TJR: WWE Roster Evaluation 2009 (Part 3 of 3): ECW, Top 25 & Final Thoughts

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The John Report: WWE Roster Evaluation 2009 (Part 3 of 3): ECW, Top 25 & Final Thoughts

Welcome to the third part of my evaluation of the WWE roster, which will be covering ECW. I’ll also include the top 25 list from the entire WWE roster. I thought 25 was a nice number since WWE runs that weekly Top 25 list, so I figure it would be good to have a REAL top 25 list for once.

I’m not going to go into the grading process again. The higher the letter grade, the better. If there’s a “u” or “uu” beside the letter grade it means that person has a big upside (aka a bright future) while if there’s a “d” or “dd” beside the letter grade it means that person is on the downside of their career. It’s explained in further detail in part one, so if you need a refresher check it out. Here are the links to the first two parts:

Raw – Also included is an explanation on the grading process.

Now, onto the smallest of the three brands, ECW. Note that Sheamus has been moved to Raw, but when I started writing this column a couple weeks back he was still in ECW. He’ll be included in this part.

Abraham Washington
The first few times I saw his shtick I thought it was okay. The more I hear it, the less I like it. I don’t think it really adds to the show. I’m not sue if Vince McMahon likes it or thinks it’s funny to be this campy. Then again it’s Vince, so he probably thinks it’s amazing. Me? Not so much.
Grade: C-
Outlook: He’s not a wrestler, so I guess he’ll continue to do what he does. Cue fake applause sign.

Byron Saxton
He’s only been on ECW TV for two weeks, so I’m not going to give him a grade. So far he’s had little impact. Just kind of there. Doesn’t say much to get noticed. Feels like another Vince McMahon produced robotic announcer with not much of a personality like Cole or The Grish.

“Christian! Christian! At last you’re on your own!” I miss that song…a bit. To me, other than Chris Jericho, Christian has been the most consistent performer (in a good way) in WWE for 2009. When he left for TNA I couldn’t blame him because he was barely being used in WWE. Then when he came back and they put him on ECW instead of on Smackdown for the Edge/Hardy story (he was rumored to come in for that until Vince changed it to Matt because it got leaked online) I was upset. It’s turned out to be great because he’s probably had the most TV matches this year that got over 10 minutes of time. He’s had so many good matches with a variety of opponents from younger guys like Ryder or Tatsu to the more veteran guys like Dreamer or Regal. They’re all good too. He’s come back from TNA a better worker than he was when he left and he was clearly good before. He’s better now, though. His offense looks better, he still bumps very well and he will do everything he can to make his opponent look as good as possible. In terms of promos and acting talent he’s one of the five best in WWE, no question about it. Talking has always been a strength of his. I’ve actually been surprised at how well he’s done as a babyface because I have liked his heel work so damn much over the years. At this point I think he’s better off in the face role long term. He’s proven that he can get the crowd behind him and you can hear them reacting to his matches. Been a great year for him, arguably the best of his career. I hope the best is still to come for him.
Grade: A-
Outlook: It’s been a nice run on ECW, but I want to see more for him. Get him on Smackdown preferably for a feud with Jericho, get him in the title picture and give him the opportunity to carry one of the two big belts. He’s earned it with his performance. Nobody in WWE deserves it more.

Ezekiel Jackson
Interesting guy. Hey may be the most physically imposing person in all of WWE, but then I read his messages on Twitter and he comes off like the nicest guy ever. I guess that’s why he plays a character, right? Anyway, I like that they’re bringing him along slowly first as a bodyguard for Kendrick last year and now as part of Regal’s group. He’s not put in a spot where he’s having long matches or cutting promos. I can definitely see him being given a chance just because he’s a physically imposing dude, which is what Vince loves as we all know. I like his potential, but to this point I have no idea if he can have a good match because they really haven’t given him those opportunities the way I thought they would.
Grade: C+ (u)
Outlook: I can see him going face once Regal’s heel group ends and then a singles career on Raw or Smackdown seems likely in 2010 at some point. You know a big guy like him is going to get a chance to prove himself.

