Skip to main content

Handicapping The Rookies Of The Year

Someone sent me a question about Erik Watts this morning, which led me to check Wikipedia to see what he was up to now (answer:  nothing in particular), and I was reminded that in fact he won the PWI Rookie of the Year award in 1992.  Now, this was interesting to me, because PWI had a few solid choices, but there’s some far more interesting misses in the list. 

Steve Austin
El Gigante
Brad Anderson
Chris Chavis

Obviously this was an awesome pick and the case where the winner really did go on to become the giant star they forecasted.  El Gigante…eh, I guess he did about as well as he was going to.  Brad Anderson, not so much. Chris Chavis went on to become Tatanka, but obviously Austin was the big one here.  Observer award winner:  Austin. 

Johnny B. Badd
The Patriot
Terri Power
The Lightning Kid

Lightning Kid was of course the one who went on to become the biggest star by far, although Badd certainly had the look and charisma so you would have thought that he was the can’t miss prospect.  Certainly not a silly choice or anything.  The Patriot did OK for himself, although calling him a rookie here is ridiculous since Wilkes was already in the AWA as the Trooper for years before getting the mask.  That’s kayfabe for ya.  Terri Power was Tori, but hardly a candidate for this award.  Observer award winner:  Badd as well. 

Erik Watts
Diamond Dallas Page
Vladimir Koloff

Hindsight says that DDP should have won, but that was far from a sure thing at the time.  Watts is still a ridiculous choice regardless.  Koloff and Chaz (who was in Pedicino’s Global promotion that was getting so much play in PWI for reasons unknown) are so non-notable that they don’t even have their own Wikipedia pages.  I don’t think there was any legitimate rookie contenders to choose from in the kayfabe sense, but even so DDP should have won.  Observer award winner:  Rey Mysterio Jr.  Wow, was he 12 or something?   

Vampire Warrior
Robbie Eagle
Kent and Keith Cole
The Headhunters

Hmm, Gangrel and Cole Twins?  Robbie Eagle went on to become The Maestro in WCW, but this is a pretty sad year otherwise.  Observer award winner:  Some Japanese guy named Jun Akiyama.  He did pretty well for himself, I guess. 

Bob Holly
Abbudah Singh
Mikey Whipwreck

Really, 911?  This is like the all-ECW crew, since Abbudah Singh went on to become Ballz Mahoney.  Bob Holly is the clear pick out of this bunch, although Whipwreck would have played into kayfabe better at the time.  Observer award winner:  Whipwreck. 

Alex Wright
Craig Pittman
Lawrence Taylor
Madd Maxxine

Lawrence Taylor?!  He wrestled one match!  Pittman flamed out after a few years in WCW.  Wright should have been bigger and wasn’t for a variety of reasons, but I can see this pick making sense at the time.  I don’t know who Maxxine is, the Wiki page links to the wrong person.  Observer award winner:  Perro Aguayo, Jr.  Well, PWI doesn’t cover lucha

The Giant
Steve McMichael
Rocky Maivia
Joe Gomez

Giant was a solid choice at the time, especially since Rocky had barely debuted by the cut-off date in kayfabe, but MAN does that look silly now.  Mongo finishing AHEAD of The Rock looks even sillier.  Joe Gomez is still kicking around.  Observer award winner:  The Giant.  Way to go, Dave.  Well, Giant did have a ton of upside and he was World champion right away. 

Prince Iaukea
Ernest Miller
Chris Chetti

Well this year is a writeoff.  Iaukea is a good enough choice from a kayfabe sense.  Chetti went nowhere, neither did Bracchus.  Observer award winner:  Mr. Aguila (Essa Rios). 

Mark Henry

Henry debuted in 96 so this is an odd place for him to say the least.  Goldberg, duh.  Observer award winner:  Goldberg.  No-brainer here. 

Shane McMahon
Evan Karagias
Vince McMahon
Lash LeRoux

Yeah, that Vince, what a rookie sensation.  Karagias and LeRoux both flamed out of wrestling completely, and so did Shane himself I guess.  Wonder what Vince is up to now?  Observer award winner:  Blitzkrieg.  Another one-hit wonder.  99 was a rough year for new stars. 

Kurt Angle
Mark Jindrak and Sean O'Haire
Chuck Palumbo

Any other choice cannot be justified with any argument whatsoever.  Lita ended up a solid #2 in this group, though.  The rest, we know the story.  Observer award winner:  Sean O’Haire.  Huh.  Way to pick ‘em, Dave. 

