As the WWE's resident lawyer, David Otunga has carved out a nice little niche for himself in recent months as general manager John Laurinaitis' right-hand man. There is no doubt he is limited in some aspects, but Otunga has become a regular on-screen character and has a defined role that has allowed him to remain prominent.
After the dissolution of Nexus, it was uncertain whether Otunga would be able to last. After a reinvention of his character, however, Otunga looks like a mainstay who will be with the company for quite some time.
It remains to be seen how much he can accomplish in the WWE, but he definitely has some useful qualities.
Read on for yet another edition of my 25-superstar countdown in which I analyze the upside, direction and long-term potential of every fast-rising and established WWE wrestler. Today I'll be breaking down Harvard's own David Otunga.
After graduating from Harvard Law School and passing the bar exam, Otunga tried his hand at reality television. He was a contestant on the second season of VH1 dating show I Love New York before moving on to wrestling in 2008.
Otunga signed a developmental contract with WWE and was assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling in early 2009. Otunga initially competed under the ring name Dawson Alexander and gained some valuable in-ring experience.
In early 2010, Otunga would receive his first chance to make an impression on the WWE brass as he was one of the rookies chosen to compete on the first season of NXT. Otunga wrestled under his real name with the moniker "A-List." His gimmick was that of a Hollywood big shot, and his relationship with singer Jennifer Hudson was often mentioned.
After finishing second to Wade Barrett on NXT, Otunga became a founding member of Nexus. He was involved in big angles throughout 2010 until Nexus evolved in January of 2011 when CM Punk took over leadership. Once the unsuccessful New Nexus ended, Otunga eventually began embracing his law background and phased out his "A-List" persona.
Otunga has developed into more of an authority figure than a wrestler at this point, so he doesn't have one defined feud going on currently. Otunga is very much an active in-ring competitor, but he is most often seen alongside Laurinaitis and Eve whilst sipping coffee from his signature thermos.
He has had some run-ins with Sheamus as of late, because The Great White refused to apologize for bumping into the "crippled" Laurinaitis a couple weeks ago.
Not surprisingly, Otunga has drawn the short end of the stick in the quasi-feud, as Sheamus has continually embarrassed him and laid him out with Brogue Kicks. Otunga is basically Laurinaitis' corporate stooge much like Pat Patterson and Gerald Briscoe were for Vince McMahon during the Attitude Era.
For Otunga, though, his current role is likely only temporary.
He essentially does Laurinaitis' leg work and is fed to top faces like Sheamus, Punk and John Cena when the writers feel like making them look strong. Otunga is little more than a comedic, heel jobber right now, but he plays the role quite well and certainly has potential.
What is Otunga's biggest strength?
There seems to be a lot of hatred for Otunga amongst WWE fans, but there is no doubt he plays his role well. Making him a lawyer rather than a Hollywood hotshot was a smart move, because everyone loves to hate a lawyer. Otunga's arrogant personality makes him very easy to dislike, so he is the perfect complement to Laurinaitis as he garners extra heat for the general manager.
Otunga is also pretty strong on the mic.
He isn't perfect by any means, but he is clearly comfortable and doesn't often stumble over his words. Sometimes his promos seem a bit too acted out, but his over-the-top delivery works well with his gimmick. He is meant to get on the nerves of the fans, and for whatever reason, he does it extremely well.
Also, Otunga has a very good look.
Surprisingly, there aren't a ton of muscly types compared to what there used to be in the WWE, so he is actually unique. Otunga is undoubtedly a physical specimen, and although that may limit his movement in the ring to some degree, it sets him apart and is part of his persona.
There is absolutely no question that the biggest thing holding Otunga back is his in-ring work. Aside from The Great Khali, Otunga may very well be the worst wrestler in the company.
It's not as if he doesn't try, but he is far too basic, brings nothing interesting to the table and isn't fluid at all. His entire arsenal consists of punches, clotheslines and body slams, and that is going to keep him in the mid-card more than anything.
He is almost incapable of having a good match, even if he is taking on a high-quality worker.
Otunga is a latecomer to the business, so that may explain why he hasn't developed as well as his counterparts, but it is something he must improve moving forward. His physique makes it tough to move around a lot, but he needs to learn how to make things look more natural.
Aside from that, Otunga could afford to add a bit more ruthlessness and tenacity to his character. I understand he is supposed to be somewhat comedic, but if people are going to view him as any type of threat against the top faces, he has to look like he can beat them.
Otunga is more muscular than anyone, but he is almost always expected to lose. That is a bit of an issue.
As I said before, Otunga hasn't had many good matches during his WWE tenure. He isn't given a lot of in-ring time because of that, so he doesn't really receive opportunities to prove himself.
With that said, my favorite Otunga match to date was his tilt with Randy Orton on the holiday edition of SmackDown. They competed in a street fight, and while Orton did most of the work, Otunga didn't embarrass himself by any means.
A match with no rules allows Otunga to expand his repertoire a bit, and that is what he did against Orton. Even so, it's a bit disturbing that this was the best match Otunga has worked, since he has been around for two years now. Orton was in control for the most part, and because he is a high-caliber wrestler. he had to shoulder the vast majority of the burden.
At least this is a match Otunga can look back on and draw some good things from.
He wasn't totally incompetent as he so often is, and if he can even become an average in-ring competitor, his personality and gimmick can take him a long way. Otunga is undoubtedly a work in progress, but he has some solid tools at his disposal.
Otunga has some very obvious drawbacks, but in terms of the total package, I am a fan of his work. With that said, though, a main-event run simply isn't in the cards.
He is never going to become good enough in the ring, in my estimation, to become much more than what he is currently. If he improves a bit, however, there is no reason why he can't establish himself as a solid mid-carder.
I would even be fine with giving him the Intercontinental or United States Championship at some point. He actually gets some decent heat from the crowd, so there would be far worse options.
A potential feud with Santino over the United States is a possibility. They have had some squabbles in the past, but I don't believe Otunga winning the strap would lead to much more.
Otunga's best bet to make a long-term impact may be to revert back to being a tag-team competitor.
Before Nexus was officially killed off, Otunga was almost exclusively a tag-team wrestler as he had two title reigns with John Cena and Michael McGillicutty as his partners. His team with McGillicutty was quite vanilla, but with his current gimmick and the right partner, he could be good in that role.
How He Gets There
What level would you like to see Otunga ascend to?
Looking at the roster as it is constructed as of now, the best thing Otunga could do is form an alliance with Damien Sandow.
Otunga can do the legal counsel thing for Laurinaitis a little longer, but at some point, Laurinaitis will lose power and Otunga will have to do something else. Otunga is a cocky intellectual who believes he is better than everyone else, so Sandow would be the perfect partner for him.
Both are very condescending and strong on the mic, and while Otunga's wrestling skills are lacking, Sandow is solid in that regard.
Many of Otunga's in-ring deficiencies can be hidden when he is part of a tag team, because he only has to wrestle half the match or less. The WWE hasn't cared about the tag-team division in quite some time, but there is talent on the roster that can help build it up.
I do see some future greatness for Sandow as a singles competitor, but teaming with Otunga in the meantime and capturing the Tag Team Championships would be a nice boost for him. Perhaps Otunga will prove me wrong and make great strides as a wrestler, but until I see some concrete improvement, he would be much better off in a tag team.
Check back daily for new entries in this WWE 25-superstar countdown. Here is how the list looks thus far:
25. Damien Sandow
24. Alex Riley
23. Antonio Cesaro
22. Drew McIntyre
19. Brodus Clay