The John Report: WWE Roster Evaluation 2009 (Part 1 of 3): Raw

The John Report: WWE Roster Evaluation 2009 (Part 1 of 3): Raw

This is my evaluation of the current WWE roster. I will look at every on camera performer in the company. The list comes straight from, so it is up to date and relevant with today’s WWE product. I’ve done these multiple times in the past although the last time was in 2005. Obviously a lot has happened in four years. My goal is to make this an annual column. I originally aimed for a September posting because I thought the letter grades right around when school was starting would work nicely, but things happened and I didn’t have the time. Now it’s the end of October and I think it’s the perfect time because we’re six months removed from WrestleMania 25 with the next Mania looming on the horizon.

This evaluation will feature Raw only. The second post, which is coming on Thursday, will feature Smackdown and the third part will feature ECW coming next Monday. That third part will also include a summary of all the rankings as well as some general observations by me on the overall roster. Now, for some explanation of what I’ll be doing in this evaluation.

The Grading System
I tried to look at each wrestler’s workrate, mic work, charisma, drawing power and importance to the company as a way to grade them. For the people like the valets, managers or announcers I will just give them a grade based on the role that they play. It’s important to note that when a diva gets a B+ for example she’s getting that rating as compared to divas in WWE. It’s not comparable to the B+ that a male wrestler may get. Keep that in mind, please.

For a better explanation of my criteria, here’s a look at the grading system.

A+ = Workrate, mic work, ring psychology, charisma are exceptional. The closest thing to a perfect wrestler. (If you’re wondering about the A+ rating I’d say there have been some in the last decade. I’d have given A+ to Chris Jericho in 2008, Kurt Angle in 2002, Steve Austin in 2001, The Rock in 2000 and Triple H in 2000 off the top of my head.)
A = Excels in all of the key areas that I explained above, but may lack one or two special qualities.
B, B+, A- = A very good performer that needs a little work in some areas in order to improve or may be slipping a bit due to age.
C, C+, B- = A performer who has not reached his potential or a wrestler who is unable to improve on some areas due to their size and/or natural talent.
D+, C- = A performer that struggles in certain aspects and doesn’t appear to have the talent to improve.
D or lower = I would rather watch paint dry.
F = The Boogeyman. Thank God he’s gone.

Simple enough, right? This list of talent that I’ll be evaluating comes from the Superstars list. I am using the rosters effective October 19, 2009. I will talk about everybody from the wrestlers to divas to announcers and whoever else is listed on the site. Some write-ups will be long while others will be shorter. It depends on the individual, obviously. The grading will be based on their current activity with the company as well as where they might fit in the company in the future.

In addition to the letter grade, I will be including a feature that I’ve admired in Pro Football Weekly’s annual NFL preview issue. They have this feature where they rank the players by position. After their rating (they use numbers, not letters) they have a bonus rating for players that are either on the rise or past their prime. I’ll be doing something similar. Here’s an explanation on that:

(u) = This means the performer has an upside. It’s usually for a new talent that is still growing as a character.
(uu) = This means the performer has a bigger upside. Think of somebody like Randy Orton when he was first a part of Evolution about six years ago.

(d) = This means the performer is on the downside of his/her career. It’s usually going to be for an older performer, or maybe somebody with a long injury history.
(dd) = Same as above except maybe this person is a little older and a little more banged up. If I did this same column a year ago somebody like JBL would have fit this description.

If you don’t see any letters in brackets following the capitalized letter grade of the performer then that means I think that person doesn’t have an upside or a downside. You should take it to mean that I believe that performer is at or near the peak of his or her talents.

Following the letter grade of the performer, I will have a section called Outlook where I will write a few sentences about where I see that person headed in the future.

Before I get people complaining to me about any of my comments, please remember that I respect every person involved in wrestling. It’s a tough, demanding business that requires these performers to sacrifice many other things in their lives. While it may seem like I’m “bashing” somebody, it’s nothing personal. It’s just their work on WWE television. I’ve always considered WWE to be like a favorite sports team. Even though I will criticize decisions made by the company, I am still a fan and always will be a fan. It’s never personal. On top of all that, I have been a fan of pro wrestling for 20+ years and I feel that in my late 20s I’ve gained a lot of experience both as a fan of the business as well as somebody that has written about it for a decade.

The list comes from and it will be posted in alphabetical order just like it is on their website. Even though they list Big Dick Johnson as being on Raw I’m not about to write about an oiled up fat dude in the thong. If you’re mad at me for not writing about him then you’re the one with problems, not me. Now that things are hopefully clear, let’s get started.

