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The Career Immolation of Enzo Amore

Ours is an era where WWE superstar names range from normal (John Cena) to pretend normal (AJ Styles) to clunky-not-normal (Curtis Axel) to stupidly shortened for no reason whatsoever other than “Vince had a whim” (Elias Sampson). It’s a minor thing to nit pick, but it’s also a pointless thing to mess with.

I say all that to say this: Enzo Amore is a great name. It’s cheesy, yes. It’s obviously a “stage name” but that’s okay. It’s a perfect name for the guy wearing it: “Enzo” has that two-syllable sound that’s easily chantable. And then there’s “Amore,” which is ethnic and suave (it is the Italian word for “love” after all); together it’s just a great name, so I fully expect him to be known as simply “Amore” or “Big Enzo” by January.

Let’s talk about Enzo Amore.

Put a mic in his hand and that little bundle of cocky attitude with a name that means love is a walking juxtaposition. He loves to say that his being a “certified G and bonafide stud” can’t be taught, but I don’t know what those words mean. I do know that Enzo is one of the better mic-workers WWE has had in a generation, and you really can’t teach that.

You can make a bad worker good with experience and determination, but time and again in wrestling history a bad promo guy has remained a bad promo guy no matter how long he worked. Undertaker is the best example; he was a guy with the size, talent and it-factor, but ask him to cut a ten minute promo featuring more than three words and it was typically brutal. Fortunately he got out of full-time work long before Raw became the “unnecessarily-long promo and variety show.”

Enzo has been a smack-talking machine from the beginning of his very-young pro wrestling career.

Enzo Amore’s Instagram

He came to WWE on the strength of his voice, having recorded several promos but also having wrestled the opposite of “several” matches. In fact he’d never wrestled so much as a bingo hall dark match before WWE signed him. And yet, due to that magic ability to work a promo, Triple H offered him a chance to train at the performance center.

He debuted with NXT about a year before the WWE Network made it a third pillar for the company. Back then NXT was a little watched show on that mostly gave the rookies a chance to experiment and develop in front of a live crowd without the pressure that comes with working big shows.

Enzo’s character fit him to a T. You can see how fully-formed his persona already was in his NXT debut...

A lot would be tweaked over the next couple years but the basic construct is there. He debuted as a brash, loud-mouth “Jersey Shore” reject heel who talked a too-big game for his too-small frame. He then got squashed by Mason Ryan who, at the time, was expected to be one of the major players on NXT.

By the end of the contest, however, it was the rookie jobber that fans were interested in, not the big meathead who squashed him. His run as a heel was doomed the same way The Rock’s was; he was too much fun on the mic to hate. Fortunately, Triple H shifted his character toward more babyface leanings, paired him up with Colin Cassidy (whom he’d known long before they came to WWE) and created one of the hottest tag teams in NXT.

Though Enzo & Cass never won NXT gold, their antics out of the ring and pre-match verbal takedowns in the ring kept them popular and at the forefront of the now-blossoming NXT show. Enzo never found his in-ring groove the way other NXT up-and-comers did, and Cassidy was only ever servicable, but the tremendous heat they brought out of the live audience elevated every match the worked. It was only a matter of time before they joined the main roster, and unlike other superstars who graduated to the big big league, there was little doubt that Enzo & Cass would succeed.

Fans were already calling them the New Age Outlaws 2.0 and when they finally debuted on Raw, they showed the non-NXT watchers what all the fuss was about. And even though Michael Cole completely mishandled their introduction to the casual watchers, there was no denying Enzo. He stole the moment and made himself (and Cass with him) a true “WWE” superstar...

Bubba Ray corpsing at 3:20 is life.

I mean just watch Enzo in the above promo. He’s dancing around the ring, spitting fire, completely at ease despite the hugeness of the moment. In his own words “you can’t teach that.”

Alas, as with so many initially-popular acts, over-exposure, one-dimensional writing, and circle-the-drain go-nowhere 50/50 booked feuds diminished the duo’s popularity a little bit. Not too much mind you, they still got big reactions everywhere they went, but they clearly had cooled off a little over the past couple years. It was enough for the powers that be to decide a split was needed to keep them fresh.

It’s understandable that Vince would want Cass to go solo. First of all, there’s never been a popular tag team that he hasn’t at least tried to split up. Second...well, just look at Cass. He’s seven foot tall. It’s right there in his verbal resumé that Enzo gave him week after week. Nevertheless the two men perfectly complimented each other. They weren’t chocolate and peanut butter (which are both fine individually). They were Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones, only able to go so far without the other.

Cass has the look but he’s not exactly a charisma machine and he certainly is limited on the mic. Enzo has the mouth but he struggles when he’s asked to do more than be a ragdoll in the ring. If you could fuse them together in Brundle’s teleporter you’d have Vince McMahon’s wet dream. You can’t do that, however, so the least you can do is pair them up and have a top tag team. But tag teams are considered a lesser part of the roster, so they split and Cass (before injury) was well on his way to getting a big push.

It’s around this time that backstage rumors about Enzo began in earnest.

In July it was reported by Dave Meltzer that Enzo was kicked off the tour bus by his fellow wrestlers. In addition he was apparently kicked out of the locker room and forced to dress away from his coworkers.

Former superstar Simon Gotch (old timey strong man gimmick in NXT? Remember him? tagged for a while with pale, muscle-deflated Cesaro-lookalike Aiden English? No? Okay.) says that Enzo believes all the exaggerated hype he proclaims about himself in his promos. So I guess there is such a thing as a “G” and Enzo believes he has truly been certified as one. Gotch has a little bit of a reason to hold a grudge, since Enzo recklessly got him hurt during a Monday Night Raw match not long before the mustachioed one was released.

And then there’s the stripper who claimed Enzo refused to tip and spent the whole show talking about how awesome he was.

I want that to be true so bad.

It sounds like Enzo is just living the gimmick, not unlike other wrestlers in the past (Hogan, Flair, Repo Man). Nevertheless the heat on him is real. JBL says that Enzo has lost the support of his fellow wrestlers and that once you lose that, it’s almost impossible to get it back. The fact that JBL said that in an interview broadcast on the WWE Network is remarkable. Clearly Enzo is in trouble, but he’s still popular enough that WWE refuses to cut ties with him.

With Cass out rehabbing, Enzo has been repackaged as a member of the 205 Live squad. That’s a win-win for both the man and the show, as Enzo needs the experience working with guys his size to better improve in the ring, and the whole cruiserweight division needs a defibrillator in the worst way. Enzo might be the shot in the arm the tiny purple people show needs to reach its potential.

Enzo has only been a pro wrestler for four years. He launched quickly into the stratosphere but right now is in danger of burning up like a guido Icarus. If the heat on him is as bad as is being reported, he’s lucky to still have a job.

WWE on Twitter

What can he do to ensure he keeps his job?

He can shut up and get better. He has the hardest part of being a sports entertainer down pat. You can’t teach the way he works a mic, and fortunately for him, you can teach how to improve in the ring. So if he keeps his nose down, works hard on getting better as a worker and doesn’t give the sometimes petty WWE a reason to cut their losses, he can prove JBL and other doubters wrong and succeed. I hope he does.

The WWE is far too boring a place, with too many cookie cutter looking and sounding superstars, without him shimmying up and down the ramp every week.

Until then, I’m Matthew Martin: I love WWE but everything sucks and I’m never watching it again.

See you next Monday.

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