Hi folks. Today, we’re looking at 5 WWE superstars who have upped their game since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to say they weren’t doing the job, but that there’s a marked improvement in all aspects of their work ethic. I could have easily included a few more, so I’d like to hear who you think should get an honorable mention in the comments.
#5. Montel Vontavious Porter
If someone told me last year that MVP would become one of my favorite promo guys in 2020, I’d have said they must be tripping. I wasn’t the biggest fan of MVP in his original run from 2005 to 2010, nor his stint in TNA, but he has impressed me lately. Wrestling is lacking solid promo guys at the moment, and he especially fills the void for African-American athletes like Bobby Lashley & Shelton Benjamin. He’s way better off focusing on his managerial work, but we know his ego is too massive to retire from the squared circle yet.
Crowning himself the new United States Champion is the epitome of egotistical, and it’s not a bad looking title. It feels like he’s forming a modern day Nation of Domination stable with “Hurt Business”, and it’s a long time coming if you think about it. I loved how he took over from Lana and transitioned so naturally in to managing Lashley, and if Benjamin can get any kind of spotlight from this association? It’s a win for all involved. Also, I’m glad he no longer says “Ballin’!”
#4. Drake Maverick
I always knew he had it in him, he just needed motivation. Being listed as one of the released superstars was enough to draw the passion out of him, as he shared his emotional response to the news on Twitter. From then on, it’s like he’s a different man. There’s a sense of urgency about him, nailing every move, every look, and selling as much as possible. Drake Maverick has always been super talented, but he’d not been allowed to show it in WWE; not til this year anyway. He’s better off feuding with others as a singles wrestler than making matches as a GM or managing tag teams. This is Drake’s strength and NXT is finally using his underdog mentality to their advantage.
He will never win any World Championships, but Maverick has the potential to make memorable moments that will last a lifetime. We already saw this with the 24/7 Championship, but in NXT it won’t be about comedy. He’s someone who WWE can rely on to help build new stars for years to come, but first, they need to get him more over. His passion is infectious, and they need to keep him motivated if they are to get the best out of what he offers the next generation of WWE superstar. He might be a small dog, but he has one of the biggest hearts in wrestling.
#3. Rey Mysterio
For years it felt like Rey Mysterio was robotic. He could tell stories and work matches, but it always felt tedious and unimaginative. Then there’s the fact he would get injured, recover, get injured again, recover, and get injured yet again. This vicious cycle of injuries took such a huge toll that WWE extended his contract without permission in 2014. Mysterio wanted out and was vocal about WWE not releasing him. He finally got out of his 13-year career in 2015 and returned to Mexico, working matches on a reduced schedule.
It turns out that all he needed was a few years away to try other things and rekindle his love for professional wrestling. Upon returning to WWE in 2018, he was no longer the old Mysterio. He had grown in all areas, and despite being more limited in his movement, he had adapted his ring style to compensate. But yet, the biggest change was in his storytelling. This blew me away when he got in to a feud with Brock Lesnar, because I wasn’t expecting him to tell such an interesting story with his son Dominick. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s been helping to set the standard for promos and how to make fans feel for the babyface.
There’s few in today’s game who can succeed in the good guy role, but Mysterio is using all of his experience and doing it well. It’s not Shakespeare, but you can tell he really cares about what he’s saying every time the camera is on. This is in stark contrast to the old Mysterio, who didn’t tell stories that well… unless being carried by a legend like Eddie Guerrero. I don’t blame him for the “Eye for an Eye” fiasco… he’s not the one writing the show.
As a babyface, Bayley lost herself. You could tell her confidence was shattered when fans soured on her “Hugger” gimmick. She wanted to be a role model to the kids, because that’s what got her over and she loved being a hero to the kids. NXT Bayley was successful, but it didn’t translate to the main roster. It was tough for her to continue working this way when it was doing more harm than good. When she turned heel, there was a part of me which was unsure if she could pull it off.
There was a chance she didn’t have what it takes to be a notorious heel going against everything she knew. Many fans assumed she and Sasha Banks would turn against each other at some point, but WWE chose not to be predictable and kept them together through thick and thin. A rivalry was teased so many times it became a matter of when, not if. But in 2020, especially since becoming “Bayley Dos Straps”, the pair of them have become an inseparable, formidable duo. I always knew Sasha Banks had it in her, because we saw it before in NXT. Bayley however, has proven to me and the world she is long departed from all the smiling and the hugging. No longer is she a role model, she is a “Golden Role Model”.
How ironic is it… after years of portraying an actual role model for kids, she is now doing it for heat. Bayley is strong, opinionated, and comfortable in her own skin. And mistakes don’t phase her much either, because she has figured things out and is no longer lacking in confidence. She has improved exponentially, and there’s room to up her game further still.
#1. Randy Orton
For an extremely long time, I didn’t care for Randy Orton. And not because he played a heel, but because he was supremely dull as a face. His matches were monotonous, and his promos monotone. I remember seeing a nickname some fans bestowed on him… “Blandy Boreton”. Very imaginative, but it accurately described his work ethic. He could work solid matches with the right opponents, but they were few and far between, and WWE never gave him anything interesting to talk about. I cannot knock him athletically, but he was nothing without his look and the RKO.
Much to my surprise, Edge returned this year and motivated Orton like we’ve never seen before. It’s like a light bulb went off in his head, finally making him realize his own potential. Wanting to do a favor for his old buddy in Rated RKO, Randy embarked on one of the best feuds he has ever done. We know Edge has done movies and always told a good story, but Randy unexpectedly matched him. And while perhaps… the matches didn’t pan out like some fans were hoping, they both sold us on them long before.
Even after Edge’s injury announcement, Orton hasn’t rested on his laurels. We can see the motivation remains, and he’s one of the best storytellers in WWE today. I can’t believe it… because for all these years we could have seen this Randy Orton; the Legend Killer. He’s one of the most popular veterans WWE has left, so it’s on him to set the standard and pass the knowledge to the next generation. It’s safe to say he has upped his game more than anyone this year, and I look forward to seeing where he goes from here. Is the WWE Championship next on his agenda?