You can definitely tell that Dustin’s in a lot better shape now than he was at the end of his run in TNA, which wasn’t very good. I really enjoyed his TV feud with Sheamus. It made me notice Sheamus a lot more while also letting us know that Dustin could still go if given a shot. He’s just turned 40 this year and his future is probably as a veteran working with the younger guys on ECW rather than having some kind of serious push.
Grade: C (d)
Outlook: Same as he’s doing now by helping the younger guys.

Gregory Helms
This is for the backstage interviewer. I’m not about to talk about the same guy in two spots. I’ll talk about the actual wrestler when I get to The Hurricane.

Josh Mathews
He’s come a long way as an announcer, I think. Like I said earlier, Vince like his announcers to be without a personality and to be colorless, but I think he does a good job. He certainly doesn’t stand out as being bad like Michael Cole does. That’s something, right?
Grade: C+
Outlook: I can see him staying on ECW because I think Cole and Grisham will stay where they are.

Katie Lea Burchill
She’s been in WWE for a couple of years now, yet has had almost no impact. They had her on Raw, she didn’t do much there and on ECW it’s the same kind of thing. She kind of stands in the background while her “brother” Paul the midcard loser loses matches. What a career.
Grade: C
Outlook: I have no idea. Maybe she’s in the same role or maybe they move her to Raw or SD to try to get her in the ring. Just seems kind of there without much in terms of upward mobility.

Lauren Mayhew
She’s the pretty and young ring announcer they brought in recently after Lillian Garcia left. Don’t be shocked if she gets moved to Raw or Smackdown once she gets more experience under her belt. I’m not grading ring announcers.

Matt Striker
Striker’s the kind of guy that would thrive as an announcer if WWE let him really be a heel announcer. I’m talking a heel announcer like Heenan in the 80s or Lawler in the 90s. Nowadays they don’t want their announcers to be impartial to the heels, which is lame. Due to that Striker is just a pretty pretty good (Curb Your Enthusiasm reference) announcer rather than a potentially great one. He does say some weird things, too.
Grade: B-
Outlook: Right now he’s on Smackdown while JR recovers from his illness. I think he’ll be back on ECW because Ross and Lawler don’t seem like they’re retiring soon while Cole and The Grish have more tenure.

Paul Burchill
The pirate! Remember that cheesy ring entrance he had? It was so bad it was good. These days he’s a typical WWE heel that has been lost in the shuffle trying to outsmart the reporter/superhero with the same genius displayed as every villain in a Superman movie. In other words, he’s dumb. I’ve always thought he was a good enough worker that he might get a decent push one day. It never really happened. I don’t know why it would happen at this point.
Grade: C
Outlook: He is where he is without much of a chance of moving up or down the roster. Just another lost midcard soul in WWE.

Rosa Mendes
She’s is absolutely gorgeous, but she never looked good or natural in the ring. I like the move to ECW for her because they can use her as a valet for a male wrestler, which is what she should be. I’m sure she’s training to wrestle while she’s on ECW. If she shows improvement then put her in the ring. If not, keep her out. The idea that EVERY woman in WWE has to wrestle is foolish.
Grade: C
Outlook: A storyline with Zach Ryder has begun. Not sure if she’ll be heel or face, but it’s good to see they’re using her because like I said she is a very pretty woman.

They’ve put her in the token backstage interviewer role that they like to debut the new girls in. At least she’s not a wedding planner. She’s done absolutely nothing to make me notice her. I’m sure she’s training to wrestling, though, because it’s WWE and they want all of the women to wrestle.
Grade: C
Outlook: A wrestler? A manager? I have no idea. She’s still too new.

