This should've been one of the faces of WWE
If I’m going to talk about NXT Season Two, I have to start with my main man A-Ry.
Two years ago when he was on NXT, I wrote at length when he all but took the competition by the throat, dragged it out back to Jim Ross’s proverbial woodshed, and beat it senseless.
Among other things, I wrote that, “if it were purely up to the Pros and WWE management this time around, Riley would win this thing by a country mile” (something Riley himself said almost verbatim on the next episode of NXT…hmmm).
On a show that featured the son of one of WWE’s all-time greats and a guy who was a legend on the independent circuit, Riley was far and away the star of the show.
He cut outstanding promos; his character had enough blend of gimmick (“The Varsity Villain”) and just plain awesome; he had both size and in-ring skill; he had connections to one of the rising stars in WWE in The Miz, who served as his mentor for the season.
For all intents and purposes, Riley was and still is (in my opinion) the best rookie to come through NXT other than Wade Barrett—and even that could be hotly debated.
At the time, I also wrote that Riley “is the next breakout star whether he wins the competition or not.” Riley did not win NXT Season Two – he came in third to babyfaces Michael McGillicutty and eventual winner Kaval – but as I predicted he did indeed make the most short-term impact of anyone from the show.
Riley stayed partnered with The Miz, as Miz rose to the top and won the WWE championship from Randy Orton, and stayed in his corner as Miz competed in the main event of Wrestlemania XXVII. True, most of Riley’s TV time came in the form of taking the fall/getting beat up for The Miz, but being partnered with the company’s rising heel performer isn’t a bad gig.
Then, shortly after Wrestlemania XXVII, Alex Riley—with very little backstory—turned face on The Miz, got a big reaction from the crowds and got a few clean wins over the former champion.
It looked like Riley’s star would keep going up and up. Except, as we know, it didn’t.
For whatever reason—I’ve yet to find any definitive answers—Riley has been buried deep, surfacing only to job here and there. I remember hearing something about his burial, starting with him botching the sell for Jack Swagger’s gutwrench powerbomb. The last time I checked, though, Swagger doesn’t have the backstage pull to bury someone for messing up (paging Randy Orton…) so I feel like it’s something more than that.
Riley, as I noted before, is a great hand in the ring and on the mic, and he got over as a babyface hero when fighting The Miz. So why has he dropped off the face of the earth? And as a follow-up, what can we expect if/when he rebounds?
It’s not like people don’t come back from burials. HHH most famously became a jobber to the stars after the MSG Incident. Swagger came back from jobbing to Santino Marella to win the World Title. MVP suffered a lengthy losing streak before rebounding and turning into a popular babyface.
Riley, I think, has the ability to stick around. But only time will tell.