What If..... The New Day Had Never Formed?
After taking a week off, a refreshed and recharged Paul gives us another "What If" scenario, regarding the Pancake Princes, the New Day!
It's funny to think that just under two years ago we celebrated possibly one of the defining moments in WWE history with #KofiMania. April 7th, 2019 saw the long-time WWE midcarder finally land the big one and become WWE Champion. And it was richly deserved, in this writer's opinion. Starting out on ECW as the faux-Jamaican sensation, Kingston slowly but surely climbed the ranks, picking up titles along the way in both singles and tag team competition. When after eleven years with the company he finally got his first one-on-one shot at the WWE Championship, most believed that would be as far as it went. But Kofi would go on to win the title from Daniel Bryan in a fantastic match at Wrestlemania 35, and solidify his place as one of the greatest of all the modern era.
By his side were his New Day brethren and biggest fans, Big E and Xavier Woods. The trio had been on an incredible run together, winning multiple Tag Team Championships, becoming the longest reigning Tag Team Champions in history, and even presenting Wrestlemania 33, reintroducing the Hardy Boys to the WWE Universe with a pop that was deafening. Truly, the New Day have risen to the top of the WWE mountain.
All that came to an end though in October of this year when the New Day were split in the WWE Draft. Kingston and Woods, who were the Smackdown Tag Team Champions, were drafted to RAW, while Big E was kept on Smackdown!. The shock on their faces at this news was evident, as the trio have become like brothers during their time on the road. Kingston and Woods dutifully moved to RAW, where they "traded" the Smackdown Tag Team Championships with the Raw Tag Team Championships held by Street Profits, and Big E remained on the blue brand, seemingly to embark on a singles run.
Now, there is no doubt that Big E has the potential to be a huge singles star, he has come on leaps and bounds since his NXT days in terms of overall development. His ring work is solid and boy can he talk, his comedic timing is fantastic and that comes across within his character. He could be the next big babyface on Smackdown and a legitimate contender to Roman Reigns Universal Championship in time. Of course, Big E has tasted singles gold before, aside from his NXT Championship win over Seth Rollins way back in the late stages of 2012, he is a former intercontinental Champion, though it was a largely forgettable reign.
Xavier Woods, on the other hand, had to really fight for his place on the main roster. Having spent some time in NXT after signing from TNA, where he was a former TNA World Tag Team Champion with the 24/7, 7/11, I-95 South Eurocontinental Television Champion R-Truth, Woods had a gimmick as a "90's Guy", coming out as billed from Angel Grove, which people may remember as the town where Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was based, with even his ring gear inspired by that of the Black Power Ranger. Sadly, the gimmick didn't get over, but he was still called up to the main roster and initially reformed his tag team with R-Truth, but soon enough, Kingston, Big E and Woods were given the go ahead to form their group. Initially, the New Day were given a fairly poor reaction. They were supposed to be a big babyface stable, but in reality, their gimmick as an almost Gospel inspired group fell flat.
But rather than just go along with it, he went to Vince McMahon and essentially bet his career on himself.
"When they let us make the group, we were good guys and we thought we should be bad guys, and after a while, people were chanting, ‘New Day sucks’ and it’s like, ‘Ok, they’ll let us turn a corner and we can be bad guys now.
"They thought that since Kofi had been a babyface for so long that they wouldn’t boo him.
"I went to Vince McMahon and I was like, ‘If you give me a microphone four weeks in a row, I guarantee you that they’ll boo Kofi Kingston, and he was like, ‘You really believe in this that much?’
"I said if I don’t do it in four weeks, you’ve got 60 dudes in developmental that deserve this spot more than I do.
"[and Vince is like], ‘I can send you home? Get ready’, and I said, ‘You should if I can’t do it. If I can’t make good on this then I don’t deserve to be here’."