The more I see this guy in the ring, the more I like him. He comes off as an absolute badass heel in a company that books way too many young heels as cowards or overly conceited guys that lose way too much to act that way. They need to book him like a monster on Raw. Put him over people. Don’t have him lose for a while. Let him stand out from the pack for more than his non-tan. I love his look, by the way. He stands out from the pack of bronzed, clean shaven wrestlers that seem to be the norm in WWE. Obviously his voice is going to make him a heel rather easily too since wrestling fans are easy to convince that a foreigner is a bad guy. I really enjoyed his TV feuds with Goldust as well as Benjamin. His physicality in the ring is great. The best thing about him? He looks like a legitimate tough guy pro wrestler. Not enough people do. This kid’s going places.
Grade: B- (uu)
Outlook: Bright future for Sheamus on Raw. Apparently HHH is a fan of his to the point where HHH claims (in a recent interview) that they have become sometimes workout partners, so as long as he plays his cards right he should get a pretty good push on Raw.

Shelton Benjamin
I’ve always been a fan of this guy dating back to his days in Team Angle. Man, I loved that group so much because they were a group of wrestlers. No fancy gimmicks. They just wrestled. He’s had a few different career paths ranging from the stupid (with his “mom” at his side) to the serious one he got on Smackdown last year as the Gold Standard. I liked it. I thought maybe it would elevate him up the card. Instead nothing really happened. He’s been hovering around the US/IC title level for years and now it’s as if he’s even below that. They’ve got him in the role of working with the younger heels like Sheamus rather than thinking about actually pushing him. I think he’s better as a babyface just because his offense can be electrifying and if they give him the chance he can win the crowd over on a regular basis. The problem is he doesn’t get enough chances. Why not involve him with Christian somehow even in a face vs. face rivalry? I’d love to see that.
Grade: B-
Outlook: I’d love to see him get a push, but realistically speaking if it hasn’t happened by now it may never happen. They have kept him out of the ECW title picture since going to that show, so I can see something happen where he does get in the title hunt sooner rather than later.

The Hurricane
It looks as though they’ve given Hurricane more of an edge again after doing the silly “who is under the Hurricane mask?” stuff that is probably lame even to kids. I’m fine with him donning the mask and cape although I did enjoy the run he had as Gregory Helms prior to his neck surgery a couple years ago. I’ve always been a fan of his in-ring work dating back to his WCW days a decade ago. Just search for some “Shane Helms WCW” matches on youtube and check them out if you’re ever bored. I’d love to see him get some kind of serious push because the guy can still go in the ring if given a chance.
Grade: C+
Outlook: It seems like the spot he’s in now is where he’ll stay. It’s a kid friendly gimmick that can be used for comedy purposes too, so that’s likely what he’ll continue to do going forward.

What’s her character’s last name, Tiffany? They should name all the token blondes the way they named Kelly Kelly just because it’s different. She’s got an absolutely gorgeous body, but she’s not a great talker or actress. Her delivery of her words feels robotic in that it almost never sounds like something she might say. I don’t know much about her in the ring since we’ve barely seen anything from her in that regard. Don’t think I’m trying to bury her because I think she has some value and frankly she’s better to look at than somebody like Vickie Guerrero, but they need to work on her delivery because it almost never looks natural.
Grade: C+
Outlook: I’m fine with keeping her in this role to let her grow some more, but don’t be surprised if she got drafted to Raw or Smackdown should she prove she’s capable in the ring.

Tommy Dreamer
Dreamer is the same as he’s always been. He got a short run with the ECW title, but he’s basically on the show to get beat up by the young heels. He’ll wrestle them, make fans believe he’s got a shot to win and ultimately lose the match. I thought they had a chance to turn him heel in the last couple of months by having him attack Christian just for the sake of doing something different. Didn’t happen. He’s stuck in that limbo as the veteran babyface that loses all the time. At least he gets a pretty decent entrance pop. That’s something.
Grade: C+ (d)
Outlook: The end is near for him. I know he signed a three year deal this year, but it could be over before that. Even so, he’s probably got a job working for WWE backstage when he does call it quits.

Tony Atlas
“Hey Tony, what do you do for a living?
“I laugh.” (Hahaha.)
“Really, that’s it?”
“Yep.” (Hahaha.)
He has a nice laugh.
Grade: C- (d)
Outlook: More laughing.

