I found basic PHP much easier to learn than WordPress. Using my elementary skills I've been able to develop content managed web sites which work much faster and have all the features WordPress has. I've just returned to a WordPress site I designed a few months ago and am appalled by how slow it is and how difficult it is to choose options. I've just spent an hour trying to get the display of my header image with text over top of it. Something that would take five minutes normally.
I'm honestly wondering if a modestly-skilled web developer isn't better off without WordPress at all?