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Through the highs and the lows of WWE, one of the most important factors towards their success is having a good lineup of popular babyfaces. There has always been the kingpin, from Bruno Sammartino, to Hulk Hogan, to John Cena, but behind that one megastar, there has always been a secondary face, and a third top face behind him, etc. The mid-1990s were down for WWE for a variety of reasons, but it didn’t help that behind Bret Hart WWE rolled out an increasingly ineffective array of secondary faces. Due to injury and other reasons, WWE is currently down on babyfaces. Daniel Bryan, who was the most popular wrestler in the company, has been out for months with an injury, with no real time table set up for his return. Roman Reigns, who was tabbed as being the next great babyface, also is sitting on the sidelines due to injury. And of course, nobody really knows what happened to CM Punk, all that we do know is that he isn’t here. Because of all that, WWE is currently in search of another top babyface to stand behind John Cena, so let’s take a look at the potential candidates and give them a grade pertaining to their ability to fulfill the roles necessary for a big time babyface.
As WWE sets up the big Survivor Series match between John Cena’s team and The Authority, WWE has tabbed Ziggler so far as being Cena’s top lieutenant. He was the first man to join Team Cena, and The Authority clearly saw him as a threat, as they tried to persuade him to not work with Cena. Ziggler has a lot of the tools WWE wants out of their top stars, he has a lot of charisma, can get himself over on the microphone, and can sell his opponents offense better than pretty much anybody else. Things that are working against Ziggler is that he has a questionable injury history, and in the past WWE has put him in a top position and he has been unceremoniously dropped backwards into the mid-card. It is totally possible that WWE is pumping Ziggler up for a few weeks, only for him to suffer an injury at the hands of The Authority and suddenly he is pushed back down the totem pole. It is nice to see a guy who has worked as hard as Ziggler has to get a push, but until we see anything for a substantial amount of time, it is hard to have faith in WWE pushing him as the top face behind Cena.
Another key figure on Team Cena is the veteran Big Show. Unlike Ziggler, Big Show has gotten the full support of WWE management in the past. Just last season, WWE had Big Show pick up the torch that Daniel Bryan dropped in the fight against The Authority. What we got was a series of uncomfortable promos and acted skits and underwhelming matches. While the results were not ideal, the fact remains that with Bryan pushed briefly out of the picture, WWE needed another face to step up, and they chose Big Show. Again, Big Show has found himself in the thick of things, and because of his size, he is always going to be viewed as a threat no matter how many important matches he loses. Show’s skill set lends itself fairly useful, more than you might think. He can’t be relied upon to have a good match every night, but with the right opponent he can be a part of some entertaining bouts. He is underrated on the mic, and can be both funny and serious, as long as he isn’t crying. Big Show’s main problem is that his character has shifted so much from heel-to-face over the years that it is hard for fans to really get behind him, because they know he can change at any time. He looks to be headed for a long feud with Mark Henry, so the chances of him actually getting another chance to stand behind Cena are unlikely.
After being sidelined by an injury, Ryback came back in a big way recently, immediately inserting himself into the main event and has become the focal point over the last week or so in the battle for talent between Cena and The Authority. Ryback has had an interesting career path, bursting onto the scene as an undefeated monster, not unlike Rusev. He then turned face during a quick feud with CM Punk, then came back to being a heel during an underwhelming feud with John Cena. He was then regulated to being a part of mid-card tag team, where he was allowed to be a little bit more expansive with his character now that he was away from the microscope. Coming back from his injury, he has brought back the popular “Feed me more” chant, so it is clear WWE wants this guy to be a face. Since his original debut, he has improved in the ring greatly, and while he won’t blow anybody away in the microphone, his character doesn’t necessarily require a ton of long promos to establish himself. After several setbacks, WWE might actually be getting what they originally had in mind with Ryback.
Sheamus started off his WWE career with a tremendous push as a heel, but he switched to being a face soon after and since then has drifted along as a colorless face, regulated to Smackdown. Sheamus has gotten over with fans, and he has become one of WWE’s better workers, turning into a fun brawler who always brings it in the ring. On the microphone he can be funny, but what is really hurting Sheamus is his lack of character depth. He comes across as an Irish guy that likes to fight, and that is pretty much it. He stands back and makes some jokes about his opponents, and then he kicks them in the face. As a mid-card guy that is fine, but for someone that trying to get back into the world title scene, he needs to start becoming a more significant character.
I wrote at length about Orton last week, so I will keep this pretty short. Orton is certainly popular enough to carry the torch as a major babyface, but we already saw this experiment and the results were disappointing. Orton as a hot-headed tweener is perfect, and his feud with Rollins has been the highlight of Raw, but once that ends, we are most likely going to get boring Orton, who struggles to connect with fans in an outright positive manner.
Ambrose just recently main evented a PPV that also featured a match between Cena and Orton, so in many fans eyes, he is already the number two face. However, his recent feud with Bray Wyatt has been less than fulfilling so far, and WWE hasn’t really given Ambrose a ton of TV time, not nearly as much as he got during his feud with Rollins, so it is likely WWE isn’t really sure if Ambrose can be a top face in the company. That is disappointing, since Ambrose has been an excellent babyface since Rollins turned on him. Ambrose, who is a quality in-ring worker and an excellent talker, came across as a very authentic anti-hero, a guy with a nasty temper and an impressive capacity for holding a grudge, who can be a top babyface as long as he is facing an opponent who the fans believe has wronged him. As Steve Austin showed us, this character can go a long way, and Ambrose has done the best Austin impersonation since Austin himself was wearing the black tights and boots. The fans lapped it up and Ambrose was getting an excellent response from the crowd, so hopefully we see more of him in the coming weeks.