The names’ of some WWE performers are known far and beyond the world of wrestling but others are not even given recognition from inside their own backyard. Here are my top five underrated stars WWE currently has at its disposal.
The daughter of Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart finds herself in an enviable place right now, as part of WWE’s newest faction, the Hart Trilogy. Accompanying the giant David Hart Smith and the crazy-haired Tyson Kidd to the ring on ECW will get the Canadian beauty a regular spot on TV, something that many superstars/divas struggle to manage.
But while Natalya adds glamour to Tuesday nights, since her debut with Vince McMahon’s enterprise a little over a year ago, she has not been able to showcase her excellent in-ring skills too often. A brief attempt at snaring the Divas Championship ended in failure and since then the ‘Anvilette’ has had to resort to tag team bouts against the Bella Twins and becoming the eye-candy and mouthpiece of Kidd, and now, Smith.
There are few better technicians in the women’s division – what do you expect having been trained at the infamous Hart Dungeon – and given the opportunity Neidhart could have excellent programs with the likes of Mickie James and Beth Phoenix on Raw or Gail Kim and Melina on Smackdown. The ‘New Pink and Black Attack’ are in a wonderful state at the moment – let’s just hope it’s not too long before Natalya becomes a major player in her own right.
4. JAMIE NOBLE
Raw’s little big-mouth has only a solitary Cruiserweight Title reign to show for his two WWE runs – but has deserved a hell of a lot more. As a heel, you laugh at his exploits, anticipating the inevitable defeat but watching nonetheless and as a face, you implore him to get one over on the bigger men that he combats with such endeavour.
While the West Virginian’s tenure has been dominated by striving to impress the opposite sex – a storyline done to WWE death – every time he gets the opportunity to make an impact, the pugnacious redneck delivers. His 2007 rivalry with Chuck Palumbo over Michelle McCool was a rare bright spot when Smackdown was lumbering and his brief altercation with William Regal for Layla’s affections last summer was also incredibly enjoyable while it lasted. The problem for the tenacious grappler is he is forgotten by management as quickly as he is remembered.
Noble is a rare talent – a superb wrestler who makes each of his opponents look good, and a great hand on the mic who livens up a show when he opens his mouth. He merits a far higher place on the card than comedic jobber or part of a flung-together tag team – if Tyson Kidd and Evan Bourne are able to fight past their minimal size to enjoy success, then so should the gifted Noble.
3. CHAVO GUERRERO
In the space of a year, Chavo Guerrero has gone from ECW Champion to a glorified wheelchair-pusher for his toxic aunt, Vickie. While he is at least a customary figure on TV, you can’t help feel that Vince McMahon and company are missing a trick by not utilising one of their best performers in a more prominent role.
He may be at jobber status now but Chavo has had some tremendous matches in recent memory. Bouts on ECW with Evan Bourne and Matt Hardy spring to mind and although his time as the brands title-holder was mocked, his series of contests with CM Punk were good to observe. Furthermore, his long-winded rivalry with Rey Mysterio may have dragged but the action inside the ring was always top-notch.
Few seem bad when they have the luxury of locking horns with Guerrero and it is a shame that he is viewed as a nobody when in wrestling skill alone his is one of the finest. Chavo may have no desire to climb the ranks and fight for titles but it is possible to put somebody over without being made to look weak. Just look at Finlay – he loses matches but remains a feared opponent. The Mexican warrior deserves more time in the spotlight and the chance to step out of Eddie’s shadow.
2. WILLIAM REGAL
It is not easy to be a heel, to make people hate you but one man who does it with conviction is British import William Regal. His sheer loathing of the WWE enthusiasts pooled with his sadistic, ‘better than thou’ delivery make Regal one of the best bad men in the locker room. The exquisite in-ring ability only adds to the question of why he is not held in higher esteem.
That may have a lot to do with his state of mind and body as well as lack of creative backing. Regal was a key figure on Raw midway thorough last year, not only was he an excellent general manager but also held the ‘King of the Ring’ title and even interjected himself in HHH’s affairs – suggesting a possible world title tilt.
Unfortunately, Regal failed the wellness policy and has struggled since his return. An intriguing yet short Intercontinental Championship rivalry with CM Punk ensued and the aforementioned Noble story was pretty good, but the Englishman’s profile seems to have dropped.
He may not have the chiselled physique but then again neither do Chris Jericho or Matt Hardy and they are in decent places right now. John Cena once described him as smooth as silk in between the ropes and he is not wrong. With all that Regal has to offer and the difficulty WWE has in finding top heels (Jericho, Edge and Randy Orton excluded), it is a travesty that Blackpool’s finest is not granted a bigger spot in the corporation.
The Samoan Savage is a rarity amongst WWE’s selection of big guys – he combines his gargantuan frame with outstanding agility. The most believable monster on all three brands, Umaga’s devastating offence should have lead him to regularly scale the upper echelons but so far he has been unable to do so.
Formerly Jamal from 3-Minute Warning, Umaga re-debuted in 2006 with Cuban cigar-lover Armando Estrada by his side, becoming a dominant force on Raw. The face-painted warrior is a terrific athlete and has always looked like he belongs in the ring but when it matters, Umaga has never quite broken through.
Defeats at Wrestlemania’s to Batista and Bobby Lashley, losses to Jeff Hardy and John Cena at other pay-per-views – the man gets the matches, just not the chance to win them. That one decisive victory still eludes the Smackdown barbarian.
It seems that may be about to change. He has the upper-hand in his feud with Mr. Money in the Bank, CM Punk, and his new-found grasp of the English language means it will be far easier to engage with the fans and, ultimately, the main event picture. If WWE is intent on making new stars, they need look no further than Umaga – one of the most talented, and criminally underrated, performers in the company today.