Tuesday 7 June 2011

Nexus Birthday

One year ago WWE presented its viewers with one of the most shocking conclusions to Monday Night RAW in years. On Monday June 7th 2010, Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Skip Sheffield, David Otunga, Darren Young, Michael Tarver, Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater surrounded the ring during a match between CM Punk and John Cena. After pausing for a moment they attacked the two competitors, plus various members of the ringside crew, and set about smashing equipment to pieces.

It was fresh, exciting and original, things that WWE programming hasn’t been known for for a long time.

In the week between the original angle and the following edition of RAW on June 14th fans eagerly speculated about what the big plan was for the seven young men (seven because Bryan ‘Daniel Bryan’ Danielson had been released from his contract for choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with a tie... yes, really). There was a sense of the unknown about the angle: it was a chance for WWE to do something more creative than it had since the end of the Attitude Era in the early part of the decade. They had gifted themselves a potential gold mine of a storyline.

Sadly, viewers didn’t get the level of creativity they had hoped for. Instead they got the same monotonous, droning heel promos from Wade Barrett (the group’s leader and de facto mouthpiece) that every other WWE heel gives. In the first few weeks he made passing comments about there being a “bigger reason” for the group’s formation, a grand plan apparently beyond fans’ comprehension. But after a month or so references to all of that were quietly dropped and one year on we still don’t know why the Nexus formed, beyond the obvious reason of securing themselves WWE contracts and earning a living.

Looking back, the trouble was that there was no plan for the group and no ending to work towards. The writing team (or Vince, or someone else) came up with a thrilling angle but nobody gave any thought to what would happen next. In fairness, they couldn’t wait: the angle had to take place straight after the conclusion of NXT in order for it to have the maximum impact possible. But there was still more than enough time for the creative department to formulate a longer term story. It was their job to come up with a plan for Nexus: that they didn’t or couldn’t is unforgiveable.  

Instead of reinvigorating WWE television as it should have the story quickly fell into the routine of everything else the company promotes and it became clear that it was going to run indefinitely. A fourteen man tag match at SummerSlam provided the group with the chance to wrestle with three of the company’s top stars in Edge, Chris Jericho and John Cena, but nobody on the Nexus team rose to the occasion and entered a standout performance. By that point the group was probably doomed anyway: the writing team had failed to protect them from looking weak and even though only a two months had passed since they debuted the group was treading water. The SummerSlam match saw them eliminated in quick succession, guaranteeing that the faction would never be taken seriously again.

The autumn months featured a feud between Barrett and John Cena that dragged on and on and on... and on. It was painful to see so many young careers squandered to make the hopeless Cena look good. Then Cena was forced to join the faction against his will and things got really ridiculous.

The Cena v Nexus feud trundled on until January, when it was finally dropped. By this point Michael McGillicutty and Husky Harris had joined the group, Barrett, Gabriel and Slater had jumped to SmackDown to form the Corre with Ezekiel Jackson, and CM Punk had been installed as the new mouthpiece. The addition of Punk on the final RAW of 2010 had given fans hope that the Nexus would receive a renewed push. It wasn’t to be: it was another example of a quick idea being dreamed up for a crowd reaction with no long term plan being in place to capitalise on its success.

The Nexus has been on WWE television for a year. The group has created no new stars, has been a part of only two memorable television moments (the formation and Punk joining), and has produced no matches of any value. At the very most it can be considered only partially successful, and that’s being very generous. Most would agree that it’s been a huge blown opportunity. It’s too late for the group to achieve its potential now. The most we can hope for is a split, with all the members going their separate ways. But I don’t think that will happen. As always with the Nexus, we’ll be disappointed.

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