Air Up There: 06.21.2013 – Paying Dues (Curtis Axel, Ted DiBiase, Curt Hawkins)

Wow, so I’m apparently full of articles these last couple weeks. Don’t get too excited, I’m still on vacation. I’m as surprised as you are.

Before I get started, I just want to thank everyone for their submissions towards my upcoming “Interinactivity” article. I got a lot more than I was planning on, which is fantastic. I had to hound a few people to get in there, and I apologize for that, but if I’m only gonna do one every once in a while I wanted to have some fun with it. That said, I am still working on the responses. I said it would be up this Friday or next Friday, and right now it’s looking like next Friday.

Besides, I got inspired – this article originally started as a response to comments from our own Matt Harrak and my man FD Swayze on Matt Harrak’s weekly “10 Thoughts On RAW” article, located here – but it actually ballooned into something that I think makes a pretty good article. It’s literally the fastest I’ve ever written an article (even faster than that NXT recap I did.)

So, until “Interinactivity” comes out, I offer up this opinion on the whole “paying your dues” concept.


For your convenience, here’s what sparked the debate if you don’t feel like going through the whole “10 Thoughts” article – if you’ve seen these comments on the article, feel free to skip past all the purty colours to my two cents below.

Matt Harrak’s 8 Of 10 Thoughts: I know there are a TON of “haters” out there (they’re very vocal) but what Paul Heyman & CM Punk are doing for Curtis Axel is phenomenal. Getting past my basis for his father and how much potential I believe Axel has, the way he is being positioned as Heyman’s “new CM Punk” is perfect. Because he’s NOT CM Punk. He never will be. But they are trying damn hard to make him into SOMETHING instead of letting him fall by the wayside. And it’s simple things too – the new blue lighting for his entrance that he seems to have won from Sin Cara during one of their dozen matches to the fact that he’s a champion and Punk is not & how Heyman clutches or raises the Intercontinental title in the exact same way he used to raise Punk’s WWE Championship. Joe Hennig must feel like the luckiest person in the WWE locker room right now and whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not, the guy has paid his dues & deserved a shot. If he succeeds or fails is up to him but he’s certainly surrounded by the right people, including his “training partner”, The Rock (If you didn’t know, it was Hennig and Curt Hawkins who helped The Rock train for Survivor Series and WrestleMania during his film schedule).

FD Swayze’s Response: I know you hate me Harrak, but I am very fond of you. I have to say though, people who use terms like ‘haters’ are losers in the game of life. Examples: Miz, Justin Bieber, Kevin Federline, other random wiggers. Don’t lower yourself. You’re better than that.

Now let’s discuss again how you are wrong about Mr. Perfect’s gimp kid. You have resorted to just making up stuff about the guy. So lets go over it point by point.

1) The way Curtis Axel is being positioned right now is not ‘Perfect’. His dad, that’s ‘Perfect’. What he’s doing on the show now is not ‘perfect’. It’s ‘lackey’. They don’t even let him talk. He just stands there and reminds himself silently to smile and to not smile. Even you said and underlined he’s not CM Punk. And we both know he’s not Mr. Perfect. So why would you say being Heyman’s new ‘CM Punk’ is the perfect way to use him if you yourself don’t even buy into it?

2) They (I assume you mean WWE) isn’t trying hard at all to make something of this guy. They certainly aren’t risking anything either, unless you foolishly believe he has real ‘wins’ against Cena and HHH. And they aren’t even trying anything new. They are doing the exact same thing for him that they did with Ted Dibiase’s kid. How did that work out for him?

3) He hasn’t paid his dues at all. Bryan and Punk have paid their dues. Alberto Del Rio has paid his dues. Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase Jr., and Randy Orton didn’t have to pay their dues. They were lucky to have dads that wrestled. Now, those three guys used that opportunity to do something with it. Those names don’t keep their jobs, they just get the foot in the door. But the ‘paid his dues’ argument just doesn’t apply here. I don’t think that is anything against him. But it just doesn’t make sense to use the old ‘paid his dues’ line. That’s like saying Miz ‘paid his dues’ just because you like Miz.

4) Why is it a big deal to you that he helped train the Rock? How does that mean he’s going on to big things? That is one strong leap in logic.

5) Like it or not, believe it or not, Mr. Perfect’s kid sucks. Sorry man. Matt Morgan sucks too. I know you don’t understand why that is in both cases. But they do. Mr. Perfect’s kid isn’t going on to do anything. It’s official.

Matt Harrak’s Response: Oh I don’t hate you, we just have very different opinions on most things. Before I comment on your points, I used the word “haters” because it’s the most commonly used word for the type of fan I was trying to describe. If you really knew me at all, I am nothing like you described. And please don’t use the word “wigger” – it’s offensive & directly references the “N”-word. That’s just poor taste. Ok, your points.

