It’s time once again to turn the analytical eye of the Suicida Appraisal on some unsuspecting member of the wrestling world and examine where they stand at this point of their career & what (if anything) can be done going forward to improve the situation.
This time out it’s the one time Michael McGillicutty, former 2nd string Nexus member, “Paul Heyman Guy” (oh how I’m starting to loathe that term) and current Intercontinental champion Curtis Axel, a man once described by host of the RWR podcast Alice Radley as a “Boring Beige Bastard” during a conversation we had.
I find it hard to disagree with that assessment personally. For me Axel commits the most heinous sin that wrestling can commit, that being being an inability to make me react in any way, either positively or negatively. If something I’m watching is so good it makes me want to throw open my windows & shout to passers by just how great this awesome thing that’s happened really is, or if something is so offensively bad that I want to rant & rave & holler & spit venom about it that’s great too, at least I’m engaged in what’s being presented on screen. Curtis Axel does neither of those things, I watch with no interest at all in what be does on my TV screen, and the most damning aspect of it all is that Axel is in possession of a respected championship, Wrestling’s most gifted orator at his side & has been embroiled in a feud with one of THE top babyfaces in wrestling right now, he even wrestled Triple H in his “first” match (since the Axel character’s debut) and was given victories of Trips & John Cena no less. On the surface it appears that he’s been given a entire boatload of opportunities to succeed, but scratch the surface and you’ll find that those opportunities aren’t all they seem.
There’s a long standing trope in slapstick comedy of someone unwittingly opening a door that leads to a sheer drop from a mountainside or construction site and falling comically as they step out, and poor Axel really is the victim of a similar sequence of events.
When WWE teased that a new “Paul Heyman Guy” was due to be unveiled speculation ran rampant as to who had acquired Paul Heyman’s managerial services. Previous clients had included Brock Lesnar, the former “next big thing” who had a history with Heyman & a proven track record of success at the top of WWE, and CM Punk, the “best in the world” who Paul had helped to maintain a record breaking 434 day WWE championship reign unheard of in this modern era, and given Heyman’s past as the “mad scientist” of the original ECW, a large list of top flight candidates took shape. The apathy was palpable as Curtis Axel took the stage after Heyman’s introduction, despite debuting an entrance theme that at the time made me proclaim “I want to take that theme out to dinner and show it a good time” Axel’s reveal failed to illicit a positive response, or any real response at all, and it was all downhill from there.
During his debut Axel found himself on the receiving end of a HHH punch which he didn’t rise from. In his big re-debut he was smacked down and wasn’t allowed retribution against his attacker, this theme of weakness carried into the match Axel & Triple H had later the same night. The records will show that Axel won the bout via count out, but watching the match it becomes apparent that Triple H was actually selling the injuries he’d received the night before in his match with Brock Lesnar at the Extreme Rules PPV. To the viewer, Axel came across as weak & ineffectual and this trend continues to this day. His “victory” over then WWE champion John Cena came again by count out as Cena willingly abandoned the match to further his feud with Ryback, he won the Intercontinental championship as a hasty addition to a feud he had no real connection to before, and then found himself as just a body to further the CM Punk/Paul Heyman feud, to carry the physical workload for non worker Heyman. He’s even been superseded in this role too, with Ryback being brought into the fold to continue the Punk feud, with Axel left to defend the intercontinental title against such challengers as R-Truth, who himself commits the cardinal sin of apathy.
This is the second bite of the cherry Joe Hennig has had to make an impact in WWE and despite the “opportunities” he’s been given, I don’t think the blame lies entirely with the corporate machine, Axel himself must shoulder at least a little of the blame, he’s fine in the ring, if a little mechanical, but he is simply as dull as ditchwater when he’s required to speak, not especially awful, but not engaging either. I tune Axel out to the point he resembles the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons, an unintelligible noise.
The Axel experiment has failed, in fairness it probably failed about 3 minutes into his debut when Triple H punched him & he stayed down. He’s been staying down for months now and I don’t know if I can see what can be done to improve Axel as an on screen presence.
Even the partnership with Heyman couldn’t hide his stiltedness as a performer, perhaps a tag team run may be advantageous, if someone with enough personality for both of them can be found to partner Curtis with. This would also help with his rather mechanical punch/kick in-ring style too, as frequently in the past, tag teams have been used to disguise weaknesses in a performer. Candidates are thin on the ground for this role, possibly a heel turning Miz perhaps for maximum annoying points, or perhaps a face turn & a partnership with Antonio Cesaro, who actually possesses a boatload of charisma and can play subtle comedy exceptionally well, and a lighter Axel may be a better Axel. I’m not for a second suggesting that Curtis become the next Santino, he’s not talented enough for that, but I’m not buying into a serious Axel, in fact I find myself not caring in the slightest. And as I said before, that’s the greatest sin in wrestling.
You’ll notice a change to the usual formula for this piece, I’ve attempted to give the article a more cohesive feel instead of the list based form of appraisals past and any feedback you dear reader may have about the changes or any of the points I’ve made within. I can be contacted on twitter at www.twitter.com/BunnySuicida and I’d appreciate your input going forward.
If I don’t hear from you, let me say thank you for reading this & I hope you’ve enjoyed it.