There is still a big unanswered question following the completion of the WWE Draft. Why would a simple brand split make wrestlers like Darren Young and Zack Ryder contenders after years of barely being able to pin their own shadow?
Young has not been featured on WWE programming much since his debut in 2010 with Nexus. Although he has a Tag Team Championship run as half of the Prime Time Players, he has not produced anything of merit. For him to win a battle royal, especially over a young, promising talent like Apollo Crews defies logic.
Ryder is in a similar situation. Everyone takes to Ryder because he’s a lovable, hard-working dunce with a fetish for boy band music. However, after winning the U.S. Championship in late 2011 (only to lose it to a prime Jack Swagger 29 days later), Ryder’s shoulders have been put to the mat by everyone except Chris Kirkpatrick. Now, he has proclaimed that he wants his U.S. Title back… five years later. Despite his obvious charm and likability, it would make more sense to have Koko B. Ware have a title run at this point.
The fact of the matter is that for Young and Ryder, as well as the other wrestlers with the same background, it is creatively too late for them. If WCW would have had a brand split, would EL Dandy finally realize his dream and acquire a title run? Would Glacier have frozen the competition to go after Hollywood Hogan’s WCW World Heavyweight Championship? It simply does not make sense.
There is light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to this situation. In what may be the twilight years of their careers, the current WWE job squad does have history of championships. Current championship contention should not be a focus, but their past should be as WWE prepares to roll on with their New Era.
Crews and Baron Corbin have already been featured on WWE programming defeating former heavyweight champions Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler. There is a reason Sheamus and Ziggler were chosen to put new stars over instead of being given “new” title runs.
Ziggler is a former champion who not only had a recent push as part of John Cena’s war against The Authority, but also had arguably the most positive reaction to a Money In the Bank cash-in when he pinned Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship. Sheamus pinned Daniel Bryan in seconds at a WrestleMania and was a WWE Champion as recently as last year (which went over with fans like a fart in church, but still).
Ryder, Young, and others like Ziggler, Sheamus, and even Jack Swagger can now be key role players as stars of NXT are coming through the woodwork. Imagine Finn Balor overcoming former champion and fellow Irishman Sheamus as he begins to reach for the brass ring. Shinsuke Nakamura would bring the house down on any given night. Samoa Joe and Jack Swagger, if given the proper ring time, are two technical brawlers capable of producing a momentum-striking result for Joe.
These outcomes are optimal, and need to be given priority over champions-turned-jobbers. The “New Era” has been advertised as something that WWE fans have clamored for, but never seen before. And yet, nobody has been clamoring for Young, Ryder, Swagger, Sheamus, and the like. They have been seen plenty, so much that it’s too late for them as focal points. It is time to move on.