Thoughts on Curtis Axel's debut
Curtis Axel aka Michael McGillicutty debuted last night and honestly, the debut was not a good one. In this article, I'll discuss why Curtis Axel has already stalled out from the start.
Before we get into the debut, we have to look at the wrestler himself, Curtis Axel. Curtis Axel has been in the WWE developmental system since 2007. During his time in FCW he usually went by the name Joe Hennig, the son of Mr. Perfect. Mr. Perfect was a legendary WWE character and for years, I thought that a new "Mr. Perfect" gimmick would be absolute money. While WWE never really pushed this in developmental or on the main shows, they did use his legacy to their advantage and had him incorporate moves from his dad's moveset. He was a pretty good face in FCW and the crowd really liked him. He seemed like he would be a shoe in to become a star, but then NXT happened.
In 2010, he got his big break on the second season of NXT under the name Michael McGillicutty. There has never been a really good explanation for why the WWE chose this name, other than they wanted to own all of the rights to it. It seems completely nonsensical to have a son of a famous wrestler not use his father's name, but instead use a name from his mother's non-famous side of the family. We all know who Mr. Perfect was, but upon hearing Michael McGillicutty, many jokes were made about him being the son of Beulah McGillicutty from ECW. They had a chance to give Michael a quick chance to get noticed and fumbled royally.
NXT wasn't particularly memorable for Michael McGillicutty. He did place second but that season, along with the seasons after it were all virtually forgettable minus a few moments. One of the biggest and most often mocked moments happened on the last episode of NXT from 8/31/2010. Michael McGillicutty came in 2nd place in the final rankings and got the chance to talk on the mic. He cut a really goofy and nonsensical promo about the "Genesis of McGillcutty" and turned heel along with most of the NXT second season wrestlers, or so we thought. The whole segment ended up being a disaster with a bad brawl and wrestlers forgetting their spots and team mates with some people even attacking their own partners. Mike did come in second place but whatever he achieved during the second season of NXT got lost due to a stupid angle and promo.
Most of the NXT crew was in limbo after this. Alex Riley actually ended up getting the best push from the start as he formed a partnership with The Miz and for a few weeks, was one of the most over people in the WWE, until they depushed him. Two months later at WWE Hell in A Cell 2010, Michael McGillicutty debuted with Husky Harris aka today's Bray Wyatt by attacking John Cena and joining Nexus. One week later, Harris and McGillicutty were given a chance to officially join Nexus by winning a tag team match against John Cena and Randy Orton. Naturally, they lost. They still became members of Nexus anyway. Mike didn't accomplish much and on February 28, 2011, he was involved in a match with Randy Orton, where Orton fought all Nexus members the same night. He got punted in the head, lost and got written off television for a few months. He returned and got a WWE tag title reign before becoming a singles wrestler.
He later got involved with NXT Redemption which absolutely nobody watched, including myself. He had a small feud with Tyson Kidd in which he lost and then appeared on the current version of NXT again losing to Tyson Kidd. He got a NXT title match in 2012 against Seth Rollins and naturally lost. He also got a WWE tag title shot with Johnny Curtis aka Fandango and as you guessed, lost. Since then, he's mostly been on Superstars and Saturday Morning Slam as a jobber.
Last night, on 5/20/2013, Michael McGillicutty debuted as Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman's newest guy, out of nowhere. The crowd didn't really respond much and then Triple H came out, which was not a good sign.
Triple H talked trash about Heyman and threatened him. He also called Axel "Junior" and told him to stay out of the "adults" conversation. That wasn't enough though as Triple H then slapped Curtis Axel. Naturally, Curtis Axel would hit him back, right? Nope. He just sat there holding his face. Triple H made Triple H vs Curtis Axel for the main event of Raw.
Curtis Axel vs Triple H wasn't much. Axel is a good worker, but not a flashy one. He is gritty and works a really simple style that wouldn't stand out to the common eye. He did his usual stuff with being a loudmouth and working holds and the crowd didn't buy into it much. Triple H went to the outside and then collapsed. Was it due to Axel? Nope. They pushed that he was tired and beaten up from his match with Brock Lesnar the night before. Triple H should have been counted out since he was on the outside for minutes, but I guess the ref was using that hand to pick his nose. They called the match a no-contest to end the night.
My thoughts on Curtis Axel's debut
Curtis Axel's debut last night was a disaster. He got treated like a joke by Triple H and did nothing to stand up for himself. He got put down and he stayed down. I did hope this would get changed around in the main event, but Curtis Axel wasn't the story in the main and even though he should have won the match against Triple H, it was called a no-contest. So on his debut, he got humiliated and then couldn't finish the job against a tired and beaten up Triple H. Surely this will get him over, right? No.
If I were booking Curtis Axel's debut, I would have done it differently. As I mentioned in my article about other options for the next Paul Heyman guy(see here - http://prowresblog.blogspot.com/2013/05/who-should-have-been-paul-heymans-next.html), there were better options and I would have put them in that spot instead. I like Axel as a wrestler, but he is never going to be a main eventer and he is going to be a tough sell on the average fan's eye.
If I had to use Michael McGillcutty, I would have changed everything. He wouldn't have been called Curtis Axel. He would have had something in his name with Perfect or Hennig, making the connection between him and his father much stronger. I heard the name Joe Perfect tossed around which would have been fine, as would Axel Perfect. Curtis Axel is much better than his last name, but it could have been improved.
Next, I would have not debuted him against Triple H. Triple H has a well earned reputation of not putting new talent over and I didn't expect it to be any different this time around. I might have kept him in the main event though. To debut him, I would have created some packages putting him over and talking about his skills so that way, when he debuts, everyone knows who he is and why they should care.
I don't have any problems with him being paired with Paul Heyman, which is the only thing WWE got right last night.
This next part might sound crazy, but if I had to put him in a segment with Triple H and a match with Triple H, I would have put Axel over in both situations. If anyone got slapped and made to look bad, it would have been Triple H. I would have pushed how this was a huge upset and gotten Axel off to a hot start. Axel would have won cleanly, and I would have proceeded to get him far away from Triple H. In another universie, if Axel didn't fight Triple H, he would have beaten whoever he faced and it would have been at a PPV like WWE Payback, instead of on an edition of Raw.
Looking into Curtis Axel's future and I see some rough days ahead. He didn't get over and looked like a fool on his first night and since the first impression is the strongest, it will be an uphill struggle. For him to succeed, he will have to be a long-term project and he will have to take as much from Paul Heyman was he can, while he can. I hope he can succeed but I don't see it happening after last night. I think he is at the Intercontinental Title level at best, and if it means he can have good matches without being around Triple H, I'm all for it.
What do you think of the WWE's use of Curtis Axel? And what would you do with him in the future?