COLUMN: Offbeat Shenanigans – The Five Breakout Stars of 2008

Kevin McElvaney

Offbeat Shenanigans #25

Hey Wrestlezone readers. Welcome to another edition of your favorite (or least favorite) weekend wrestling ramblings, in Offbeat Shenanigans.

In fact, this is our 25th anniversary edition, but who’s counting? Oh, right…I am. Anyway, no nostalgic flashbacks, no proverbial “clip shows” here today. What I’ll be doing, instead, is looking ahead into the future.

2008 began in January for most people but, really, the WrestleMania season (and post-Lockdown season, for TNA) signal the beginning of another sort of year for wrestling fans. Today I’m going to take a look at the five wrestlers who, I feel, will really break out, in some way or another, between now and next year. In no particular order…

1) Samoa Joe

With his TNA career on the line at Lockdown, I can’t see how Joe won’t step away without the prize. And, believe me, I’m not asking for a swerve. Joe’s time might very well have come sooner, but now would be as good a time as any for him to capture the World championship prize which has eluded him since his TNA debut a few years back. Nothing much else to say about this. A TNA title win is probable – saving for a possible swerve (how I hate that term!) – and a title win / run would make his 2008 something truly special.

2) CM Punk

It won’t happen sooner. It will happen much later. Still, Punk has the coveted Money in the Bank briefcase and I feel that, once WWE management believes he’s earned his stripes, they’ll put the Smackdown or Raw title around his waist. The briefcase is meant to take a superstar to the next level.

Yes, RVD was already a star, but was he a world champion? Yes, Edge was already a world champion, but he was a sub for Ken Kennedy, who surely would’ve been in the world title picture had an injury not set him back. Punk could parlay the Money in the Bank prize into a world championship on one of the two big brands, but it won’t happen just yet. I won’t hazard a guess as to when, but it must be by next WrestleMania.

3) James Storm

His push has been slow and steady, but he seems about to feud with Sting, so…

4) Shelton Benjamin

In the words of singer, Dusty Springfield, “wishin’ and hopin’.” In other words, I’m hopin’ that this isn’t wishful thinking on my part. Shelton is a true talent and, with a singles match undefeated streak on ECW, he might have finally found a niche. He has plenty of athletic talent, and people react to his matches. The only thing standing in the way of an ECW title run is a bit of character development, or so we’ve heard and suspected.

That said, Shelton’s promos are consistently getting better. You know, since wrestlers NEED to cut promos to get pushes. No wrestlers have EVER been pushed without significant mic time. (Exceptions: Yokozuna, Undertaker, Goldberg, Benoit, Snuka, Khali, Rob Van Dam, Kane, Batista, Sabu, Lashley, Andre the Giant, The Hardys, and the Gobbledy Gooker.)

If he could just overcome what is his perceived lack of mic skill – as, in my opinion, he’s definitely doing – or find a suitable mouthpiece, then he’s right there. Either way, I predict an ECW title run this year for Shelton.

5) Nattie Neidhart

She’ll be able to have a decent feud with Victoria on Smackdown, but she’ll eventually get a shot at the Women’s title on Raw. Quite possibly, she’ll win it. Maybe the women’s title could just be defended on both brands? It’s not like there are a whole lot of title programs, so the travel shouldn’t be too stressful. The champion could compete solely on Smackdown, for instance, when defending against a Smackdown star. Then again, I really have no idea if that’s feasible or too difficult. Maybe all the women should just go back on Raw!

Those are my picks. Who are yours? Let me know,

Kevin McElvaney is also a contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler / Inside Wrestling. Send questions or comments to

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