At the start of December, I renewed my Pushed to Punished series for an additional five editions, with one being posted each weekend over the course of the month. For those unfamiliar with my weekly column, I reminisce on the controversial career of a past or present WWE Superstar and attempt to analyze what led to their eventual downfall.
This week, I be tackling the topic of one of the biggest bad apples in WWE history, who was once seen as a future World champion and a breakout star. As you can probably tell, I'm referring to none other than the artist formerly known as Carlito.
In late 2004, vignettes began to air on the SmackDown brand promoting his eventual WWE debut. Although he was originally known as Carlito Caribbean Cool, his in-ring name was later shortened to simply Carlito.
Based upon his various video packages, Carlito was portrayed as a laid back character who ate apples and often referred to things as either "cool" or "not cool." He also had the tendency to spit said apples in people's faces, thus making him a hateable heel.
On the October 7 edition of SmackDown, Carlito challenged then-United States champion John Cena to a title match later in the evening. During the course of the contest, Carlito hit Cena with his own steel chain and scored the three count along with the U.S. Championship.
Not only was it monumental that Carlito captured gold on his first night in WWE, but he did so by pinning a blue chipper who later became the face of the company. That's an impressive feat no matter how you look at it.
Due to an untimely injury, Carlito was forced to drop the title to Cena a little over a month later, but it wasn't the end of the world by any means. He had his bodyguard Jesus, so at least he was still featured in a non-wrestling role each week.
While recovering from his injury, Carlito made his initial appearance on the grandest stage of them apart of Piper's Pit at WrestleMania 21. Although he was on the receiving end of a Stone Cold Stunner, it's still considered a pretty big deal to be in the same ring as two WWE Hall of Famers at the show of shows.
This would eventually lead to Carlito creating his own interview segment called Carlito's Cabana, where he welcomed all kind of guests on a regular basis. He entered a brief feud with Big Show following WrestleMania 21 before being moved to Raw via the 2005 draft lottery.
In his debut match for the brand, he defeated Shelton Benjamin for his first Intercontinental Championship at Vengeance. He'd hold the title for a solid three months before dropping it to Ric Flair at Unforgiven in what was a great match.
However, his title loss ended up being the best thing for him, as he gradually entered the WWE Championship picture. This was the point of Carlito's career where many fans expected to see him capture the title and emerge as one of WWE's biggest breakout stars, as this was when he was still at the top of his game.
He was named as a participant in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship at New Year's Revolution, but came up short. Regardless, he scored the most eliminations in that bout by defeating Chris Masters, Kane and even Shawn Michaels.
Despite his impressive performance at the event, Carlito was placed in the tag team division alongside Chris Masters, where they were met with zero success. They parted ways following WrestleMania 22, which slowly turned Carlito into a fan favorite in the process.
In the summer of 2006, Carlito set his sights on Trish Stratus. At Saturday Night's main event, the two defeated Johnny Nitro and Melina in a mixed tag team match.
Shortly thereafter, he entered a feud with Randy Orton but was unsuccessful in defeating him at Unforgiven. The feud concluded at the annual Tribute to the Troops event in December, where Calito emerged victorious.
Although Stratus' legitimate retirement from wrestling caused the two to split, Carlito later developed an interest in Torrie Wilson. Nothing much came out of it, though, as Carlito was left without a storyline going into WrestleMania 23.
Due to his lack of direction, Carlito expressed frustration in not being booked for Mania during an interview, which might've been the early signs of his inevitable "punishment" at the hands of WWE. He wrestled in the dark match of the event, but it still wasn't the same as competing on the actual card.
A short while later, Carlito turned on Ric Flair as well as his back on the WWE Universe. This was probably the best bet in resurrecting his career, as his face turn simply wasn't working.
He'd later lose to Flair at Judgement Day as well as his subsequent feuds with The Sandman and Triple H. By the end of the year, Carlito formed a partnership with Santino Marella in hopes of capturing the World Tag Team Championships.
How Carlito went from defeating John Cena and winning championships to teaming with Santino is beyond me.
The fact he asked for his WWE release that December shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone. Although he was convinced to stay after meeting with Vince McMahon, was there really any point in sticking around?
The real push he received was being placed in the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 24, but even there he was unsuccessful in winning the briefcase. Thankfully, he was drafted back to the SmackDown brand that June but wasn't immediately used.
It wasn't until September that he finally re-debuted, where he joined forces with his brother Primo and essentially turned face. Two weeks following their debut as a tandem, they defeated Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder to win their first WWE Tag Team Championships together.
They continued to successfully defend their titles going into 2009, where they began feuding with then-World Tag Team champions John Morrison and The Miz. In the WrestleMania 25 dark match, the siblings defeated the Dirt Sheet duo to become the first-ever Unified Tag Team champions in WWE history.
Sure, Carlito could've been pushed as a heel midcarder, but at least he was finally getting over as a face in the tag team division. His pairing with Primo was an excellent one, and they were having some solid matchups with a variety of tag teams.
After being drafted back to Raw in April, they finally lost their tag titles to Chris Jericho and Edge at the The Bash and failed to reclaim the belts shortly thereafter. This would lead to their eventual split that saw Carlito ambushing his brother in early July 2009.
Their feud had all the potential in the world, but unfortunately, it was sparingly highlighted in the weeks that followed before being eventually blown off on an episode of Raw, where Carlito emerged victorious. He then disappeared from WWE programming for unknown reasons.
In November, Carlito returned by interrupting John Cena mid-promo, saying that he was tired of seeing Cena in the title picture and he was ready for change. Although what he said rang true, he was quickly defeated by Cena the following week on Raw.
Going into 2010, he failed to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 26 but was named one of the pros for the inaugural season of NXT. His rookie was Michael Tarver, who experienced a similar losing streak as Carlito and was the first one eliminated from the competition.
In May, Carlito briefly reunited with his Primo before being released from WWE later that month. It was stated that it was due to his violation of the WWE Wellness Policy and failure to attend a rehabilitation facility, which is a true shame given his tremendous talent.
As previously stated, Carlito obtained all the tools to become a breakout star in WWE, but it's unknown as to whether backstage management didn't feel the same way or he simply got lazy. His early beginnings indicated that he was in for super stardom, but something happened along the way that caused him to lose any star power he once had.
With his relatives Primo and Epico still in WWE, it's always possible that Carlito could return at some point, but what does he have left to do? If he isn't going to be pushed as a main event player, then I see no need to bring him back to a place where he didn't seem to enjoy working in his final years.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on Carltio and his unfortunate fall from grace. Also, include any other potential topics you'd like to see me analyze on next week's final edition of Pushed to Punished for the time being.
Read every archived edition of Pushed to Punished here.
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