Alicia Fox
She started out in WWE as the wedding planner of Vickie Guerrero and Edge on Smackdown. Once that role ended, she started off in ECW, then was moved to Smackdown and now Raw. Her character is the typical bitchy heel that struts to the ring as if she’s too good for everyone just like every heel woman in WWE. In ring she’s one of the best women they’ve hired in the last couple of years. She has natural athleticism and her timing gets better every time I see her. She’s a definite keeper. Wedding planners around the world are supporting her too, I’m sure.
Grade: B- (u)
Outlook: At only 23 years old she obviously has a bright future. I’d like to see some character development given to her because I think she has the potential to be one of the better divas they’ve brought in the last couple of years. She’ll probably hold one of the women’s belts in 2010.

Big Show
When he came back to WWE a couple years ago he was great in the Mayweather feud. In the two years that followed it was as if WWE didn’t know what to do with him. Was he a heel? Was he a face? It was hard to tell. His role as Chris Jericho’s bully partner has been perfect for him because it’s allowed him to remain a prominent talent while not having to work that much in the ring. He’s valuable to the company because he’s the biggest guy they have and any time somebody beats him it’s noteworthy. Throw in the fact that he’s a pretty good talker capable of being funny when he wants to be (remember the Showster?) and he’s definitely somebody who still has value in WWE. Plus, I absolutely love the punch where he has been known to KNOCK THE FUCK OUT of somebody.
Grade: B (d)
Outlook: I’m not sure how much time he has left in the ring considering he’s 37 and obviously is carrying a lot of weight. It’s probably a good idea to keep him in a tag team because it keeps him fresh without putting him through the rigors of having singles matches all the time. I like him as a heel more than a face, but with the Jerishow team splitting up likely in 2010 he’s more likely to go face.

Brie Bella
She’s basically arm candy for whoever the guest host is. I don’t see that changing a whole lot. Character wise there isn’t much there aside from being a twin and the typical WWE diva babyface that smiles all the time. In ring she’s okay from what I’ve seen. Hasn’t done anything to stand out from the pack.
Grade: C
Outlook: The guest host gimmick is running into the new year and probably to WrestleMania, so I doubt they do much more with her than keep her as arm candy. I’m sure she’ll be in the odd match here and there too.

When they decided to split up the entertaining Colon Brothers tag team I immediately questioned it because I didn’t think either guy would benefit from being alone. These days Carlito’s almost never on Raw and barely even makes it on Superstars. He’s so off the radar that he could probably be released at any time without anybody knowing it. It’s a shame because he’s a pretty good talker and can have good matches when he cares, but at this point I think it’s safe to say he’s probably not on a list of people getting a push.
Grade: C
Outlook: I don’t see much changing. If he’s still employed he’ll be stuck as a lower midcard talent. Management doesn’t seem to be too high on him.

Chavo Guerrero
You have to admire the ability of Chavo Guerrero to be put in ridiculous (and usually bad) comedy segments week after week, yet still continue to perform as if it’s the greatest thing on the show. He’s not going to get a serious push. He’s a glue guy. Like the seventh or eighth guy on a basketball team or a third down running back in the NFL, he’s the kind of guy you want to have on your side. I loved his great matches with Rey and teaming with uncle Eddie in the past, but those days are gone for him.
Grade: C (d)
Outlook: Now in his late thirties (he just turned 39) he probably has a few years left to continue working in WWE’s comedy segments. I don’t see a serious push in his future. Or better yet, bring Kerwin White back!

Chris Masters
I’m not really sure why he was re-hired. He’s somebody that was never that good when he started and while you’d think he’d improve I have yet to see it. Outside of flexing what is there? He appears to be an immobile guy who doesn’t move well or take bumps well. I’m sure he’ll always have a place in Vince’s heart since he’s got a hard on for muscles, but I’ve yet to be impressed by him.
Grade: D
Outlook: Unless he quickly improves I see him being in the same sort of position that he’s already in unless he gets future endeavored first.

Cody Rhodes
I think Cody is one of the most improved performers in WWE this year. He’s been able to cut good promos when needed as well as looking like somebody that could be a top level talent. He bumps well, his offense is good and as the year progressed you could tell he gained a lot of confidence. Of course, working with vets like Michaels and Triple H helped just like being the son of a legend like Dusty Rhodes has obviously helped. I’ve been impressed by Cody. He’s not somebody that jumps out at you as potentially being great, but he’s obviously very skilled and will be a valuable commodity for WWE going forward.
Grade: B- (u)
Outlook: With the Legacy group likely to end soon, he’ll be on his own as a heel with a feud with Ted Dibiase being very possible. I can see him being in the US/IC title picture in 2010 with a brighter future down the road. At only 24 years old, he’ll have every opportunity to get better.

