WWE has always had massive superstars. From Hogan to the Rock & Stone Cold to Cena, there have always been people around which WWE has centred. But at the same time, there have been people who have been just as important who have not been given the same degree of recognition, and it is with that thought in mind that I have decided to compile a quick list of the five most important on screen characters in WWE today.
5. Michael Cole
Yeah, I know he's annoying, but he's also the lead commentator, and he can effectively decide whether a guy gets over or not, whether he means to or not, by how badly he crucifies them with his commentary. It wasn't long ago that WWE were citing Cole's commentary as a reason why guys they were trying to push, such as Daniel Bryan, weren't getting over, and that show just how important he is to the company at the minute. Which makes it more mystifying that they continue to use him as a heel, rather than the neutral/face that he was a decade ago, and that most of the great commentators have been (see Jim Ross for the perfect commentator at putting both guys over whilst providing great commentary).
Given the lack of managers in WWE these days, it might even be worth utilising Cole's exceptional ability to get heat in a more logical way by having him step out from behind the commentary box and become a manager for an up-and-coming heel. Which bring us neatly to...
4. Vickie Guerrero
Vickie is the last great manager in the WWE - she is the biggest heat magnet in the company, with the possible exceptions of John Cena and Michael Cole, and she is an invaluable tool when it comes to helping wrestlers with in ring skills but no charisma get over (hello Jack Swagger). She can also help weaker faces get over by being a target for ridicule, meaning that pretty much every superstar who's being lined up to move up the card works with her in some capacity in the early stages of the push. To illustrate her usefulness to both heels and faces, look at Dolph Ziggler - who has, under her guidance, won the World Heavyweight Championship, the Intercontinental Championship and the US Championship, and moved within touching distance of being an elite heel performer in the company - and Kaitlyn - NXT season 3 winner despite being a late addition, almost exclusively because of her relationship with her pro, a certain Vickie Guerrero.
If there were more managers like Vickie in WWE she might not be as valuable, but she probably would still be the best. As it is though, she is one of the first people called upon to help bring success to many of WWE's up and coming talents, and as such she fully deserves a spot on this list.
3. William Regal
Another one that may surprise some people, but for me Regal is one of the most versatile character WWE currently have at their disposal - he can be a GM, a commentator, a manager or a wrestler; a face or heel; serious or comedic, and he can do every single one of those things well. At present he's working a double role on NXT as a commentator and match co-ordinator, basically an unofficial GM, as well as commentating on FCW, where he has been teasing a return to the ring in a feud with Dean Ambrose (which I feel deserves to be seen on WWE television). Should Michael Cole turn to management, as I suggested earlier, Regal would be a very strong candidate to replace him at the commentary table.
I genuinely don't think there is a single person on the roster who can offer as much in as many different roles as William Regal, and it's that versatility that's earnt him well deserved a place on this list.
2. CM Punk
Ever since that promo, CM Punk's star has been on the ascent, and right now he's probably the most popular person on the roster (only Santino comes close, and I can't decide whether that's awesome or horrifying). He's a great wrestler and a fantastic mic worker, he can work well as a face or a heel, and he can even put on his camel fur jacket and commentate. He's recently become the first person in years to outsell John Cena in merchandise, and his feud with Chris Jericho could turn out to be the feud of the year, pushing him even further up the ladder.
Punk is, as many people have already suggested, the closest thing we're going to get to Stone Cold in the PG/reality era, and he's well on the way to becoming as much of an icon as the Texas Rattlesnake is. At 33 he still has plenty of years left in him, and if his rise continues at the same rate as over the last nine months he could well be the man to topple Cena as the face of the company in the near future.
1. John Cena
Yes, him. Still. As much as I wanted to put Punk at number one I just couldn't do it. No matter how much Punk is loved by large portions of the WWE universe, John Cena is still 'The Man' (copyright Ric Flair, 3000BC). Let's take a look at the evidence.
At WrestleMania, CM Punk will be defending the WWE Championship - the most prestigious title in pro wrestling - and he'll (apparently) be opening the show. John Cena, meanwhile, is in a non-title match which will, in all likelihood, be the main event. And before anyone says that's because it's a generation v generation match, I'll remind you that Rock v Hogan was third from last on the WrestleMania XVIII card, BEFORE THE WOMENS' TITLE MATCH, with the match for the equivalent to the WWE Championship headlining. Cena/Rock is also getting the most promo time of any of the WrestleMania matches, whilst Punk/Jericho appears to be an afterthought, picking up a few minutes every week at various points of the show before disappearing for a week, lost amongst the flood of RAW Rewind's about Rock/Cena and even HHH/Undertaker/HBK.
And what about Elimination Chamber? Same story. Punk opened the show in the RAW EC match, whilst Cena headlined with his ambulance match against Kane in what was essentially a filler feud. Cena's also the guy who gets the final spot on the WWE trail that starts every show, as well as being the last person you see on the opening credits of both RAW and Superstars.
Whether we like it or not, Cena is still the biggest star in the company, and it's going to be a while yet before anyone - even CM Punk - can topple him from that spot.