Five picks to be Raw's franchise player
Matt Kemp, LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers and Sidney Crosby. Aside from being exceptional athletes and among the very best in their respective leagues, all four are true cornerstones: uber-talented stars that teams can build their entire franchises around for years to come. In the world of professional sports, they're called "franchise players."
In professional sports, not every team has a franchise player. In fact, some don't even have one legitimately elite star. But in sports-entertainment, there's no shortage of Superstars who could be considered flag-bearers for the Raw and SmackDown brands, and to a larger extent, WWE as a whole.
WWE.com has tackled the undeniably tough challenge of narrowing it down to five Superstars who best fit the role of a franchise player for Raw and SmackDown. These competitors are the linchpins of their respective brands, persistently commanding the attention of the WWE Universe while capturing the distinct energy of each brand's weekly TV show.
Click through to see our five picks, and then cast your vote in WWE.com's poll to decide who ultimately deserves to be called the franchise player for Raw.
If Raw was a Mustang, John Cena would be the horsepower-packed engine that never breaks down. Cena has been through some of the most hellish battles in the history of Raw, including countless main events, but he always bounces right back to inject the same kind of high intensity into Monday nights. In recent years, the 10-time WWE Champion has survived a barrage of attempts to extinguish his fire, such as vicious attacks by Brock Lesnar and General Manager John Laurinaitis. That's serious perseverance from a man who is always ready and willing to take on the most fearsome opponents Raw has to offer.
Cena's tenure with the Raw brand is about to stretch to a remarkable seven years, dating all the way to June 6, 2005, when he became the first performer selected by then-GM Eric Bischoff in the WWE Draft. There was a fleeting moment when it seemed he would have to switch to SmackDown during the WWE Draft on April 25, 2011, but he was later redrafted to Raw on the same night. The Cenation leader hasn't looked back since and continues to bring his "A" game to Raw every single week.
No Superstar knows how to cause a commotion quite like WWE Champion CM Punk. The Voice of the Voiceless is both Raw's most outspoken Superstar and arguably its most glorified one. With his impulsive behavior and anti-establishment attitude, Punk's presence evokes images of the toughest S.O.B. to make Raw a must-watch program: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It's fitting, then, that Punk wore a "Stone Cold" T-shirt when he launched his legendary pipe bomb on the June 27, 2011 edition of Raw SuperShow.
Punk's stay on the Raw roster hasn't been long, but his ability to make an impact was clear just one week after he was first drafted to the brand on June 23, 2008. On his very first appearance on Raw, The Straight Edge Superstar shocked the WWE Universe by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Edge to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Now, he's the longest-reigning WWE Champion in more than four years. We'd say that merits his "Best in the World" moniker, although our next franchise player will tell you otherwise.
It's staggering to realize it was nearly 13 years ago when Chris Jericho made his electric Monday night debut on Aug. 9, 1999, and boldly proclaimed, "Raw is Jericho!" The Mental Mastermind didn't waste any time making enemies on Raw as he interrupted The Rock and boasted his way to one of the most legendary Superstar premieres in WWE history.
Jericho has gone on to an incredible list of accomplishments in WWE, including a record 11 Intercontinental Titles and four World Titles. He's also made two spectacular comebacks on Raw, bringing an anything-can-happen sense of excitement to WWE's live program. If any Superstar can stake his claim to being Raw's premier showman, it's the always-unpredictable Jericho.
He flicks the water from his slicked-back hair. He does sit-ups and headstands during his matches. Oh, and his nickname is The Show-Off. It's no wonder Dolph Ziggler has found a home on Raw with his in-your-face antics and supreme arrogance. Even though Ziggler wasn't introduced on Raw until March 7, 2011, he has quickly made viewers recognize why he belongs by constantly showing off his impressive athleticism and seemingly non-stop motor.
The former United States Champion never missed an opportunity to provoke the WWE Universe, as evidenced by stunts such as putting #HEEL on the back of his tights, encouraging those on Twitter to embrace his vanity – or just get used to seeing his smug grin on their TV sets.
Surprised? So is every WWE Superstar that gets blinded by a burst of green mist.
Lord Tensai's stay on Raw has been only several weeks, but the mere mention of his name already strikes fear in the hearts of every competitor in the WWE locker room. He's brutalized two of the aforementioned franchise players, WWE Champion CM Punk and John Cena, and no opponent has yet to come close to defeating the ruthless Japanese warrior.
The scary thought is that Tensai could become even more powerful than he already is. The behemoth was recently hand-picked by John Laurinaitis to assist in a punishing assault on Cena, leaving the impression that there may be a wicked alliance between Tensai and the manipulative General Manager. If the GM puts his faith in Tensai, it's for good reason.
Tensai spews green but the red-hued brand is the true home of this mammoth contender with the ability and brawn to bolster Raw's roster.
Now that you've seen our selections, it's time for you to decide who really deserves to be called Raw's franchise player. Cast your vote in this WWE.com poll to make your voice be heard. Don't agree with our picks? Head over to Facebook to tell us who you believe should've made the cut instead.