With WrestleMania in the rearview mirror for 2022, several new faces have begun appearing on WWE’s main roster shows, RAW and SmackDown. As Xavier Woods mentioned on WWE television, if WrestleMania is the big season finale, then the following weeks can be the beginning of new storylines and fresh pushes. One name came as an enormous free agent signing at the big show itself. Others made moves from NXT 2.0 or received re-introductions with renewed pushes.
Not everyone will make a large impact, but of the new faces on RAW and SmackDown, which have the most potential? Which are more likely to get lost in the shuffle?
A sure thing (for now)
Cody Rhodes returned to WWE as Seth Rollins’ surprise opponent and was one of the company’s biggest stars the moment his music hit. Rhodes and Rollins will have a rematch at WrestleMania Backlash on May 8. While the company has yet to officially designate a main event for the show, this is clearly one of the top two thus far. In addition, he’s received a strong babyface reaction from WWE fans. That’s a far cry from what he encountered toward the end of his AEW run.
Rhodes left a mid-carder and returned a main eventer. This benefits both him and the company. First of all, it gives WWE a fresh set of main event matchups. That’s always healthy for a company with a champion in Roman Reigns who has run through nearly everyone.
However, the signal Rhodes’ push sends to the rest of the wrestling world could be even more important. Everyone with a big contract ending in the next couple of years is watching closely to see how Rhodes is treated. WWE would be smart to show people that returning to the company is a good career move. If WWE keeps its wits about it, Rhodes will get a strong and lengthy main event run. That will indicate to those potential free agents they will be treated as stars if they go to WWE, not as no-names who “finally” make it to the major league.
I’m glad you took the ride with me.
The rub definitely goes both ways, we all needed eachother to create & grow what we have now. Wrestlers/crew/fans.
Fact that there’s 4 stadium shows currently for our sport this year is lovely. A great indication on business. Let’s keep going! https://t.co/OEpgkDNi7R
— Cody Rhodes (@CodyRhodes) April 20, 2022
The “should-be” list
Gunther was brought to SmackDown along with Ludwig Kaiser (formerly known as Marcel Barthel) right after WrestleMania. Gunther brings a unique working style to the ring and a unique charisma. He also brings with him a challenge to the WWE technical crew, which will have to find ways to turn down the inevitable “Walter” chants that are coming.
Gunther should be a can’t miss. He’s an outstanding worker. His matches look different than nearly everyone else’s. They feel different too. Just ask anyone who’s had to take one of his chops. Kaiser is also a terrific wrestler who can talk. They have the potential to be a strong heel act right out of the gate.
The issue is, WWE has missed on “can’t miss” guys before. Keith Lee never did much on the main roster. Samoa Joe’s time in WWE was mishandled. Ricochet, even with the U.S. title around his waist, is an afterthought. That’s the fate he hopes to avoid.
If Gunther is presented as a force of nature, then he could be a main event star. If he’s presented as bumbling foreigner, he’ll lose momentum quickly.
Next big man or latest short-term push?
After being teased so long it became a big of an inside joke, Veer has finally arrived on RAW. Thus far, he’s been pushed as a dominant big man with a vicious streak to him. Veer has been steamrolling people such as the Mysterios since his post-WrestleMania debut and has yet to have a competitive match since his re-introduction.
There’s a long list of wrestlers who have received three-to-four-week pushes and before Vince McMahon has lost interest in them. Veer has shown some heel charisma in his recent appearances. His movement and facial expressions are better than Omos, another worker getting a “big man” push, so there’s potential here. They key will be maintaining that and building real heat eventually as he moves up the card while hoping no shiny objects distract the folks in charge.
Finding their way
It’s a little tricker for a trio of wrestlers either brought up from NXT 2.0 or coming back after a long absence.
Ciampa is one of the first names to pop into a fans’ head when thinking of the abandoned black and gold version of NXT. His talent is beyond question. He’s an excellent worker who can convey anger and intensity as well as anyone in the business. He should be a star, but the main roster is not a friendly place for smaller guys, and Ciampa is one of the smallest. If given a real push, Ciampa certainly could be a star on RAW or SmackDown. But anyone who has watched the way WWE has booked men his size can easily picture this talented worker being lost in the shuffle.
Lacey Evans has been repackaged with a babyface narrative. The days of her seducing Ric Flair have been (thankfully) forgotten. The Southern Belle gimmick has been shelves in favor of a character based more on Evans’ real life. She’s been featured in vignettes discussing her difficult childhood and military service. Time will tell if she connects with the crowd as a babyface, but it’s certainly an improvement over the Flair storyline she was in before taking time off to have a child.
— Lacey Evans ~ WWE Superstar. (@LaceyEvansWWE) April 16, 2022
Rodriguez (formerly known as Raquel Gonzalez) is a new addition to the SmackDown crew. In theory, this move should be good for her. Rodriguez could be carried by strong workers when she was in NXT, but she struggled against inexperienced talent. On the main roster, she’ll be working with one of the strongest rosters of women in the business. If Rodriguez learns from them and continues to improve, her power and size could make her a force in the women’s division. If she does not improve, it won’t take long for her to be left behind.