WWE is taking the bush league route to pushing Curtis Axel as a big deal. Despite wins over the likes of Chris Jericho, Triple H and John Cena, Axel was an accessory who was devoured by a larger storyline in each victory.
Against Triple H, his victory was extinguished by a concussion angle as Raw ended with Triple H unable to continue the match. This has quickly ballooned into a family affair, with the McMahons returning to television to micromanage his career.
Against John Cena, a pair of count-out victories was an afterthought. Cena opted to ditch his first match against Axel to seek out Ryback and was put through a table in a stunt that dwarfed the second match.
Chris Jericho, whose losses mean less and less since he loses to everybody these days, did yet another job to Curtis Axel on SmackDown. Of course, this loss was facilitated by a CM Punk tease as WWE once again used Axel as a prop to build up a high-profile feud.
It's no wonder Stephanie McMahon, a high-ranking WWE executive, emphasized on TV that Axel is beneath Triple H and just wasn't worth his time. That's how the promotion seems to feel about him based on his booking.
Axel's wins have been the equivalent to the warp zone in level 1-2 of Super Mario Bros., where savvy players can immediately advance to level four.
But there will be light at the end of the tunnel. There just has to be.
Sure, Curtis Axel may not pan out in all likelihood due to gaps in charisma and star power. But if he doesn't, it wouldn't be for a lack of effort from WWE.
WWE has already sunk a sizable investment in him, pairing him with its hottest manager while positioning him in the main event of the flagship show on multiple occasions.
Will Curtis Axel get a clean victory over a top star at Payback?
Michael Cole acknowledges Axel's victories in a dismissive tone whenever they're touted by heel-leaning JBL, as a story is being told of the jury still being out on the newcomer.
It's likely that Triple H's viking quest back to the ring will culminate in a pay-per-view match at Payback, as his attempts to work Axel on free TV continue to be thwarted by his family.
Should Axel score a pinfall victory over Triple H on pay-per-view, all questions about his phony victories will have subsided. WWE would be able to use this victory to validate Axel as for real, and all of a sudden, his string of questionable wins will have meant something when contrasted with his biggest win to date.
Whether or not that will be enough to eventually make Axel into a bona fide star is anybody's guess and a completely different discussion.