THE RAGER! – A Changed Man (Curtis Axel, Fandango, Ryback)

Fandango, Curtis Axel, Ryback, Brodus Clay, Kane, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, and Tensai. What do these gentlemen have in common? They’ve all been retooled in some manner after making it to “the main show” as their previous incarnations. I’m sure I could include a bunch of names if I loosened up the definition of “retooled” that I put together in my head for the sole purposes of this column.

The reason I even began on this train of thought is because different complaints I heard from several Classy Ring Attire twitter followers (whose opinions can always be taken with an understanding grain of salt) about how unimpressed they’ve been with Curtis Axel since getting the name change. Personally, I’m taking the stance that I haven’t seen quite enough of him yet to pass judgment on the character. However, my preliminary observation is that his character is Michael McGuillicuty with a new name and I’m still waiting to see the awesome ring ability that so many people have talked about in the past few months (although having sort-of matches against Triple H and John Cena aren’t exactly the best vehicles to showcase one’s ring ability). So has the retooling worked out for him? Considering the amount of screen time he got as Gils? I’d say so but it’s still early to say if he’s going to be a big draw.

Ryback is an example of retooling that seems to work, as much as we may hate his simplistic character and idiotic way of speaking. This guy had the most opportune injury during his Skip Sheffield days, otherwise he probably would’ve been saddled with Nexus for a longer period and then stuck in roster limbo like Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. Instead they dropped the dumb name, rehabbed and was built up like a monster. Sure he’s lost some momentum after getting his butt handed to him by The Shield for a couple months and showing off his low IQ during his feud with Mark Henry. Now he turned heel in attempt to fill the large heel space that CM Punk left behind during his vacation but it’s still gotta be better than whatever they had planned for Skip Sheffield.

Then there’s Fandango, a retooling that probably wasn’t all that necessary if you were familiar with NXT Redemption. I really liked his over-the-top creeper character on that show but unfortunately that went away when NXT became the new version of FCW. It’s unfortunate for several reasons but a major one is that it seemed like if they kept the character, Maxine wouldn’t have asked for to be let out of her contract.As for his character, it was a lot of fun to watch and it’s not all that different from Fandango, just without the dancing bit. Has the retooling work? I’m still undecided because somehow we still haven’t seen all that much in spite of having a multiple-month feud with Chris Jericho. I haven’t been completely impressed so far but I’m not willing to call this a failure so far.

Kane is the ultimate example of a retooling success story and it all has to do with the man himself. The whole storyline of “The Undertaker’s Brother” could’ve fallen completely flat, corny, hokey and fizzled away and pretend it never happened. But what made it work was convincing Glen Jacobs was and how willing he is to go in character. Sure he’s had some flat moments in his career but every now and then, he’ll be inserted into a situation or feud that reminds us of all the things we’ve loved about him over the years. This is a combination of the right character going to the right guy.

Brodus Clay DOESN’T work. His character has delved into Kofi Kingston levels in the sense that there’s not enough interest to put him into any actual feud but enough interest from the kids to drag him out every week to take up space in a segment. They tried something different when they brought him back after showing us misleading promos for months, it was interesting and I appreciate the effort but it didn’t work.

I almost didn’t include Dolph because individuals didn’t seem to matter in Spirit Squad and I don’t think they were meant to last anyway. Still, saying he works now seems like a severe understatement.

I don’t even know what to say about Tensai because I don’t think the guy has had a single character in WWE/F that has worked for him and it’s disappointing because the guy obviously loves the business and things seemed to work so well for him in Japan.

Bray Wyatt hasn’t made his big debut yet but this is such an upgrade from Husky Harris. From the limited amount of NXT that I’ve seen, I know this kid with this character is something special and the fact that they’re keeping his stable intact only speaks further into the high hopes WWE has for him. It’s something different and it’s a wrestler completely embracing the character and being open to it.

The art of retooling wrestlers doesn’t seem as common as it use to be. It seems like WWE seems more content with leaving wrestlers with the character they had when they got called up to the main roster regardless of what’s working and what isn’t. Maybe it’s due to a selective memory but I seem to remember a day in WWE/F when wrestlers were getting retooled all the time and some making a career with one retool after another. So here lies the question that I can’t seem convince myself one way or the other. Should WWE be more proactive about changing up characters or should they be more willing to let guys go after they’ve had a few characters that didn’t work? Feel free to sound off below!

Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do twice,
Chris

The Answer: “Always remember the famous French persuasionist, Pierre Pressure, who ironically had a pier named after him.”

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