This is the week NFL teams must cut their rosters to 53, which gave Achilles Heel an idea. With no major shows scheduled for Labor Day weekend, I thought this would be a good time to evaluate the WWE and TNA rosters.
I’m not going to recommend cutting wrestlers. The Greek god of wrestling has too much respect for the hard work all of these wrestlers put in to recommend that someone lose their job, but that won’t stop me from offering criticism. As regular readers of Heel Turns know, Achilles Heel tells it like it is.
Achilles Heel is honest. The reason I don’t expand this evaluation to include Ring of Honor, CHIKARA, Combat Zone Wrestling or any of the other independent organizations is I don’t see their shows often enough to offer an informed opinions on their entire rosters.
Anyone can have an opinion. What you get in Heel Turns is an informed, educated opinion. On the rare occasions when I can’t give you an informed opinion, I won’t offer one. If more people followed that credo, the world would be a whole lot quieter.
The categories I chose are: MVP; overpushed; underutilized; overrated; underrated; “I don’t get it;” stars of the future; and “keep an eye on …” The difference between overpushed/underutilized and overrated/underrated is the first pair of categories refers to the way the promotion uses the wrestlers, while the second pair mixes the way the wrestlers are viewed by the fans into the equation.
MVP: (WWE) C.M. Punk. He’s been a terrific champion, adjusting his attitude throughout his reign instead of relying on the same shtick. He’s also excellent in the ring. Runners-up: John Cena, Daniel Bryan. TNA: Bobby Roode. Breaking Kurt Angle’s long reign as MVP, Roode developed into an excellent champion. The pop when Austin Aries beat Roode for the title says as much about Roode as it does about Aries. Runners-up: Angle, Aries.
OVERPUSHED: (TNA) Garett Bischoff. This guy has no business being in pay-per-view matches. None. If his last name were anything other than Bischoff (or Hogan), we wouldn’t even see him on TV. Runner-up: Crimson. WWE: Layla. There are far more talented Divas in WWE. Layla was the weak link of “Lay-Cool.” She’s improved, but she doesn’t deserve to have the title. Runner-up: David Otunga. If he weren’t married to Jennifer Hudson … see Bischoff, Garett (above).
UNDERUTILIZED: (WWE) Drew McIntyre. He is a talented in-ring worker with a personality. I don’t understand his burial. Runners-up: WWE’s roster is so big that a lot of talent gets underutilized. My top choices are Ted DiBiase, Kofi Kingston and Michael McGillicutty. TNA: Gail Kim. She deserves the spotlight even though she doesn’t have a – how can I say this without offending people? – certain look. Hey, I don’t care about offending people. Kim doesn’t have blond hair and enormous boobs. Runners-up: Abyss (what happened to that split personality storyline?), AJ Styles.
OVERRATED: (TNA) James Storm. He’s not bad, but he’s a step or two below the elite guys in TNA. Runners-up: Mr. Anderson, Hernandez. WWE: Zack Ryder. I appreciate what Ryder has achieved without the company being behind his push, but he is way overrated by the fans who chant for him as if he’s a star. Runners-up: Great Khali, Sin Cara.
UNDERRATED: (WWE) Kane. The big red monster moves extremely well for a big man, and time has not slowed him down very much. He was in a main event with Punk and Bryan earlier this summer and did not look out of place. Runners-up: Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Natalya, Eve. TNA: Bully Ray. He has an amazing gift for getting people to hate him. Runners-up: Christopher Daniels, Mike Tenay (you can’t overestimate the value of a good broadcaster). RING OF HONOR: Charlie Haas. I know I said I wasn’t going to evaluate Ring of Honor, but Haas is a terrific heel with solid in-ring work. He’s often been overshadowed in fans’ eyes by Shelton Benjamin, his flashier and more athletic partner, but Haas is very, very good.
“I DON’T GET IT:” (TNA) Eric Young as one half (with ODB) of the Knockouts tag team champions. I know Young is basically a comedic character, but how is it funny that he is a Knockouts champion? WWE: Tensai with a Japanese gimmick. This might have worked if Tensai, known as “Albert” to fans who remember his previous WWE stint, had done promos in which he ripped the United States and said he prefers Japan and Japanese culture – and its values – over the decadent U.S. society. But simply to present him as “Lord Tensai,” with Japanese tattoos without any explanation for that transformation from the last time most WWE fans saw him made no sense.
