After a lengthy and dull run in WWE’s lower-card ranks (anyone remember his tag team with Michael McGillicutty? No? We didn’t think so), David Otunga finally flourished in WWE in late 2011 with his smug lawyer gimmick.
The act was, of course, a play on Otunga’s real-life legal qualifications: He graduated from Harvard Law School several years ago and, as entertainment news site TMZ has noted, still takes on the occasional case from time to time. Impressively, he has his own undefeated streak, having yet to lose a case.
Likely because he was borrowing from what he knew, Otunga was terrific in the role, emanating charisma and a quirky charm (the bow ties and constant coffee-drinking were a nice touch).
Rewarding Otunga’s improvement, WWE heightened his profile on television. He became the right hand man to then-Raw GM John Laurinaitis and was often all over the show.
Despite this, his ring work continued to be only so-so. With his impressive physique, Otunga looks amazing, and has a certain presence, but he still looks largely lost when he wrestles.
But, nonetheless, he continued to shine as an on-screen character. Well, until, John Laurinaitis was written out of the storylines and fired on-screen in May, that is. At which point Otunga found himself stuck in the lower mid-card again, with the creative team seemingly clueless about what to do with him.
Oh, he’s still treated as a star and usually gets to appear on Raw and SmackDown on a fairly regular basis, but he’s fallen a long way from the star of the year.
So, what now? Can Otunga recover from his current lull? And, if he does, can he even be more than a supporting player in the company?
As far as the first question goes, the answer is: probably. While he may be floundering right now, he does have a major theatrical release coming out soon—WWE Studios’ movie The Hive.
Considering the high-level talent attached to the project—it stars Academy-Award winner Halle Berry and is directed by Brad Anderson, who has worked on critically acclaimed shows like The Wire, The Shield and Boardwalk Empire—The Hive has the potential to be the first WWE film in a long time that is successful at the box office.
Assuming it does do well, this will surely help Otunga’s status in the company as well as boosting his profile further in the mainstream (due to his relationship with Jennifer Hudson he already garners more press attention than most on the roster).
And for whether he can ever be more than a supporting player in WWE? That question is decidedly more muddled.
As noted, he’s still a rather mediocre wrestler. If he has not gotten better after several years in the business, he’s probably not going to. At a time when fans expect high-quality main events, it’s difficult to see WWE overlooking this and giving him a main event push.
Of course, someone would point to Ryback as an example of a struggling wrestler getting a main event push, but despite his size Otunga simply doesn’t have the skill set—or intense charisma—to get over as a monster face/heel character.
But even if Otunga never becomes a main eventer, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a huge asset to the company. At the very least, his lawyer gimmick is a great character—something that the watered down and struggling Raw product desperately needs right now.