Zack Ryder is the one with the United States title on his resume, but in the end it will be Curt Hawkins who will have the better WWE career.
Back in 2008, Ryder and Hawkins won tag team gold together becoming the youngest tag team champs in WWE history. The two athletic superstars looked to be on the rise in the company, climbing one rung at a time. Fast forward to 2013 and both men are among WWE's bottom feeders.
Ryder had a short burst of popularity that appears to be long over. Hawkins, though, could take the slow and steady route to surpassing his former tag partner.
Of the two former members of La Familia, known once as the Major Brothers, Hawkins is the better in-ring talent and Ryder the one with the edge in charisma.
Ryder rode mostly self-created momentum to momentary popularity in 2011 and 2012. Underused and dissatisfied, Ryder took to YouTube and Twitter to reach fans directly.
The result was a level of success with fans that didn't necessarily equate to success in the ring. After a United States title run that lasted less than a month and a part in the John Cena and Kane feud in 2012, Ryder's star fell.
Ryder is a solid in-ring performer and could have certainly flourished with a longer run with the title. His sudden journey back to the jobber level is proof, though, that WWE doesn't believe in him as much as his fanbase does.
Even as warranted as it might have been, Ryder's continual remarks on Twitter about his position with WWE couldn't have done him any favors.
There are times when the proverbial squeaky wheel gets grease by way of making noise, but it hasn't worked for Ryder. Meanwhile, Hawkins has mostly been quiet and been a reliable, hard-worker.
Judging by his losses to Heath Slater and to Fandango in his hometown and the fact that he was left off the WrestleMania 29 card, it appears that Ryder's comments have helped him remain in the company's doghouse. Hawkins, on the other hand, seems to only need the right path for him to start running.
Talent Awaiting Passage
After parting with Ryder and later teaming with Vance Archer and Tyler Reks, Hawkins has mostly floated along in the WWE ocean, often unseen and unnoticed.
Both Reks and Edge label Hawkins as "underrated."
The way that the Long Island Iced Z gimmick helped Ryder to his peak, Hawkins is in search of a point of entry to connect with the fans.
WWE appears to be trying different things with him, but mostly minor, superficial. He's walked around with a cane while wearing sunglasses. He recently cut his hair and donned new tights.
What Hawkins needs, though, is an angle, a motivation or an obstacle to draw fans in.
For Daniel Bryan it was the "Yes!" chants and later anger management treatment that separated him from the crowd. Johnny Curtis found new life with the Fandango gimmick. WWE doesn’t need to turn Hawkins into a dancer or a Bryan rip-off, but he needs something that makes him more appealing to audiences than the other eager talents crowding the locker room.
As an excellent in-ring storyteller, Hawkins will likely get that opportunity from WWE in the future.
In an NXT from earlier this year, Hawkins impressed in a loss to Justin Gabriel. He showed off compelling aggression and convincing anger.
Hawkins shows us glimpses of both his brawling ability and technical prowess. With longer matches and better stories, Hawkins can produce excellent matches for WWE.
Ryder is just as quick and agile as Hawkins, but he can't match his former partner in overall talent. Hawkins is the more well-rounded performer of the two and that should eventually translate into a shot at something bigger.
Johnny Curtis' skills led to Vince McMahon pinning the Fandango gimmick on him. Michael McGillicutty's talents led to him being repacked into Curtis Axel.
When that metamorphosis happens to Hawkins, he will roost in a higher spot on the card for longer than Ryder. Ryder will prove to be the comet who quickly rose and fell, while Hawkins' slower ascension will be one that results in longer-lasting success.