Wrestlemania season is upon us. This year’s lacklustre build notwithstanding, the biggest PPV of the calendar year arouses excitement in all fans, and has the habit of luring in those from outside of the wrestling-centric bubble for the marquee event. While the showcase of the immortals provides a stage for stars to be born and reputations to be solidified, it also signifies the end of the WWE year, and therefore, the genesis of a brand new one the next night on Raw. In recent years, we’ve seen various debutants appear not long after Mania, and with additional bodies on the main roster, dead weight must make way. The NXT roster is bursting at the seams with incredible talent ready to transition. It’ll be exiting to see who makes the jump and, more importantly, who can remain relevant, but who will new Superstars appear at the expense of?
I actually had to look up whether or not the dance obsessed Superstar was still employed. He is, but for how much longer? Johnny Curtis was an exciting prospect when he came out of NXT, and I still maintain he’s owed a tag team title shot. Having learnt absolutely nothing from The Funkasaurous, WWE sent him down the ramp with a gimmick reminiscent of wrestling circa 1989. Remarkably, it got over for a short while, despite his obvious lack of dancing talent. 658 valets later, and he’s all but forgotten. WWE may just forget to renew his contract.
Sandow has a lot to offer. He’s made a career out of turning unimaginative gimmicks into memorable entertainment, yet despite his obvious charisma, he’s batted away. Like a little worker ant, The Saviour of The Masses keeps his nose to the grindstone and does what is asked of him, yet the powers that be are always trying to eradicate him with swatters and shoes. They keep missing, and he keeps working. Pointless use of an ant analogy aside, Sandow deserves more. The lure of WWE money and infamy is incredibly powerful, but with almost zero involvement in recent months, it can surely only be a matter of time until he’s had enough and requests a release. Or maybe Creative just has nothing for him at his time, and there’s a post Wrestlemania push on the way. It seems more likely it’ll only be a push out the door.
Poor, poor Tyson Kidd. Every time I think of the Canadian dynamo, I get sad. The guy can go. His matches are serially underrated, and while he may not be the best talker in the business, keeping him in tag teams has been a sensible use of his talents. His heel run on NXT was solid and helped him grow as a singles competitor, but his latest, horrific injury could spell the end of his in ring career. His relationship with Natalya will keep him on WWE programming on Total Divas, but it’s sometimes heartbreaking to watch. Heartbreaking both because of the genuine tragedy that has befallen a family, and for the fact that I’m so addicted to the show.
The rumours of Barrett’s growing frustration with the company have become deafening. The Preston native is constantly put on a pedestal, only to be drop-kicked violently off it again. As the leader of Nexus, he went after the main gold. Then he mid carded. The Barrett Barrage brought numerous unnoteworthy Intercontinental reigns, then The Bad News Barrett gimmick gained deserved traction before being all but completely ignored. He’s the current King of The Ring but went the way of Mabel rather than Steve Austin or Kurt Angle in terms of post tournament push. Now, as part of the potential laden yet horrifically booked League of Nations, he’s been relegated to a redundant spare part. This stop start booking must be excruciating and there’s only so much a proud Brit can take. See Drew McIntyre.
She may be a Snuka, but she’s not flying. Other than her devastating debut alongside the Usos, Tamina’s WWE run is as forgettable as Debra’s title reign. She’s serviceable muscle if used right, but with the advent of the phenomenal competitors in the Diva’s Division, her role in Team BAD is all but pointless. Sasha Banks didn’t need the team in the first place, and Naomi outshines her at every turn. With the stacked roster only going to swell when Bayley steps up, Tamina will be looking elsewhere for employment.
One, or all, of the Social Outcasts
The success of the Shield and the Wyatt Family seem to have reignited the WWE’s love of factions. In recent years we’ve seen The Authority, New Day, The League of Nations and now, grievously, the Social Outcasts. Putting four men going absolutely nowhere into a group together gives them airtime they wouldn’t normally receive, and there’s no reason why a faction couldn’t see a smidgen of success lower down on the card. But sweet Jesus, make it stop. I can tolerate Bo Dallas. I concede, he has entertainment value; Adam Rose and Heath Slater say “baby” more often than a hard-working midwife and it makes me want my head to explode; if Neville is the Man That Gravity Forgot, then Curtis Axel is the Man That Charisma Forgot. If I was to pick one Outcast to cast out before next year’s Wrestlemania rolls around, it’d be Adam Rose. Slater somehow clings on to the company like a koala to a eucalyptus tree, Axel’s parentage apparently renders him infallible, and Bo Dallas, well, he’s amusing. Rose has had chances to get over, and failed. He can take his lollipop and go home.
Now this is a massive punt. One of the most talented women to step foot in WWE, Paige’s career since her last championship has been messier than my bedroom when I was 12. She’s had concussion issues, and as we all know well, WWE are terrified of repeated head injuries. Rightly so. She may have matured a little since her initial debut, but backstage problems also plague the hottest thing to ever come out of Norwich, and there’s talk of her being on her last strike. Paige is a maverick, she does what she wants, and that’s awesome. However, WWE’s fuse may have shortened, so I’m making the worrying prediction that this could be her last year with the company. I hope to god I’m no oracle, because seeing her, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley usher in a new era of quality wrestling would delight my eyes and face.
20 years with the WWE, and it looks like Mark Henry could finally retire, and not in the way he retired in 2013. He’s had a strange old ride, but will be remembered fondly for his Sexual Chocolate days, fathering a hand, and for the aforementioned speech and subsequent attack of John Cena. The Hall of Pain founder will likely remain with the company in a different capacity. He’s a travelled veteran and seems keen to pass on his experience to the younger generation of wrestlers coming through. Hopefully, for his sake, he’ll receive a spot on the Wrestlemania card in his home state this year, but it’s inevitable it’ll be a swan song. Not the world’s greatest career, but the World’s Strongest Man had a decent and lengthy run that many others could never hope to achieve.