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Brand split still not doing justice to undervalued talent

(Courtesy of WWE.com)
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With a roster straining under the heft of its own talent, WWE’s brand split promised a brighter spotlight on some of its languishing talents. For the most part, this hasn’t taken shape. Aside from a few call-ups from NXT, it’s still largely the same guys and girls being featured on television every week — they’re just in more meaningful storylines.

But there are other wrestlers who haven’t been featured at all, and unless you go back and check the results of the draft, you could swear under oath that they either hadn’t been picked or had been released by the company all together. Let’s take a look at some of the guys and girls who have fallen through the cracks, and see if we can actually remember who they even are.

Jack Swagger

Jack Swagger was briefly seen backstage in the buildup to the draft lobbying various authority figures. From that, you might have begun to think that this was a subtle hint of big things to come for the “Real American.” But you’d be wrong.

His last vaguely meaningful appearance in the ring was against Chris Jericho at Roadblock back in March, and since being drafted to Raw he has not competed in a single match, or been involved in a single skit, on television. This isn’t to say that he’s had his feet up — fans forget that WWE Superstars (the official “B” show to Raw) is a thing, and just recently he’s been sparring with Jinder Mahal.

But while it’s OK for someone like Jinder Mahal to be creeping around on the B-shows, a guy like Swagger who has held multiple world championships, main-evented PPVs and been involved in storylines as a mid-carder ought to have enjoyed a resurgence by now. He is capable of getting over, as evidenced by the fact that he just about managed to get the atrocious and racist “Real Americans” gimmick over with fans, so the WWE shouldn’t give up on him just yet.

Curtis Axel

The inaugural post-draft Raw at least tried to make something of the fact that Axel was Raw’s last pick. Curtis Axel was “Mr. Irrelevant,” and even got to cut a promo owning his low spot on the running order and trying to make something of it.

He was then defeated by a returning Neville and hasn’t been seen on the red brand since.

Even more so than Jack Swagger, Curtis Axel is a solid wrestler in whom the WWE has invested faith in the past. He is a former Intercontinental Champion, and hell, he was even managed by Paul Heyman at one stage. After slipping down the card, Axel was last prominently seen stinking up every show as part of the Social Outcasts. While Heath Slater and Bo Dallas have been given something to do, Axel has been nowhere to be seen. When the guy who wasn’t even initially drafted is getting more screen time than the last guy to be drafted, you know there’s an issue.

What’s even more heartbreaking about Axel’s descent is that — and let this sink in — he is the son of Mr. Perfect. With the likes of Natalya, Charlotte and Roman Reigns making a huge deal of their lineage when it comes to storylines, it’s hard to see why Axel has yet to figure.

Big Show

Paul Wight was featured higher in the running order of the draft pick than both Curtis Axel and Jack Swagger, which you would think meant that there was still mileage in the guy. However, since The Big Show has announced that he will retire in 2017, it seems that this ranking was nothing more than a mark of respect for a loyal guy who has featured, pretty much uninterrupted, for 17 years.

As age catches up with The Big Show and hungry young guys jostle for their spots, it’s no bad thing that he’s been unseen since draft night. Hopefully, he can enjoy one last meaningful storyline (which doesn’t involve him turning heel 12 times a week) before his big send-off. But as a man who has stayed in a steady position for his entire career, he has nothing to lose from fading into the background.

Summer Rae

Yes, the women’s division is stacked these days, especially since Nia Jax and Bayley were airlifted out of NXT. But we could still do with more. All of the current ongoing women’s division feuds are over their respective championships, and creative needs to take things a step further and start developing rivalries within the women’s division that aren’t explicitly related to the championship. It’s hard to see why she hasn’t been featured thus far. Prior to being drafted to Raw, Summer Rae had tallied up some significant victories against the likes of Paige, Brie Bella and Alicia Fox.

Her absence might be explained by the fact that up until recently she had been in a three-woman stable with Naomi and Tamina Snuka. With the former having been drafted to SmackDown and the latter still recovering from injury (she wasn’t even drafted), one would assume that creative are biding their time. Still, we’ve seen that it isn’t beyond them to break up stables, and why Summer Rae hasn’t been a key player in the ever growing women’s division on Raw is a mystery.

It could be the case that WWE simply doesn’t have any creative for available for these traditionally unremarkably booked talents. Say what you like about the Attitude Era — creative in those days at least ensured that everybody from top to bottom was engaged in some sort of story. Whether those stories were unbearable or not are a different matter, but it’s all about throwing s–t at the wall and seeing what sticks. Darren Young and Titus O’Neil aren’t exactly setting the world on fire at the moment, but these things need to be tried and there is enough high quality elsewhere on the card for weaker feuds to be excusable.

Nonetheless, had this piece been written a week or so ago, there are a great many other talents who would have featured. Kane, Bo Dallas and Alicia Fox to be precise. Just recently, they have poked their head around the door on Raw and SmackDown, so there is hope for these tragically neglected talents yet.

Brand split still not doing justice to undervalued talent

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