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SmackDown Roundtable: Building on Ellsworth’s hype


Moment of the night?

Joseph Nardone: A singular moment is tough, as I’d like to pick the entire James Ellsworth build (and even match). But if forced to pick one moment, it would be Alexa Bliss’ win over Naomi. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but the crowd is starting to react to her in a more “Oh, we get it. She’s a big deal” kind of way — which is just HUGE for the division.

With only a few women on SmackDown actually being over — heat or pop or otherwise — it was crucial for Bliss to become that top-heel.

Adam O’Brien: When James Ellsworth hit A.J. Styles with a superkick and the crowd lost their minds. Up until that moment, the thought of seeing a guy like Ellsworth in a legitimate championship match left a sour taste in my mouth with regards to the integrity of both Styles and the title itself, but I’m not ashamed to admit that when Ellsworth popped “The Phenomenal One” square in the jaw, I was marking out. The energy of the moment was surreal, and it’s completely changed my stance on him temporarily playing such a big role. It was handled to perfection.

Brandon Jackson: I know Carmella saying Nikki Bella is just here because she’s John Cena’s girlfriend has been overused, but I really enjoyed the way that segment was put together. It wasn’t particularly great work from either woman, but the clips of Total Divas and Total Bellas really was well done and made you think, “Wow, maybe Carmella’s right.” Nikki didn’t really have a great comeback other than the cliché ‘I work hard and I’m an independent woman response.’ I personally enjoyed this more than anything else on the show because I’m not too big a fan of world champions getting put into comedy main events two weeks in a row.

Is there anything WWE can do to save Curt Hawkins at this point?

JN: No. I have more interest in watching people play mini-golf than I do at whatever Hawkins has up his sleeve next. His promos have been horrible, the build has been atrocious, and I just want to move on from this entire debacle and pretend as though it never happened.

I mean, out of all the talents the WWE has wasted over the years — Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, etc. — the company is putting this much “thinking” behind gosh slam Curt Hawkins?!

AO: If they wanted to, maybe, but the fact he’s been jobbing out to Kane at live events gives a pretty clear image of what we can expect from Curt Hawkins going forward. The potential was there to make him a serious mid-card competitor, but as it stands, his cheesy “face the facts” shtick and the poor rehash of Eva Marie’s never-debut gimmick are making his segments feel like a waste of good television time. I like Hawkins as a performer, but right now he’s the most boring entity on Tuesday nights, and I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon.

BJ: No. They never even let him get started. The vignettes were bad, and we all knew exactly where this was going to go. Most people would have probably even guessed that he’d end up in segments with Apollo Crews. I know WWE wasn’t expecting big things from Curt Hawkins, but man at least give the guy two hands and a fighting chance.

How can WWE best sustain the hype behind James Ellsworth right now? (assuming you think they should)

JN: I think he has a place in today’s WWE, but was this era’s version of the Brooklyn Brawler. I don’t think he should be out there going over guys regularly or anything, but with the “local jobber” gimmick now making a come back (which is a good thing), Ellsworth can be the regular the company keeps around for a bit.

My concern is he isn’t great at taking bumps, though. Considering enhancement talent are literally there to make other wrestlers look good, I don’t know the lifespan he will have. I am rooting to be completely wrong, however.

AO: By featuring him in small quantities. With two, albeit shady, victories over the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, I expect them to beat this whole Ellsworth thing to death long before its expiration date, but they definitely could make it work if they streamline his appearances.

A few things that come to mind are putting him in the SmackDown vs. Raw Survivor Series match as a way of not only giving the fans what they want – James Ellsworth – but also as a way of saying that the talent on the blue brand is so good that they can beat Raw with just four legit roster members. Then, of course, there’s the inevitable Royal Rumble match participation. Keep his appearances few and far between, and the fans will eat it up every single time he steps in the ring.

BJ: I am not completely sure to be honest. And the reason for that is because we have already arrived at James Ellsworth’s ceiling. If he were to rise any higher than this, we could really start talking about WWE making bad decisions like WCW on its last legs. Since we’ve already reached his peak so quickly, anything after this won’t be as fun. If he goes on to job for mid-card guys now, there won’t be any point to it. If the five-vs-five cross-brand match at Survivor Series has mid-carders in it, he might be a good fit for that match.

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