Evan Bourne
He’s one of those guys who I’d love to see get pushed in 2010. However, if you look at WWE historically you know that the odds are stacked against him due to his size. Based on crowd reactions (they love him) and ability (he’s obviously a great athlete) he should be pushed. Based on Vince McMahon’s personal tastes, he probably won’t be pushed. Think about it. It took guys like Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio 15 years of being pro wrestlers before they got main event pushes. Smaller guys have to work a lot harder to make it. I think he’d be better on Smackdown where they actually have longer matches. Due to his age he’s still got a bright future, but I’d like to see him being used better now.
Grade: C+ (u)
Outlook: I don’t feel confident in forecasting a push for the guy because he’s basically a jobber these days. I don’t really see that changing although I’d love to see him in a tag team or in the US/IC title picture.

Eve Torres
She’s gorgeous and she comes from an athletic background, so I have high hopes for her. When she’s wrestled she has shown a lot of potential. As you’ll see me say many times with the women, there’s not much to the character aside from being a babyface. You can tell that her confidence in front of the camera has grown to the point where I think she’d be fine in promos if they ever gave her time.
Grade: C+ (u)
Outlook: She’s still young and a fresh face that will definitely make strides in the women’s division on Raw. I can see her holding the Divas belt in 2010.

I still don’t know why they broke up the Jesse & Festus team. The fans were into their act and it was obvious that they’d fail on their own. Now Jesse’s in a joke gimmick as a jobber on SD and Festus is totally off the radar. Do they think when they break up legit tag teams? Sometimes I wonder.
Grade: D
Outlook: As a big guy he’ll get plenty of chances to impress Vinny Mac, but that gimmick has already run its course. Maybe he’ll wake up without a bell ringing from now on. I have no idea.

Gail Kim
To me, Gail Kim is the best worker among the females in WWE. In the eyes of WWE fans she’s nothing. That’s a shame. She should have had the title by now. She should be having PPV matches. She should be trying to revitalize a division with too many women who don’t know how to work. Instead? Nothing. Look for her matches with Awesome Kong in TNA. They are great. WWE should realize what they have in her and use her more.
Grade: B-
Outlook: A feud over a title? A heel turn? I think she works better as a babyface, but at this point as a Gail Kim fan I’d be happy if they used her at all.

The fans love him. Vince McMahon loves him. The guest hosts love him. Me? I think he’s alright. As long as he’s not in matches going over actual wrestlers he’s cool with me. His mannerisms are good and he makes me laugh once in a while, but that Chavo feud was way too long.
Grade: C
Outlook: Doing the same stuff he always does. That’s just Horny being Horny. Or something.

Jack Swagger
Swagger’s one of my favorite young guys in WWE because of his athletic background as a football player and amateur wrestler (sorry for pulling a JR) who really wants to succeed. I think he’s driven to be great and that’s going to help him a lot. I know a lot of people make fun of him for his lisp, which is fine because he’s a heel and he should be able to play off that. In ring I think he’s come a long way in the last year and is going to get better. I do wish his finisher was something better than a gutwrench powerbomb because historically that’s been a transitional move and I think a guy of his stature needs something better. Let him be a heel, he’s good at coming off as a cocky guy and I don’t see any reason why he should turn face anytime soon. Being heel is a strength of is, so it’s important to keep that going.
Grade: B- (uu)
Outlook: At 27 (I thought he was younger), the future is bright. I can definitely see him move up the ladder although it might not be in 2010. He’ll probably be in that US/IC title range with a possible main event future to come.

Jamie Noble
Barely visible as an on-air performer. I’m pretty sure he works as an agent backstage already, so his next career is pretty much in place. I really liked what he did at the end in WCW, his early WWE stuff and his time in ROH was very good too. Since then he’s basically been a jobber or a comedy guy.
Grade: C- (d)
Outlook: I don’t see things changing with him.

Jerry Lawler
I’m really tired of the babyface Lawler that likes too many things. I miss heel Lawler. The Lawler of the 90s would probably be B+ or A- as an announcer, only behind Bobby Heenan on my personal list. These days he just doesn’t have the same sort of appeal to me as a viewer.
Grade: C (dd)
Outlook: He’s there until he retires probably. It will likely be a few years.

I know that a lot of people probably hate her because of the singing gimmick, but I admire her for always sticking it out and being a pro. She’s good at it. Plus, I always felt bad for her with that mole gimmick a few years back that was as stupid as anything WWE has ever done. In ring she’s about average in WWE, better than the newer girls, but not as good as some of the more veteran ones. And hey, at least she has a gimmick! So that’s something different for her.
Grade: C+
Outlook: She might get a quick feud over the Divas title, but I don’t see another title win for her. That two minute celebration was epic, though!

