted mid-card feud, which I would love to see culminate in a Best of Seven series that I’m sure would be entertaining both backstage and in the ring. The more focus on WRESTLING here, the better…But we can’t ignore the buildup either, and both guys would be fun to watch in both areas.

4. Jeff Hardy: The reason I am going with Jeff Hardy here is because WWE was able to elevate Jeff Hardy to stratospheric popularity and relevance in pro wrestling. Will Hardy be wasted here during his entire TNA tenure like he was last week, or will he actually be able to get his legal troubles squared away and shine like he should for someone with his impressive wrestling resume?

Honestly, out of all the big names that were introduced last week, Jeff Hardy just might be the most important in terms of measurement between WWE and TNA. After all, out of all the ex-WWE guys who made surprise appearances last week, Hardy is the one with the most recent and RELEVANT success, and even today WWE is still reaping the benefits of Hardy’s super-face status by keeping CM Punk elevated as one of the top heels on SmackDown.

Therefore, if Jeff can stay focused in TNA, he just may be the real game-changer on the roster before all is said and done.

5. Anyone except The Nasty Boys, Orlando Jordan, and Jesse Neal: I threw in Jesse Neal because he really is a waste of time, and I really think TNA is dropping the ball big-time by devoting any time to a) Washed up veterans who can’t contribute anything substantial to the current TNA landscape; or b) Jesse Neal because he will never be even remotely watchable. Ever. Period. End of Story.

Around The Pulse:

There are some awesome, dedicated writers around the Pulse these days.

Check out Mark Allen here and here.

Pulse Glazer always entertains when he does 10 Thoughts columns.

Will Pruett is The People’s Columnist!

Bambi Weavil’s latest Make Movement is as insightful as ever.

And Pulse Wrestling’s own Iron Man Andy Wheeler covered both Raw and TNA last week.

Wow, I forgot how much fun this was.

Until next time.

CB

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