NXT is often not an adequate barometer of main roster success. The reasons are varied, sometimes it’s Vince McMahon’s opinion, sometimes it’s a bad gimmick, occasionally it’s a performer being given up on too quickly, and there are moments where it just doesn’t click. While any mistake can be fixed, there eventually becomes a timetable, where once the clock runs out, the task becomes nearly Sisyphean.
Everything is determined through credibility, not just in professional wrestling, but in life. Some may disagree, based on Tuesday night in the United States, but we’re damn sure not going there in any further capacity in this sports entertainment opinion article. In WWE, once someone loses the “matters” factor, that can be difficult to overcome.
For instance, I couldn’t possibly care less about Apollo Crews, something I already believed based on the past six months. On Tuesday night, however, he did the favors for Curt Hawkins. To semi-paraphrase Aziz Ansari, no exaggeration is necessary, because that’s the most effed up thing that could happen to a pro wrestler, except losing to...
Nope, Curt Hawkins is pretty close to rock bottom.
(Writer’s Note: Not a reference to the 1999 WWF Pay-Per-View.)
(Second Writer’s Note: Also not a reference to Dwayne Johnson’s primary finishing maneuver.)
(Third Writer’s Note: Actually, the People’s Elbow may now be the finisher. Disregard previous note.)
Apollo Crews wasn’t fully ready for the call-up, not in a WWE where being a well-rounded performer is a requirement merely to survive. He was still learning the character side of the job, and his promotion wasn’t well-timed, nor was it in his best interest. He has been involved in precisely zero interesting segments since debuting on RAW, and it’s only gotten worse for him since the Draft. Yes, he competed for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam, in a match no one remembered 15 minutes after his defeat.
While American Alpha most definitely worked a very scripted, formulaic match in NXT, their version of paint-by-numbers was exquisite, and it succeeded against multiple opponents, most notably with Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson. Jason Jordan had the perfect WWE look, and Chad Gable seemed to have everything, despite his size. Since being drafted to SmackDown and treated like a big deal for around two weeks, many are beginning to notice the absence of American Alpha on Tuesday nights, and an invisibility of “matters” segments involving the duo.
I’ve written, as have others, about WWE’s recent failures when it comes to the extremes of heroes and villains. Nobody cares about nearly anyone on the roster because they’re not given a reason to do so, past the natural ability of a select few. It does require minor effort to make the machine work, even if it’s just plugging it in. For Jordan and Gable, it appeared that just turning the power on would be enough, but apparently Vince McMahon thought the switch was going to magically flip by itself.
Guess what? It hasn’t happened, and it’s not going to happen. Back to the Future II predicted a lot of things accurately (or fairly close), but we still don’t live in a world where you can place a miniature pizza into an oven, take it out a few minutes later, piping hot and full-sized. Slight labor remains part of the deal, both in cooking a pie and getting someone over in a wrestling promotion.
Ten days from today, WWE takes Survivor Series north of the American border to Canada, and while “American Alpha” getting the rocket strapped to their back in Toronto is unintentionally humorous, that’s the precise moment to start the rectification process.
Inside the traditional Survivor Series matches of the past, we’ve seen the genesis of several feuds, or we’ve seen existing issues escalate to a higher level. Because Championships aren’t on the line, it’s a reprieve from the usual structure of WWE business, and this year, the opportunities cannot be missed. Looking at the women, Bayley should survive, or if she doesn’t, it should be due to Charlotte. And, if the two of them are left standing, the Champion should steal the pin. The PPV streak means she can’t lose here, but she should do nothing in the match but treat her new hugging nemesis like trash.
The tag match should absolutely, without question, result in an American Alpha victory, and there should be no one else left standing. Here, WWE has a chance to signal to the world that Jordan and Gable’s time has arrived. It’s not a tough sell, because a pinfall via Grand Amplitude to win that match, perhaps forcing them to go through two or three teams in a handicapped scenario, is a stunningly efficient way to showcase their act.
No one gets harmed by a loss in a Survivor Series elimination match, because the stakes are almost always “one night only.” That’s why the format is so clever. It doesn’t hurt anybody, but it can help a boatload of folks.
Coming out of Toronto, you get those tag titles on the Usos, and you build American Alpha to take them either at the Royal Rumble, or at Mania, but based on how creaky the foundation is underneath their feet right now, I’m not sure it’s safe to wait until April. Dallas loved those guys at NXT Takeover this year, and San Antonio will love those guys in January. But, whatever WWE does, the key for the tag division on both brands must be to GET AMERICAN ALPHA over.
They also hold the combination to the lock that gets The Revival off to the right start, once they make their debut. It all needs to work like a staircase. Get Usos over as heels, get American Alpha over as your top babyfaces, bring in The Revival for the feud that gets them noticed, and hopefully by that point you have a few other teams in reserve who are properly positioned and adequately prepared for a program against whichever team comes out on top of that feud. Either way, both those teams end up in the “matters” category, and you can flip them to the other show and set up all new angles with fresh blood.
Not everybody can be in the right place at the right time, but American Alpha IS in the right place at the right time. The SmackDown tag division isn’t strong in the least, and we’ve already seen the apex of the Heath Slater-Rhyno team. WWE just can’t afford to let this one pass them by next week. There is such a dearth of numbers relative to the tag division, especially when credibility is factored in. How many R-Truth-Goldust, Fandango-Tyler Breeze pairings can we see in one week? Nothing against those guys, but they’re impossible to take seriously.
Everybody can’t be comedy, and right now, far too much of WWE is comedy. American Alpha is just a great tag team with a simple gimmick, comprised of two hungry, talented guys willing to make it work, and they’re on a show that badly needs them.
Survivor Series should be day one of the American Alpha “revival” (no pun intended, but I’m happy it exists) tour. This one is way too easy. Nobody could eff this thing up.