The last few months must have been bitterly disappointing for fans of veteran wrestler Matt “Tensai” Bloom.
Upon his return to the company earlier this year, big things were expected of the tattooed star.
A brief rundown: Tensai previously worked for the company in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s as Albert—then later A-Train—and had a rather unremarkable run (neither gimmick truly took off and his in-ring work was inconsistent and often clunky). After his release in 2004, he went to Japan, where American stars can often find reliable and steady work (former WWE star MVP has also found success there in recent years).
During his time overseas, Bloom, now named Giant Bernard, blossomed greatly as a performer, gaining great acclaim for his fast-improving in-ring work in companies like All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Perhaps it was the change of scenery or working with terrific wrestlers like Yuji Nagata and Hiroshi Tanahashi that brought about the change. Who knows?
Regardless, Bloom's mundane and struggling work as Albert/A-Train was now a thing of the past. The new and improved Bloom was a great wrestler and a charismatic star with a fearsome presence. He was almost certainly a top heel that you could build a company around.
Unsurprisingly, after a few years of garnering rave reviews for his tremendous run in Japan, WWE took notice. He signed a deal earlier this year to return America's No. 1 wrestling company.
So, surely, with his impressive size (6'7'', 360 lbs) and superior in-ring skills, Tensai would be the recipient of a big push from Vince McMahon and be the company’s next major monster heel, right?
Eh, well, it didn’t exactly work out.
First off, Tensai was given a truly awful, outdated cartoon villain gimmick that seemed like it would fit in better in ‘80s WWF, not WWE 2012. He also didn’t talk at all, which probably didn’t help matters. No wonder the fans didn’t know what to make of it and reacted mostly with silence to whatever he did.
That he debuted on the same Raw as Brock Lesnar (the night after WrestleMania XXVIII) may have also damaged him. After all, UFC star Brock was obviously going to receive way more attention and press than Tensai ever could.
Things didn't get much better from there.
Sadly, his storyline association with then-Raw general manager John Laurinaitis was dropped soon after his debut, and he continued to sink down the card with the booking team seemingly having no idea what to do with him or his character.
The storyline went to Tensai attacking his manager, Sakamoto, after his matches, apparently blaming him for his losses. Not only did fans not care about the angle (Sakamoto is hardly a sympathetic figure to audiences), it also went nowhere.
Oh, and let's not even get started on the controversial video that he posted in which he made a racially insensitive "joke" about his manager, apparently as part of their storyline. The video was, unsurprisingly, pulled after a short while.
Seriously, what was he thinking?
WWE later issued a statement noting the wrestler had been "reprimanded" for his unwise remarks. While he struggling even before the Tout, this whole debacle probably didn't help his career either.
So is this the end for the Tensai character?
Well, frankly, at the moment, things don’t look too promising. His career looks to be at a dead end; the only reason he shows up on TV these days is seemingly to lose to someone higher up on the food chain. He’s also found himself reduced to being jobber fodder for up-and-coming babyface star Ryback on the most recent episodes of Raw and SmackDown.
What’s worse, the ending on Monday’s match was badly botched, with Ryback being unable to get Tensai up for his Shell Shocked finisher.
The whole thing was an embarrassment. There appeared to be some sort of miscommunication going on between the two. Ryback looked visibly agitated as the bout quickly fell apart, and he unsuccessfully attempted his finisher for a second time. He later improvised with a brutal-looking clothesline which, mercifully, ended the bout.
What a mess.
Since management are clearly high on the former NXT star, it may very well be Tensai who gets lumbered with most of the blame for the disastrous match. This won’t help him either.
Of course, that’s not to say things are hopeless. We've seen other wrestlers turn it around; maybe he could too.
With the company suffering from a badly depleted roster and needing all the people they can get, someone in power may decide Tensai, who is still a decent wrestler with a great presence after all, is worth investing into again.
All it would take is the right program (with a top babyface like John Cena or Sheamus), and he could finally be the big star many predicted he would be when he signed back with WWE in the spring.
But let's just hope he stays off Tout.