For the sake of the continued development of WWE programming, someone needs to pay Titus O’ Neil to hug Vince McMahon again.
Since the dawning of the New Era, WWE fans have been subjected to in-ring action that has been consistently top notch, characters that are believable and do not insult the intelligence of fans, and a still-developing roster of wrestlers that come from an independent wrestling background that allowed them to acquire an eclectic skillset stemmed from studying multiple styles from around the world. All species of fan have had something different to grasp to keep them tuning in and/or renewing WWE Network subscriptions.
That is, with the exception of the discombobulated, nonsensical, creative carpet bomb that is the ongoing (hopefully not for long) Titus O’ Neil/Darren Young quasi-feud.
One thing to keep in mind is that this feud revolves around the relationship of the former Prime Time Players, a tag team whose place in the annals of WWE history falls somewhere between The Headbangers and Well Dunn. At their peak, the crowd reaction rose just above the cry of three crickets, and yet it is determined by WWE Creative that these two deserve a spot within an era that is not only revolutionary, but has summoned the attention of Sports Illustrated, ESPN, UFC, and other media markets that wished to approach the WWE like a snakes wishes to approach a mongoose. WWE Creative, despite the nit-picky stuff we wrestling writers love to point out, really has rarely missed since the initiation of the New Era.
The attention being given to Titus O’Neil and Darren Young (and Bob Backlund, for that matter) is not only a miss, but it is an error that makes Bill Buckner look like Brooks Robinson.
Darren Young’s push began with promise. Not only was he given the assistance of a WWE Hall of Famer in Bob Backlund, his win in a battle royal earlier this summer, a match that determined the number one contendership for The Miz’s Intercontinental Championship, received a pop from the crowd that was unprecedented. For a wrestler who has not made a substantial impact since taking out the Monday Night Raw set with Nexus, it seemed like Darren Young’s career was salvageable.
Those hopes were dashed at Battleground when Young’s IC Title match with Miz ended via double count-out. Outside the ring, Maryse slapped Backlund, then fell back in an attempt to get Miz to believe Backlund struck her. After Miz pushed Backlund to the ground, Young went outside the ring and placed Miz in the Crossface Chicken Wing, causing the match to end in double count-out. Young, who had Miz on the ropes, never followed up this seemingly unfair result, leading him to look weaker than if Miz would have won clean (like he oddly did over Apollo Crews at SummerSlam). This left Young with literally nothing to do creatively, which makes the choice to have him feud with Titus O’ Neil, his former fellow Prime Time Player, come off as an attempt at a quick fix.
O’Neil has spent his time as a singles competitor portraying the “World’s Greatest Dad”, a gimmick that has all of the appeal of bird flu. The crowd reaction has been silent at best, and it was obvious (still is) that O’Neil may not have a place in the New Era.
While New Era figureheads such as Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, among others have been spearheading the era’s campaign to overtake the entire WWE landscape, Titus O’ Neil and Darren Young have been creative anchors, serving as little more than a reminder to the audience that it is time to evacuate that Big Gulp they had with dinner. To make matters worse, Titus O’ Neil channeled his inner Ken Patera this past week on Raw to give a promo that not only explained an irrelevant history of the Prime Time Players, but was filled with more rhetorical miscues than Mike Tyson-read rendition of Phil Collins’ “Sussudio”. This led the Brooklyn crowd to disembowel the entire segment, and Darren Young coming to the ring to receive a Clash of the Titus, again making himself look weak.
Unfortunately (depending who you’re talking to), Darren Young and Titus O’ Neil have proven themselves to be non-factors within the impressive New Era. Neither has shown any sort of dynamic impact that constitutes any creative result above jobbing. Monday Night Raw becomes noticeably stalled when they are given their obligatory segment, and stalled program in the antithesis of what the New Era stands for. This past Monday was embarrassing for the two former Prime Time Players, to the point that WWE may need to consider spending their “millions-a-dollars” on those who can actually contribute.