Tyler Reks
He hasn’t been seen on ECW TV much of late after his debut. I’ve read reports that management has soured on his ring work. From what I’ve seen of him he’s okay in the ring, but really doesn’t do anything to stand out from the pack. Of course that’s an ongoing problem in WWE since everybody trains in the same place before they debut. The surfer dude gimmick probably isn’t going to carry somebody to the main event level either, so they should work on that too. I know he’s got some show on, but I’ve never really watched those except for the odd Santino one. Toss him into that very large “I need to see more of this guy” column.
Grade: C
Outlook: They need to refine the gimmick some and put him in the ring with some veterans that can help him stand out in the ring.

Vance Archer
The former Lance Hoyt in TNA just debuted this week. He’s legitimately taller than 6’6″, so you know a guy like him is going to get a significant look from Vince McMahon. I was never that impressed with him in TNA because he always seemed like somebody that got worse when the matches got longer. You never know, though. WWE has good agents that could help him out in a way that TNA’s guys couldn’t. I’m not grading him because he’s too new.

Vladimir Kozlov
Kozlov’s somebody who I was impressed with when he debuted because they booked him like he was a monster. Then, once he started losing, my impression of him diminished significantly. He’s become just another big guy with a body Vince McMahon loves that is too immobile to have decent wrestling matches. He’s fine as a bodyguard type, though. In fact, he played that role on one of the best TV shows I’ve ever watched, The Wire. I watched it over the summer and I was like, “Hey, that’s Kozlov!” I don’t think he ever said a word.
Grade: C- (d)
Outlook: He’s fine where he is. Not good enough to get any kind of serious push.

William Regal
Regal’s best days are behind him obviously since he’s in his 40s now, but he’s still a valuable commodity in WWE because of the veteran leadership he provides as well as his excellent promo skills. I don’t really have a problem with his group that includes Vladimir Kozlov and Ezekiel Jackson if it leads to Big Zeke being a better performer on his own likely with a babyface turn. That’s why you set groups up. Build them up, then break them down and create feuds. They’re generating good heel heat too. It’s simple, but it works. And that’s why I like ECW in general. They don’t do the crazy stuff Raw does. It’s a basic pro wrestling show, which is also why Regal’s such a good fit.
Grade: B (d)
Outlook: He’s fine where he’s at now. Use him as a tool to improve the other wrestlers and as a solid midcard heel. If he ever retires from in ring competition he’d be great as either a GM or announcer.

Yoshi Tatsu
I like this guy a lot. He’s got great energy and fire in the ring. His matches are never boring. When given time, like that great one against Christian a couple weeks back, he can really show off. What I immediately notice with him is how much the crowd is into his matches. They love him. Obviously due to being Japanese and not knowing the language that well he’s not going to be cutting promos. However, they have found a way to use him for comedy spots as he busts out the rare English word. He’s earned a fan in me, but does that mean a push in the future? I’m not so sure.
Grade: B- (u)
Outlook: Part of me thinks he’s going to get a decent push up the IC/US title level while another part of me thinks he turns into a jobber due to his lack of height and inability to cut promos.

Zack Ryder
I would say he’s one of the five most improved performers in WWE in 2009. In terms of character he’s got something that works with the whole “Woo woo woo you know it” thing and even his outfits make him stand out. I don’t know if he came up with it or if creative did, but whoever did deserves some credit. He’s gone from somebody that could have been just another wrestler to a person that I’ve really started to notice of late. His matches with Christian were very good and personality wise I think he’s gaining a pretty decent following. With that said, he’s still shorter than what Vince truly likes, so he might not make that main event level anytime soon.
Grade: B- (u)
Outlook: I think he has a very good chance of getting to that IC/US title level when he gets moved to Raw or Smackdown probably next year.


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. Note: 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.

