By Graham "GSM" Matthews
In the Holiday 2009 edition of WWE Magazine, WWE ran an article highlighting the bright, young stars of the future entitled "Tomorrow's Champions." I remember reading it at the time and thought it would be interesting to take a look back to see if they were right about who would be successful, and who wouldn't be. Being a massive collector of WWE Magazine, I was able to dig up the old issue and read through it again. Thus, let's see if the predictions of WWE Magazine and the Superstars themselves were accurate five years later.
Everyone saw John Morrison as "the next big thing" coming out of his tag team with The Miz in 2009. By that point, he had already been with the company for five years, mainly competing in the tag team division and chasing the Intercontinental Championship. Once he turned babyface in mid-2009, he really started to come into his own as a singles star, becoming one of the more popular guys on the roster. After contending for the World Heavyweight Championship against the likes of Jeff Hardy and CM Punk that summer, he floundered upon his move to Raw that following year before reaching the pinnacle of his career in late 2010 when he became the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship.
He and former partner The Miz contested an excellent matchup for the title on the first Raw of 2011, but after coming up short, he did next to nothing for the remainder of that year. When his contract expired that November, he opted not to renew, and despite leaving on good terms, he hasn't been seen in WWE since. It's unknown as to whether he'll ever return, so it's apparent WWE didn't make a star out of him when they had the chance.
The only knock against him was his lousy mic skills, but he easily could have been a viable world champion on the SmackDown brand. He was quoted in the article saying his dream match would have been against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 26, but of course, it was at that 'Mania that HBK wrestled his final match, and not against Morrison.
This is where everyone was proven wrong. The Miz himself has said this at every chance he feels fit, but fans figured he'd be the Marty Jannetty of the Dirt Sheet duo with John Morrison. As we'd soon see, it'd be the other way around. At the time the article was printed, Miz was the reigning United States Champion, but no one ever saw him getting above the midcard. Well, he shattered all expectations when he won the Money in the Bank Ladder match the following summer and later the WWE Championship that November.
As previously noted, it was only fitting that it was Miz defending his title against Morrison in the first official WWE match of 2011. With his win over Morrison, Miz solidified himself as the more successful star of the two. Morrison was always better in the ring than Miz, but which of the two is still here? Exactly. What I found most interesting about Miz's inclusion in this piece was when asked about his dream match, he had the following to say: "My dream is to go up against The Rock. I would love to have a 'Mania moment with him. However, I don't think I'm at that level yet, and I don't know if The Rock is ever going to come back."
And wouldn't you know it, it was with the help from a returning Rock in 2011 that Miz won the main event of WrestleMania 27 against John Cena. He may not be at that same level anymore, but Miz has easily been the most successful star of this crop of talent.
John Morrsion was the most surprising star to never become world champion, but Ted DiBiase was the most underutilized. WWE saw big things in him from the moment he arrived on Raw in 2008, which was evident when he was paired with Randy Orton a part of The Legacy only a few short months later. It was reported on several occasions that DiBiase was primed to be the next big babyface star (hence why he was the star of "The Marine 2") and feud with Orton, but that ultimately never came to fruition.
Instead, only a few months after this article was published, The Legacy split up when Orton turned on DiBiase and Cody Rhodes, turning face in the process. On Raw, DiBiase was lost in the shuffle and being given his father's gimmick didn't help him whatsoever. By the time they finally turned him face at the end of 2011, it was much too late.
He was over as a fan favorite, but it didn't get him anywhere but a few matches on Superstars and an eventual departure from the company. In this piece, he gave himself a year to win the big one, and in all likelihood, that probably would have been accurate if WWE didn't butcher his push as badly as they did.
At the time this article was written, Tyson Kidd was one-third of The Hart Dynasty along with David Hart Smith and Natalya. Despite their great chemistry as a tag team, I never saw Kidd or Smith as the "future" of WWE, so I don't know why they were chosen to be included in this story. Maybe they ran out of people? Anyway, Kidd has always been an awesome worker, but it wasn't until just recently that he started to get his due on the main roster after getting noticed in NXT.
He's since found himself in another tag team with Cesaro, but that's where Kidd flourishes. I'm sure he'll be something special on his own when they eventually break up, but I don't think he'll ever be world champion nor should he. He, too, said his dream match would be against Shawn Michaels, and that never ended up happening given HBK retired the following year. Had it happened, though, it would have been an incredible mat classic.
The Miz isn't the only Superstar on this list to have won a world championship; in fact, Jack Swagger won a world title quicker than anyone else featured in the article. The first question he was asked was when he thought he'd win the big one to which he responded with, "Well, let me ask you, how long is it until WrestleMania XXVI?" Despite that, no one thought he had a chance of winning the Money in the Bank Ladder match that year.
He certainly had potential, but after being misused upon moving to Raw, any shot of him becoming world champ was virtually nonexistent... or so we thought. To the surprise of everyone, he captured the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 26. Had they waited to put the strap on something, he could have been something special, but they instead opted to give him the belt only days later by having him cash in on SmackDown.