Randy Orton
Brock Lesnar
The Prototype

Now there’s a hell of a rookie crop.  Interesting case, because Orton did not look like a star at all for a long time after his OVW debut, but obviously they were determined to wait him out and make a star out of him.  Brock you could tell was a big deal right from the start.  Truth looks like the redheaded stepchild out of this group.  The Prototype is a good wrestling name, did he ever amount to anything?  I mean, if he was a big star, he’d have been on RAW last week, right?  So he’s probably not.  Observer award winner:  El Hombre Sin Nombre.  Yeah, Dave missed the boat on that one.  Even that Protoype goof would have been a better choice, I’m pretty sure.  I wonder if that was an eligibility thing since Prototype debuted in 2000? 

Christopher Nowinski
Taylor Matheny

The year of Tough Enough!  Gone, gone, gone, gone!  Observer award winner:  Bob Sapp.  I never saw much of him, actually.   

Zach Gowen
Sylvain Grenier
Matt Morgan

Morgan ended up being the biggest star of the bunch.  Gowen was just missing a vital part, you know?  He just couldn’t get a leg up in the business.  He could only get so far, and then he got cut off at the knees by politics.  Observer award winner:  Chris Sabin.

Monty Brown
Petey Williams
Johnny Nitro
Matt Cappotelli

Obviously Nitro should have won this one, although at the time Cappotelli seemed like the sure thing out of the pair before the brain tumor ended his career.  Brown is now firmly in the “Whatever Happened To?” file, as is Williams.  Observer award winner:  Petey Williams. 

Bobby Lashley[21]
Christy Hemme
Mikey Batts
Ken Doane

One wannabe MMA badass, a cheerleader, a referee, and a ring announcer.  Quite the crew of washouts.  Doane should have been way bigger, but WWE just drove him out of the business.  Observer award winner:  Shingo Takagi.  Not familiar with him. 

The Boogeyman
Charles Evans
Cody Runnels

Yeah, the Boogeyman beat out Cody Rhodes for Rookie of the Year.  And Akebono got third just by working on shitty match with Big Show.  What a year.  Observer award winner:  Atsushi Aoki.  Get the feeling that Dave wasn’t big on the US scene at that point? 

Ted DiBiase, Jr.
Pelle Primeau
Mike DiBiase

I’m pretty sure Hornswoggle wasn’t a rookie in 2007.  We’re still waiting on the Dibiases to do anything in the business to live up to their potential.  Primeau was an ROH guy who went nowhere.  Observer award winner:  Erick Stevens.  He hasn’t done much either since then. 

Joe Hennig
Brett DiBiase
Ricky Steamboat, Jr.
Ryan McBride

There’s THREE Dibiases?  Ted had million-dollar sperm too, I guess.  Why hasn’t Vince just brought them all in with Sr. as manager?  Hennig was a safe choice, but obviously hasn’t panned out yet.  Observer award winner:  KAI, from All Japan. OK then.

Mike Sydal
Jesse Neal
Brittney Savage
J.T. Flash

I have nothing interesting to say here because I don’t know any of these people. 

David Otunga
Percy Watson
Corey Hollis

Did you know that the 1977 Rookie of the Year runner-up had a daughter? 

Ace Hawkins
Nick Madrid
Briley Pierce


  1. Ken Doane really should have been a star by now. I know he rubbed people the wrong way but compared to the crap Orton pulled, its relatively minor.

    In regards to the comment about Dave not paying attention to the US Wrestling scene in 2006, he spent a majority of his time pimping Bob Sapp as the next big thing. It was nauseating to hear him go out of his way to state how he was going to be huge, even claiming how great he came off during the premiere of that awful "The Longest Yard" remake. But, he doesnt talk about him like that anymore.

  2. Petey Williams is still kicking around in the indies. He actually made an appearance on the TruTV show "All Worked Up" where he was doing a match in Lucha Libre USA and some wrestler in the crowd (don't remember his name, hadn't heard of him anyway) was talking shit and trying to jump the guardrail and the security guy (who appears on the show pretty often, I always keep an eye out for him on ROH TV) had to throw him out. I'd imagine he shows up in Japan too. Not surprised he never got a shot up North, he definitely doesn't work WWE style. 

  3. Awesome article and thank you for doing all that research Scott.


  5. Ha, great article Scott. Seems like something I would do: research something in particular then waste the entire day reading up on stuff that had nothing to do with the stuff I was originally searching for.

