The scene this past Monday on WWE RAW was similar to many a scene before. Promising young midcarder hits the ring against unbelievable odds. The crowd is aching to see him put the oppressor(s) in his/their place(s). This scrappy babyface hits the ring, gets a few moves in and then is squashed mercilessly.
The face in question is Evan Bourne, but if you guessed the heel oppressor was Triple H, Randy Orton, Batista or any one of the other established heel stars, you’re sadly mistaken. The dominant force that destroyed Bourne on RAW was The Nexus.
Normally, I’d be thrilled that the WWE is booking these up-and-comers as strongly as they can. It is a net positive that they’re being given faith, right? Well, yes, but the warm-up elimination match was booked in such a way where no one on the opposing team was made to look anywhere close to a threat. To the untrained eye, it’s made the Nexus look dominant. However, a closer look would suggest that maybe the WWE doesn’t have the confidence in the Nexus to draw heat without them looking like world-beaters. If that weren’t the case, would Bourne, a guy who has had clean victories over Chris Jericho and Sheamus and who has been in the mix with John Cena, Randy Orton and Edge in the last two months, have been fed to the dogs the way that he was? He was clearly a sacrificial lamb in this scenario, a guy who is so over with the fans that the Nexus’ domination of him would get the group even more over than they already were.
Now, I don’t buy into that theory whatsoever, especially considering that Bourne gets main event babyface pops on the level of Cena (who still gets enough heel heat from men in the audience to temper his face reactions, even if only slightly) and slightly below the hottest face on the roster right now, Orton. If they had let Bourne get a couple of near falls on Wade Barrett or Skip Sheffield, would it have hurt the impact of the 7-0 sweep? Definitely not. Would it have hurt the group’s credibility if they had allowed Bourne or even Mark Henry, a guy who was getting some serious face pops at this time last year but had the rug abruptly pulled from underneath him after his gangbusters RAW debut against Randy Orton, to eliminate maybe Darren Young or Heath Slater before the Nexus got their big win? My guess is no, it wouldn’t have.
Furthermore, the whitewash further hurts the stable, as it makes them the heel collective equivalent of Goldberg. That’s not a bad thing, you might say, until you stop to think what happened after Goldberg lost his first match. He was supposedly this big, huge draw (I always found him overrated), but the allure in watching a Goldberg match was to see if he could keep his streak going, to see if he’d stay invincible. When it was proven that he wasn’t, even if the means were dubious (and by dubious, I mean via cattle prod), fans started to lose interest in him. He wasn’t the same anymore, because he didn’t have his streak.
Team WWE right now is embroiled in trust issues. That in and of itself is enough of a storyline to curry doubt for the fans as to whether this team of all-stars can defeat a green but supremely cohesive team on the other side of the ring. Booking the Nexus as invincible is just overkill. All it does is put the booking team in a tight spot at SummerSlam, because no, no matter what they do, it’s going to be a tight sell to pull it off if they continue on this path.
There needs to be vulnerability. The Nexus needs to show at least some chinks in the armor now to gauge whether the crowd really accepts them as a heel threat, win lose or draw, or whether they boo reflexively because they win all the time and are wrestling familiar faces. Remember, Barrett is supposed to be the “next breakout star” of WWE, so he’s gotta stick around for a long time. Skip Sheffield, Michael Tarver and Justin Gabriel all have upsides that are closer to being realized than not, and David Otunga is a diamond in the (very) rough. You can’t crap that kind of potential down the drain because you’re afraid the crowd won’t react to them in one instant. Hell, even if they didn’t react to them after either getting near-fell or even having guys eliminated, it would have been a sign for the writers to do better. Crowd reactions are not solely a function of the wrestler, but of what’s also being given to the wrestler. There are very few Rocks out there, and even he needed license from the suits and the writers to just go out and be himself before he could get over.
I won’t stand here and cry for Evan Bourne, because this is a one-week setback for him. He’ll be fine provided that he gets his push back on track within the coming weeks (and judging from RAW spoilers for next week, he might get that opportunity). I won’t cry for Mark Henry because I did enough of that last year. I won’t cry for the Harts, who are fine wrestlers but are dreadfully not over and need a revamp or something to spark their characters, as much as I’d cry for the Tag Titles getting defecated on. However, I will cry to Stamford for them to treat this angle with a little more care and a little more touch. The Nexus as a faction needs to show some ass, or else they’ll be out on their asses once this angle is over.
And to waste seven guys’ potentials like that would be a damn crime.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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