My Two Centsss - (I Think) WWE's Next Breakout Star Is None Other Than...
By Super Chrisss
Nov 30, 2013 - 3:25:50 PM
(Tom Jenner is the man!)
First of all, I hope all my American readers had a fun and safe Thanksgiving. I'll never understand how you can eat turkey in November and not October, but to each their own. If you tuned into my radio show on LoPRadio last Wednesday - "The Doc Says...with Super Chrisss (and special guest Sean Taylor)" - then you probably have a good idea who this column is about. I'm sure most of you are expecting me to name an IWC favourite like Roman Reigns or Big E Langston as my prediction for WWE's next big name star, but that's a bit too obvious, isn't it? All you have to do is click on any news article posted on LOP over the past few weeks that name-drops Reigns or Big E and you'll see dozens of posters pegging those two as "future world champions". Come on folks, I'm not that predictable.
Instead, I have my sights set on a guy who, unlike the powerhouse of The Shield or the current Intercontinental Champion, hasn't accomplished a lot on the main roster, despite being called up much sooner than they were. Despite being involved in some interesting feuds, my guy is yet to wear championship gold around his waist. Moreover, this man is considerably older than a lot of other guys on the roster, and in all likelihood, won't be an active wrestler less than years from now. While many might view that as a negative, I consider that "shorter shell-life" as a driving factor for this wrestler's success. He knows the locker-room is full of young guns waiting for a spot, and so he makes the most out of every possible opportunity, since he knows the clock is ticking.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, my pick for the next big breakout star in WWE is none other than "The Big Deal", Titus O'Neil.
Why, Titus? Why not! The guy has all the tools to become a top superstar some day. For starters, he has "the look"; he's not a giant, but he is a big, muscular guy who can intimidate anyone he steps in the ring with. I remember him facing off against powerhouses like Ryback and Sheamus a few months back, and he didn't look out of place at all. One of the reasons why Titus fit in so well was despite being known primarily as a tag team wrestler, Titus impressed in singles bouts against both of those men. In fact, Sheamus vs. O'Neil from Raw earlier this year was one of the better "hoss vs. hoss" matches in recent memory. So from a physical and an in-ring standpoint, Titus has nothing to worry about.
For a while, I wasn't sold on Titus' mic work. When I think back to the first time I got a taste of O'Neil (#PAUSE), it was back in Season Two of NXT, when Titus was a Rookie, and my former favourite wrestler Zack Ryder was his Pro (side-note: isn't it ironic how Titus has received so much TV time in 2013 in comparison to the number of matches his old NXT Pro has had this year?) Back then, O'Neil didn't stand out at all. He didn't have much charisma, he seemed awkward in the ring, and I had difficulty understanding him on the mic. It came as a surprise to no one when O'Neil was the first superstar eliminated from that season's competition.
But then O'Neil and Darren Young started teaming up on NXT a little while later, and their natural chemistry as a tag team was enough to get them a promotion to SmackDown last spring. Keep in mind, this was before the tag team boom and the formation of Team Hell No. As a result, it was a breath of fresh air for viewers to see an actual tag team winning matches on a consistent basis. The Primetime Players had so much momentum two summers ago, that many people figured they would be the ones to put Air-Boom (Kofi Kingston and a constantly injured/suspended Evan Bourne) out of their misery as tag champs. Unfortunately for the up-and-comers, Team Hell No was born, and the PTP were shoved on the back-burner for a few months.
During this time, I quickly realized something: Titus O'Neil was a funny guy. Who could forget the infamous debut of "Pancake Patterson" weeks before Wrestlemania 29? In that one segment, Titus showed the world a side of him that most people had never seen before. I guess it just goes to show how easily the audience can care about a midcard guy if WWE bothered to give non-main-eventers some promo time every once in a while instead of making time for two hundred recaps every episode. But I digress...
This past Monday on Raw, Titus showed that his one-time stint as "Pancake Patterson" wasn't just a flash in the pan. In what many people have called one of the worst Raw segments in history thanks to the involvement of guest host Michael Strahan (who I'm sure 99% of non-U.S. citizens have never heard of, by the way) and The Miz, Titus was the only saving grace. His lines were hysterical, and even though nobody was sure whether was a face or a heel, the crowd really bought into O'Neil. He was able to hype them up, despite being bored or on the verge of sleep thanks to the other two clowns standing in the ring. All that charisma he never had in NXT was out in abundance on Monday, and easily stole the spotlight from a former WWE Champion as well as a day-time talk show host. In my opinion, Titus was the most over guy in that train-wreck of a segment, and it wasn't even close.