John Cena
Man, John Cena’s still in WWE? I didn’t notice. They barely push this guy! Come on now, let him win a match or two! Okay now that I’ve got the Cena haters riled up, let me say this: I like John Cena. I like the person that he is. He is dedicated to WWE in a way that Bret Hart said reminds him of himself (that’s a big compliment) and I have liked the character of John Cena a lot in the past. These days? I don’t like Super Cena as much. He’s too strong. Fans aren’t going to always get behind babyfaces that rarely lose and who recover from beatings as if nothing happened. I’m still upset at how little affect the Hell in a Cell match had on the guy. That’s obviously a booking decision more than his own doing. I think in terms of promos he’s neutered by the PG rating. He’s somebody that could definitely thrive if they let him cut loose, but instead he has to spout things aimed at the younger audience too much. In ring he straddles the line between average, good and on occasion very good with the right opponent. I like longer matches and he’s generally been solid in those ones although I did not like the Ironman against Orton although that was mostly based on how it was booked. My problem with him is that there are too many inconsistencies and I really wish he sold a beating better. Regarding the character, obviously he’s pandering and he does it because he’s the top draw. People buy his merchandise. It would be foolish to change him when he’s putting money in the company’s pockets. Still, they need to change him a bit because even somebody like me, who has been a fan of his, is really starting to tire of the act.
Grade: B
Outlook: I see the same thing he’s done the last four years. If there’s a new top babyface to push then maybe you change him. I don’t see that person on the roster, so the smart business move is to keep him the way he is. And yes, Cena haters, I can hear you groaning already. Sorry.

Justin Roberts
Ring announcer. He does a good job. I’m not grading a ring announcer. My favorite ever is Howard Finkel, though.

Kelly Kelly
I like her. She’s gorgeous obviously, but she’s also worked hard to be a credible wrestler (in WWE’s world). Of course there’s no gimmick for her after debuting as a stripper at the ripe age of 19 a few years ago. I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the name Kelly Kelly is brutal although it makes me remember when Woody sang The “Kelly” song in an episode of the great (and almost underrated) show, Cheers. “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly K-E-L-L-Y!” Reminding me of that is a good thing. Pretty random, I know.
Grade: C+ (u)
Outlook: At 22, she’s one of the youngest on the roster and she’ll probably get the Divas title at some point in 2010. I doubt her persona changes much over the year because she looks so easy…I mean nice. Or do I mean easy? Let’s just move on.

Kofi Kingston
There are a lot of things to like about Kofi. He’s a great athlete, he has entertaining matches week after week, he has this enthusiastic nature to him that feels genuine and you just want to see a guy like that succeed. You can see on his face that he loves being a professional wrestler…I mean sports entertainer. The problem is WWE has yet to give him a real feud in the two years since we’ve seen him and while he’s been on Raw I can’t remember him being put in any long matches. I don’t know why. The crowd loves him. Yeah, he’s short and until recently they’ve barely let him talk, but there’s no reason why a guy like him should still be working in opening matches. This is exactly the kind of young wrestler that needs to be pushed.
Grade: B (uu)
Outlook: He’s 28 years old meaning the best is yet to come. He’s already held secondary titles. The optimist in me says he might be somebody that can move up the card. The pessimist in me says he’ll probably be in the same spot next year that he’s in this year. In his case the optimistic side wins.

Mark Henry
Kool-Aid! Man, I love Kool-Aid. I don’t love Mark Henry as much as I love Kool-Aid. He’s been in WWE for over a decade now. We know what he is. A big man that gets tired after about two minutes, but he can work fine as a heel or face in limited doses. Fans cheer for his power moves at first. After a minute or two it’s a different story. He’s fine as a veteran role player. Just don’t push him, please.
Grade: C (d)
Outlook: Heel or face, he’ll be floating around the midcard blowing up two minutes into matches like he always does. At least he reminds me of the greatness of Kool-Aid. That’s something.

I think she’s absolutely gorgeous and I’ve been impressed at how much she has improved since joining WWE a few years back after the Diva search. She knows how to generate heel heat and she has by far the most impressive strut in the WWE. I can watch her strut for hours and never complain, I promise you that. Of course like all divas as a heel she has to play the bitchy, arrogant girl, which she does quite well. She’s better at it than the others, at least to me. Problem is they all act the same way (except for Jillian), so it doesn’t let her separate from the pack. In ring she’s one of the better ones for sure although the injury she’s suffered slowed her momentum a lot. Now that she’s due back soon I look forward to what’s in store for her future and I get the feeling she’ll come back better than ever. She definitely has the potential as well as the ability to get better. Plus, she’s Canadian. She’s born to do this.
Grade: B (u)
Outlook: She’s better as a heel, no question about it. I could see a face turn happening just because she’s been a heel for a couple years and they might need to freshen her up by making her go face. I’d prefer it if she stays heel because there’s no point in messing with a good thing.

