Originally posted by Daveyboy, 13th November, 2002

Welcome one and all to the 22nd edition of The Wrestling Menu, the column that is sure to satisfy your taste buds when it comes to discussing all things wrestling.

To all those that are regular readers of this website (but don't venture over to the LOP forums), don't worry, you haven't suddenly lost all of your short-term memory. All but one of the first 21 editions of this column were posted on the LOP forums (check out the columns forum whenever you get the chance by the way, as there are some great columns there). That one exception was column #14 titled "Wrestler Input & Triple H", which was posted on October-4. I earnt that right by being voted the 'September Column Of The Month' by my peers. Now that I have come of age (column edition-wise), I have the honor of gracing the same website main page that currently includes 8 other excellent column-writer's, that I both respect & enjoy reading. It's certainly flattering to be in the same company as these writers.

Just a quick introduction before I begin; If you're wondering, I'm not a real chef. The menu I speak of is just so that I can have a 3 part structure to my columns. I begin with the 'Appetizers', which is basically an introduction. Then the 'Main', which is obviously the main topic. Finally, the 'Dessert' section is usually another topic, which on most occasions, has a direct or indirect link to the Main. I should also let you all know that I reside in Melbourne, on the south-east coast of Australia. I genuinely believe that living thousands of miles away from most other column-writers on this site, gives my column a distinct advantage. This is because I can give you readers a different perspective on the world of professional wrestling, by looking at things from a slightly different angle (not to mention a different hemisphere). Anyway, enough of the formalities, as your meal is about to be served:

APPETIZERS - Introduction

The good thing about the LOP Columns Forum is that it gives aspiring main-page column writers such as myself, the opprtunity to experiment with different kinds of topics. I am still unsure as to which of those topics I will bring here, but you will undoubtedly get to know such topics as 'The Oz Perspective', 'PPV review', 'Wrestler History' & a few others as the weeks go by.

Having said that, I'm actually going to go with a brand new topic for my first regular appearance here. A risk? Possibly. But I've hyped column #22 to be new & controversial over the last week on the forums. So I feel the need to deliver to those loyal readers I already have. In addition, I wanted to start with some sort of a bang, and give my new readers the opportunity to get a feel for the opinions I have on the wild world of professional wrestling.

The new topic I speak of is going to be a 'rankings' topic. I've gone 21 columns without one, but edition #22 will be my first attempt. If I do continue with this topic in the coming weeks & months, I'll attempt to come up with rankings that are a little bit different to the usual that you would normally see, but I suppose after a while, that may become a little difficult.

As per the column title, you would by now know that my first attempt at a rankings column will be to rank the rookies that have made their debut at the top level of professional wrestling this year. I have not included Shannon Moore on the rankings as he has previously wrestled for WCW, while Shelton Benjamin misses out due to the fact that we don't get the pleasure of watching Heat in Australia. Victoria will also not be included. I will explain why she doesn't get the privilege following the rankings & then link up to the 'Dessert' section of today's column.

I'm sure to cause some controversy & get some negative feedback for my rankings today, but I can tell you that it was a lot harder than it looked. I had to take into account many things such as current position on the card, wrestling style, character, personality, age & room for improvement. Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball!!! Anyway, lets get these rankings going (in descending order):

MAIN - Rookie Rankings

8: RICO; Older than the rest of the group, Rico has a little more experience & is better on the microphone. This shows presently & there is no doubting that Rico could be an important ingredient to the WWE midcard for years to come. His in-ring ability is currently under-rated, but I have to doubt that there is too much room for improvement. His in-between size could be a liability & his martial arts style reminds me of Steve Blackman & Ernest Miller. Where are they now? The fact that I rate him last on this list is testament to the fine group of rookies we've had debut this year.

7: CHRISTOPHER NOWINSKI; There is every possibility that Nowinski could still be around in 10 years time. He has the size & body shape to appear anywhere on a WWE card, but I think his wrestling style is rather bland. I may be wrong & judging him too much on the bland gimmick he has presently, but I doubt if he can successfully break out of it. I suppose Triple H did so with a similar gimmick. The question to be answered is whether Nowinski will go down the Triple H path or the Steven/William Regal path? My tip is on the Regal path, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see this rookie prove me wrong with constant hard work & love for the industry.

6: MAVEN; Possibly the hardest on this list to analyze his future. Improvement factor could be high, as he has not had proper wrestling techniques taught to him for all that long. I get the feeling that the WWE love his attitude & charisma. Because of this, he may be more likely to be pushed than some of the other rookies. You know what they say about opportunity. If the opportunity presents itself & Maven's work ethic is there, who knows what the future holds in store for the 1st male Tough Enough winner.

5: ROSEY & JAMAL; I must stress that I'm only ranking the former Island Boys as a tag-team. If they were to ever split up, I can see them really struggling to hold a roster position. They are the type of tag team that could stick around for many years to come (either as heels or faces) if handled correctly. I can see their repertoire possibly becoming a little stale, so adding new moves is a must. The WWE have shown that they will break teams up if they become stale. Another possible problem is weight. They look quite agile at the moment, but with injuries & increased weight, that agility could soon disappear.