Still not convinced on O'Neil? Then you probably didn't watch SmackDown last night. And to be fair, I can't say I blame you. Nothing of importance really happens on Friday nights, as you could easily tune into Raw on Monday or watch Sunday's PPV without missing a key advancement in the storylines. But last night's show was a good one, as we got an hour-long main-event featuring tag teams, future stars, and CM Punk. I don't want to discuss the tag team match that became a four-on-four and then turned into a six-on-six (confused yet?), though. I would rather mention the hilarious match and segment with Titus and Antonio Cesaro instead. To make a long story short, WWE aired a backstage segment where Titus faced off against The Great Khali in an eating contest. Titus won, and his 'prize' was a match against Cesaro in a manner of minutes.
As you can imagine, Cesaro wasted no time going after Titus' mid-section, and Titus sold being over-stuffed and on the verge of puking like a champ. Actually, that's exactly what happened. Cesaro locked in the Giant Swing on Titus, and his partner Young ran in to break it up, but alas, the damage had already been done. Titus proceeded to empty his stomach into JBL's cowboy hat, and "out of dizziness" dunked the contents onto Michael Cole, which got a huge pop out of the crowd. Titus followed that up by getting some vomit all over Zeb Colter, who reacted exactly as comically as you can imagine. Now, on paper, this segment probably sounds as cringe-worthy and tiresome as that God-awful Raw segment. But it wasn't. Titus is an amazing actor and he had me believing every second of it. Throw in a bunch of excellent supporting characters like Cesaro, JBL, Cole, and Colter, and you get an entertaining ten minutes of television. So again, big props to Titus for turning shit into gold twice in one week.
Another reason I want Titus to become a top player in WWE is because of his look. The Doc and I brought this up on our radio show last Wednesday, and it's worth bringing up again. When was the last time WWE got fully behind an African-American wrestler as someone who can draw at the top of the card? It could be argued that Mark Henry's world heavyweight title run and Hall of Pain gimmick in late 2011 was a main-event push, but as The Doc pointed out, it was more of a SmackDown push, and one that didn't last. How many Raws and Pay-Per-Views did Henry main-event as WHC? In memory serves correctly, Henry even jobbed to Zack Ryder weeks before TLC! Once Henry was out of the title picture post-Royal Rumble, he spent a lot of time putting other guys like Big Show and Sheamus over, despite working through an injury. Incredible. Although Henry has been on a roll as of late, calling him a permanent main-event is certainly out of the question.
The only African-American who has achieved enough success to be considered a big-time player in professional wrestling would have to be WWE Hall of Famer, Booker T. But much like Henry, most of his main-event run happened on the 'B' show, as his feud and clash with Triple H at Wrestlemania 19 was unfulfilling and one-sided, to say the least. A case can surely be made that Booker was far more successful in WCW than he was in WWE, but that's a debate for another day. What I'm trying to get at here is how WWE has never really given the ball to an African-American wrestler in the same way they have to guys like HHH, Batista, and Randy Orton over the years. I'm not saying Titus should be "the guy" like Hulk Hogan was or John Cena currently is, but why not establish him into an Edge or CM Punk-like role? As in, someone who can main-event shows without people whining about refunds. I want Titus to be that guy. Furthermore, think about the potential demographics out there just waiting to be picked up.
I know just as well as you do that Titus has a long way to go until he can be considered a top guy. After all, he hasn't even won championship gold, despite being on the main roster for nearly a year-and-a-half. Considering he's already 36 years old, there may not be enough time for Titus to transition into the star I think he could become. And even if he does find that kind of success, will he be around long enough to leave a legacy behind? That's all up to him and whether WWE management is willing to pull the trigger on a push for the big man. Considering how Batista was the same age as Titus when he won his first world title at Wrestlemania 21, there may still be hope for O'Neil. I'm optimistic enough to believe it could happen.
I'd hate to jinx myself here, but I have a really good feeling about Titus becoming a huge star someday. I had a similar feeling earlier this year when I predicted Chris Sabin would be a breakout star and defeat Bully Ray for the TNA world title (which he did). Sabin may not be the top guy, but is currently the X-Division Champion and much higher up the card than he was months ago, so I'll chalk that one up as a win in the prediction column. Hopefully lightning will strike twice and O'Neil will get the chance to show both the WWE brass and the fans how far up the ladder he can climb. I'm rooting for Titus...are you?
Your Two Centsss: Let's say I'm right, and O'Neil goes on to have a successful singles career someday. Where does that leaves Darren Young? As a midcarder, in a new tag team, a regular on "Superstars", or unemployed?
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