    But yeah, like Scott said, this PWI list is weird in terms of what qualifies you as a rookie since they don't seem to acknowledge promotions like SMW then they fully acknowledge OVW.

    But yeah, the PWI was more kayfabed where they probably awarded the winner with the best win/loss record as opposed to the Observer, which mainly awarded it to the guy with the best workrate.

    And to be fair, though it seems silly to think now, Sean O’Haire had that it factor and he seemed like the guy that was going to carry the business for years to come.

  6. Henry Rowengardner is the one true Rookie of the Year.

  7. Matt Sydal is Evan Bourne, and is, despite various habits, the most successful of his year.

  8. I believe Erick Stevens is involved in professional bodybuilding now. He's a decent worker; hopefully he comes back. 

    Shingo is badass awesome. He works a strong style with a lot of American flash. He's not as methodical as, say, Davey Richards, but he's a lot more fun to watch. Speaking of Davey, how did he not make any of these lists? It seems like all I heard about back in 2005-2006 was this KENTA protoge who was going to reinvent wrestling. I'm surprised he wasn't an Observer ROY. 

  9. Aren't both awards voted on by readers of their respective publications and not PWI/Meltzer themselves?

    I think they're just responsible for the list of nominees

  10. Eh, I think Doane's only real attribute was his age. And he had a decent legdrop. There wasn't really anything else.

  11. That's Mike Sydal, his brother, not Matt. Matt debuted prior to 2009.

  12. Where is Matt Sydal on any of these lists?

  13. Christopher HirschMay 31, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Wasn't the award based on who made the biggest impact that year, now what they were projected to do in future years? Hence, 911 makes sense winning.

  14. Christopher HirschMay 31, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    To me, Ernest Miller was miles above anyone else in that 97 crew, he actually got over.

  15. Looking back further in the archives, the only winner that doesn't have his own Wikipedia page is Angelo Mosca, Jr. who won in 1983. Wow, I never even knew Mosca had a kid who wrestled!

  16. Hey, I really liked that movie. Nash was golden.

  17. "Gowen was just missing a vital part, you know?  He just couldn’t get a
    leg up in the business.  He could only get so far, and then he got cut
    off at the knees by politics."

    Man, does thinking this was funny make me a horrible person?

    Although here's a thought: Every Royal Rumble starts with them saying that the person has be be thrown over the top rope with BOTH feet touching the floor. In theory, could Zach Gowen ever lose?

  18. Except it's MIKE Sydel who won that year. He's Bourne's baby brother

  19. I actually saw Ace Hawkins at a show in St. Louis a few months back. They kept talking up his ROTY award. Small, energetic and the crowd ate him up. 

  20. Christopher HirschMay 31, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Damn, he totally should have been in a Rumble.

  21. The legdrop was MONEY... and probly the only reason he got a push.

  22. "
    Ha, great article Scott. Seems like something I would do: research something in particular then waste the entire day reading up on stuff that had nothing to do with the stuff I was originally searching for."

    I call it Wiki-traveling.

  23. I heard he pitched the idea to Vince but he really didn't have a leg to stand on.

  24. I'm sorry after reading his interviews when he left WWE I lost all sympathy for Doane.  Yeah he was given a raw deal but he seemed like SUCH a douche.  And really, if he was that good he'd be in ROH or TNA now.

  25. Amazing to think how poorly the recent rookies to the WWE have performed.

    Yet in 2002, they debuted Orton, Lesnar, Cena AND Batista.

  26. "We’re still waiting on the Dibiases to do anything in the business to live up to their potential."

    Let it play out and see where it goes...

  27. Wasn't he one of the many wrestlers that was spearing Mickie James at one time or another?

  28. Ted Dibiase, Jr. is terrible...a true fortress of boredom and suck.

    Usually, I'm terrible at figuring out who's going to amount to anything, but even I was all over Cody Rhodes when everyone else was slurping Dibiase during their Legacy days.  Not that Cody is setting the world on fire or anything, but at least he's entertaining...

  29. DiBiase's ring work is fine. He just can't talk. I do enjoy his wrestling, though, particularly the crispness of his offense.

  30. Ken Doane sucked. Bad offense, bad selling, nonexistent mic skills. There just wasn't any substance under the style.

  31. I thought Ted Jr. was awesome in the ring....he was definitely a better worker than Cody in the Legacy days.

    But I feel like the tag team hid his biggest fault - a vacuum of charisma. And no matter how smooth you are in the ring, if people don't give a shit....people don't give a shit.