1. Christian A-
2. William Regal B (d)
3. Sheamus B- (uu)
4. Yoshi Tatsu B- (u)
5. Zach Ryder B- (u)
6. Shelton Benjamin B-
7. Matt Striker B-
8. The Hurricane C+
9. Tommy Dreamer C+ (d)
10. Ezekiel Jackson C+ (u)
11. Josh Matthews C+
12. Goldust C (d)
13. Tyler Reks C
14. Paul Burchill C
15. Vladimir Kozlov C- (d)
16. Tony Atlas C- (d)
17. Abraham Washington C-

I think Christian’s head and shoulders above everybody else…Regal has had a nice resurgence in leading the group with Jackson and Kozlov. The crowd is really booing the group, which is obviously a good sign…I like the trio of young talent in Sheamus, Tatsu and Ryder. I think of the three Sheamus has the best chance of moving up the card at a fast pace while the other two might be destined for midcard purgatory for their careers…I like what little I’ve seen of Big Zeke. He’s a wildcard that could have a bright future if he shows he’s worthy of it after his performance in the ring.

Here are the four women on the roster that I provided grades for.

1. Tiffany C+
2. Katie Lea Burchill C
3. Rosa Mendes C
4. Savannah C

They all need seasoning. ECW’s the right place for all of them.


The Top 25 Male Wrestlers in WWE
Now that the rosters are complete, I thought it would be interesting to put it all together to make a final top 25 list of the 25 best male performers in WWE. Note: I’m going wrestlers only here, so even though I gave Jim Ross a B+ he won’t be appearing on this list. When there’s a tie, I will break it by going with the person that I feel is the best.

1. Chris Jericho A
2. CM Punk A-
3. Christian A-
4. Shawn Michaels A- (d)
5. Randy Orton A- (u)
6. Rey Mysterio A-
7. John Morrison B+ (uu)
8. Kofi Kingston B (uu)
9. John Cena B
10. Undertaker B (d)
11. Triple H B (d)
12. Batista B (d)
13. Big Show B (d)
14. Ted Dibaise B (uu)
15. Dolph Ziggler B (uu)
16. The Miz B (u)
17. William Regal B (d)
18. Sheamus B- (uu)
19. Jack Swagger B- (u)
20. Tyson Kidd B- (uu)
21. Cody Rhodes B- (u)
22. MVP B-
23. Kane B- (d)
24. Yoshi Tatsu B- (u)
25. Matt Hardy B-

I also gave a B- to Ryder and Benjamin, but didn’t feel like either deserved inclusion in the top 25. Everybody else is below that B- grade. Also if you’re wondering a healthy Edge would probably be 3rd overall while Jeff Hardy would be 2nd overall if he had stuck around because he had such a great year.

I’m not going to list the women, but if you’re interested in top five I’d go Mickie, Michelle, Maryse, Melina and Beth Phoenix. Holy shit that’s a lot of M’s!

Five Things I Think after doing the WWE Roster Evaluation
I’m completely lifting this concept from Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback NFL column seen on out of respect. I thought it would be a good way to sum everything up.

1. I think what I learned from doing this full roster evaluation is that the WWE roster right now is an old group. There are a lot of top performers in their late 30s or early 40s, which should be an early warning sign for the booking committee that they need to start elevating people soon. I had somebody email me after the Smackdown part to say how I was foolish because I really didn’t see WWE elevating anybody to the main event other than Morrison. My response was, can you blame me? Do you know how many first time World or WWE champions there were in 2009 in WWE? By that I mean how many people won one of the two belts for the first time? The answer is zero. Out of a combined 16 title changes, there were zero first time World or WWE champions. I’ve already bitched about too many title runs already, so I won’t go that down road again. However, it is pretty depressing to know that the same group of people were in the title picture that were also there last year.

2. I think Smackdown is the better of the two main shows. Of course I’ve known that all year, but after going through the entire rosters it has become more clear. They’ve got the perfect mix of veterans at the top with young guys sprinkled in while the seeds are planted for new main event players like Morrison or Ziggler to enter the fray. As I touched on when writing about Smackdown, I almost don’t want to see a draft lottery because I want to see this group stay together.