Here’s a confession: I used to LOVE Melina. Everything about her. The primal scream, the heel mannerisms, the short skirts showing off the thong, the revealing tops and then she turned face while WWE also turned PG. As I’ve written many times before, that change neutered her (bad choice of words perhaps) more than any other woman in the company. She’s gone from oozing in sex appeal as much as any woman in WWE ever has to being just another babyface diva forced to deliver bad lines because the writers think that 30 year old women talk like they are still in high school: “Like, oh my god, I saw Dolph talking to this girl and she was so into him.” Child please. All of those conversations she had with her “best friend” Maria on Smackdown were awful. Still, I have to give her a lot of credit for improving in the ring as much as she has. She’s solid in the ring with amazing flexibility. Acting wise? Not so good.
Grade: B-
Outlook: I’d love to see a heel turn because I think she’s much better in that role. It could happen. I don’t know. It’s the WWE divas. She’s switched shows twice this year. They move them around because there’s never any kind of long term planning. More than likely she’ll just do what she has done for the last couple of years.

Michael Cole
Oh, where I do start? The way Michael Cole has been used on Raw has been vintage stupid. I never had a problem with him on Smackdown all those years he was on that show aside from when Heidenreich raped him (sorry for reminding people of that). On Raw, they produce him like he’s the biggest idiot alive. I don’t know why. Everything that Hornswoggle does is the funniest thing ever while every guest host is hilarious. I know they have to kiss the ass of the guest host and he’s the one that does it most because he’s the voice of Raw, but it’s really annoying. I don’t think Michael Cole is a terrible announcer. However, I think the way they direct Michael Cole is terrible. The announcers say what they are told to say. I get that. Whoever’s telling Cole to act like a vintage douchebag should take most of the credit (or blame) for this grade.
Grade: D
Outlook: He’s not going anywhere. I just hope they realize they need to direct Cole in a manner that gives him more credibility because what we get every Monday from Michael Cole is poor. I also predict he will say vintage a lot.

Montel Vontavious Porter
I like MVP. I thought WWE management liked MVP. I was wrong. A year ago on Smackdown they booked him to lose every match for months on end. Then he won a match over Big Show by a fluke and suddenly he was a babyface. I didn’t mind. He’s got good mannerisms, fans want to cheer the “Ballin’ elbow” thing he does and they actually chant for him during matches. Booking wise, though, he’s a jobber. I don’t really know why. I think he’s got a bright future and if a crowd reacts to somebody that loses all the time the way the crowd reacts to him it makes me think that he should be given some kind of push. In ring he’s good, in terms of promos he’s good with the potential to be above average if they gave him an actual storyline to sink his teeth into. I thought he was going to win the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania and become a main eventer by this point. Now? I don’t know where they’re going with him. My hope is they open their eyes and give this guy a sustained push because the crowd likes him enough while his in ring work is good enough to warrant it.
Grade: B-
Outlook: I have no idea, really. He should be one of the four or five guys that they elevate going forward, but he should have been elevated by now. They’ve done nothing with him. He’s probably gone down the ladder rather than move up.

Mr. McMahon
Why’s he listed as a Raw performer? I don’t know. I’m not going to rate him. Vince is Vince. He’ll come out, get a face pop and then turn on the crowd because he gets a high out of that. It’s like a heroin addict taking another hit. I’m a little disappointed that this year there haven’t been the hilariously bad unintentional comedy moments like the exploding limo in 2007 or the set crashing down on him in 2008 when he realized that giving money away added nothing to ratings. Vince getting Rick Roll’d might have been the greatest moment in Raw history, by the way. Of course Vince is still head booker and head of the creative team. In that sense I’d give him a C in terms of his booking of Raw. It’s been full of highs and lows. When you look at the roster you would think the shows would be better, but for whatever reason it’s not. They move the main title around too much, they haven’t created any new stars on Raw in 2009 and what was the fresh show in WWE has become the one that lacks creativity. And that’s on Vince. Ratings are stagnant, PPV buys are down all across the board and things need to change. If Vince is the genius he thinks he is he’ll realize some things need to change sooner rather than later. I’m not giving him a rating, though, unless you want to count the C for his booking.

Nikki Bella
She’s basically arm candy for whoever the guest host is. I don’t see that changing a whole lot. Character wise there isn’t much there aside from being a twin and the typical WWE diva babyface that smiles all the time. In ring she’s okay from what I’ve seen. Hasn’t done anything to stand out from the pack. (Yes, I wrote exactly the same for her sister, Brie. Thank you copy and paste.)
Grade: C
Outlook: Same as her sister. Arm candy.

