In a recent interview, TNA President Dixie Carter stated that the biggest challenge facing the business was “making new superstars.” The interview in its entirety can be read here:

Carter’s words strike a chord, because the subject of how to create new stars, and how well the different companies are doing it, has been brought up often as of late. Some fans praise, others criticize, and still others just complain. Whether or not the person you most like is getting the push that you feel he deserves does not equate with a company-wide policy of creating new superstars to carry the company for the next decade or two, something many fans fail to recognize. WWE, TNA, and ROH can’t truly be compared in what they need to do and how they need to do it because each company is in a different place. This article focuses on twelve “new” WWE superstars, the WWE “Dirty Dozen,” if you will, and their respective portrayals on television. The next article will do the same for TNA.

Because WWE is the standard by which all other wrestling promotions are judged (fairly or not), one would think that they would have the creation of new stars down to a science. They have the largest roster, the most money, the most famous name, and the main legacy of the industry. Every wrestler, deep down inside, wants a shot at the big time with WWE. At least, that’s the story. Particularly during the “Attitude Era” and the Monday Night Wars, new superstars were created left and right out of necessity, and boy, did we as fans love them! That was then. However great they are and were, the top of the WWE food chain has gotten old, in two ways. Triple H, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and Batista are either pushing 40 or have already passed it. Age itself may not matter, but eventually, the body just can’t go like it used to. On the other side, guys like Randy Orton, Edge, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, and Chris Jericho aren’t as old in years, but in terms of the amount of time they’ve spent on tv at the main event level, they’re old. Not stale (Edge and Jericho are never stale!), but old. We know they belong there, and while more World title reigns for some of them would be a good thing, they hardly count as “new blood.” They are, or should be, the present of the company. Who, then, is the future of the WWE?

Creating new stars sounds very simple. Fans need to connect with and care about someone, and be willing to pay money to see him beat someone else, or fans need to dislike someone enough that they’ll be willing to pay money to see him get beaten. How this happens depends on the talent involved. WWE’s biggest hindrance to creating new stars seems to be the fear that having an established top guy like Triple H or John Cena lose to an up-and-comer (and in a way that actually puts the “new” guy over) will somehow damage the guy who is already a main event player. If a guy has been in the main event for so long that most fans can’t imagine him doing anything else, he will NOT be weakened or damaged in any way. If the main eventer has done his job properly, he doesn’t need to be anywhere near a title belt to have something amazing going on. Look at the Chris Jericho/HBK feud. The WWE roster is large, and these are by no means the only wrestlers in the company who are worth building up for the future. Personal bias has been set aside as much as possible, and the list is in no particular order.

1. The Miz

Winning the tag team titles with John Morrison proved to be genius, as both guys benefitted tremendously from both teaming and holding gold. Though the split of the team seemd completely out of nowhere, and the new face/heel dynamic felt a bit forced, all could be forgiven when The Miz went after the ultra-mega-superstar, John Cena. The Miz is a great talker and a great character, which should shoot him to the top ranks of WWE anyway, as that is the company’s preference in most cases. Letting The Miz verbally trash one of your top guys seemed to be a good sign of things to come, and his segments claiming victory over an absent John Cena were the highlights of otherwise unwatchable RAWs. Then came the battle royale.

Triple H and John Cena were thought to be the only two left. As they squared off, The Miz crawled in from the side, where he had never been eliminated. The expression on his face and the reaction of the announce team was perfect. In seconds, The Miz would cost John Cena his shot, though The Miz would then get eliminated by Triple H himself. That’s what should have happened, and it would have been HUGE! That’s not what happened. Trips and Cena sidestep his charge and throw him over the top rope to eliminate him. Later, Cena verbally buries The Miz on RAW. At “The Bash,” Cena completely dominated The Miz in a shameful squash match. The following RAW, an angrier, more aggressive Miz takes the fight to Cena, but the last seconds of the match saw Super Cena destroy The Miz and make him tap out to the sloppiest and most poorly-applied STF in the history of humanity. WHY??? Neither John Cena nor Triple H could possibly be hurt by anything that The Miz does. If The Miz doesn’t actually get wins over John Cena, what’s the point of having him go after the guy? The Miz was actually being handled very well until the battle royale, and it’s been all downhill since. The sly, obnoxious heel HAS to outsmart and defeat the uber-babyface, or there’s no story. If The Miz doesn’t get a win, tainted or otherwise, over John Cena soon, then all of this has been for nothing. The guy is a license to print money with the anti-Cena t-shirts. He may not be a guy on whom Vince would seriously consider putting a World title belt, but that doesn’t prevent him from rocking the main event boat.        

2. John Morrison

Unlike his former tag team partner, John Morrison could be fine if there were more of a reason to cheer him. He and The Miz lose the tag team titles, get separated by the Draft, and The Miz lays him out in the middle of the ring after a hug. That was it. No previous tension, no real face turn, nothing. He’s been cheered because he has fought heels who were seriously booed, rather than getting the cheers on his own. Don’t get me wrong, the Shaman of Sexy is quite capable of getting those cheers, but since the bulk of his career has been spent as a heel, I’d like to know why I should cheer for him now. Athleticism, charisma, mic skills, JoMo (I hate that, but I’m using it anyway) has everything. More importantly, he carries himself like a superstar, and has from day one. He’s already held the ECW title, and considering that he has the physique that Vince demands for his top guys, there should be nothing to get in the way of a John Morrison World title reign. Just not yet. Not quite yet. This is a guy who doesn’t need a title belt to elevate himself, just give him a mic and enough time for his matches, and the rest will take care of itself. A John Morrison/Edge feud could be outstanding!  

