Alex Riley's inactivity is a waste of talent, and WWE needs to find direction for him or else they'll squander an athlete’s potential.
Riley has recently been one of several WWE benchwarmers, joining JTG, Ted DiBIase and Yoshi Tatsu as Superstars who are rarely used on TV. He replaced Matt Striker on WWE Superstars commentary, which is certainly better than nothing, but Riley's too young and too good to just be behind the announcer's desk.
Before his prime wanes, WWE should look to maximize his in-ring abilities.
If the company likes what they heard in his commentary debut, he can always resume that role when he's a little more beat up, slower and less capable of exciting fans in the ring.
Riley can contribute to the product now; he just needs a direction.
Send Him After the Midcard Titles
Rather than having the Intercontinental and United States champs focus solely on one rival, those two titles would benefit from a multitude of challengers chasing the belts. Throw Riley into the mix against Curtis Axel, Dean Ambrose or both and he's sure to help produce high-quality matches.
He doesn't need to be either man's main rival, just a hungry star who gets the occasional title shot on Monday or Friday nights.
Watch Riley in this fan-made highlight video. That quickness, fluidity and athleticism will equal fun matches.
If WWE doesn't believe that Riley is charismatic enough to carry a prominent feud, consistently being a midcard title challenger works around it. He doesn't need to be The Rock to get on the mic and say that tonight he's got a shot at Axel or Ambrose and he's going to make the most of it.
He doesn't need to win the titles either, he just needs to be compelling in the chase.
Axel and Ambrose would benefit from fending off strong challengers, and the more Riley gets on TV, the better connection he gets with the audience. If he starts to get really over, WWE can do bigger things with him.
For now though, he'd be a perfect fit for multiple-man matches for those two championships. Axel can look mighty championship-worthy if he defeats Riley and two other challengers in a Fatal 4-Way. The same goes for Ambrose.
Championship scrambles and multiple-star ladder matches would allow him to impress with his dropkicks and clotheslines without having to be as well-rounded as someone like Daniel Bryan. Riley currently lacks star power, but that can shift.
Having him stand in another star's shadow is another way to get him onscreen more.
Align Him With Another Superstar
Riley was at his best as either Miz's minion or his enemy. He broke away from Miz and has since made no headway.
Why not go back to what has worked for him before?
He played the muscle, the goon and the victim of Miz's frustrations. This angle not only allowed him to thrive in an interesting storyline, but to share the load. Miz, the better talker of the two, did most of the talking.
Riley was allowed to do what he does best—wrestle.
Perhaps he does a version of Mickie James' stalker story with Trish Stratus. Riley could follow around a more successful Superstar, be his buddy and his assistant while slowly developing an unhealthy relationship with him.
Being someone like Sheamus' hanger-on adds depth to both stalker and stalkee.
Let him fight a heel's battles for him or defend a face against blindside attacks. This gets him automatically inserted into someone's storylines. He gets his face on TV more, and again fans can start to love him or hate him.
Being as underused as Riley is can lead to the fans just forgetting about you.
Being someone's second again may seem like a step back, but it has to be considered an improvement over watching WWE Raw from the locker room. He can add speed and energy to the matches he's a part of because of his partnership with someone higher up.
Before committing Riley to commentary, WWE has some options for bringing back Riley into the fighting fold. Let him hit an A-Bomb on a few more folks before he slides on those headphones for good.