In today’s WWE there really aren’t jobbers the way there were in the 80s and early 90s when I grew up as a fan watching Mike Sharpe, Barry Horowitz or Barry O (Randy Orton’s uncle, by the way). However, if there’s a jobber on Raw it’s Primo. He went from being a part of being a good babyface tag team with his brother Carlito to being a guy that loses to the heels. I love his energy as a tag wrestler. It’s perfect for him. As a singles wrestler, though, I just don’t see Vinny Mac pushing a guy like him.
Grade: C
Outlook: More of the same. Vince likes taller guys. And that’s not going to change. Sorry Primo.

Randy Orton
There are things about Randy Orton that I really like. His facial expressions are as good as anybody in the company and he’s so good at getting a crowd to hate him that it’s hard to deny that he’s a very good heel. This is the role he should play his entire career. Don’t ever turn him face. Of course they will at some point since he’s only 29 and has another decade of wrestling in his future most likely. To me, the thing that has kept Orton from taking the leap up to that really high level of greatness is he’s yet to have a defining main event level feud. His feud with Mick Foley was great, but that was five years ago now and it was before he was a main eventer. What he’s done with HHH and Cena this year has been okay, but due to the fact that both of those feuds went on way too long (and were repeats of previous feuds) they made us not want to see Orton against either of those guys. That’s why I’m looking forward to hopefully a feud with Ted Dibiase because it’s new. It’s Randy’s first real chance as an established main eventer to elevate somebody else. That’s how very good wrestlers become great. You have to prove that you can make others better and in Randy’s case we really haven’t seen that yet. His character is excellent, his promos are above average and his work in the ring is good although I thought he’d be better by now. As he enters his 30s he’ll likely improve, though, so I have a lot of hope for his future. Once he has that defining feud where he helps make another star he’s going to really take off and be an even better performer than he is today.
Grade: A- (u)
Outlook: He needs to stay heel. Don’t turn him. Give him fresh feuds. Use him to create new babyface stars because anybody booked against him is going to be liked by the crowd. He has value in that sense, so make sure you use him for that. He needs to be the cornerstone of Raw.

Santino Marella
I think Santino’s one of the funniest people in the history of WWE. He legit makes me laugh on a regular basis. I can’t say I liked the Santina thing much since it was more stupid than it was funny, but his work generally is pretty good. In ring there’s not much to talk about because he’s a joke character in the ring just as he is out of the ring. I love how he butchers names, I love how he says things like “organisms” when meaning to say orgasms and I love most of his facial expressions. As an actor he’s above average in WWE. If they’re going to keep the WWE films division going they should consider him in a comedic role because he’s good at it. For his acting and comedy I’d give him an A- for the record. Overall, though, I have to look at the overall package.
Grade: C+
Outlook: They’ve found his niche. He’s funny, so let him keep being funny. Easy.

Shawn Michaels
He’s my favorite wrestler of all time and I don’t know if I’ll ever have somebody that surpasses him in terms of being my favorite because I grew up watching him. Without guys like him and Bret Hart in the 1990s I don’t know if I’d still be a fan. What’s interesting is that there are probably a lot of guys on the roster that feel the same way about him. If you were a younger wrestler in WWE you would want to work with him. What’s been great about Shawn in the seven years since he’s been back is that he’s shed the label of being hard to work with for being a company guy. He works with younger wrestlers and he makes them better through working with him. Character wise he’s likely going to stay babyface the rest of his career. He’s probably been asked to turn heel, but due to his religious beliefs he doesn’t want to turn. That’s understandable. On the microphone he’s one of the best whether it’s a serious promo or a funny one. I tend to like his comedy more than any non-Santino performer on Raw. In ring he’s still got it. He sells moves the best, his offense makes sense and his timing is almost always perfect. Of course he’s not as active in the ring as we’d like him to be, but that’s also in part because of his age as well as injury history. Nobody in WWE has worked for the company longer than him, so if anybody is going to be allowed a few exceptions here and there it’s him. To me, Shawn Michaels is still the number one wrestler on the Raw brand. You know why? It’s because, despite a bad back and bad knees, he’s the most reliable performer in the company. If he’s in a big match you know it’s going to deliver. Why? Because he’s Shawn Michaels. The best ever. Yeah, I said it. The best ever.
Grade: A- (d)
Outlook: Due to his age (44) he’s declining, but he’s still the best on the show. He’s just not somebody you can book in 15 minute matches every single week. They have to be smart about using him. They should also use him to help the young guys like Swagger, Rhodes and hopefully a debuting Bryan Danielson sooner rather than later. I’d love to see another WWE Title run for him. My understanding is he’s been asked about it in the past, but refused because he doesn’t work many house shows and has always had the belief that the champion should be on the road, which I completely agree with. Still, I hope he gets one more title win.