  32. shades of her father.......

  33. A vacuum of charisma: that pretty much describes nearly everyone in ROH.

  34. In theory they were voted on by the fans, but in practice awards went to whoever WCW management wanted the awards to go to.


  35. Christopher HirschMay 31, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    But he's the Tim Tebow of wrestling! Whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean.

    And he has a Possee

  36. I take it you've never seen a Kevin Steen promo. Or a Briscoes promo. Or a Young Bucks promo. Or an El Generico match. Or anything Jay Lethal has ever done. Or a good RD Evans promo. Or a Nigel McGuiness promo. Or a Jim Cornette promo. Or a Shelton Benjamin promo. Or a Steve Corino promo. Or a Jimmy Jacobs promo. Or, truthfully, a Davey Richards promo.

  37. "[...] when everyone else was slurping Dibiase during their Legacy days."

    didn't most people wonder at that time already that he and not Rhodes was getting the big push? (I almost sure that at least the majority of posters on this blog would have picked Rhodes over DiBiase even back then. although it was still a close call because both looked like they were never going to be bigger stars).

  38. For whatever reason I have a very clear mental image of Madd Maxxine from PWI, she was a bigger woman, I actually thought she was Bertha Faye/Rhonda Singh, but I don't think she was. She kinda rocked a Bull Nakano look with the eye makeup and stuff. I don't think she was ever anything.

    I know you don't watch much TNA but seriously, you don't know who Jesse Neal is? Ink, Inc., mentorship/feud dealie with Dudleyz and Rhino? A buddy of mine is actually bringing him in for an autograph session in a few weeks.

    Question I'm hoping someone can answer: Does anyone know if 2005 runner up Mikey Batts was the same person who worked Florida indies as Mikey Tenderfoot and also under a mask as Seijin Aki? He did a lot in TNA with Chasyn Rance and Jerelle Clark, and those guys worked a lot of indies with a Mikey Tenderfoot, so I didn't know if it's the same guy. If so he's been around since at least 03. Wikipedia doesn't say anything about it.

  39. Steve Austin has to be the best pick of the above.

  40. he reminds me a lot of Randy Orton who is also very smooth in the ring. I guess the difference is that Orton has a lot of charisma and his in ring work comes across as a lot more "intense" in comparism with DiBiase.

  41. That's not fair at all, he makes a great burger in the parking lot I hear!

  42. TheRealCitizenSnipsMay 31, 2012 at 3:21 PM

     And Rico! Don't forget Rico!

    Everybody forgets Rico  :(

  43. the difference to the following years seems to be: the WWE WANTED them to succeed and was willing to push them really hard and even give someone like Orton tons of chances.

    btw: I guess 2004 was also a very good year, although no one made it to megastardom. didn't Nick Dinsmore, The Miz, Johnny Nitro and Muhammad Hassan all make their debut? seems like a very talented bunch as well.

  44. Even if he had two legs, Zach Gowen was still the least intimidating looking person in the history of wrestling. In fact, him having one leg is probably the only reason he ever actually able to break into wrestling in the first place.

  45. I heard Zach Gowen actually had two legs when he got his start, but he was a selfish worker so Owen Hart had to set him straight by kicking his leg out from under his leg.

    R.I.P Owen.

  46. Yup. He pretty much got fired because everyone thought he really showed his age when they broke up, acting like a whiny little high school dickhead. By which I'm sure they meant "not being cool with John Cena banging his girlfriend."

  47.  Very true, or at least the only reason he was able to get into WWE and be involved in a Hogan storyline. He was actually kind of talented in an indie sort of way, when he was with Age of the Fall he never really seemed too "gimmicky" with the one leg as far as the spots he did. He was just a tiny little ginger guy., the one leg was his ace in the hole.

  48. He was pretty much the only memorable part of the movie for me.

  49. I seem to remember he big timed TNA when they invited him in to do a dark match try out, so that could explain why he didn't wind up in the X-Division. 

  50. WCW made O'Haire look like he'd be a huge star in their dying days, to the point where people expected Bischoff to book the company around him had it not been sold off to the McMahons, so I fully expected him to be a big deal. And people still consider his not taking off in WWE with his "Devil's Advocate" gimmick to be a huge missed opportunity.