4: DAVE BATISTA; Like Maven, I found the future for the man formerly known as Leviathan very hard to analyze. He genuinely could have ranked anywhere between 8 & 1. Let's start with the positives: Size is near-perfect. As is his intensity. He is very raw in the ring, thus there is a lot of improvement possible in that area. Now the negatives: He is very raw, yet has been in OVW for a while. Will he get any better? I think that his tag-team with D-Von should have lasted a few months longer. He should not be pushed in singles competition yet & would be better off finding another tag partner. The other worrying thing is that he reminds me a lot of Ahmed Johnson. If you remember the one-time InterContinental champion, he arrived very quickly to main event level solely on his size & intensity. He was very raw in the ring & it is argued that this (including injuring his opponents regularly) is what resulted in his eventual firing. Let's pray that Batista doesn't go down this route.

3: JOHN CENA; Probably ranked a little higher than I would have liked. The handling of his first few months in the WWE probably won't help him over the next year or so. I didn't mind his initial good showing against Angle, but beating established wrestlers such as Chris Jericho with roll-ups week after week was not the way to go. I think the best thing to do with Cena over the next 6-12 months is find him a tag partner (Batista may have been a good one if they were on the same show) & compete in the tag-team division. Following that, I see him as an important mid-card performer for the WWE for many years to come. Although, he might not go any further than mid-card. I feel he is under-rated on the microphone, as he seems to talk very clearly & confidently. Another positive is that I have a feeling that he will play the heel role he has just been given, well. Remember that he did so in OVW as Prototype for many months.

2: RANDY ORTON; OK, I'll admit that this might be my most dubious ranking & the one that might get me the most negative feedback. Firstly, I should stress that I would have had Orton ranked here a month ago, before his Raw debut when JR pumped him up like he was The Rock. I disagree with his move to Raw, but he has so much time, it shouldn't matter. He is only 22 years of age, yet is already decent in the ring. His microphone skills obviously need improving, but they are not terrible for a 22 year old. Good size, he's actually taller than you think, yet has agility. He has plenty of time to put muscle on later if that's what the WWE want him to do. In all aspects, he will only get better. Family history may lead him to opportunities that others might miss out on. Work ethic seems good to take advantage of these opportunities. As per Cena, I also have the feeling that he could play a heel well. Not just the cocky heel that we are probably going to see either. I feel down the track he could also play the powerful intimidating heel if the WWE choose that route for him. He only needs a little more experience & a change in look. Need proof; have a look at the photo of him in the PWI magazine when he won Rookie Of The Year.

1: BROCK LESNAR; Sorry to be boring & go with the safe pick, but he's already at main event level. Still young (25) & has time to improve on all aspects. Size is near-perfect. Work ethic seems excellent, even if his microphone skills are not. Brock has had an exceptional grounding to become a professional wrestler. His amateur background will help him against particular opponents, while his OVW experience has also taught him the remaining skills needed very well. I have no doubt that he is yet to show his full repertoire. His detractors point out that without Heyman, he would not be where he is today. That point is entirely true, but does not mean that he wouldn't have got to that level by himself down the track? If Lesnar is not a star in this company in 5 years time, I'm thinking that it will be of no fault of his own, but due to the WWE's handling of him.

Well there you have it. The top eight rookies in the WWE ranked as to what impact I believe that they will have on the future of the WWE. Like I said earlier, it was not all that easy. I'm sure not everyone will agree with me, but we all have our opinions & are entitled to them. Speaking of controversial opinions, your meal is not complete until dessert has been eaten. But first, my reasoning for not including Victoria in the rankings.

The reason is that I believe the men's & women's division of the WWE to be totally incomparable. It would not only be unfair on herself, but the other wrestler's mentioned as well. You see, I could actually have ranked Victoria as #1. When all is said & done, she will probably hold the Women's Title for a longer duration than Brock Lesnar will hold the HeavyWeight Title. She'll also possibly have a greater effect on her division than Brock will. So ranking her #1 isn't as silly as it initially sounds. But then again, having an effect on a division comprising of approximately 10 competitors is a lot easier than one with approximately 40. That's why I concluded that the men's & women's division were incomparable pertaining to rankings, thus resulting in Victoria not being included in the rookie rankings.

Now onto the 'Dessert' section of today's column where Victoria plays a major role in even more controversial opinions from DaveyBoy:

DESSERT - Women's Division

I shall warn you first that my arguments in this entire section may initially seem contradictory, but I have tried to be very careful of the way I have worded it. I have looked over & proofread the wording a few times & I believe it NOT to be ambiguous, nor contradictory.

The topic of this section is... Is it worth it for the WWE to continue attempting to make the Women's Division a success? As I have occasionally done in the past, I'm going to give my answer first & then work from there. My answer is "YES". Maybe not a resounding yes, but definitely a yes. If you had asked me at any other time within the last decade, my answer probably would have been a "no". But a combination of the current climate of professional wrestling (and in particular, the WWE) & the group of talent the WWE are gathering, gives me hope that the division can become suffiently entertaining for it to hold its place.

