Curtis Axel is WWE's Intercontinental champion and one of the company's fastest rising talents. The man formerly known as Michael McGillicutty has been on a career high since becoming Paul Heyman's newest client back in May. Right now, he is taking somewhat of a backseat while his manager is busy with former client CM Punk.
However, I believe that this is a great opportunity for Axel to shine in WWE.
Axel stepped up to face Punk on the August 5 edition of Monday Night Raw, and I for one believe he looked very good. Some fans have been very critical of Curtis, not only with his ability in the ring but the spot he was given as a member of Paul Heyman's group.
This is understandable; anytime a guy who was not doing much is given an opportunity to progress, fans will usually critique every element of his character and work. Truth be told, I can see why this is happening with Axel, yet I think he has done quite well in his new role.
And for me, his work with Punk has been right on par with how far he should be at this point under Heyman.
However, all of Paul's attention has been focused on Punk in the past few weeks which means that Axel has been somewhat off fans' immediate radar. However, from what we saw on Raw, that could very well be changing soon.
For the first time, we saw both of Heyman's remaining clients in Brock and Curtis on camera at the same time. It was a moment that I have been waiting for, and when it happened, it was more surreal than I had expected.
Of course, Brock has always been a loner, so it's hard to say just how comfortable he will become around Curtis, if at all. For the most part, Lesnar uses Heyman as more of a mouthpiece than anything. Brock lets his ring work do most of his talking, and Paul is basically there to put a bow on the package.
In fact, I have always believed that if Brock had good mic skills that his character would likely not be paired with anyone.
But at least for that moment, he shared the same air as Axel, and while that does not necessarily mean that we will see both men tagging together, the fact is that Curtis could still benefit from this situation.
Heyman's guys need to look strong right now. This goes not only for Brock but Axel as well. Heyman needs all the momentum he can get going into SummerSlam; Punk needs to be outgunned and unprepared for the challenge he faces against Brock Lesnar.
This creates more drama and more interest around this match. And, taking a beating from both Brock and Curtis in the meantime will make Punk more of a sympathetic figure who is fighting against the odds. This is where Punk is at his best.
Of course, we cannot forget about the fact that Axel is wearing what at one time was considered WWE's second most important championship belt. The Intercontinental title is still important, yet it is not featured as it once was. But this can change with Curtis Axel, and the truth is that it needs to happen now.
The popular train of thought among many fans is that a championship does not make a Superstar, a Superstar makes the championship. In Axel's case, he is wearing a lot of history around his waist. But he must be allowed to do what he is capable of in the ring, as well as with his character, to make that title shine for him.
And I believe that the feud between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar could be the key to allowing Curtis Axel to do just that. The truth is that if Axel gets lost in the shuffle and remains unaffected, then his career could actually take a step backward.
For me, this would be unfortunate because, as Heyman's newest client, WWE has a real opportunity to make him into a star, using Paul's influence as the catalyst. With Heyman getting the credit for molding him and Curtis getting the credit for making the most of the pairing, everyone wins.
I am very interested to see just how much Axel will be utilized leading up to SummerSlam and just how much he will be given in order to keep moving forward. The fact is if he stands still, he could end up falling on his face. And that will not benefit anyone.
Curtis Axel needs to shine in the feud between Brock Lesnar and CM Punk. There's no time like the present for him to make an impact in WWE. Hopefully, WWE realizes this as well.