Tuesday, 13 March 2012

How Should The Kings of Wrestling Be Used in WWE?

As I'm sure you're aware, WWE have recently signed both members of the ROH tag team the Kings of Wrestling. Claudio Castagnoli arrived first, and now competes in FCW under the name Antonio Cesaro, whilst his partner Chris Hero made his FCW debut this week under the name Kassius Ohno. Incidentally, I hated that name at first, but after a day or so it had grown on me, and I think it's quite cool now. Anyway, back to the matter at hand.

WWE's tag team division has long been acknowledge to be in a pretty bad way, so fans of the division were excited to hear the company were going after a team widely considered to be one of the best in the business. However, it has since emerged that WWE is currently planning to use them both as singles wrestlers, and I for one have been left wondering a couple of things. Firstly, is singles competition really the best use for Cesaro & Ohno, especially when the tag division is crying out for a genuine team like the Kings of Wrestling? Secondly, where would the duo fit in to the singles setup, should that turn out to be their destination? These are two important questions that WWE should have asked themselves when they were considering signing Cesaro & Ohno, and ones I shall attempt to provide some answers to over the rest of this article.

Singles or Tag Team?

In order to answer this question, it makes sense to evaluate the strength of Cesaro & Ohno both as a team and as individuals, relative to the rest of the divisions the would be competing in. First off, let's look at how they stack up as a team.

The Kings of Wrestling have a great pedigree as a tag team, having won tag team championships in Ring of Honour, Chikara and Pro Wrestling Guerilla amongst other promotions, as well as winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter's 2010 Tag Team of the Yeat award. They have the longest reign as ROH World Tag Team Champions in the history of the company, having held the title just short of a year at one point, and as such have, at the time of writing, held the belts for more than a tenth of all the time the titles have existed. Only the Briscoe Brothers have held the titles for more days than the Kings of Wrestling, although their total of more than 650 days comes from seven reigns as champions.

Unlike most of the tag teams plying their trade currently in the WWE, the Kings have a number of specialist tag team finishers, with their collection including the KRS ONE and KRS TWO, as well as a combination of both members' individual finishers - a European uppercut followed by a rolling elbow. This immediately helps to establish them as a legitimately strong and cohesive team, and would enable them to quickly climb the (admittedly very short) ladder towards a title shot. For an example of their tag team ability, take a look at this match against the Bravado Brothers.

One thing that could be an issue is that the WWE already have more heel teams than faces, and it seems unlikely that the Kings of Wrestling would debut as faces, considering their weaknesses (some of which I will address later). I would see them coming in as a heel team, which could make it difficult to push them to the titles without Primo & Epico turning or dropping the belts to a face team (at present that's most likely to be Kofi Kingston and R-Truth or Evan Bourne). As such, it could well be the case that WWE would benefit from utilising the Kings as individuals until more (face) teams can be established for them to be put up against.

I certainly believe there is a strong case to be made for the introduction of the Kings of Wrestling to WWE television, but at the same time it is important that a team of their calibre is not wasted in a weak division. If they do not have many real challengers, they could end up in the same situation as Divas champ Beth Phoenix - holding gold but being overlooked for television time, losing all momentum and becoming somewhat irrelevant. So, there appears to be a fine line which WWE need to walk with the Kings as a pairing, but would they really fare any better as singles competitors?

In terms of wrestling ability, both guys stack up well. They're technically very good, and both have strong physical styles based around hard arm and elbow strikes which would separate them from most of the guys currently on the roster. For an example of how both guys operate, here's a triple threat match they worked at an FCW house show alongside Bo Rotundo. As you can see, lots of strikes, but not too much else. From the singles matches I've seen of both guys this is pretty typical, and whilst it makes them different, their relative one-dimensionality could also be seen as a weakness, particularly in a company that loves a flashy finisher.

One of the main problems I can see with both Cesaro and Ohno is their lack of charisma. For me, neither guy cuts a great promo, though both are competent and Hero is probably the better mic worker, and neither of them comes off as someone that most fans could easily get behind as a face or hate as a heel. And by "most fans" I of course mean "the non-IWC/pure wrestling fans". If I were to compare the two, I would say Ohno was the better face & Cesaro the better heel, but really both sit in the 'heel' box in my head.

Whilst they would certainly be better off starting as heels, I do think they could struggle to generate exceptional heat on the mic, which could cause them a few problems when it comes to climbing the ladder. If they were to operate as a tag team, this could be easily solved by putting them alongside a manager like Vickie Guerrero, who could quickly get them lots of heat, but as singles wrestlers the problem is harder to solve - especially considering Vickie is the only great manager in the company at present.

There are undoubtedly positives and negatives to both options, but if we assume that WWE will stick to its plans and use Ohno & Cesaro as singles superstars, there is still one very important question that needs to be asked...

Where Would They Fit In As Individuals?

Should WWE stick with its plan of using Cesaro & Ohno as singles competitors, it will be interesting to see whereabouts in the pecking order WWE decides to slot them in. It's obvious that they won't be immediately coming in to challenge for the top titles, as that's something that has happened very rarely since the days of Brock Lesnar & Bobby Lashley. Even guys like CM Punk & Daniel Bryan - both of whom I would consider better wrestlers and better talkers - had to loiter around in the midcard for years before slowly reaching the top of the ladder, so it now becomes a question of how many steps from the bottom WWE will allow them to start.

I can't imagine they would enter as anything better than midcarders, possibly going after the second level titles within a few months. For me, they would both be behind guys like Ziggler, Ryder, Kingston, Truth & Miz, and it could be argued that they might even have to take a place in line behind Brodus Clay, assuming the push suggested by his series of squash matches a while back is still going to happen. Which, judging by his rapid win over Jinder Mahal in his return to RAW on March 12th, it is.

As such, I feel the best that either man could hope for as a singles competitor would be a spot in the SmackDown midcard, alongside or just above guys like Ted DiBiase, Hunico & Jinder Mahal - a spot that I would consider to be an odd use of the duo, particularly when there are other guys on the roster, such as Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater and Tyson Kidd, who could fill that gap in the roster if given an opportunity.

In Conclusion 

For me, the debut of the Kings of Wrestling could be the first real step towards a revitalisation of the tag team division, but I do have doubts about whether they have the charisma to carry the division on their own backs in a company where entertainment is just as important as in-ring ability.

As such, here are my top three options for how Kassius Ohno & Antonio Cesaro should debut in WWE:

3. As the Kings of Wrestling - a heel tag team managed by Vickie Guerrero.

2. As individuals, working the SmackDown midcard until more teams are signed/developed.

1. As the Kings of Wrestling - a heel tag team promoted only when more teams have been signed/developed.

As I mentioned earlier, it makes no sense for WWE to throw the Kings into what is basically an empty division and watch them flounder, but sending them into midcard obscurity as individuals is hardly going to do them any favours either. Therefore, the sensible thing to do is to try and create some kind of division for the Kings to be launched into, regardless of whether this is done by creating and pushing teams using talent on the roster, by signing in other established teams, or with a combination of the two methods.

However WWE decides to use Ohno & Cesaro, it is important that they recognise the contribution they could make to the tag team division somewhere down the line, and allow the Kings to help bring the division back to relevance. After all, the Kings reign supreme over nearly everyone...

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