FUTURE STARS: (WWE) Dolph Ziggler. All right, Ziggler might be a little too obvious. Instead, I’ll go with Wade Barrett. The big Englishman, who burst onto the scene as the leader of the Nexus invasion, was on the verge of breaking through to the upper echelon of WWE when an elbow injury sidelined him earlier this year. Barrett is a future WWE or World Heavyweight champion. TNA: This category highlights TNA’s difficulty in developing stars. AJ Styles is one of TNA’s few homegrown stars. There aren’t any obvious choices here. RING OF HONOR: Adam Cole. This young man has a bright future.
KEEP AN EYE ON …: (TNA) The Knockouts! Just kidding. Gunner hasn’t shown enough for me to put him the “future stars” category and he still needs to connect better with the fans. But, possibly with a new name, I think Gunner is worth keeping an eye on as a potential star. WWE: AJ Lee. She has skyrocketed to a major role on RAW. We haven’t seen enough from her in the ring to label her a future star, but she certainly has personality and charisma. Runners-up: Antonio Cesaro, Cody Rhodes.
POOR PROMOTION: In case TNA has forgotten, let me remind them they have a pay-per-view on Sept. 9. As I write this, 11 days before “No Surrender,” not a single match has been announced for that event. Matches will undoubtedly be revealed during Impact on Thursday, but you need more than 10 days to build matches to the level that the fans will care enough to buy a pay-per-view event.
Even WWE, which I’ve criticized for its failure to announce matches for its pay-per-views in a timely fashion, already has the matchups for the WWE and World Heavyweight championships set for “Night of Champions,” which takes place one week after “No Surrender.”
FAREWELL TO TRIPLE H? After having his arm broken by Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, Triple H delivered a farewell address, sort of, on RAW this past Monday. The speech was well-executed. The problem is I don’t believe most of the audience believed that Triple H is contemplating retiring right now. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wrestle during the next six months, and, barring injury, I can’t imagine Triple H not participating in WrestleMania.
KANE IS ABLE: Kane made me laugh out loud during the “anger management” skits on RAW. Daniel Bryan was good in his role, but Kane’s recounting of his background for the encounter group stole the show. “My brother set my parents on fire. I buried my brother alive … twice. I’ve abducted and tortured co-workers. I hooked up electrodes to a man’s testicles. I …” He even had a Katie Vick reference! Who ever thought Kane would be comedy gold?
JERSEY DOUBLEHEADER: Combat Zone Wrestling and EVOLVE are teaming up for a doubleheader on Sept. 8 at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. EVOLVE kicks off the action at 5 p.m. The main event of the CZW show (8 p.m.) features CZW world champion Masada defending his title against El Generico, and CZW World Junior Heavyweight champion A.R. Fox battling CZW Wired TV champion Dave Crist in a Chri$ Ca$h Memorial Ladder match to unify the titles.
Although separate tickets will be required for the shows, some wrestlers will appear on both shows. Fox will battle Ricochet during EVOLVE, which will also feature El Generico vs. Samuray Del Sol. Masada will also be in action, taking on Sami Callihan. Fans can actually vote for which match will be the main event.
TEAM TURMOIL? Both Rhett Titus and Charlie Haas needed a partner for Ring of Honor’s tag team championship tournament. Titus and Kenny King won the titles from Haas and Shelton Benjamin, but had to give up the belts when King left to join TNA. With Benjamin suspended (in storylines), Haas suggested to Titus that they form a team.
I’m not sure what will happen, but I’d be willing to bet that Haas and Titus make the tournament final, which will be held in Chicago on Sept. 15. The Haas-Titus team is an intriguing partnership that adds new interest to the tag team tournament.
TRIOS TOURNAMENT: CHIKARA has posted most of the first-round pairings for its King of Trios tournament, which takes place Sept. 14-16 in Easton. Like the Haas-Titus tag team mentioned in the preceding note, one of the elements that makes King of Trios interesting is the uncertainty about what’s going to happen.
I’ll go through the pairings during the next two weeks, but even the four teams that haven’t been given opponents yet make for interesting conversation. The remaining teams are Team Extreme (Tommy Dreamer, Jerry Lynn, Too Cold Scorpio), Ring of Honor (The Young Bucks, Mike Bennett), The Faces of Pain (Warlord, Barbarian, Meng), and Team WWF (Tatanka, Aldo Montoya and, yes, the 1-2-3 Kid). Any of the possible combinations involving these four teams would be interesting.