  51.  He's the Poland of 2002 WWE rookies. Haas and Benjamin count too, right?

  52. I nevr saw much in Cody until he went to Smackdown, where he almost immediately started having good matches with everyone. Now he's one of my favorite guys in the promotion.

  53. Mikey Tenderfoot and Mikey Batts are different guys. Tenderfoot started as Seijin Akki in the Tampa Bay area around 2001, when he was still in high school, then took the Mikey Tenderfoot name in late 2002. I think Batts (Billy Kidman's cousin, by the way) was around in 2004 too.

  54. MadDogJoeDeCursoMay 31, 2012 at 5:16 PM

     Split Legged Moonsault?

  55.  At least he's got that to fall back on if this wrestling thing doesn't work out.

  56.  Depends on whether you keep it to kayfabe in Dinsmore's case. He debuted as Eugene that year but he'd been in developmental since 2000-2001. Plus he was a semi-regular in WWF in 01 playing Doink.

  57. MadDogJoeDeCursoMay 31, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Or The All Night Express. Or The Bravado Brothers. Or a Roddy Strong chop fest. Or a Michael Elgin match. Or a Kyle O'Reilly match. Or the hands-down best heel in all of wrestling right now, CHARLIE FKN' HAAS~!

  58.  Thank you for the clarification. I remember one show I saw a 3 way between Napthali, Jerelle Clark (who was a substitute teacher in my high school, weirdly) and who was advertised as Mikey Tenderfoot but then came out as Seijinn Akki, despite everyone in the building either knowing they were the same guy or not knowing who he was in either gimmick.

  59.  Co-sign on everything except Haas. It bugs me to no end that he gets all the promo time in WGTT. Like, it's so ROH to push the bland white guy first and foremost.

  60. Akebono actually wrestled many matches in Japan, including an instant disaster -***** classic with Brock Lesnar.

    His big breakout was when he was reborn (literally) as Monster Bono, son of Yinling, conceived when The Great Muta sprayed his mist in that place where babies come from.

  61. Doesn't his artificial leg count as a foot?

  62. He needs to grow his dad's beard. It will help him stand out!

  63. It was a great move...but he could only do it once.

  64. You should GET familiar with Shingo Takagi... still awesome.

  65. You mean if they would just give him the chance to start, he would botch all over the place, yet miraculously rally and come back to win his matches in the end?

  66. He was also in that one Osirian Portal "hypnotizing" video that went around YouTube last year.

  67. re: chops

    they arent supposed to hurt. i dont get how working stiff equals good workrate.

    the artform of wrestling is workin the crowd that the shit hurts when it dont.

    roh people from joe to morishima to mcguiness to richards and strong stiff each other. thats not good workrate. thats one reason i cant get into the matches. they dont work light. its just stiff for stiffing sake. not my cup o tea.

  68. It's interesting, if you looked back at the ROTY awards for the four major sports, you'd find about as equal an amount of duds mixed in with the great/obvious picks.

  69. Rightfully so, I still salivate over the what could of been feud between him and Punk(that is if he could of held on a few more years). 

  70. Anyone else see that documentary from The Discovery Channel about pro-wrestling school? One of the featured guys was Cena. You'd go shopping with him, watching him buy 7 gallons of milk, 50 cartons of eggs, and all sorts of rockin' stuff.

    His Prototype gimmick was terrible. Unless it was going to lead to a Prototype vs Robocop match or something. I just don't know how you'd expect a character who was emotionless and void of character to get over. 

  71. Well it worked for Randy Orton! 

  72. Yeah I remember that one. If it wasn't clear from day one that Cena was earmarked for greatness, that was a pretty clear indicator. It's crazy to think how many of those specials there were during that time period.

  73. Maybe being around such luminous actors like David Arquette and Scott Caan during Ready to Rumble helped him grow as a character.
    Geez, that sentence was harder to finish than I thought it would be.

  74. Weren't they engaged at one point or am I mixing Doane up with someone else?

  75. Just a quick "blink and you'll miss it" background shot, something he confirmed on his Twitter:

    Oh, and here's youtube:

  76.  The Tim Tebow of wrestling, he tries to use things outside the sport to get over cause he's shitty at said sport

  77. I don't know, I was ringside for WGTT vs Briscoes at border wars, and Charlie seemed to have WAY more heat then shelton, and at the 10th aniversiry show the crowd was chanting "FUCK YOU CHARLIE" not "FUCK YOU WGTT"

    I think they let Charlie do most of the heeling because if they ever split up they would have to make Shelton the face


Post a Comment