The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff.
A few weeks ago, WWE did a bit of spring cleaning with their main roster, releasing some talent. This used to be an annual event for the company, but over the last few years they have clutched onto their talent the way a hoarder clutches onto disposable cameras that are out of film. Despite the fact that WWE was continually acquiring top talent from the independents and other promotions, WWE allowed their roster to swell to so many that it would be impossible to give many of them even a whisker of TV time. For the first time in a couple years, WWE pulled the trigger and released some talent in a quick burst, mostly job guys who had fallen out of even the mid-card picture; guys like Adam Rose, Hornswoggle, Cameron, amongst others.
Two names that stand out are talents that at one time looked to be future stars for the company, Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett. During the early stages of their careers in WWE, Barrett and Rhodes looked like potential main event talents who WWE could build important storylines around and make a lot of money off of them. Instead, the early run that they got during their early years ended up being the peak of their careers in WWE and both men were eventually reduced to jobber status and were released from the company.
I want to preface this by saying that I think WWE has way too many guys on their main roster and considering the bevy of young talent they have coming up through NXT, I'm happy to see more room being made on the main roster. There are guys on the WWE roster right now who have been given a lot of opportunities to get over, yet they have never been able to break through. Jack Swagger is a perfect example of this, a guy that has been repackaged in different roles and given pushes, once winning the World Heavyweight Championship and another time contending for the WHC at WrestleMania. Despite that Swagger has never broken through and remains on the roster, but his ceiling right now is so low, it's amazing he didn't get released earlier this year. Swagger has some talent, but not every guy is going to end up working in WWE, and WWE would be better served by shuffling that talent out of the company and replacing them with someone who possibly could get over in a big way.
Realistically, WWE can only give TV time and legitimate storylines to about 15-18 guys and girls, roughly. Even with the brand extension, there are really not that many good spots on the card. At Extreme Rules, only 22 men and women competed in matches on the show. Considering that WWE has many times that amount of talent on their roster right now, WWE might have to have a quicker trigger finger when it comes to determining who the necessary talent are. A big problem is that WWE is still bringing up talent from NXT without creating roles for them on the main roster. You have guys like Apollo Crews and Tyler Breeze, guys who showed a lot of potential in NXT, struggling to get ANYTHING going on the main roster and have been left off a lot of shows simply because there is no spot for them.
With that being said, there are certain talents that WWE releases that WWE fails to get the most out of. Ethan Carter III and Drew Galloway have proven themselves to be important talents that have made a difference in the wrestling world outside of WWE. The same can be said for John Morrison/Johnny Mundo.
Rhodes and Barrett might end up being even bigger mistakes for WWE. Here are guys that showed a lot more potential than I think Carter, Galloway or Morrison did in their WWE runs, yet their legs were cut-off for unknown reasons. Rhodes feuded Shawn Michaels and Triple H, closing PPVs and working big feuds early in his WWE tenure; the same can be said for Wade Barrett, who feuded with John Cena and Randy Orton.
Rhodes made headlines after asking for his release from WWE and releasing a long statement after being granted his release that explained his frustrations with the company. Essentially, Rhodes saw himself as someone with the ability to become a top talent and management not only disagreed with him; they largely ignored him during his final year in the company. I have heard from a lot of different people about what Rhodes' true potential was, and a lot of them, including Dave Meltzer, feel that Rhodes was certainly capable of more, he was never going to be the top talent that he saw himself as.
I disagree with that assessment-personally I think Rhodes could have been a world champion for WWE in some other universe. Rhodes hits a lot of the checkmarks that you would want to see in a top talent; he was a good in-ring worker capable of having very good matches, he had a certain level of charisma that allowed him to get some gimmicks, like "Dashing" Cody Rhodes and Stardust to get over to the degree that they were allowed to get over, hell the guy grew a mustache and the crowd ate it up. He was a good athlete with a solid physique, he conducted himself well in interviews outside of WWE and he had the pedigree that WWE loves in their talents.
But why do I think WWE really made a crucial mistake in letting Rhodes go? I think back to Money in the Bank 2013. If you remember at the time WWE had two MiTB matches, one of the WHC and one for the WWE Championship. The WHC ladder match was an interesting match because it included seven men (Rhodes, Barrett, Damien Sandow, Fandango, Cesaro, Dean Ambrose and Swagger) that were all heels at the time. Fans had no particular rooting interest in any of the wrestlers; but it was Rhodes who got the loudest support from the crowd and the biggest pop when he threatened to win the title. The fans had seven different guys to choose from and they chose Rhodes, completely organically.
