Sunday 8 May 2011

One Man Job Squad

When you look at the young talent currently gracing WWE’s television shows it would be fair to say that Heath Slater doesn’t really stand out as a future star. His ring work is decidedly average, his speaking abilities are basically non-existent, and he doesn’t have the look of a top star.

He first graced our screens a year ago as a decidedly bland babyface on the first season of NXT, with Christian as his mentor. Sadly not even ‘Captain Charisma’ could help Heath’s lack of personality, though staggeringly he made it to the final four. In three months on TV Slater had done nothing to stand out and had competed in no memorable matches.

His involvement on NXT’s first season earned him a spot in the biggest WWE angle for years: on June 7th all eight contestants from the show appeared at ringside during the CM Punk v John Cena main event and beat the two main event stars down. They also trashed the ring, the announce desk and everything else at ringside. It was a huge shock and left even the most jaded of fans wondering what direction the angle would take.

As part of a group it became even harder for Slater to stand out, essentially playing backup to Wade Barrett and taking pastings from John Cena each week. But make no mistake, Slater still received chances to shine. Alongside the rest of the group he main evented SummerSlam, a huge spot for a guy who’d been in developmental six months before. He also had a one-on-one match with Edge the following evening: he won by count-out after entering another basic performance. A few months later he and Justin Gabriel were booked to win the WWE tag team championship. Each time he could have used the opportunity to make himself stand out by doing something different, but he never did.

Somewhere along the way the commentary teams began referring to him as ‘The One Man Rock Band’. It’s never been explained why. Next time you suffer the misfortune of watching one of his matches try to ascertain why exactly he’s called this. I guarantee you won’t do it. He doesn’t have a rock star gimmick or look. He doesn’t even have particularly rockish entrance music. It’s a moniker for the sake of a moniker. No, worse than that: it’s a moniker for the sake of a moniker that makes no sense. That’s the worst type of moniker there is.

All this has led me to the opinion that Slater is never going to achieve megastardom in WWE. Everything about him screams mid-card. It’s true there are worse workers in the company, but any that have lasted any significant amount of time have realised you don’t have to be a great worker to succeed in WWE, you need to create a connection with the audience. John Cena may not understand how to do something as basic as sell a move or throw a punch, but he can talk and has a marketable look.

Slater has shown no similar spark. With no tangible main event characteristics or signs that some may develop he is destined for a career in the middle of the card. That’s a best case scenario. He may get a singles push or two before the company finally gives up on him, but he’ll never amount to a draw.

Personally, I’d like to see his team with Justin Gabriel continue. The South African is a fine worker and performing alongside him would give Slater the best chance he’s likely to have of improving his work. The tag ranks are thin right now, and not really a priority, but it would give Slater something to do and disguise his weaknesses.

Sadly I think Heath Slater is destined to be remembered only as a guy who made up the numbers in a bungled angle and for his terrible moniker. I wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavours.

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