1) I underlined the point that Axel is NOT CM Punk because he’s being positioned as the anti-CM Punk. He’s polished, 3rd generation & now being shot to the top because of his association with Heyman. Everything Punk isn’t or was punished for (being a Heyman guy).

2) I think it’s too early to decide whether or not anything is going to happen with him. I said so in the article. But by booking him with Heyman & Punk that IS doing something with him – whether it’s good for his career or not is yet to be seen.

3) He’s paid more dues than a lot of guys that are 3rd generation. He spent about 6 years in developmental & 3 years on the main roster not doing anything before being given anything substantial. I respect the fact that he hung around and did his job in a professional manner. I have the same type of personality (keep your head down and let your work speak for itself) so that’s probably why I respect his determination.

4) He worked with one of the greatest of our generation, flying and driving from film locations to WWE live events across the country. That’s dedication & The Rock himself credited Hennig and Hawkins with getting him back in form so he didn’t embarrass himself and his legacy. And if you think The Rock can’t pull any strings for someone who he believes deserves a shot, you’re delusional.

5) Nothing is “official” as you like to say. And just because you believe someone sucks, doesn’t mean I think he does. I always thought Hulk Hogan & Rob Van Dam “sucked” but that doesn’t mean they weren’t incredibly successful.


My Take

I’ve offered my tentative opinion on the supposed reasons for Axel’s push before, but this is probably my most comprehensive and complete take on the whole “paying dues” thing that seems to come up so often in wrestling discussions. And first off, I just want to say that I’ve seen lots of support for Axel around the ‘net, along these same lines. So I don’t want it to seem like Harrak is the only one I’m offering alternative thoughts to. His collection of thoughts on the subject was the closest at hand, and it means that I think his take is shared by more than just him. It’s not even solely about Axel, either – Axel is just the subject I’m using to make my point here.

I personally have NEVER understood being behind someone making it just because they “paid their dues” any more than I’ve understood being behind someone just because of who they’re related to. Axel kind of hits both of those on this topic, but this is about “paying dues” so I’ll stick to that. Paying dues is something that it sounds like WWE themselves should care about when pushing wrestlers, but I don’t understand why it’s anything a fan would care about. From WWE’s perpective, you want to make sure that someone is going to appreciate what they’ve been given and not bail (a la Brock Lesnar’s first run and Bobby Lashley’s only run), but isn’t it more important to be sure they’re actually… y’know, good? If they’re good and haven’t paid their dues, I’ll be disappointed when they leave (Brock Lesnar) but if they’re not good, then as a fan, I’d PREFER they not pay their dues, because then it’s more likely they’ll be gone and I won’t have to see them – and I won’t miss them (Bobby Lashley).


I don’t care that someone has “paid their dues”, so to speak. To me that’s nothing more than a nice sound byte. For a TV or movie actor, you don’t enjoy their acting because they spent X amount of time in acting classes or because they spent so much time as a PA or an extra. You want them to be actually GOOD. Same goes for me and wrestlers. If a guy walks off the street and is fantastic, then great – throw him in there, I want to see him. The fact that he hasn’t worked in developmental or spent time driving around from town to town doesn’t impact my enjoyment of his work at all. If a guy spends 10 years in the company and still isn’t interesting in one form or another, then the 10 years is immaterial to me. I don’t care. Is he good? No? Then I’m not going to want to see him. For Axel, I don’t understand how the “oh, but he’s been in developmental for 10 years and drove around a bunch to help train The Rock” leads someone to think “oh, good, I didn’t care to watch him before but I totally want to watch him now.”

I don’t care that someone is (rumoured to have) paid more dues than a lot of guys that are 3rd generation – this means almost nothing, given that not that many 3rd generation wrestlers (were rumoured to have) had to do all that much. That’s like an airline claiming “our planes land right on the runway and everything!”

I don’t care that someone spent “X” amount of time in developmental. Did they do any good while they were there, or did they just spend time there? Because just spending time there is quite close to basically saying someone deserves it on seniority, which is something I never got about the Henry thing. Some people said he deserved it after his long career, but I didn’t get that either – so what if he’s had a long career? What has he produced that’s any that good? JTG has been around a long time, when does his big push kick in?

I don’t care that someone hung around and did their job in a professional manner. That doesn’t translate to anything – everyone knows people who hang around and do their job and are below average or average at best. I’m not saying this pertains to Axel, I’m just saying that the fact that he hung around and did his job doesn’t mean he’s any good – and, it’s heresey and conjecture. We don’t really know what someone’s attitude was or how professional they were or wasn’t. This is pure speculation at worst, and WWE management rhetoric (who likes him who could very well just be trying to justify someone’s renewed presence on TV) at it’s best.

