If asked several months ago who WWE’s most popular superstar is, few would have answered “James Ellsworth.”
In fact, most wouldn’t have even known who Ellsworth was. But after just three sporadic appearances on WWE television, the Baltimore native is one of the most popular characters on Raw or SmackDown Live.
Ellsworth made his first appearance as a local jobber against Braun Strowman during the former Wyatt Family member’s initial squash match of his solo run. The timid wrestler claimed “any man with two hands has a fighting chance” and came off as a likable every-man character before being pummeled by the behemoth Strowman.
That and the fact that he didn’t have a chin, of course, which Ellsworth acknowledged on a recent Talk is Jericho appearance. Social media and internet forums buzzed about the chinless jobber leading up to his second WWE appearance, which he was booked as a tongue-in-cheek tag team partner for WWE Champion AJ Styles against John Cena and Dean Ambrose.
Ellsworth received a huge reaction before being attacked by The Miz, who inserted himself into the match instead. Several weeks later, Ellsworth reappeared as Styles’ opponent and captured a victory over the champion in a non-title match with the help of Ambrose, who was an impartial special guest referee.
On Tuesday, Ellsworth will face Styles again, but this time for the WWE Championship. Let’s be honest, there’s really no chance that he’s going to win, but it’s still a huge spot for anyone, let alone a local jobber, to be in.
Regardless of whether its irony or not, Ellsworth’s popularity has put him in position to not only become a recurring character on WWE television, but also get involved in SmackDown’s biggest storyline. That said, how long can WWE make this magic last?
Sure, Ellsworth is incredibly popular with the Internet Wrestling Community now, but as noted, that’s the most fickle fan base in any form of sports or entertainment. Wrestling fans will just as soon get tired of their favorite superstar as they’d latch on to the next undercard guy and claim he deserves a title shot.
Ellsworth’s gimmick is great, but it has even less of a shelf life than that of most internet darlings. In his two matches, he’s gotten almost no offense in because, at the end of the day, he’s there to do the job.
If by some miracle he did win against a full-time WWE superstar, it would chance the gimmick completely. Part of what makes him likable is that you know he really doesn’t have a chance, but you still want him to win. If he becomes a legitimate competitor, that alters his entire character.
That’s not saying he’s incapable of becoming a legit superstar either, but it doesn’t seem like WWE would allow that to happen. His gimmick is a nice novelty act that the company can revert to for a cheap pop. However, it doesn’t seem like something that will last long-term if he becomes a weekly thing.
Personally, I like seeing Ellsworth appear every so often. He is a likable guy, especially when you hear his humanizing interview on Jericho’s podcast. But his gimmick doesn’t seem like one WWE will keep running with long-term, instead choosing to use it for the time being until it gets stale.