WWE Superstar Neville is back. Well, sort of.
“The Man That Gravity Forgot” was drafted to Raw with the 26th overall pick in the WWE Draft, despite having yet to make his official return on live programming. He did, however, make his in-ring return during the a SmackDown taping in July, but in an untelevised match against Bo Dallas. But that just means his return will take place sooner rather than later.
With the WWE having undergone a brand split, it’s worth questioning where Neville fits into the company’s current plans. The former NXT Champion has gone through an inconsistent pattern of momentum since being promoted to the main roster in 2015, with some calling his run a “disappointment.”
But let’s consider where Neville was right before his ankle injury to understand where he could fit in during his official return. Neville faced Chris Jericho in his last match, but was involved in the angle building toward the Intercontinental Championship ladder match at WrestleMania 32.
Considering Zack Ryder likely replaced him, won the title for 24 hours and then dropped it to The Miz, it’s not unfathomable to believe that WWE had planned to have Neville win and scrapped them due to his injury.
For Ryder, it was the company throwing him a bone and giving him a “WrestleMania Moment” before going with Miz as champion the following night. But with Neville teetering between being one of the company’s best new highflyers and irrelevance, the win would’ve given him some much-needed legitimacy.
Neville would’ve been one of the most obvious choices to win the IC title match at WrestleMania. Kevin Owens – who was in his second reign as champion during the match – and Sami Zayn didn’t need the championship to elevate their statuses. Neville was the only other Superstar involved in the match’s early buildup other than Owens, Zayn and Miz. Everyone else was thrown in later.
While some argue that Neville has become an afterthrought on the main roster, I tend to disagree. Sure, he’s not the WWE Champion nor has he had as dominant of a first year as Owens, but matching those expectations is ridiculous.
Neville was booked fairly well for a first-year competitor on the main roster. His “Red Arrow” finisher is one of the most protected in WWE. In most cases, Neville has held his own against main event competition and lost many of his matches against heels due to some kind of cheating tactics.
Again, it’s been one year, so it’s ridiculous for anyone to label Neville as a “bust” on the main roster. There’s plenty of time for him to develop into a main event player, but right now, a midcard title seems like a good fit.
If Ryder and Darren Young can be suddenly placed into the United States and Intercontinental Championship pictures, respectively, there’s no reason that Neville can’t work his way back into the hunt after coming off of an injury.
Neville is too talented to be underutilized by WWE. With the company focusing on the New Era, it needs to capitalize on one of its most athletically gifted high-flyers.
Neville will find a way back into WWE programming and should have a consistent feud to build toward a babyface push. If anything, his injury should make him fresher in fans’ eyes and help elevate his status once he makes his official return.