3. I think the Royal Rumble winner should be a new main eventer. I’d nominate Christian and John Morrison as the top candidates with Ted Dibiase also being one. If a regular main eventer wins the Rumble again I’m going to be disappointed because it will let me know that WrestleMania will be the same old shit at a time when WWE needs to sprinkle in some new people. That time is now. Let the Rumble be the star making match it’s supposed to be, not the predictable repeat match it’s been the past three years when Orton, Cena and Undertaker won. Give us something fresh!

4. I think my yearning for some female performers to develop some kind of personality has increased even more after writing this column because there’s not much to say about the current group. Right now the company employs 20 women that I reviewed and honestly none of them stand out from the pack. As much as I enjoy the likes of Mickie, Michelle and Maryse to name a few, they really aren’t at the level of what we saw earlier in the decade. When Trish, Lita, Victoria, Molly and the debuting Mickie were around things were great in the women’s division. They had personalities, they had rivalries that meant something and they actually did stuff that we remembered the next day. These days all the babyface divas in WWE are too similar while all the heels try to pull off the same bitchy act, but only Michelle and Maryse seem to do it well. They need to figure out what worked four or five years ago and get that back because the current crop of women isn’t producing the same kind of results. I think changing the way they scout women could be a problem. Looking for bikini models isn’t the way to go. What about women that can actually wrestle before they work for WWE? It’s not a new concept. It’s probably the best one, though.

5. I think most of the problems with WWE right now have to do with the writing more than it has to do with the in-ring product. If you look at PPV match quality, it’s been a good year. Give these guys time to wrestle and the majority of them are going to give you a good match. However, the roster isn’t as deep as it was five or six years ago when it was filled with great workers like Angle, Benoit, Guerrero, Michaels, Mysterio, Jericho and younger versions of HHH and Undertaker. All of those guys were veterans with at least a decade of experience except for Angle, who is always an exception on any list of all-time greats because he picked it up so well. Nowadays in WWE, there’s a big crop of younger wrestlers in their 20s or early 30s who are going to be relied upon for the next decade that have yet to reach that main event level. Obviously guys like Cena, Orton and Punk have all been there and are young enough that we know they’ll around for the next 5-10 years, but after that there are question marks. It’s imperative that the likes of Morrison, Dibiase, Swagger, Kingston, Sheamus and all the rest get elevated sooner rather than later. A lot of people say WWE is boring right now. I think boring’s too strong a word. I think it’s lethargic, which is to say that the booking is tired. They need to add some freshness to it. Maybe the recent pushes of Kingston and Sheamus on Raw the last couple of weeks can be the start of that? We can only hope.

Thanks again for making it through all of this. It was a very rewarding thing to write. As I said in the opening of part one, I have been and always will be a fan of professional wrestling. I have a lot of admiration and respect for anybody that steps foot in that ring. I know I joke a lot and make fun, but I don’t do it out of malice. I do it out of respect.


This was one of the longest pieces of writing I’ve ever done. I’ll try to make this an annual thing with the 2010 Roster Evaluation coming in late October next year too. I think I’ll space it out better by doing one brand per week because I exhausted myself by trying to do it at a quicker pace.

Here are links to the first two parts:
Part 1: Raw
Part 2: Smackdown

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. I will most likely be running some type of feedback column on this. 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.

Next on the docket for me is to begin work on some end of the decade column ideas I have as well as an end of the year column at the end of December. I will most likely do the end of the decade columns with the intent of posting them in early December although that’s only a rough timeline at this point. Within the next week I’ll be launching a new blog on a different website free of popups! I will use the blog to post my full columns as an archive resource while also posting shorter commentaries on various things in wrestling. I do similar things on facebook, but I know not everybody is into that. Plus, I can also post and reply to the many emails I get. I’m looking forward to getting to work on that. I’ll let you know the address when I get it.

Thanks again for reading. See you later in the weekend for the Talking Smack column reviewing this week’s edition of best brand in WWE, Smackdown.

Smell ya later,
John Canton –
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