Next Man Up?
Very early last season, Indianapolis Colts Tight End Dallas Clark went down with a season ending injury. The Colts seemed to suffering from the “Super Bowl Curse.” Their running back was lackluster (as was their backup RB), Peyton just seemed off, and the star tight end was gone for the season. All was lost, right? Not exactly. Backup tight end Jacob Tamme made his first NFL start the week after Clark was put on the season-ending injured reserve list, and no one quite knew what to expect. The fans and presumably the Colts were dreading what was coming. Lucky for them, Jacob Tamme blew everyone away. He was well trained, well prepared, and played as if he was a starter all along. So how can someone who’s only played in “garbage time” excel when thrust into the spotlight? Because he was the Next Man Up.
Next Man Up is a simple concept: whomever is the number two at any position needs to be just as good as the number one. They need to be able to step in at a moment’s notice to fill a void left by their predecessor. The Colts didn’t get lucky that Tamme worked out last season; they knew exactly what they were getting.
When Edge retired on April 11, I, as a devoted Edgehead, was quite depressed over the announcement. As I sat there in the arena during the rest of the show, I started to think. With Edge gone, there is a huge spot at the top for someone to step up into. Looking at the roster I only see four true main eventers, guys who can headline Wrestlemania with no problem.: John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H, and the Undertaker. Two of them (Triple H and Taker) are most certainly in their last year or two in active competition. That leaves Cena and Orton. There are guys there for them to work with: CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, the Miz, Big Show, and Kane, but beyond them, who’s left? Who is going to carry the company if Cena gets hurt for a year? Mysterio, Kane, and Show can’t wrestle forever. Punk and Miz will never be the top guys unless they’re booked as equals to Cena; which, in all honestly, no one is.
So who are our Legends in the making? Who can Main Event Wrestlemania? The roster is chalk full of talent, with in my opinion only has one true shining star left to be made: Alberto Del Rio. He possesses all the qualities needed to the top guy: He can talk, he can wrestle, he can tell a story in the ring. Perhaps it’s only because he’s worked exclusively with great talent thus far, but Del Rio has all the makings of a multi-time World Champion and someone whom people will pay to see for a long time.
There are others as well. Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Wade Barrett, John Morrison, and Kofi Kingston can all be seen as legitamete threats to the throne, but only in temporary roles. When looking at the roster I see no John Cena’s, no Triple H’s, no one who can carry the company for years at a time. They need to be able to have guys they can just plug into the main events without a problem or drop off in interest. Perhaps the WWE is just being overly cautious after the Sheamus/Swagger title pushes fizzled out so quickly.
Maybe it’s just the world of wrestling we live in, perhaps the WWE is just being overly cautious after the Sheamus/Swagger title pushes fizzled out so quickly last year, but one thing is for sure: the WWE needs to seriously begin to groom their younger talent for bigger and brighter things. They must be booked as equals (not always) to the main event guys. They must get the crowds emotionally invested in these guys now before it’s too late. If the top four guys in the company left or got hurt, the WWE will be scrambling for a solution when it was under their nose the entire time.