Just a few shorts weeks ago, Tensai was one of many superstars on the WWE roster who was lost in the shuffle. He rarely appeared on television, and when he did, it was usually in a losing effort. Things have clearly turned around for Tensai since his partnership began with Brodus Clay, though, and it will be extremely beneficial for him moving forward.
I was one of many fans who had high hopes for Tensai when he made his debut the night after WrestleMania XXVIII last year. Most knew his identity after the first vignette hyping his arrival played, but it didn't seem like that would be an issue. That couldn't have been further from the truth, however, as fans decided to mock Tensai rather than embrace his character.
Will Tensai's partnership with Brodus Clay save his WWE career?
It is well known that prior to playing the role of Tensai, Matt Bloom went by Albert or A-Train in the WWE during the Attitude Era. He then went on to great success in Japan as Giant Bernard and became a highly-respected American grappler, much like Stan Hansen and John Laurinaitis did before him. His popularity in Japan simply didn't carry back over to the United States, though.
Tensai was given a massive push from the start as he won several squash matches, beat John Cena in a No Holds Barred match and beat then-WWE Champion CM Punk in a handicap match. It seemed as though Tensai was poised to feud with Punk over the title, but his meteoric rise stalled out as quickly as it began.
Suddenly Tensai was winning matches on Superstars and before long he was losing matches on Raw and SmackDown. Tensai eventually ditched his unique entrance garb as well as his worshiper, Sakamoto. There was nothing inherently Japanese about Tensai anymore aside from the temporary character tattoos on his face.
While it's tough to pin Tensai's fall from grace on one thing, the fact that fans constantly chanted "Albert" during his matches certainly didn't help his cause. The WWE could have easily curtailed the chants by having Tensai explain his transformation into Tensai in a promo, but the character was left to wither away instead, and it nearly led to Tensai's demise.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, however, Tensai donned lingerie in the ring a few weeks ago and proceeded to dance around with Clay and The Funkadactyls. With that he was reborn and suddenly has some future prospects in the WWE. Surely he won't be a main-eventer like many expected, but simply winning some matches is a huge improvement for him at this point.
Tensai is a big guy with a good amount of athleticism, but he is probably best suited for a comedic role at this point. He was entertaining as the Hip Hop Hippo during his previous WWE run and his current character isn't much different. The WWE had a small window of opportunity when it came to elevating him to main-event heel status. The WWE squandered that chance and has very few options at this point.
Due to the fact that Tensai is a talented veteran he needs to be utilized in a positive capacity rather than as a jobber. All Tensai did for months was put midcard and main-event faces over, and while I certainly respect Tensai for that as it's the hallmark of a true professional, there is no point in wasting him as he has shown a lot of range as a performer over the years.
Tensai has truly run the gamut from serious monster heel to jovial face over the course of his career. In fact, he has undergone that transformation in less than a year since his WWE return. There are inevitably going to be fans out there who hate the fact that Tensai is dancing around with Clay, and while I agree that Tensai could have gone on to bigger things had he been handled correctly, he is at least relevant to some degree.
With the tag team division in a state of flux, Tensai and Clay could take it by storm in the near future. Team Hell No is on the brink of breaking up and won't be in possession of the Tag Team Championships for much longer. Also, with Team Rhodes Scholars having parted ways, there is no obvious successor in terms of being the dominant team in the division. Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara and The Prime Time Players are options, but the WWE could decide to go with Clay and Tensai.
Clay really fell off after a hot start as he became the face equivalent to Tensai in terms of putting guys over. He has picked up steam as of late, though, and the majority of the fanbase still responds to him. Most fans seem to get a kick out of Tensai dancing as well, so there is little doubt that both men are over and perfectly capable of carrying the tag straps.
It can be argued that they're a joke team that will make a mockery of the division, but both Tensai and Clay are actually quite good in the ring and have shown some great teamwork thus far. Their double splash finisher is devastating and they can be branded as a team that likes to have fun, but is all business once the bell rings.
Albert has had a ton of success as a tag team wrestler in both the United States and Japan, so he has really gone back to his roots as of late. I won't soon forget the fact that Tensai's initial push was botched, but the WWE has made him a valuable contributor once again and I'm interested to see how far his alliance with Clay can take him.