Sure, it was a cool moment, but his reign suffered as a result, as he was never booked as a credible title holder. He lost almost all of his non-title matches and dropped the title to Rey Mysterio a short while later. Aside from another run at the top in early 2013, he has mostly been marginalized ever since.
It's amazing to think that just six years ago, Dolph Ziggler was a nobody on the Raw roster, but even in quick squashes against Batista and Jeff Hardy, he showed signs of potential. He was finally able to break out as a singles performer on the SmackDown brand in mid-2009, contesting excellent matches against the likes of Rey Mysterio and John Morrison. However, despite his numerous shots at the Intercontinental Championship, he was never able to capture it that year.
He made it clear in this interview that his goal was to first win the Intercontinental title and then a year and a half after that, he'd be world champion. Surprisingly enough, he nearly nailed that prediction. The following year, he'd capture the Intercontinental title before "winning" (let's face it: he had it handed to him) the World Heavyweight Championship in early 2011.
He had another run with the prestigious prize two years later, though it was short lived. I still believe he has a chance of being the biggest star on this list if they'd just push him properly toward the main event where he belongs.
David Hart Smith
I may be in the minority on this one, but I personally never saw much in David Hart Smith and I found him to be the least likeliest to succeed of those on this list. He had the fanily lineage with the British Bulldog being his father and was a decent wrestler, but what he lacked was charisma. I hardly remember WWE doing anything of note with him during his first few years with the company before he formed The Hart Dynasty with Tyson Kidd and Natalya. They were a great tandem and had a nice reign as tag team champs, but that was the pinnacle of Smith's career.
Shortly following his split from Kidd, he faded off into obscurity before being released in the summer of 2011. Like I said, he was a good wrestler, but I didn't know how else they would have utilized him had he stuck around. I don't think WWE Magazine ever saw him as the future; rather, they just needed two extra spots filled on the list so they used The Hart Dynasty. On the bright side, though, he said his dream match would've been him and Kidd against D-Generation, which actually did occur on two separate occasions in late 2009, though they lost both encounters.
I don't think anyone has fallen farther in the last five years than Kofi Kingston. When this article ran in late 2009, Kingston was at the peak of his career, feuding with Randy Orton on Raw and receiving mega reactions from crowds. He and Orton had a red-hot feud in the final few months of the year, but after coming out on the losing end of the rivalry, he was back to being a midcarder for life. He's been ultra successful since then, winning a multitude of Intercontinental, United States, and Tag Team Championships, but he has yet to get back to top-tier status and at this point, I don't know if he ever will.
Worse yet, he's currently stuck in this horrendous New Day gimmick which will hopefully be either altered or scrapped all together soon. He has far too much talent to be put to waste. In the article, he noted that one of his goals was to win every single title in WWE. The only piece of gold he has yet to win is the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and as noted, I honestly don't ever see that happening.
As I mentioned before, I always thought Ted DiBiase was going to be the star coming out of The Legacy between him and Cody Rhodes, but much like with The Miz and John Morrison, who's the one who's still employed? Rhodes surprised me in proving his worth as a singles star when he branched off on his own in 2010, making "The Dashing One" gimmick something entertaining. He continued to evolve as a character in the years that followed, winning the WWE Tag Team and Intercontinental Championships on more than one occasion.
The only issue with Rhodes' growth, however, is WWE's inability to take the next step with him. In my opinion, he was ready for the main event back in 2012, yet it's 2015 and he's still in the tag team division. Why? He's great in the ring and has come a long way on the mic. As a fan favorite in mid-2013, he showed he can get over with the audience, so the only thing holding him back is WWE hesitating to pull the trigger with him.
Granted, he's still young and has plenty of time, but that shouldn't be an excuse. In the article, he mentioned he wants his legacy to be "the guy who didn't leave." He's got a long career ahead of him, but hopefully he can become the next guy on this list to land a world title win.
Last but not least, we come to Evan Bourne. I don't think anyone ever saw him as the "future" of WWE, but he was a part of the youth movement at the time this article was written and did have a lot of untapped potential. Sadly, people will only remember him for his astounding Shooting Star Press, but fantastic finisher aside, he was very fun to watch in the ring. Granted, he sounded like a child on the mic, but he let his in-ring skills do the talking for him more often than not.
He didn't do much for the first few years of his career aside from a fairly brief push in mid-2010 and I was surprised it took them until 2011 to finally give him a title in the form of the WWE Tag Team Championship. Collectively known as Air Boom, he and Kofi Kingston were an awesome tandem and they helped revitalize the tag team division for a few months before Bourne, you know, got himself suspended (twice) for violating the WWE Wellness Policy. That pretty much ended his career right there as I'm sure officials lost all faith in him, even though there probably weren't any plans to push him as a top guy upon his return from injury.
Still, he was a good addition to the midcard, but his tenure with the company came to an end just last summer when he was released along with a bunch of other Superstars-tier guys. He's been ripping it up in Ring of Honor since then, but it's a shame he wasn't anything more than what he was in WWE. It's also a shame we never got the dream match he mentioned in the article: a Falls Count Anywhere match against Rey Mysterio. I believe he and Sin Cara had a Falls Count Anywhere match once, so at least that's something, right?