Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman's newest client, has the talent to be a very good and very successful WWE Superstar, but a lack of "it factor" will keep him from reaching the company's upper echelon.
In one sudden moment on WWE Raw, Michael McGillicutty transformed into Axel and went from obscurity to limelight, from bench warming to opportunity. Aligning him with Heyman and giving him a remixed version of his father's entrance music will help maximize his talents.
Axel is a gifted in-ring performer but lacks the sizzle that makes megastars out of Superstars.
Taking a look at his wrestling ability shows us why WWE is reinvesting in him and why he was chosen to be the newest Heyman guy.
Axel is a Swiss Army knife of a wrestler, multifaceted and good at a number of things. Aside from high flying, Axel excels at every aspect of in-ring performance. He has size and power and channels both of those things into moves like his vicious-looking clothesline and lariat to the back of the head.
He has an impressive range, able to deliver excellent kicks, suplexes and submissions. His movement in the ring is fluid, he's quick, and moves like his pendulum backbreaker show off his crispness in the ring.
Check out his work in this NXT Triple Threat match against Alex Riley and Kaval.
His pacing and movement is fantastic here . He sells Kaval's offense well. He helps tell a story in a short amount of time.
Axel shows off his intensity in this match. It's a good showing, one that leads one to believe that he has potential to deliver a number of high-quality matches in the future.
How, then, does someone so well-rounded and talented take so long to get a shot?
The trouble is that Axel doesn't stand out the way WWE's biggest stars do. Even when Stone Cold was "Stunning" Steve Austin in WCW, there was something magnetic about him. It's the same quality that helped CM Punk, The Rock, Chris Jericho and John Cena get to where they are today.
Are there better wrestlers out there than Cena? Certainly there are, but that elusive, electric quality that draws fans to him has put him in his current position. Not every successful WWE star has to be on the level of those guys just mentioned, though.
Shelton Benjamin, Ron Garvin and Lance Storm are just some of the guys with far more ring skills than "it factor." This is the group in which Axel belongs, which is not to say he can't win some championships and carve out a name for himself, but it means he has a somewhat limited ceiling.
Getting a new name and manager will help him to stand out, as will giving some ring gear and a catchphrase. Axel is no Rock, but he's not void of personality, either.
His feud with Tyson Kidd is a great preview of what he's capable of in terms of rivalries.
The promo work here isn't fantastic, but it's solid. Axel was intense and believable, just not larger-than-life. Heyman's presence will help in that department tremendously, allowing Axel not to be forced to lead, at least not right away.
Axel's push has seen his WWE peers and alums react positively. Howard Finkel tweeted a positive note.
Curtis Axel has become a WWE household name over the last 15 min.. Opportunity knocks, and I think that he'll open the door and embrace it— Howard Finkel (@howardfinkel) May 21, 2013
Kidd, his former opponent, talked up Axel's potential.
Curt Axel has some amazing music.Natural from day 1, he doesn't know his own potential.He can go in the ring#Raw— Tyson Kidd (@KiddWWE) May 21, 2013
Former WWE star, Lance Storm, tweeted the following:
Great explanation of the name. The kids pretty good. I hope people give him a chance #RAW— Lance Storm (@LanceStorm) May 21, 2013
Being picked by Heyman and being in the main event of WWE Raw against Triple H has Axel garnering more attention than he did even when he and David Otunga were tag team champions. He is a good enough wrestler to have a long, fruitful career.
Expect him to rise above the ranks of guys like Zack Ryder and Justin Gabriel and not go too many rungs above that. Axel is more work horse than star, more Hardcore Holly than Curt Hennig, able to make an impression but not able to be unforgettable.