Does this sound familiar? Wrestler is the son of a bonafide 90’s star and he’s currently on the WWE roster being underutilized. This description is referencing Curtis Axel, the son of the late Curt Hennig, aka Mr. Perfect. While Curtis shares the same heritage (or misfortune depending on who you talk to) as Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase, and David Hart Smith, his situation is unique. Like Cody, he’s still on the roster and he has a level of prominence in the company as IC champion. However, like Ted DiBiase and David Hart Smith, many find him boring and don’t think he has charisma. He’s been paired with Paul Heyman to get over with the WWE crowd, and there was some momentum behind that idea before Heyman added Ryback to the Heyman stable. With Heyman’s current preoccupation with Ryback, the question now remains: how do you ensure that Axel doesn’t become the forgotten man while still getting him the heat that is warranted by an association with Heyman?
Axel is clearly a good wrestler who just needs seasoning in terms of the extra skills necessary to be a star in the WWE. With that said, the point of putting him with Heyman was to establish Axel so that when the partnership ends, fans feel some emotion when they see Axel hit the stage. To do this, (with Ryback in Heyman’s stable) creative will have to find a way to strike the perfect balance between having Axel paired with Heyman and having Axel be his own man. Axel doesn’t have to be attached at the hip to Heyman for every match on Raw or Smackdown. Axel needs to do solo work, while still remaining under the umbrella of Paul Heyman. Axel needs to seek out and start feuds by himself, go on destructive tears without provocation from Heyman, and show that he can be a good heel without Heyman’s prodding. If Axel can do good solo work—win matches with independent heel tactics, ambush opponents alone before matches, jump opponents after matches with a weapon, etc.—while remaining under the Heyman umbrella, he won’t have the problem of paired identity. When they see that Axel does things for himself, fans will start to separate Axel and Heyman mentally, instead of automatically equating Axel with Heyman. Let Axel be a bit independent and self-interested and find his unique voice as a heel.
I’m not suggesting that the pairing between Heyman and Axel end any time soon, (far from it) but the enormity of Heyman’s figure overshadows Axel’s developing persona. It feels as if during most of this pairing, Heyman has been the one receiving the attention while Axel played second fiddle; those roles should be reversed. Give Axel’s burgeoning persona a chance to shine by letting Axel get out of that constant shadow. That way he can show the WWE Universe his persona/his ability. I know that many have already cast aside Axel as simply a good worker with no charisma, but I don’t know if that’s advisable. He’s been endorsed collectively by too many WWE icons and stars for me to think that he can’t be what they say he can. The Rock and Triple H are both reportedly high on Axel, and although each man has respectively missed on talents in the past, I can’t remember the last guy that both men held in high regard who flopped. When evaluating Axel’s potential, keep in mind that Axel is not even a year into this new character and that his last character was essentially doomed from the start. I think he should get a bit more leeway before being doomed.
Curtis Axel can be a key part of the WWE’s roster in years to come, but in order for that to happen, they’ll have to let him develop his character without Heyman’s presence at every turn–of course, Heyman will be there, but just not at every turn. If they allow that to happen, I think the Universe will see a more entertaining wrestler and also discover the potential in him that has been so often discussed.