1. CM Punk
This article that ran recently on Grantland, the fantastic sports and pop culture website run by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, accurately sums up the way most true wrestling fans feel about CM Punk. He is refreshingly honest, his matches never disappoint, and he’s entertaining and accessible on Twitter. His tweets are candid- I can’t eat at Chipotle without thinking of Punk’s tweet praising the restaurant’s consistently solid music playlists. Punk disguising himself as a member of a mariachi band to sabotage Chavo Guerrero’s in-ring championship ‘fiesta’ is one of the highlights of the short-lived WWE version of the ECW show. Punk’s ability to draw the best out of his opponent should not be overlooked. This hidden talent is a common trait among the best pro wrestlers of all time.
2. The Miz
This guy just gets it. He understands what kind of work ethic and professional output it takes to achieve stardom with WWE as a company. Mike Mizanin says and does all the right things backstage so that he is granted freedom for The Miz to say and do the right things on stage. Miz is one of the few top-tier WWE talents who is actually in touch with modern society.When he is not competing, he is impeccably dressed, and carries himself professionally. His ability to manipulate a live crowd is extraordinary, and the fact that we got to see him pre-WWE as a cast member of MTV’s The Real World gave us insight into his background. As a youth he idolized WWE wrestlers and dreamt of one day achieving his own WWE stardom, the common dream shared by all young fans. To know this and see him achieving his goal through hard work and dedication is fulfilling to fans of the wrestling business.
3. John Morrison
Morrison has the potential to be an amalgamation of Randy “Macho Man” Savage and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Like Michaels, Morrison was one half of a successful tag team (where have those gone, by the way?) called MNM, in which he consistently outshined his partner. He invaded the singles scene, where he was accompanied to the ring by WWE Diva and real life girlfriend Melina. His on-camera relationship with Melina evaporated without much fanfare but further exploration of this partnership could have led to a classic “Macho Man/Elizabeth/insert third point of love triangle here” storyline. Morrison only swam in the singles pool for a moment, as he was again saddled with a tag team partner. This time it was an up-and-coming Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, who at the time was half the star Morrison was, but has since gone on to much greater heights. Morrison is probably the most athletic and talented performer the WWE currently has, and thankfully he is back to competing sans tag team partner. I hope his character can continue to evolve, because he already has a firm mastery of the unteachable physical skills.
4. Kofi Kingston
A throwback to the 1980s heyday of professional wrestling, Kingston is hands down one of the most athletic performers in the WWE today. He has an instant likability factor, a characteristic that cannot be taught. His gimmick is classic WWE, slightly overdone at first, but then his natural personality has meshed over time with the character’s identity to the point that the viewers feel like they are getting the real Kofi. He is one of the few WWE Superstars in history that gives the on-screen appearance of loving his job night in and night out, which must be near impossible considering the physical and psychological grind these gladiators put themselves through every day. Kingston’s 2009 feud with then top heel Randy Orton was extremely entertaining, culminating in Kingston’s comical destruction of Orton’s cool new car on Monday Night Raw.
5. Santino Marella
Successful WWE Superstars must possess two qualities: in-ring ability and charisma. A strong charisma factor, referred to in pro wrestling circles as “mic skills”, can cover up a lot of physical and athletic shortcomings. Santino has never really been allowed to engage in much physicality in the WWE, as it seems they prefer to exploit his incomparable verbal talents instead of his grappling skills. This decision is fine by me, although I’d like to see more of the latter, if only to prevent him from becoming obsolete way before his time. Sadly, this dreaded fate seems to be taking hold, as more and more WWE shows pass with nary a Santino sighting. Live crowds and television audiences alike hang on Santino’s every mispronounced word, please don’t take him away from us too soon.