What If..... The Nexus Had Been Successful?
Paul returns with another "What If" scenario, and, seeing as 2020 was the ten year anniversary of the Nexus angle, he looks back and asks "Could it have been better?"
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and stayed safe with your families. As we enter what will be Real Rasslin’s first full year, we have so many plans for new content, as well as competitions, podcasts and a few other things still in development. It’s going to be an exciting year for us, and we hope you take that journey with us.
Over the Christmas break, I’ve been coming up with more “What if” scenarios, and I have come up with a few that I think will be really interesting to explore.
So, on that note, lets jump into today’s “What if” .......
2010 was an interesting year in WWE. With the revived ECW struggling in the ratings, Vince McMahon came out on the February 2nd episode of ECW and, essentially, killed ECW.
“I would like to proudly announce that in three weeks' time, ECW will be going off the air.
I would like to thank all of the technicians, cameramen, directors, producers, everyone, certainly the superstars who made ECW the success that it truly was.
I would also like to thank, in advance, everyone, especially all of you, who will be responsible for the success of bringing a new, innovative, never-before-seen programme broadcast at the very same time here on Syfy.
This will be the next evolution of the WWE; this will be the next evolution of television history. Thank you very much.”
With this, Vince walked backstage and that was the end of it. Vince killed off ECW in 90 seconds. Three weeks later saw Ezekiel Jackson win the ECW Championship from Christian in the final match, but that’s a story for another time.
What replaced ECW was NXT (No, not the NXT we know now, that would have made far too much sense!) a show where “Pros” were teamed up with “Rookies” in order to mentor them on how to be a WWE Superstar. Did they do this with excellent in ring action, memorable promos and unforgettable angles? No, we got obstacle course races, keg carrying challenges and other, demoralising “challenges”.
In fairness though, the actual concept was not terrible, it was just the execution that let it down. While there were matches on the show each week, they often did little to nothing for the “rookies” involved (although Daniel Bryan did have a stellar match against World Champion Chris Jericho on the first episode, and his pairing with the Miz as his Pro still causes friction today).
Whilst the reality concept of NXT can be at least partially credited with launching the careers of many of today’s more well-known wrestlers, they had an absolutely golden opportunity to truly build a whole bunch of new main event stars. As the first season of NXT drew to a close on June 1st, Wade Barrett was crowned the winner. Upon being crowned, Wade Barrett cut a promo to the fans in attendance, which was overflowing with forewarning:
“Wow! Wade Barrett! WWE’s Next Breakout Star! That’s got a real nice ring to it. But you know what? It isn't anything either I or my Pro Chris Jericho didn’t know from the very beginning!
I told you from the start, that I was the best in NXT, and that I was going to win this competition, well guess what? I was right!
And here’s the deal; I didn’t come to WWE or NXT for a pat on the back, or to gain anyone's approval. I came here to make myself a lot of coin. And now I’ve got a Pay-Per-View title match and that’s going to bring the big bucks rolling in. For the Pros on that stage over there, I’ve got some really bad news for you, cos this is the beginning of a brand-new era in WWE. The era of Wade Barrett. A few weeks ago, I told the world that the Winds of Change were blowing here in the WWE. Today those winds stopped blowing, because change is here, and change is now, and it is a change that is going to take Wade Barrett to the WWE Heavyweight Title.”
No one knew it at the time, but it was about to lead into the hottest angle WWE had done in many years. The next week on RAW, as John Cena took on CM Punk in the main event, Wade Barrett walked out onto the stage. Cena ignored this and carried on as Barrett made his way to ringside. As he approached the ring, the other competitors from Season one of NXT hopped the barricade and began to run rough shod over EVERYONE at ringside. And I do mean EVERYONE!
