CM Punk might be all the craze now, but just over one year ago, the hottest thing going in the WWE was a group of renegade rookies known as the Nexus.
Born from the inaugural season of NXT, the Nexus originally consisted of all eight members of the season one cast. They debuted on Raw as a heel faction out to destroy everyone for their treatment on NXT and as a way to earn contracts for each of the members of the show other than Wade Barrett, who earned his by winning the season one competition.
It was a brilliant angle that was executed wonderfully ... at first. They were booked to look incredibly strong as a group but oddly enough, any time they branched off on their own, they were made to look the complete opposite. Still, the faction had incredible heat and fans felt a renewed vigor for the product on television, which had previously been suffering from overly stale storylines.
However, the entire angle was undercut before it could ever really pick up a full head of steam. They debuted on June 7 and built to a big seven-on-seven elimination match at SummerSlam on Aug. 15. Winning would mean big things for the future of the Nexus. But a loss? Might as well have killed the group right then and there.
Sure enough, for reasons that are still unclear to any logical thinking mind, Nexus was jobbed out to John Cena and group never full recovered. They would go through various incarnations over the next year, including a "New Nexus" led by none other than CM Punk, but ultimately, their heat died at SummerSlam just three months after an explosive debut.
One of the members of the original Nexus, Michael Tarver, was recently asked by Gary Mehaffy if he thought WWE dropped the ball with the way they booked the group. Unsurprisingly, he shares the opinion of most of the fans:
"I won't say that they dropped the ball, because it was successful, but I won't be political, I'll be realistic. They hit a series of foul balls! Right off the gate they hit a home run but then they started striking out. I personally believe the SummerSlam match should have went differently. I also personally believe that each individual member of the Nexus, we were strong based on numbers we produced with our season of NXT. With having the advantage of it being the debut season and it being something the WWE's never done before, we were already history in the making because of what WWE had created us to be on NXT. When the Nexus was formed and the decision was made to go forward with it, it was something that was different from the NWO, different from the Four Horsemen, different from DX, different from Main Event Mafia or any other faction, because it was a group of rookies.. guys that you don't know what they can do yet. The problem with it was they didn't focus enough energy on making everyone in the unit as strong as they could to make the unit even stronger. To me it's something that........look at WrestleMania. There's no reason why the Nexus should not have been on WrestleMania. One of the biggest stories ever in the history of the business, as well as WWE, was never on the biggest show in the history of the business or WWE! They pushed it very hard, which they should have. In pushing it, they didn't push it correctly. I'm not saying I'm unhappy with what happened with me - back then I was, now I understand. I really believe they could have done a lot of different things with the individuals in Nexus to make it stronger and make these guys the future of the company. They were ready made superstars to change the face of WWE."
Where are they now? Justin Gabriel is having decent matches on Smackdown, Heath Slater is in the process of dealing with a sexual assault charge, Darren Young is back on NXT, Skip Sheffield is injured and out of action, David Otunga is one half of the tag team champions, Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan are moderately successful singles wrestlers and Tarver is gone from the company altogether.
A bag of mixed results but it's not a stretch to say it's a failure from what it could have been.
After the jump is Tarver's version of the fascination story of his now infamous elbow injury suffered at the hands of John Cena on Raw. I'll let him tell it:
"Oh I can go into great detail, there's NO problem! I don't mind talking about it at all. What happened was - I can't remember the Pay Per View, it was earlier on in the Nexus storyline (Fatal-4-way PPV). Wade Barrett had received his title shot, he was in a match with 5 other guys. John Cena and Randy Orton were included in those other guys. The idea was once we saw that Wade Barrett was in trouble and Randy Orton was getting ready to hit him with the RKO we all went down and surrounded the ring and make sure that Randy Orton got distracted and Wade Barrett would win the WWE championship and make Nexus even stronger. It just so happened that John Cena had been thrown out of the ring, and he was on the side of the ring where myself and David Otunga were. Be that as it may, we were prepared, David Otunga and I, to take chair shots. It just worked out perfectly he (Cena) was there. We had already been made aware we were talking the chair shots tonight. It's ok, we're professionally trained to take them and so on. As the situation progresses, we jump up on the apron and I looked at David Otunga, we looked at Randy Orton and he looked at us and I hear the first chair shot, which went to David Otunga first and I was like "Wow!" He drops down as was part of the storyline and it came to time to take mine. I received the shot, and it was the hardest chair shot I've ever taken in my life! I dropped down and I'm writhing in pain. I had a bad experience on an independent match in 2005 where a guy hit me with a couple of chair shots, and one of them caught me on the back of my head and I'd been handicapped and unconscious for 45 minutes. Thank God I'm ok. I was nervous about taking a chair shot but it's John Cena.....so as I'm laying there I see him hammering David Otunga, taking at least 1 or 2 more chair shots, and I was under the impression I was only taking one. That's something you just don't freestyle on. None the less, some people do! I'm like, ok, I gotta get outta here. (laughs) I'm getting ready to run and I see a chair coming towards my head. So I raised my left arm to protect myself because I wasn't really in the position to take it safely, and it connects with my left forearm and I felt it break immediately. The pain was amazing. I grabbed my arm and began to run. We all ended up on the entrance, and as I remember we were running out of there and I had dropped to my knees and Justin Gabriel grabs my arm. He says what's wrong with you and I said my arm was broken and he was like 'What???' He said, 'Are you serious?' and I as like, 'Yea!' So we went to the back and I'm behind the entrance and everything and I‘m in tons of pain and I'm angry! I knocked over a trash can or something. But you pay respects. After the match, especially someone of the magnitude of John Cena, you shake their hand and you thank them for giving you the opportunity to be in that situation with them, or else I wouldn't do it for nobody! But at the same time, I'm a man, I have to protect myself in work - it's my job - so I was angry. Anyone would be angry if someone took liberties on them, but I decided to wait for him to shake his hand when he came back through and keep moving on. So I reached my hand out to him as he walked past me and said thank you very much and he just kind of looked at me and kept walking. So I'm standing there with my hand out thinking to myself 'Are you kidding me?' I'm angry and he makes about 5 more steps, looks back over his shoulder and laughs and goes 'How's the arm?' It took everything for me not to attack him. I just said, 'It's fine' and he giggled some more and walked off. With the addition of a few other conversations that night, because of what happened to my arm, backstage that was pretty much the end of the story. Truthfully, John Cena and I are not the best of friends. We were never the best of friends. I have nothing against him but I can't say he has nothing against me either. I won't accuse him of it either. I know that John Cena's a businessman, and he is the business of WWE - he has carried that entire company for a while - he is the main focal point, and I respect that and I understand that being in the position that I am, not where he is. Once again who cries over spilt milk?"
There you have it, Cagesiders. Thoughts?