At that point I wrote "Most fans considered this to be a pretty wide open match, with the winner having to emerge during the match to make sense. Cody Rhodes, after wallowing in mediocrity for a couple years, began to become THE guy in the match. The crowd was all over Rhodes and suddenly it looked like the WWE was going to have a new top-level babyface, one that had just turned 28 years old." The hardest thing to do in professional wrestling is for a babyface to get over with the fans in an organic fashion, and for a night Rhodes showed he had the ability to do that. Instead WWE never capitalized on that performance and aside from a run with his brother Goldust in a feud against the McMahons, Rhodes spent most of his time in WWE off of the radar screen.
The same is mostly true for Wade Barrett, who made a huge splash during his WWE debut, attacking Cena and CM Punk and launching The Nexus invasion. Even more so than Rhodes, Barrett became an established star in the main event picture; feuding with the cream of the crop in WWE and being the figurehead of one of the most talked about angles of the last ten years. While The Nexus was filled with hit-or-miss talent (Michael Tarver, David Otunga, Heath Slater, etc.) there was little doubt that Barrett was going to be a major star in the company. Like Rhodes, he had a lot of the qualities WWE likes to see in a star, he was big, he could talk, he had charisma and he was solid in the ring.
Yet, Barrett never took off the way many predicted he would. He came up short in a feud with Cena (doesn't everyone?) and eventually was removed from The Nexus and started The Corre, a half-hearted knock-off of The Nexus that's only claim to fame is that it did nothing to progress the careers of anybody in it. After he left The Corre he became a mid-carder, lost a feud to Randy Orton and missed time with injuries.
When he came back he was given a horrible gimmick; one that saw him report negative news to wrestlers and fans. Bad News Barrett never should have succeeded, but due to Barrett's ability the angle got over and became one of the most popular acts in WWE. It looked like Barrett had salvaged his career but instead WWE decided to cut him off at the legs again; dismissing the gimmick because it was getting a positive reaction from the crowd and Barrett was supposed to be a heel. That was an inexcusable mistake by WWE because so few acts actually get over with the audience, it shouldn't matter if Barrett was supposed to be getting booed instead of cheered. After all, it doesn't matter if you like or dislike him, as long as you are passionate about him, right JBL?
Barrett would end his career in WWE on the outskirts, getting a few mid-card title shots and even a couple Intercontinental Championships but never having a significant impact on the product. Both Barrett and Rhodes worked really hard to get over with the audience, and to different degrees they succeeded and flashed the ability to be the kind of stars WWE is sorely lacking right now. It's been said many times by different people, but WWE executives always publically ask their talent to go out and create their own opportunities, to seize the metaphorical brass ring, but plenty of times talents have worked their ass off to get over with the audience and instead of being rewarded, they are pushed into the backseat and ultimately dismissed. It's a disheartening sign for any talent in the company looking to make an impact in the company that simply doing everything that is asked of you and working to get over with the audience just isn't good enough.
Since everyone in the world is giving their opinions about the Will Ospreay vs Ricochet match that took place at New Japan Pro Wrestling's Best of the Super Junior's tournament last week; it seems required for me to give my own two cents about the match. Generally, I agree with most fans and pundits that the match was extremely good; albeit it isn't for everyone. Older wrestlers who were taught a certain style might not appreciate it, but that has been happening since professional wrestling came into existence. Much like the same way older NBA stars might speak out against the Golden State Warriors for shooting too many three-pointers, wrestling in 2016 is unique in its own style and not everyone is going to appreciate that.
What I disagree with is that there are plenty of people, even those who admit the match was entertaining, that this was a match that had no selling, storytelling or psychology to it. The only people who could legitimately feel that way are those who are unfamiliar with Ospreay and Ricochet. For me, it was very clear that the story was that Ricochet had been hearing all about how spectacular Ospreay was, that he was the next Ricochet or perhaps even better. Ricochet took out his frustrations on Ospreay and this was evident by the normally babyface Ricochet taking on a heel persona for the match.
In addition; while there were plenty of flips and high-spots in the match, it was hardly without selling. If you are going to criticize Ospreay and Ricochet for kicking out of big moves then you better be ready to criticize Roman Reigns for kicking out of a Styles Clash on a chair at Extreme Rules. It is just the style of wrestling that is becoming more prevalent. There are plenty of other matches that involve much more no-selling, particularly a match between Ospreay and Marty Scurll from earlier this year at Revolution Pro Wrestling's High Stakes event that drew rave reviews. The match between Ricochet and Ospreay wasn't like that, there was real selling and psychology involved and that was one of the main reasons, along with the jaw dropping athleticism of the performers, the match became such a big deal. There isn't a right or a wrong way to have a great match, any performer can have one in any different style.