No one was safe. The referee was taken out, ring announcer Justin Roberts was taken out, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were taken out, camera crew, ring technicians, everyone was subjected to their onslaught. But most of all, they took out John Cena. They decimated anyone and everyone in sight, tore the ring apart, tore the ringside area apart, threw chairs, tables, anything that was not nailed down. Road agents ran down to help, they were taken out too. Even CM Punk came in to try and make the save but he was taken out too. It was an attack not only on John Cena, but on WWE as a whole, the likes of which had not been seen before. The Nexus had arrived!
Michael Tarver, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater, Skip “Don’t-call-me-Ryback" Sheffield, David Otunga, Darren Young, Daniel Bryan and of course Wade Barrett, had all burst onto the scene in a huge way. It was an angle that was talked about relentlessly for weeks. And when The Nexus t-shirts appeared online, they sold like hot cakes, Hell, even I bought one!
The chaos and devastation ringside at the end of the June 7th 2010 episode of RAW marked out the Nexus as huge heels, and a threat to just about every division on the roster.
But of course, this is WWE, and as ever when they’re on to something hot, they rush to the big payoff rather than see it through with a calm, considered approach. Within a few weeks, the Nexus had been booked into a corner, and having lost Daniel Bryan as he was fired due to his actions in the original invasion, he eventually re-joined WWE a few months later and became a huge babyface on WWE’s side of the battle.
In truth, despite the initial buzz, the Nexus angle just seemed to fizzle out. Some poor booking decisions combined with the almost criminal decision to not give Barrett a WWE Title run led to a feeling that the Nexus was something of an afterthought, and the group disbanded in late December of the same year. Barrett would move to Smackdown with Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, forming the Corre, along with Ezekiel Jackson, Michael Tarver had been fired in October and Skip Sheffield was on the shelf due to injury, and so the New Nexus came along led by CM Punk, with (ugh) Michael McGillicutty (worst name ever), Husky Harris and Mason Ryan forming the group. David Otunga remained with the New Nexus, but he never really made any impact.
Overall, the Nexus ended up being a bit of a let-down, with the initial promise not being fulfilled. But what if it had gone the way it was supposed to? What if it had been planned better and executed in a more competent way? It could all have been so different...
Looking back on the Nexus now, the only person who really came out of it a top tier star Was Daniel Bryan. You could argue that him rising to the top was never in doubt but in truth his character during those early days was pretty bland. Had he not been fired for the Justin Roberts incident just four nights after the Nexus debuted, Bryan would have benefitted from being in that dynamic and standing out from the pack. Having said that, Bryan hasn’t exactly had a bad career, five World Championships, as well as reigns with the United States, Championship, Intercontinental Championship and two Tag Team Title reigns, coupled with a Money in the Bank win and being both a WWE Triple Crown and Grand Slam winner, his exit from the Nexus has not harmed him at all. You could even say that it greatly helped his career.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case for many of his other Nexus brethren. Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater may well have won several Tag Team Championships, but both had the potential to be so much more. If booked correctly, both men could have been excellent midcard talents and would have been very useful in the United States and Intercontinental Title divisions, instead, Gabriel ended up back in NXT and wasn’t used much, owing potentially to a poor relationship with Triple H allegedly, and Slater was basically used as a glorified jobber for the majority of his time on the main roster, even if 3MB was pretty entertaining. Then there is Wade Barrett himself, and anyone who thinks that WWE made the right decision by not putting the WWE Title on him needs their head testing.
Skip Sheffield obviously returned as Ryback after injury, and Darren Young carved out an ok career for himself as part of the Prime Time Players. Only David Otunga and Michael Tarver never really achieved anything, and in my honest opinion, they were not good enough to make the grade in WWE, so in this instance, that was one thing that they got right.
But what of the Nexus angle itself? Well, for a start, they should have really capitalised on the increased interest that the Nexus brought in, and booked them stronger for longer. Much like the Shield’s debut just a couple of years later, the Nexus should have been booked to overwhelm any and all who stood in their way. Granted, they did force John Cena to join them by virtue of Barrett beating him in a match with the stipulation if Cena lost, he had to join, but even then, it was painfully obvious that the angle was treading water just waiting for the next big moment to come along. There are reports that John Cena did not want the Nexus go over, but these reports are unverified, and some of the comments come from a very disgruntled former WWE employee in Ryback, so it is hard to know the truth of the matter.
