The current Ascension team came together in June 2013 with Viktor (at that point still Rick Victor) replacing the artist now known as Bram1 and then known as Kenneth Cameron, who’d been released in 2012. Konnor (at that point still trading under the name Conor O’Brian) had been working as a singles performer in the months since Cameron’s release. The partnership with Viktor signalled his return to the doubles ranks.
And yeah, that return was pretty successful. They won their first two matches against non-entity teams before losing an eight man tag match to a team that included Xavier Woods and CJ Parker, but they didn’t take the pinfall in that. In fact the only loss they suffered in their first year together was on an NXT live event to then-tag champions Adrian Neville and Corey Graves.
They were protected with short matches that allowed them to appear ferocious and explosive, and they beat everybody. From unimpressive jobber pairings like Mac Miles and Steve Cutler to more formidable units like Sami Zayn and Tyson Kidd, The Vaudevillains, Too Cool and The Legionnaires2, everyone who stepped into the ring with The Ascension wound up putting them over, usually via their Fall of Man double team finisher.
It was a simple, effective approach that got the pair over because it was designed to make them look good by playing to their strengths. Even when they eventually lost the tag team titles to the Lucha Dragons they were protected, the match being presented as the Dragons getting lucky with their timing as much as anything else.
|The face paint didn't help...|
The Ascension’s first month on the main roster undid all of that hard work. They were ridiculed by JBL, booked to compare themselves to tag teams from the 80s and 90s, easily dispatched by the nWo, the New Age Outlaws and the APA, and had a competitive match in their pay-per-view debut. Nothing about the approach seemed designed to make fans think of these newcomers as anything special.
Had it ended with JBL having some digs at them things would have been fine. That could have been ignored or a segment could have been booked in which the APA reunited to get trounced by the younger guys, putting them over in the process. What we actually got seemed designed to let us know that The Ascension aren’t as good as the Road Warriors, Demolition, or the APA, and they can only just about take care of the Outlaws.
Imagine how different things would have been if Konnor and Viktor had spent their first weeks beating jobber teams inside two minutes before being confronted by Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, the Outlaws and the APA (the youngest of that gaggle being Waltman at 42), and they'd taken out all of them. They would have looked unstoppable. They could have been pitted against the scant few teams WWE has over the course of two months before being booked to dethrone the Usos in a competitive match on the WrestleMania 31 pre-show. After months of easy victories seeing them in a competitive match would have made it clear the Usos are an above average team, keeping them strong in defeat.
Instead The Ascension were used to appease the egos of a bunch of guys who mean little to WWE’s current mass audience. What a waste.
1 TNA were presumably influenced by Bram Stoker when selecting this name. Maybe the original intention was for Bram to be a vampire? That would be very TNA.
2 Describing some of these teams as formidable may tickle some people but I think it’s an accurate statement. They had been presented as such in other matches on NXT. That’s what counts.