3. Kofi Kingston

Such a happy, happy man, Kofi Kingston! Whether he’s much on the mic yet remains to be seen, but his athleticism has certainly won over the fans in general. He’s been a tag team champion, and now has singles gold of his own, so he’s definitely where he needs to be. Enthusiasm, charisma, and all those other intangibles, abound in Kingston, and does anyone on the WWE roster look like he loves what he’s doing more? In terms of elevation, he’s going slowly, which is actually good. Fans can connect with him and get behind him that way. No concerns or criticisms here, he’ll be fine. 

4. CM Punk

Out of all the potential “future superstars,” none have received more analysis, attention, and writing space than CM Punk. He’s also the one who has been handled the best. Seriously. Sure, some will claim how misused he was prior to his first World title reign, and even during the reign itself, but when one steps back and looks at the big picture, it really isn’t so. Punk has been beautifully positioned as a main event player, and the fact that so many people argue about him with such passion, on both sides, proves that whatever WWE is doing with him is working. Even though Punk is currently in his second World title reign, he’s about to cross over from being the future of the WWE to being its present. He may have adapted to the WWE style in-ring, but for the love of whatever form of god you hold dear, do not try to script him! Just let him do his thing. You’ll be glad you did.    

5. Evan Bourne

That Evan Bourne is getting any attention at all demonstrates that even Vince McMahon occasionally listens to crowd response. Is there a more natural babyface than Bourne? Evan Bourne is hugely popular, and even though he’s a small guy who wrestles in a style that doesn’t allow most people to get very far in WWE, he has enough of the intangible “it” factor to break on through. Sure, he should have probably been put in matches like the Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania, or the occasional ECW title match, but not doing so hasn’t really hurt him. That he has been moved to RAW shows that Vince thinks Bourne is good enough to be on his flagship show, and that there may be a spot for smaller high-flying guys not named Rey Mysterio in the WWE yet. Imagine Evan Bourne and Rey Mysterio feuding with “The” Brian Kendrick and Kawal (Low Ki). Forget who’s on what show, just imagine it!

Given all this, Bourne’s first appearanceon RAW should most definitely NOT have been as job fodder to a World champion who was so physically incapacitated from prior matches that he could barely walk. Feeding a 100% Evan Bourne to a 30% Randy Orton was an absolute waste. Just putting him in a match against Orton doesn’t make him look good. Until that point, it was “so far, so good” for Evan Bourne. He can recover from this, but it has to be soon.  

6. “The” Brian Kendrick

He still works here? Yeah. Major dropping of the ball with Kendrick. His singles push started so well! What was not to love about “The” Brian Kendrick? In terms of character, everything was clicking. Sure, the guy may not be World champion material, but the future of a wrestling promotion can’t depend on the handful of people who are. Consideration must be given to all levels of the card, not just the guys who will wear your top belt. Kendrick is very polished in the ring, willing to do pretty much anything, and could very well be a Rock-esque character who switches from heel to face to heel again with minimal effort. He’s one who really needs more attention, and could be a sound investment.   

7. Jack Swagger

The All-American American has done quite well for himself. He was moved up to RAW, so there goes the possible vicious heel Dreamer/gradual face turn for Swagger idea. Oh, well. He’s held the ECW title, and held his own with both Christian and Tommy Dreamer, which is impressive. His interaction with Orton on RAW was great, and his stock is clearly on the rise. There’s not much to say, Jack Swagger has been handled well so far. No concerns.  

8. Ted DiBiase Jr.

9. Cody Rhodes

Pairing up these two was a solid idea. Teaming them up with Randy Orton was also a solid idea, as Randy was not only an established champion, but more like them than almost anyone else. From that point, however, the Legacy has been a complete joke. These two get beaten down by everyone. Everyone! Evil henchmen are supposed to be helpful to their evil boss, and in order to do that, they must be successful in their nefarious acts against the faces. The tease of a Ted DiBiase Jr. face turn is completely wasted at this point because no one will care. Friction between DiBiase and Orton because DiBiase and Rhodes have done all the work to keep Orton the champ, and Orton sees them as expendable nothings, only works if the henchmen have actually been responsible for the champion keeping the belt. This is a case of a good idea with poor execution. DiBiase and Rhodes should be mowing down everything in their collective path, not getting laid out with no effort by one guy. Keeping the Legacy together as a tag team really seems the way to go for now, as both guys seem more comfortable paired up, but regardless of where things go, these two have been hopelessly mishandled in terms of creating future stars.     

10. D. H. Smith

11. Tyson Kidd

12. Natalya

Who wasn’t drooling over the formation of the Hart Dynasty? While Natalya should be destroying the fashionably anorexic pole dancers with little to no wrestling skills who make up the bulk of the Divas, she may ultimately be better served by being part of this faction. Honestly, they haven’t had enough tv time yet to establish where they’re going. Are they a tag team with a manager/valet? Are they all going after any title that they can? Are they going to be a more effective reboot of the Legacy? Since the whole group was “traded” to “Smackdown,” a great many possibilities are open, and what unfolds over the next several months will determine how well the Hart Dynasty is handled. It’s really too soon to tell.     

Check back soon for a chat on how TNA is handling its “future” stars.


  1. Kofi won singles gold briefly when he got drafted to RAW in '08. Pretty sure it was the I,C., if not was the U.S. Good article though.

  2. You're absolutely right. Kofi picked up the Intercontinental Championship, defeating Chris Jericho in his first match as an official member of the RAW roster.

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