Ted DiBiase
I have always typed it as Dibiase and I always will. The capitalization was done by, not me. He’s definitely one of the most intriguing people on the roster because he’s going face due to the fact that the company wants him in that role just in time for The Marine 2 coming out on DVD in a couple months, which of course stars him. He filmed it while selling a Randy Orton punt. I like what I’ve seen from Dibiase from the start of the year until now. He’s improved in a lot of ways, most notably in his presence. I always thought he looked nervous cutting a promo or in backstage segments. Now he appears to be polished. He’s confident in the things he says and does while not being over the top. I like him in the heel role. With that said, turning face against Randy Orton is going to be huge because as I mentioned with Randy the crowd is going to boo whoever is against Orton. The fans are going to be on Ted’s side as long as they play it right. It’ll be a big test to see how well he sells a beating, then comes back and gets the crowd engaged in his actions. I think he’ll be able to pull it off. That’s why you have stables. They elevate the younger guys like it has done with Cody and Ted while creating feuds that can carry you once the breakup happens. Last week’s Raw was the first sign of the split and the crowd reacted to it favorably. I have high hopes for Dibiase and obviously management thinks so too.
Grade: B (uu)
Outlook: The feud with Orton is on the horizon as well as a likely rivalry with Cody, his Legacy brother. From there I think he’ll be in the main event picture early in 2010 possibly even challenging for a belt at WrestleMania or maybe a little later in the year. With the rate at which WWE moves the WWE title around, he could definitely hold that title too. Too soon? It may be, but with the lack of new stars they created in 2009 I’m not about to complain about a new face in the title picture in 2010.

The Miz
I have to give The Miz credit for surpassing other wrestlers with the first name of “The” like The Shockmaster, The Boogeyman, my guy The Berzerker and of course The Goon, but I get the feeling that he won’t surpass The Rock or The Undertaker. Just a hunch. What I like about The Miz is that when he says he’s been a WWE fan for life you can tell he actually means it. He loves the business. He loved it as a kid and he worked his ass off to make it as an adult. In 2008 he was the most improved performer in the company. This year as a singles act, despite being booked poorly in his beginning on Raw, he’s proven that he’s somebody they (the bookers) can count on in the future. He’s very good on the microphone in terms of believing in the things he says while also invoking great reactions from the crowd that is always eager to boo him. I have a lot of admiration for his dedication to his craft. He’s been smart enough to come up with a lot of the little things to make himself stand out from the pack like a catchphrase (“I’m the Miz and I’m awesome”) and his poses that are very easy to hate. He’s gone from somebody who I’ve disliked at the start of his career to a person I respect for the way he’s worked hard to improve especially in the ring. In terms of promo ability he’s always been good with the potential to be great, but in ring he’s come a long way.
Grade: B (u)
Outlook: I think holding the US title is perfect for him right now. I think a long run with that belt would be great for his character because he would rub it in everybody’s face and it would give him much needed credibility. I’m not sure if he has a main event future, but if he keeps improving he can definitely make it.

Triple H
My opinions on Triple H this decade have changed a lot. In 2000 he was the best heel in WWE, no question about it, and proved he was worthy of being a main eventer. Obviously he’s been there ever since. After returning from his quad injury in 2002 I really didn’t like many of his performances over the next two years, but then he was great in 2004 and 2005 as the top heel. He really helped to make guys like Chris Benoit and Batista in those years, respectively. Since then? Nothing he has done has really stood out. It’s mostly because he’s been a babyface. As I’ve written many times in the Raw Deal this year, I don’t have much sympathy for his babyface character, especially when he was Hunter the McMahon Family Avenger. Think about it: He has won about 95% of his matches the last three years, he’s married to the boss’ daughter (nice of WWE to finally acknowledge it this year) and he’s held more World Titles in WWE than anybody in the history of the company (Flair has more, but obviously they were mostly NWA/WCW ones). He’s much better in the heel role. There’s no question about it. Yeah, the DX stuff is fun and I think he’s got a pretty good sense of humor even though it can be too sophomoric at times, but he’s better being the bad guy. Also, when he’s been heel he’s been more apt to putting over younger wrestlers. As a face he’s not putting people over in a definitive way like he did as a heel. He’s booked like a superman, which isn’t exciting to me as a viewer especially when he’s been a main eventer for ten years. The Triple H character right now is just okay. He needs to be better.
Grade: B (d)
Outlook: Having just turned 40 this year, I’m sure some people are wondering when he’s going to call it a career. I don’t know. I think that he’s got another two or three years at least as a top guy. I’d love to see a heel turn prior to WrestleMania. I don’t know who he should feud with. Maybe Michaels. Maybe Undertaker. I’d prefer it if it was somebody younger. Doesn’t matter to me at this point. My gut says he stays face until he retires. I hope I’m wrong. He should really have another two year heel run and then go face before retiring to get the legends pop. There’s still some gas left in his heel tank and I hope he’s smart enough to realize it.


