As promised, the brand extension has had some success in building up new talent and allowing languishing figures to take up more prominent roles on WWE programming. It seems that most articles TPB produces on the progression of talents is prefixed with ‘since the brand extension’. But now that we are almost five months into it, the company is out of its recalibration period, and there is no excuse for them to be dropping the ball in the way that they have. On Raw, in particular.
One such wrestler who kicked off with promise was Darren Young. His repackaged emergence with a genuinely brilliant manager in Bob Backlund came at a bad time — he returned to active competition mere weeks before the brand extension, as his initial pursuit of The Miz and his Intercontinental Title picked up momentum, before grinding to a halt when the two were drafted to separate shows. His one match against the Miz didn’t end decisively, and Young was over enough that it seemed likely he would have another shot at it. Alas, this was to no avail, and the Great (again) one was put in a lackluster feud with his former fellow Prime Time Player Titus O’Neil.
Young has now been completely absent from Raw since the middle of August, after he was again attacked by the former Florida Gator. It’s not like the WWE can’t cut feuds short when they aren’t working, but to leave it on a precipice like that without even hastily wrapping things up with a blowout PPV match on a pre-show was a startling failure to judiciously book a wrestler.
Sure, Young’s feud wasn’t setting any worlds on fire, but he was over with the crowd. They lapped up a return of Backlund’s insanity, they enjoyed his in-ring work, and he and his ‘life coach’ were a lovable enough duo to justify keeping them busy doing something. When you look at some of WWE’s utter failures on the mid and lower cards, and failed attempts to get people interested in stuff, it is all the more surprising that they are failing to notice what they could have done with Young and Backlund.
Sometimes, before your author collapses from exhaustion after each episode of Raw, he thinks of things that could either be completely cut to make the show a more compact two-hour affair, or replaced with something a little better to keep the whole thing engaging.
Everything that the Shining Stars, Mark Henry, and Titus O’Neil are doing at the moment is unentertaining. Raw is a narcoleptic affair at the best of times — tuning in every week is like recovering from a hangover and trying to piece together what happened the night before, whilst wondering if you’ve just fallen asleep and missed a whole load of backstory. This whole deal with the ‘Titus Brand’ is utterly incomprehensible, and the Shining Stars trying to sell their timeshares wasn’t funny the first million times they were trundled out to do it. And yet, Young was last seen in the ring with all of these guys, and they are the ones who WWE deems fit to keep on TV, to keep flinging at a wall until they stick.
Maybe the ship has sailed on Young coming back and making the same moderate impact that he did when he was first repackaged. Raw in particular has had such a high storyline turnover, abandoned practically mid-match, that bringing back Young would only look like another shot in the air. It has also potentially killed what they had with a man of Backlund’s eminence being a full-time, serious on-screen manager. After all, if you manage a guy who came in with such fanfare only to be summarily banished, your presence is only going to look like the kiss of death to any wrestler you accompany to the ring.
WWE is going to have its work cut out for itself if they’re going to try to make Darren Young great again.