What I predominantly meant by the current climate of WWE wrestling, was that with the introduction of the split (or should I say brand extensions?) a little over 7 months ago, the talent pool has been a lot more thinly spread over the 2 shows (Raw & SmackDown). This gives the lower card wrestlers in general, more opportunity to prove their worth. No disrespect is meant when I say that all competitors in the women's division can be currently classed as lower card performers. Add to this the fact that the fans are crying out to see something that's fresh, new and/or improved & the women's division has the opportunity to flourish in upcoming years.

Now for the talent; Let's start with Victoria. In my opinion she is already the most talented wrestler that the women's division has ever seen. Period! Full stop! She hasn't even been on WWE television for a year & already I'm calling her the best ever! How can you do that DaveyBoy, you may ask? Simple, I believe it to be fact. Take a look at her in the ring. For the division, she has both the perfect weight & height. Feminine, but not a model. Muscular, but not Chyna. Victoria has already shown she has the ability to mix it with any opponent when it comes to agility and/or strength. Yet, she has not been wrestling for all that long & will undoubtedly improve even further.

Couple this with Trish Stratus dramatically improving as an in-ring competitor, the imminent return of Jazz & Lita, the reliability of Molly & Jacqueline, and the ongoing training of Nidia, and there's enough of a platform for the WWE to work with. The division has been wisely placed into the hands of Dave 'Fit' Finley, a veteran ex-WCW worker who was always more respected for his work ethic & mat-wrestling skills, than for anything else. This is a great decision as he has the best chance of any agent that the WWE has, of bringing what is needed to the division to make it successful.

So what is needed to make the division successful? The list could go on forever, but I'm going to suggest 2 ingredients that I feel are vital. The first is storyline. Not only does there have to be more storylines revolving around the division, but they have to be fresh & new. In the past, the women have had to practically go through the same storylines over & over again. Surely, there are hundreds of idea's that haven't been tried in a division that hasn't received all that much airtime in the past decade or so.

Secondly and most importantly, in order to win over the silent crowds, the women have to bite the bullet & try to improve their in-ring ability. Why can't they push themselves to the limit like some of the men do? Am I being unreasonable by suggesting that there isn't too much the women can't do that the men can, IF the women push themselves to the limit? If Lita can do her Litacanrana, then why can't Nidia do a 619? It sounds silly at first, but stop & actually think about it. Why do you think that Trish is the one that gets the best reaction out of the women & has basically held the title all year? Because a blind man can see that she has taken the time & effort to improve inside the squared circle.

Notice I haven't referred to Torrie Wilson, Terri Runnels or Stacy Keibler yet. I don't actually see them as part of the women's division. They're in another division called the eye-candy division. They serve that purpose & the WWE must realize this and use them accordingly. It seems they have when it comes to Terri & Stacy, but they seem to be convinced that Ms.Wilson is a little different. I haven't seen enough of Dawn Marie's wrestling skills to judge her, but Torrie needs to improve or stay out of the ring in my opinion. Judging by her appearance on Byte This a week or so ago, her training at the hands of Madusa in WCW, has left her with a negative outlook on actual wrestling. Please don't let that outlook be passed onto us, WWE. If she doesn't work harder to improve her wrestling skills, please have her escort Billy Kidman to the ring in the future.

To conclude, I believe that the Women's division in the WWE is worth persisting with. Furthermore, right now could be labelled 'crunch-time' for the division. It currently has the opportunity to flourish, yet is still not all that far away from being abandoned. Please don't get me wrong, 2 women's matches on the same pay-per-view (No Mercy) is definitely going overboard, but with just a few improvements, the division can be a success. I believe that the WWE realize this & may be on the right track, as they have made the title match at the upcoming Survivor Series a 'Hardcore Match'. All I can say is; "Ladies, push yourselves to the limit, for the good of yourselves, your colleagues & your company.

Oops, I better stop there or your dessert will be bigger than the main course. I wanted to explain myself as best as I could on all thoughts in this column & apologize if it took up a little more time than originally intended. Hopefully to those new readers, I have shown that I can provide at least 2 good discussion points pertaining to professional wrestling in my column. I can assure you that I will continue using that rule as my main objective each week. I've found that it's not whether you agree with a columnist that makes their column great, it's whether they raise good discussion points & back up the reasoning for their opinion. I will always endeavor to do exactly that. Having said that, please feel free to send me an e-mail, not only on what you thought of the column in general, but how you would rank the rookies and/or what you think is the future of the women's division. I can assure you that all feedback will be very appreciated & I will attempt to respond to all e-mails. My e-mail address is DaveyBoy123@bigpond.com.

Survivor Series is now less than a week away & I am definitely looking forward to seeing that pay-per-view event. Next Wednesday, I will have a rundown of the card with my own ratings scale, that I have (hopefully) tweaked to perfection over the last 3 months on the Columns Forum. Until next time, this is Davey Boy signing off & asking you to remember that dinner is best served in 3 courses.