It was an incredibly gutsy move from Xavier Woods, but it paid off. Within those four weeks, he got people to boo the previously loved Kofi Kingston. Xavier proved that while he may well have been perceived as the "weak link" in the New Day's armour, he was actually a valuable asset on the microphone, and in time, proved himself as more than capable in the ring too.
“Once we finally turned heel, that was really — it was a very cathartic moment. Because then it went from heels on the show yelling at kids, saying ‘Oh, I’m gonna beat up your favourite guy!’ to us at live events looking at kids, telling them they should be in summer school. Taking extra classes, because we know they’re not smart enough. Going back to the kinds of heels that we are, or were. The quirky, not super-like, badass guys.
They remained heel for just over a year, before returning to their babyface roots, and going on an incredible run of winning Tag Team Championship after Tag Team Championship. What followed was Booty-O's, pancakes, unicorn horns and so much more, but it all went over incredibly well and made the new Day one of the top merchandise sellers in the WWE.
With all this, it is no wonder that they are one of the most popular stables to ever grace the squared circle, but it could all have been so different...
Imagine a world where they never came together as a trio, where the New Day never got the chance to wow crowds the world over with their shenanigans. Imagine, if you will, that they stayed on their respective paths. What would have happened to their careers then?
What if the New Day had never formed?
As with all of these pieces, I can only say what I believe would have happened, from a perspective of a booker, and going on the facts of the time. When Xavier Woods first came up to the main roster, Triple H had gone on record saying that they were "going to take a shot on him" but that they had no idea what they were going to use him as. Without the New Day, it's very possible that Xavier could have become, through no fault of his own, a glorified jobber. While he may well have initially reformed "Truth and Consequences", I personally do not believe there was a large shelf life in that team.
It should be noted that I am a fan of Xavier Woods, given that we share similar interests, not to mention his very successful YouTube show UpUpDownDown, but that alone is not enough to get someone opportunities. Just ask Zack Ryder, who got himself super over organically with Z! True Long Island Story, only to have his legs cut from under him and be brutally buried in that terrible angle with Cena, Kane and Eve Torres.
So, would Xavier have got the opportunities he has had without the popularity of the New Day? I believe it is a resounding "No" on that, and in fact it is very likely he may have been keeping one eye open every time the words "Budget Cuts" were uttered. It's entirely possible that his tag team with Truth may have gathered some traction, or maybe he may have gained momentum with a different partner, but I don't think so. Xavier would likely have ended up on the scrapheap without ever really being given a fair shot. Fortunately, that is not the case and he is one of the more popular superstars today.
The story of Big E could have been entirely opposite to what it is now. Back in 2013, having been Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee's lackey for a while, Big E Langston was a fairly bland heel who was in and around the Intercontinental Title scene. He would turn face and win the Intercontinental Championship from Curtis Axel, and begin a six-month reign as Champion. But although he was Champion for a considerable amount of time, his character was way behind what it needed to be and a result, his title reign left a lot to be desired. Had it not been for the New Day and the character development that brought with it for Big E, he could very well have been an altogether different competitor today.
I believe had this been the case, Big E may have been used as part of another tag team, possibly with someone like Ryback, based on their similar physiques. This would likely have tanked as Ryback had lost a lot of his momentum at this time and being paired with a struggling Big E may have been too much for the tandem to overcome. From there, Big E may have focused on singles competition again and once again chased after the Intercontinental Championship. Given the prolonged exposure on TV and to fans around the world that this would bring, Big E would have slowly built himself up and got to the point where he would be considered a solid hand in and around the main event scene.
Now we all know that Vince loves the big guys, it's one of the worst kept secrets in wrestling (along with MJF being the best heel in wrestling, right P-Nut?) so it is possible that Vince would have taken a serious interest in Big E and looked to push him up the card. But when you look back over the last few years there have been several big men who did not make the "Vince McMahon approved" grade. Ryback is a clear example, as is Cesaro, who is criminally underused and underrated, and even the current (at this time of writing) WWE World Champion Drew McIntyre was stuck with 3MB in 2013.