I don’t care who someone worked with. Tons of below average wrestlers worked with tons of above average wrestlers all the time, and it didn’t make them better. How many legends or main-eventers have Miz, Ryback, Big Show, Shaemus and Mark Henry worked with? Has their ring-work improved dramatically? Also, he TRAINED with Rock. Being a good trainer (assuming that he was) doesn’t necessarily translate to being a good wrestler. Did working with someone impressive lead to any kind of visible improvement in the wrestler’s actual work? Great. Let’s see it.


I don’t care where someone flew and drove. This is the silliest part of the whole thing for me.

Flying and driving?


That’s it?

Flying consists of being temporarily frustrated in an airport on a bad day and sitting still for a few hours being served soft drinks and watching movies. Driving consists of… well, driving.

And I don’t care who pulled strings for someone.

At all.

This is almost as immaterial to me as flying and driving – it means less than nothing as far as I’m concerned. Does it mean this is why he’s getting a shot or has management behind him? Yes, it absolutely could be – I’m not saying it’s not, but is this really something to be impressed with? Again, take someone who’s been on TV before and failed to capture any attention. He’s back on TV, and I’m wondering why, and someone says “oh, well he worked out with Rock.” Am I supposed to be impressed by that? Is that supposed to make me want to watch him?

Or has he ACTUALLY improved?


Matt, I respect what you’re saying about putting your head down and having your work speak for itself. I’m RIGHT there with you on that one. I don’t see how it translates into your enjoyment of an entertainment product per se, but let’s say that it does – to that effect, a lot of what you’re saying seems to be that because Curtis Axel got picked to train the right person, drove and flew around, spent time in developmental, and was professional about it (again, speculation)… that he deserves what he’s been given and you enjoy watching him because of it.

And because of who his dad is.

To me, that’s the equivalent of someone not making it out of an entry level job (developmental) at your company for years because they’re not good enough to make it on merit, and THEN they make it because they live down the street from the boss, got picked to do something mundane (but that put them in the right place at the right time) like drive important people around, or maybe they marry into the family.

Or maybe because of who their dad is.

Picture yourself working with someone who’s not very good for those reasons.

Does that make sense to you?


Anyway, the Axel thing will be interesting in terms of seeing what happens. I’m not saying he won’t get this massive push, I’m asking what he’s done to deserve it, and, more importantly, if he’s actually improved or is any fun to watch. This gets into a different subject but, at the end of the day, they can push someone all they want – if the crowd’s not into it, they’re going to give up and let that person fall eventually, even if it takes some time. Miz, Shaemus and Barrett are all in that boat right now. You say that Axel is being featured prominently because he’s been put with Heyman and is doing stuff on TV with some important people, and I don’t necessarily disagree – but I would say that it doesn’t seem like he’s getting all that much reaction for a guy who’s been put in that position. (And yes, I have YouTube’d his segments, because when a new guy comes in and gets this kind of attention I find how the crowd and the internet react to it to be quite interesting.)

And regardless of “dues paying” or who’s behind him, at some point he’ll have to do something to justify that positioning.

To Matt and to anyone else making similar points about Curtis Axel, I ask this – it sounds like quite a bit you’re saying about him could also be said about Ted DiBiase Jr. in terms of the whole “paying dues” thing like being in developmental, etc – really, everything aside from training with The Rock – which, let’s face it, was probably just luck of the draw since he wasn’t doing much else anyway. Would you be advocating as hard for Ted if it were him getting this treatment?

How about Curt Hawkins? He doesn’t have the legacy card like Axel and DiBiase do, but he has done the developmental thing to death and DID train with The Rock – and “flew and drove” a lot as well. I’m just curious.

I watched Axel when he was McGuillicutty and he was boring as sin and no fun to watch. I’ve not seen enough of Axel since his return to really judge him fairly. I’ve seen two matches – one was against Barrett and Miz, so I don’t think it’s fair to judge his work when he’s in there with wrestlers that horrlbe. The other one I can’t even remember, but I know it wasn’t against anyone even half-impressive either. Maybe Matt or someone else could recommend a good talk or match he’s had since his return that I haven’t seen that actually proves he’s worth watching on merit alone?

Good work speaks for itself. And if Axel is where he is, I’m just saying I’d like to see some. That’s all.


That’s all I have to offer on the subject. Hopefully we can get some comments going up in here, and if there’s enough interest maybe I’ll be tempted to do something else with those as well.

Either way, this has been “Air Up There” – I look forward to having the “Interinactvitiy” article for everyone soon. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

I’ll be in my trailer.


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