Of course, I am not the only one with opinions on this. Many people enjoyed the Nexus angle for what it was. Danny French, a friend of the website who runs WrestleCares says:
“In my opinion, the nexus were a solid faction filled with different demographics and cultures which all somehow worked well. They were built correctly and I even believe that having Team Cena win at Summerslam was the right call.
Their success in capturing John Cena as part of the nexus was also a good call but unfortunately, I think they dropped the ball with them not getting the WWE Championship on Wade Barrett. It was the beginning of the end for them. WWE played towards the younger demographic by having Cena prevail when they should’ve been focusing on the future of the company and not building Cena or Orton anymore.”
Danny isn't alone in feeling the angle played out well, as Blaine, who I know from a wrestling group I am part of, had this to say:
“I thought the angle was great, it was a decent storyline with plenty of action and cool moments. I liked the fact that most of the superstars in The Nexus were able to shine individually and have a decent run afterwards.”
As with anything in wrestling, everyone has their own opinion, so this is not to say that my thoughts are the correct way it should have gone. However, when reminiscing on it with my brother Josh, who has been a fan along with myself for many years now, he agrees with my point, saying;
"I thought the angle was okay, but there were too many people to focus on, and varying levels of star power put other people way above the ranking of others and of course as is typical with WWE they don't try and build the lower guys, they just forget them.”
And another fellow fan, Samuel Dickeson, seems to agree, saying;
"I enjoyed it at the beggining. It was fresh and exicting. New wrestlers I had not really heard of, a good leader in Barrett who could wrestle and was good on the mic and British! But unfortunately as with most things in WWE they slowly get butchered and a few wrong choices ultimately result in failure. Out of the entire Nexus you have one world champion in Daniel Bryan? Could have been so much more.
Overall, they dropped the ball with the Nexus."
It's fair to say that everyon has their own opinion on how the angle went, and it is true that there were good points, unfortunately just not enough of them in my opinion. Looking back on it now, I feel that the angle should have played out like this:
Wade Barrett, as leader of the Nexus, states that he will be cashing in his Championship Match at the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, against the WWE Champion, who at the time was Sheamus. Barrett should also have stated that as it is his match, then he would push for a ladder match, seeing as it was the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, which would then have given him the advantage seeing as there would be no disqualification.
Come the match, and with the help of his Nexus buddies, Wade Barrett retrieves the title and becomes WWE Champion. John Cena would then have come down to try and confront Barrett, only to be cut off by the rest of the Nexus and beaten down again for his troubles. Barrett would then go on a lengthy reign as WWE Champion, proclaiming that the winds of change had flown through WWE, and he is the result. In the meantime, some members leave the Nexus, and the group is cut down to four or five core members. In my opinion, Michael Tarver was bloody awful and should never have step foot in a WWE ring. Skip Sheffield obviously went on to a modicum of success as Ryback so I would have let that play out, and I never rated Otunga so he would be out also. Darren Young keeps his place in this scenario but only just, as I feel they never really got behind him but he could have been so much more.
With Barrett, Gabriel, Slater, Young and Bryan, this could have led to some interesting interactions within the Nexus group. Young and Slater could have gone after and become the WWE Tag Team Champions, and Gabriel could have become the Intercontinental Champion. This would have left Bryan the only member of the Nexus not holding gold, something that the other members would use against him.
By the time December comes around, and with his status as the only non-title holder in the group, the rest of the Nexus would make him their errand boy. Sending him to get their coffee, fetch their dry cleaning, and many other menial tasks to belittle him, making him seem inferior to the rest of the group.
