I’ve always found myself conflicted about Curtis Axel.
I know what some of you might be thinking: “Curtis…who?”
The former Michael McGuillicutty from NXT. The son of the Hall of Famer Curt Hennig. The third generation talent that assumed the name of his father and grandfather (Larry “The Axe” Hennig) when he was repackaged recently. That’s who I am talking about.
Axel has been called by some to be “a wrestler’s wrestler.” If you look up some of his work, you’ll find he’s a solid in-ring hand. The young man has talent in the ring and I find myself wanting to see him given a legitimate push in WWE.
That is, until he speaks.
Some of the all-time greats in wrestling were not necessarily the greatest workers. The internet likes to buzz about “work rates” and gets easily impressed by flashy moves. But there is one fact that remains and it is that part of the wrestling game is being able to entertain. Having charisma and being able to cut a promo has a lot to do with how a character is received by the fans, especially in WWE.
The Rock did it. Stone Cold Steve Austin did it. Hulk Hogan did it. I don’t recall any of those men having a particularly flashy move set. To my knowledge, none of them did a 450 diving plancha over the top rope onto anyone either.
Curtis Axel, right now, isn’t doing it. And that’s where my conflicted feeling comes into play.
When I watch Axel work in the ring, I see a guy that can be heavily involved in the future of WWE. He isn’t the flashiest worker, but he’s solid. He executes well. From all I’ve read from other sites he is respected by the locker room. But it’s when he grabs that microphone that he loses me.
There’s one thing that Axel lacks right now, and that’s the charisma or “it factor” that it takes to sell his character. Just look at the storyline with Paul Heyman and CM Punk for an example. His role in Monday night’s beatdown of Punk should have put a lot of heat on him. Instead, he came out looking like Paul Heyman’s henchman, with Heyman taking most of the heat.
When Axel was introduced as “the new Paul Heyman guy” I really felt if Heyman and Creative were both high on this guy, they could make him a star. Watching this story unfold, he just hasn’t delivered enough on the mic to justify a bigger part. It’s in the intangibles – his facial expressions, his delivery in his promos – where he ends up falling short.
It's Axel's inability to deliver on the mic that leaves me wondering if WWE needs to find additional “Paul Heyman guys” to avoid hurting the story that has been so good between Punk and Heyman. Punk and Axel can have good matches all day long. With Axel's character deficiencies, I just get worried that it's going to put a wet blanket on something that has been so hot if they go on much longer.
I want Axel to succeed and I believe he can, so this isn't a call for his contract to be terminated by any stretch. Maybe, just maybe he will get elevated by working with Punk a bit longer. Right now, I just don't see the signs of that elevation coming.
Axel can be a solid mid-card performer for WWE. His ability to work in the ring is likely good enough to take him higher than that. In order to get there, however, he needs to develop the rest of his game. Without better promos and more charisma, we might always wonder what might have been for Curtis Axel.