The New Era: Who are the next WWE Main Event Superstars?
Wrestling is a constantly changing source of entertainment. Through the years the work rate and presentation of the product has evolved and shifted. As of late the WWE has put an increased emphasis on defining these snapshots in time as “eras”. Nobody referred to the “attitude era” as such while we were in the midst of it. Now in hindsight we are able to better define it. However, since the most recent slew of call ups, the company has constantly referenced this as the “new era”.
What is the “new era”?
Well that is yet to be completely defined. What we do know is that WWE did a massive amount of talent layoffs recently. NXT is flush with top end home grown talent along with the cream of the crop of the independent circuit. To make room for these talents, it was necessary to purge acts considered stale, which I whole heatedly agree with.
To me the “new era” is the WWE embracing top talent, not just the guys and gals with the best bodies. WWE (and most likely HHH) has scoured the indies and rival promotions and plucked the very best. Some of the best and most hard working performers in history can be found on TV week to week.
Lets also not forget about the women of wrestling. Gone are outdated words like ‘diva’. In it’s place we have women getting top spots and billings. The WrestleMania Women’s Championship match was a headliner. Even more recently, the Raw before Extreme Rules ended with a contract signing between Charlotte and Natalya. Things like this would have been unheard of a year or two ago.
Without further ado lets dig into some of my picks for talents that I think will best define this new era not just for this year, but for the next several years. This list is in no particular order.
Completely underutilized at this point, she did compete in a fantastic WrestleMania match with Charlotte and Becky Lynch for the Women’s Championship. I expect to see her rise to a prominent role by Summer Slam and take the title from Charlotte around then. Sasha has the most charisma out of any of the women competitors at the moment. She commands the ring and does great stuff in the ring. Her clashes with Bayley last year were match of the year worthy.
Currently she is the face of NXT women’s wrestling. Sure Asuka took the title from her at Takeover: Dallas. Yes, Nia Jax beat her clean recently on NXT — but Bayley is still the standard bearer of the brand. The only reason she is still in NXT is the lack of main event “face” women talent on the roster. Her gimmick transcends the common wrestling fan and reaches out to children the way John Cena has. I expect to see that continue on the main roster very soon.
What can’t this guy do? In his debut match on the main roster he defeated John Cena clean in the middle of the ring. He is a former NXT Champion, he is a 2-time Intercontinental Champion — this guy is the real deal. Beyond having some of the best matches in the last year and a half, he is a seasoned veteran on the mic. The very definition of “cool heel”, you can’t help but root for him and laugh at his villainous promos. He did what no wrestler had been able to do up until that point — made me buy a wrestling t-shirt.
I had heard the name prior to his NXT debut, but admittedly I didn’t know too much about Nakamura until Takeover: Dallas. I saw a couple of clips on YouTube, but didn’t fully understand until I saw him face off with Sami Zayn. That confrontation is currently my match of the year candidate at this point. It had psychology, charisma — and frankly had me on the edge of my seat. Considering there was little to no build to the showdown, I can easily consider this a work of art. Nakamura vs. Joe for the NXT title seems inevitable, not to mention the numerous dream matches we will see once Nakamura debuts on the main roster. Rumor has it he will be facing John Cena at a live event in Hawaii later this year. I hope the rumors are true. He is no “spring chicken” but expect a few epic years of strong style ahead of us.
Speak of the devil. This guy is the definition of solid. He has incredible matches with everybody he steps into the ring with. His feud with Neville in NXT is what brought me back to wrestling as he was so dynamic and fluid. There is no wasted motion in any of the moves he performs. That dive through the turnbuckle into a DDT still blows me away. His chemistry with Kevin Owens is second to none, I expect that to be a battle that entertains me for years to come.
The first I ever saw of AJ Styles was in WCW as part of Air Raid. Then there was a giant blank that was TNA only to see him surface in New Japan. He can work as a heel and as a face; much like Kevin Owens he is a cool heel. I can’t help but root for him as he is “phenomenal”. The Styles Clash is epic, and I feel like the WWE has yet to see his full arsenal. Being skyrocketed to a feud with Romain Reigns for the WWE Championship is completely warranted. Not to take anything away from Reigns, he has contributed to the matches as well, but Styles has kept me interested in the main event for the first time since Seth Rollins went down with his injury.
A week ago I got the privilege of seeing this man perform at NXT Seattle. After losing the title to Joe I was a little worried he was destined for the main roster ahead of the event. To my surprise and pleasure he has stuck around and will have a third confrontation with Joe in a steel cage at NXT: Takeover. This is most definitely the blow off and he will be on Raw very shortly. To me, Bálor is the future of the WWE. He will be the main event talent to carry the company for the next 5–10 years the way John Cena had before him. His move set is entertaining, his character is likeable, and he can transition to a heel naturally if need be *cough* Bullet Club *cough*. Kevin Owens got me to buy my first wrestling shirt, and Bálor is responsible for me picking up my second one!
This list could go on and on, but I decided to focus on those I really felt were playing a strong part in the modern product. Did I miss somebody you feel particularly passionate about belonging to this new era? Let me know in the comments here or follow me on Twitter! It’s a new account and I am looking to grow it and connect with the wrestling community. I would love to hear from you.