Wrestling, like life, has many hard facts to swallow. The key to getting over them as soon as you can lies in accepting them early. These guys might be phenomenal athletes, great characters and legendary workers, but they don’t fit what WWE corporate culture sees as a champion. For all the most sensible, and nonsensical reasons.
I’m speaking purely to the British here. My fellow countrymen, I know by breaking this news, I am also breaking your hearts. Every single week Neville puts on show after show of athletic excellence. He’s the best high flyer the company’s pushed in years. But he isn’t the only one. And although none were quite as good as Neville, none of them were slouches. The last guy that comes to mind is Justin Gabriel. Like Neville, Justine was a high flyer. Like Neville, his skills were phenomenal. But my fellow Brits, did you ever see Gabriel as WWE Champ? No, of course you didn’t. But what we feel for Neville is what Justin’s fellow South Africans felt for him. And how the rest of the world feels about Neville? Well, that’s just what we used to feel for Gabriel. Good, but no champ. And he ended his WWE run as a bunny. Also, Neville’s mic skills leave much to be desired. If Americans can’t get past Ant & Dec’s accents, what chance does a Geordie like Neville have? He makes Rab C. Nesbit sound like Stephen Fry.Antonio Cesaro
- Antonio Cesaro
Vince doesn’t like him. He’s got no hope. If Vince doesn’t like you then your hopes of being champion are dashed before they have even begun. He still holds almost all of the cards in WWE and, when it comes to the top of the roster, all the decisions are still his. He’s another great athlete who simply doesn’t have, as McMahon himself puts it, “the verbal skills”. It’s frustrating for the man with all the power in the biggest wrestling company in the world to not see what we see in him, but he didn’t get to be that successful without finding out what it is that sells to the mainstream crowd. And Cesaro isn’t mainstream. It’s crappy to say but him not being American holds him back a long way. Him being from a country where English isn’t the primary language is even worse. If Neville can’t do it and English is his is native tongue, then someone like Cesaro (who actually speaks English better than Neville) hasn’t got a prayer.
- Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe is a legend in wrestling. But he didn’t get that moniker by working for WWE. WWE don’t see themselves as a wrestling company. They see themselves as WWE. Samoa Joe will have to work from the ground up to be a legend again. And while he has a head start on the competition, he’s thirty-six years old. That’s a late time to be building up some prestige. On top of fighting the corporate culture (WWE would not look kindly on a man of Joe’s physique holding the belt), he also has to fight the continual breakdown of the body wrestlers of his age face. There will come a point in the near future where Joe will have to take a break from his duties to heal in rehab. That’s fine for the Triple H’s of this world, for whom absence just makes the hearts of the WWE Universe grow fonder, but Joe isn’t in with the casuals like he is with the hardcore. If you haven’t played to the boondocks, then the boondocks don’t want to know. The road ahead for Joe to be champ is perhaps too long for him to start it so late.
- Sami Zayn
In WWE creative they still refer to Sami Zayne’s style as “that flippy shit”. The charms of the Cruiserweight division have long been lost on the old fuddy duddies at WWE HQ. A lot of people are going to have to die if guys like Zayn will ever get any credit. Daniel Bryan was a smaller champion to be sure, but his style was largely technical which, while not being WWE’s favourite style, is a lot easier for them to swallow. They will never see the spectacle of that kind of athleticism as anything other than a sideshow to their gun show. Secondly, like Joe, Zayn now has a black mark over his head for playing with the big boys and getting injured. Bryan made the main event at Mania and got injured soon after, proving his naysayers right that he couldn’t hang (funny how some opinions are so strong that they make their way into the storylines). Zayn had one match on the main roster and ripped up his shoulder. You could almost hear his name get crossed off a number of lists.
- Bray Wyatt
Who in WWE’s history has the closest comparison to Bray Wyatt? No kiddies, it isn’t The Undertaker. It is Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Jake was a psychological mastermind who played his opponents like string instruments. He pulled them apart from the inside, turning their fears, insecurities and moralities against them. He also never held a single title in WWE. Not one. Not even a tag title. Quite frankly, he was above them. He wasn’t concerned with shiny trinkets or arbitrary titles. He was interested in winning the war for the human soul. Just like Wyatt. It wouldn’t even make sense for him to pursue a championship. Wyatt is all about breaking down with people’s perceptions of what is right, wrong, important and good. If he was to go after the title, it would only be to destroy it. To destroy the notion of what you think is the champion, to slay the reverence we all have for the gold. Some people aren’t born to be champions. They are born to consume them.