Here are the rankings. I’ve broken it up into male characters and then female characters. There won’t be any ties. If two or more people have the same grade I’ll choose one over the other based on who I think is that much better. Just because a wrestler has more upside than somebody else doesn’t make that person better. The upside/downside aspect is more for showing who is on their way up and who is on their way down.

Here are the 23 male performers with the two announcers included:

1. Shawn Michaels A- (d)
2. Randy Orton A- (u)
3. Kofi Kingston B (uu)
4. John Cena B
5. Triple H B (d)
6. Big Show B (d)
7. Ted Dibiase B (uu)
8. The Miz B (u)
9. Jack Swagger B- (uu)
10. Cody Rhodes B- (u)
11. MVP B-
12. Evan Bourne C+ (u)
13. Santino C+
14. Chavo Guerrero C (d)
15. Jerry Lawler C (dd)
16. Mark Henry C (d)
17. Primo C
18. Hornswoggle C
19. Carlito C
20. Jamie Noble C- (d)
21. Michael Cole D
22. Chris Masters D
23. Festus D

I put Michaels in first because he’s still the best in the ring and that means a lot obviously. Orton’s got everything else down pretty good, but he needs that defining feud that I talked about earlier. They’re 1A and 1B on Raw to me, no question about it…Kofi made it to third because I think he’s got a bright future in terms of having good matches when he’s given the chance and his energy is infectious. Crowds like him and he’s only going to get better…Cena hasn’t changed much in the past three or four years, which hurts him to me. You need to be able to adjust and adapt. With him it’s the same thing over and over. He’s not good enough in the ring or as a character to do that and keep my interest…I think HHH’s still good enough to be a B+ or A- type of performer as a heel. As a face, he’s B level and I know there will probably some who say I’m being generous with that…Big Show knows what he’s a giant and he’s very good at his role. It’s not about being a great worker in his case…All the guys from 7 to 12 are part of the future of Raw. I hope that if I do this same column a year from now that two or three of them (at least) stand out from the pack. WWE needs that to happen…The rest are where they are without the likelihood of moving up very much. Congrats to Masters for beating Festus. At least you won something, Chris.

Here are the nine women on the Raw roster:

1. Maryse B (u)
2. Melina B
3. Gail Kim B-
4. Alicia Fox B- (u)
5. Kelly Kelly C+ (u)
6. Jillian C+
7. Eve C+ (u)
8. Brie Bella C
9. Nikki Bella C

In terms of being an in-ring performer I think Gail Kim is the best. However, WWE refuses to push her hard, so the other divas are given more of a chance to establish themselves…Of the entire group, I think Eve has the most potential to be a very good worker for a WWE diva. She’s got the athleticism to do it, no question.

That’s it for Raw. I would say that the biggest revelation I had from doing this is that it really accentuates how much of a need there is for new top guys on the Raw brand. I think fans are tired of seeing some of the same people in the same roles and it’s important for the booking team to realize that to mix the established main event talent with the younger ones. I don’t think there’s a talent issue. The issues and problems with Raw lay mostly on the booking team, at least to me. It’s mostly a differently story on Smackdown, as you will read in part two.


I appreciate any feedback you may have. Who do you think was ranked correctly? Who was rated poorly? Who was I too nice to, or too critical of? Let me know. You can contact me via email at, join the hundreds of my friends on Facebook at where I’m sure some discussion will be going on and you can also shoot me a Tweet at if you’re into Twitter. I will most likely be running some type of feedback column on this once I’m done all three parts, so keep that in mind too.

Here’s the posting schedule:
Part 2: Smackdown on Thursday, October 29.
Part 3: ECW and Final Thoughts on Monday, November 2.

I will still be posting The Raw Deal column tomorrow (Tuesday) and Talking Smack on the weekend although both will likely be shorter than norm (the Raw Commentfest will remain the same). I’m nearly done the Smackdown part, but I will not post it until Thursday. Here’s a spoiler: The number one overall performer in WWE is on Smackdown. I’m not saying who, but if you think about it you probably know.

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.

Smell ya later,
John Canton –
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