Those running World Wrestling Entertainment are seemingly far more open as it pertains to the type of individuals that they will consider for roster spots. Part of this has to do with how the NXT developmental territory is currently being run. Thanks to everything that NXT can offer veterans of the business and also those who are new to pro wrestling, everybody from wrestlers who have been struggling to make it on the independent scene for up to a decade to athletes who are just getting their feet wet inside of the ring and in front of cameras can, at the very least, give it a go.
National pro wrestling organizations such as the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling were not always so willing to push all kinds of talents, even current wrestlers who have either already featured in WWE main events who are seemingly on their way up the ladder in the company. That includes a heel character who has, as it pertains to booking, been as protected as any performer who is working on main shows in June 2015. Last but not least on that list is a man who defied the odds en route to headlining a WrestleMania, a wrestler who never would have made it to such a level even a decade ago.
10. Brock Lesnar
Wait just a second before you overreact to seeing Brock Lesnar beginning this list. So-called “Monster Heels” existed in wrestling back in the day for one reason and one reason alone: to eventually be used to put over a babyface. King Kong Bundy and Andre the Giant were there to lose to Hulk Hogan. Big Van Vader had his run before doing the job to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. John Cena was the man to end the run of The Great Khali. 2015 is the perfect time for a performer such as Lesnar to be the biggest draw in the WWE.
9. The Miz
Pro wrestling organizations such as the WWF and WCW enjoyed using supposed television stars for segments and feuds. Imagine, if you will, The Miz from Real World attempting to get himself over in front of Attitude Era fans or, dare I say, at the old ECW Arena. Such moments would have gone way worse for Miz than even his darkest days in the WWE. The truth of the matter is that Miz came along at just the right time to steal the WWE Championship via the Money in the Bank contract before feuding with John Cena for a brief amount of time. He has since understandably fallen down WWE cards.
8. Finn Balor
This one may be jumping the gun just a bit in that we do not yet exactly know what the WWE has planned for Finn Balor other than that it appear as if he is set to win the NXT Championship in July 2015. The man who made his name working overseas as Prince Devitt would, in another era, probably have been booked as some wacky foreign character forced to do a job to an American babyface before being lowered back down to midcard status. Those days are thankfully now a thing of the past, and the hope moving forward is that, to steal a phrase from Randy Savage, the cream will be allowed to rise to the top.
7. Hideo Itami
One could, upon imagining the WWE signing a talented performer such as Hideo Itami back in the 1980s or 1990s, cringe upon imagining what the company would have done with him. The thought of Kenta Kobayashi, who is credited with coming up with the “Go To Sleep” finishing move, being relegated to having Mr. Fuji as his manager or to being part of the Kaientai faction is enough to make those who watched Kenta perform for years before he was signed by WWE be thankful that he was not in his mid-30s during that era of pro wrestling. He and wrestling fans are all better off for it.
6. Chris Jericho
Any diehard wrestling fan who may get riled up by such a talented performer being even mentioned in this piece needs to realize that we watched as Chris Jericho struggled to make it in WCW and the WWF. His runs with those companies were largely lackluster up until the WWE gave him an opportunity to run with the ball as the Undisputed Champion, but even that title reign was mostly a place-holder storyline until somebody else was ready to take the title. Jericho, who now sporadically appears on WWE television, has been one of the more under-appreciated acts of his own time.
5. Sami Zayn
There should always be a place for a performer such as Sami Zayn – previously known as El Generico – in the pro wrestling world. Zayn is able to play the role of the ultimate underdog whether or not he is wearing a mask. Routinely having one of if not the best match on a card goes to show how underrated of a worker he is among certain wrestling crowds. He may never make it to the top of a WrestleMania card, and he certainly would not have gotten to that level in the 1980s or 1990s. With all that said, Zayn is still one of the best overall workers currently signed by the WWE.
Neville does have a great look, and “The Man That Gravity Forgot” is able to perform highlight-reel aerial maneuvers that make crowds leap to their feet every time he makes his way to the top rope during a match. Neville’s current style along with the fact that he’s generously listed at 5-foot-10 makes him more likely to be nothing more than a novelty act in the wrestling world of old. Then again, the WWE may decide to use Neville as nothing more than exactly that on shows such as Raw or SmackDown unless the company pairs him up with another superstar for a tag team.
3. Samoa Joe
You do not have to guess about whether or not Samoa Joe would have made it in the wrestling industry had he debuted a decade before he broke onto the scene. He would have been signed by the WWE up to ten years ago, at least, if all was fair in the business. Joe instead had to work his way up through TNA Wrestling, where logical booking and wrestling talents have, in the past, gone to die. A wrong has been righted in that Joe is now signed by the WWE and working on the NXT brand, and the veteran will now get to show that he still has plenty left in the tank.
2. Kevin Owens
Kevin Steen – aka Kevin Owens – has, throughout his time on the independent scene and while working underneath the WWE umbrella, been somewhat of a throwback character who could and would have made it in a company such as the National Wrestling Alliance in the 1970s and early 1980s. That he has had to wait up until the current year to get a shot in the WWE shows the biases that the company and that TNA Wrestling had against him for far too long. Now working as Kevin Owens, Steen is proving that he is capable of getting over while feuding with the likes of John Cena.
1. Daniel Bryan
You do not have to be a wrestling insider or a so-called “smart mark” to understand why Daniel Bryan would not have been pushed to the top of cards years ago. The WWE has gone out of its way time and time again to remind fans that he is, in fact, “too small” to make it in such a massive company. His resume, which is filled with one success after another from his time wrestling all around the globe, should have made him an ideal candidate to work in the WWE long before he finally got his chance. Becoming the top babyface in the WWE for a time shows how talented he has been for years.
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