Fed up with his standing and determined to prove that he is worthy of their respect, the seeds are sown on a Bryan face turn. He begins to win matches in dominant fashion, gaining momentum until he earns an Intercontinental Championship match against his fellow Nexus mate, Justin Gabriel.
However, Barrett tells Bryan that he is to lay down and allow Gabriel to retain. Bryan gets hot and fronts up to Barrett, telling him there's no way he will do that, and he can’t make him. The rest of the group surrounds Bryan, but Barrett calls them off and says that Bryan is right, he can’t make him do that.
Come the night of the match, Gabriel comes out first and awaits Bryan in the ring, but he never shows. Gabriel has the referee count to ten and count out Bryan, declaring him the winner. As this happens, we cut backstage to find Bryan beaten and out cold in the parking lot. Gabriel looks shocked, and rushes out of the ring, running backstage and grabbing the other Nexus members on the way through to help him.
Over the next few weeks, Bryan reintegrates back into the Nexus fold and resumes his duties, thankful for hoe his teammates rushed to his aid. But this is WWE, and there is always someone watching. John Cena approaches Bryan and informs him that he saw the whole thing, and it was actually his Nexus teammates that jumped him from behind. Initially, Bryan doesn’t believe it, but surveillance footage confirms this to be correct, and Bryan is seething.
Bryan enters the Royal Rumble, and gets down to the final four. As the final four stand in their corners, the Nexus comes down to the ring and start beating on the other three men left in the Rumble. Barrett goes over to Bryan and helps him up and the two stand there seemingly in complete cohesion with each other. However, Barrett’s face soon turns and the other members turn on Bryan, beating him down, and tossing him out of the ring over the top rope. Bryan is eliminated from the Rumble, and the Nexus think they have got the upper hand on Bryan once again, but this time, Bryan flies at them enraged and takes them all on at ringside, knocking down everyone before staring down Barrett. Bryan, at this point, obviously leaves the Nexus, and this leads to a feud between Barrett and Bryan leading up to a title match at Wrestlemania.
You would think that at this point I would say that Bryan comes out on top and wins the WWE Championship, right? Well, you would be wrong. Cue the mania match, and, with Nexus barred from ringside, Daniel Bryan is giving Barrett the fight of his life. The action is back and forth, with plenty of close near falls and false finishes. The end of the match approaches, and Bryan is on top, he looks as if he is about to lock in the LaBell Lock, when all of a sudden, whose music should hit but The Miz?!
That’s right, Bryan’s Pro from Season One of NXT, heads down to ring side and slides a chair over to Barrett. The referee instantly picks up on this and grabs it, and takes it out of the ring. With the referee distracted, Miz punches Bryan while wearing brass knuckles, and quickly exits the ring, smiling. Barrett sees this and smiles at Miz, before hitting Bryan with Wasteland and getting the pinfall. Barrett retains and the Nexus continue to be booked strong on RAW, while Daniel Bryan moves over to Smackdown and feuds with The Miz.
Of course, this is just one direction that the whole angle could have taken, there are a multitude of other ways that this could have gone down, but ultimately, I believe this way would have led to the members of the Nexus being taken more seriously, instead of being there just to essentially make up the number in multi man matches. With this kind of build and with the arrival of the Shield in 2012, can you imagine what a properly built-up Nexus versus the Shield might have looked like? As I say, the landscape of WWE could all have been so different...
Thanks for reading my latest “What If” scenario. If you have any ideas or suggestions for future scenarios, then please do let me know in the comments. As ever please follow us on Twitter (@Real_Rasslin), like our Facebook page, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all our latest podcasts and predictions league content, as well as our very popular Massive Quiz of the Year 2020.
On a final note, we are also looking to raise money for Andy’s Man Club, a men's mental health charity here in the UK, by doing a sponsored weight loss challenge. Myself and three other members of the Real Rasslin team will be challenging ourselves to lose as much weight as possible in the hopes of gaining pounds for charity as we lose pounds. The link to the fundraising page can be found if you click here.
Until next week everybody, stay safe!