But this year's Royal Rumble highlighted that the pair of big lads are not as over as they once were. Perhaps it's because of how many times they've switched from heel to face and back again. Perhaps it's because they've been on the roster for so long that too many people in the audience now know that no matter how dominant either of them may become it's just a matter of time before they start losing to mid-carders. Perhaps it's simply because Big Show's been with the company for sixteen years and Kane eighteen (longer if you count his pre-'Big Red Machine' gimmicks).
Whatever the reason the fact that the audience turned so viciously on the climax of the Rumble demonstrates that Show and Kane are not what they once were. Yes, Daniel Bryan's early elimination, Roman Reigns' status as favourite to win, and the general booking played their parts too but two members of the old boys' club being booked to dominate young stars was a big reason the Philadelphia crowd got so riled. They wanted something and someone new. They would have been far more accepting of Bray Wyatt and Rusev being portrayed as the dominant heel pair, because they're fresher and viewed as more deserving of top spots. That's what modern audiences look for and that's something WWE's writing team (and Vince McMahon) don't seem to be able to grasp: modern audiences have strong opinions about people earning top spots.
Sooner or later 'The Devil's Favourite Demon' and 'The World's Largest Athlete' are going to call it a career, either when they decide to stop because they're too knackered or because McMahon decides they've had their time (it will almost certainly be the former). When that time comes WWE is going to need some new larger-than-average performers to fill the monster role. A quick glance at the roster reveals that there are actually a number of guys with potential to fill the void.
|Luke Harper is a beard type Pokémon.|
The most prominent candidate is probably Luke Harper. He has a head start over other names with regard to TV time and he possesses the requisite height and set of power moves to make a convincing monster heel. Just as importantly he has an eerie look that would lend itself well to the part. Harper is believable as a big bruiser who won't, or can't, be reasoned with.
His former teammates Erick Rowan and Bray Wyatt do little for me in this regard. Rowan has proven to be completely lost outside of the safe tag and six man environment that protected him as part of the Wyatt Family. Nothing about his matches makes me think he'll develop a suitably menacing style. His look is decent but not as strong as Harper's, or as some of the other names on this list.
'The New Face of Fear' is obviously going to go on to become a star attraction for WWE. He's most of the way there already. But while he may have a fitting air of menace about him, win fairly often, and possibly earn world championships in the future, he doesn't have the height monsters in wrestling traditionally do. He can be a headline act but he can't be someone who physically dominates whoever he steps into the ring with because he simply doesn't have the feet and inches to do it.
But height isn't everything. Big Cass is one of the tallest guys (if not the tallest guy) under contract but while he's in good shape his frame clearly isn't one made to hold a lot of muscle. He can look intimidating but it's hard to imagine him destroying guys because he's just a bit on the lanky side. In this regard he's like Kevin Nash, because Nash wasn't ever really used as a monster after his initial push to the top was over. He was more a heel with a bad attitude who could obliterate mid-card guys but had to take his time with main event names like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Even Rey Mysterio held his own against 'Big Sexy'.
The top two candidates in NXT are Bull Dempsey and Baron Corbin. Dempsey isn't incredibly tall or anything, but he's tall enough in comparison to the majority of the guys who'll comprise the main roster in a few years time. Plus he's beefy, which helps him look intimidating. He looks and wrestles the part and carries himself like a big deal.
|Corbin can look moody pretty well.|
But it's Corbin who seems like he has the better chance. His dispassionate (some may say vacant) stare before, during and after his matches is perfect. He has the height and enough muscle to look right presented as an unstoppable beast. The one thing he seems to lack right now is the ability to wrestle a competent match. He's looked good in his twenty second squashes but that's not surprising: it's nigh on impossible to look bad winning a twenty second match.
What's telling is his one competitive match in NXT so far, opposite Adrian Neville on the January 15 episode, saw his opponent do the majority of the work. Even in a five minute match Corbin looked out of his depth. But this is why he's in the developmental system: to learn and improve. If he learns enough then maybe he'll surpass my top pick Harper and become WWE's next resident monster.