Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E may now have rudders attached to their meandering ships if the stable WWE teased on Monday's Raw comes to pass.
Three midcarders struggling to gain an identity appeared to join forces in Miami. Bringing them together is a welcome move, as it allows Woods, Kingston and Big E to take advantage of potential rivalries with other stables, could thrust them into contention for the tag team titles and provides the potential for a shift in their characters.
After Kingston and Big E lost to Ryback and Curtis Axel, Woods was waiting for them, mic in hand, decked out in a white suit. He seemed to call on his inner Malcolm X in an impassioned speech.
There was no declaration of unity between the three men. They didn't call themselves anything.
The audience knew, though, that change was coming.
The response has been highly positive so far. Wrestler Gran Akuma commented on Woods' new attitude with enthusiasm.
I'm way more into angry, militant Xavier Woods than I am into whatever the hell Stardust is.— Gran Akuma (@__AKUMA) July 22, 2014
PWMania's Jason Solomon tipped his hat to WWE for making Woods more relevant as well.
I'm glad they seemed to have found a meaningful role for Xavier Woods. I had already casted him off. Hope it takes off. #Raw— Jason Solomon (@solomonster) July 22, 2014
John Canton, who writes for TJRWrestling.com, praised the teased alliance.
I really like the potential of Kingston, Big E & Woods as a group. All talented. Glad something is happening with them.— John Canton (@johnreport) July 22, 2014
A Hall of Famer had similar thoughts. Jim Ross wrote on his blog, "All three talents, and who knows if they don't add another member, have potential and perhaps this will get them quality TV time and get all involved in the game."
The word "potential" keeps coming up, as it should, since creating a group together has the power to help all three wrestlers develop more engaging characters.
Woods, Big E and Kingston are all incomplete as characters.
Woods is the nerdy, high-energy gamer. Kingston's and Big E's gimmicks are difficult to describe because there isn't much to talk about. Being a part of this new stable is likely to inspire a needed shift in each of their personas.
The Woods who addressed Kingston and Big E on Monday's Raw was not the same one we had seen before.
He was focused and angry, a leader capable of inspiring. He talked of not being someone's puppet and moving ahead. In less than a minute, Woods had eclipsed everything he had done for WWE so far.
If WWE allows Kingston and Big E to grow like this, it will make the audience more interested in them. Growing more aggressive and frustrated will make them more dynamic.
Whatever the group's goals are will give each man a focus to strive for. That's something none of them have had much of lately.
A trio of African-American men merging to buck the status quo is going to invite comparisons to the Nation of Domination and have folks talking about race more often than what normally occurs on WWE programming.
That's fine, but their gimmick can't be the fact that they are all black. Their race can be a unifying element, but they must still be characters beyond that. Woods showed a glimpse of doing that on Monday's Raw.
It's a welcome surprise to see WWE go in this direction.
The angle could easily be misinterpreted and could create controversy. For that reason, a group of African-American men pushing back against white leadership is a bold proposition.
The Nation of Domination were exactly that (plus Owen Hart), but they did so in the more free-wheeling Attitude Era.
There was no talk of race in Woods' speech on Monday's Raw. One might interpret him saying it was "our time" as a reference to their shared race, but it's unclear what direction WWE will take this.
The fact that there will be any direction at all for these midcarders is why the move is smart.
From Directionless to the Tag Team Division
The field of potential world title contenders is a crowded mess of warriors and snakes.
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Kane are all in the hunt for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the spotlight that comes with it. Add Daniel Bryan to that list when he returns from injury.
That leaves little room for Big E and Kingston.
Nowhere near that race at the moment, Big E and Kingston have instead been asked to occupy the lower part of the card. The two recently engaged in a semi-feud with Cesaro that hasn't led to anything. The King of Swing lost to both men, inciting him into a rage each time.
Even with Kingston's victory, the spotlight was aimed at Cesaro. He was the central figure suffering from a losing streak. Kingston (and later Big E) was just the catalyst for his anger.
Woods would have loved to have been in the position that those men were.
Back in June, he added his name to the growing list of Bo Dallas' victims. WWE also sent him down to NXT to clash with CJ Parker.
It wasn't the fact that Woods lost to the environmentalist prospect on the July 17 NXT that was most troubling—it was the role that the company had assigned him.
He was the man other men stepped on to get where they were going. Stay in that role long enough and one becomes expendable, as Curt Hawkins, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre found out in mid-June.
Forming a partnership with Kingston, Big E and perhaps others instantly makes Woods more relevant.
He's not swimming along without a storyline. Instead, he's a member of a group, one that he may even lead if the dynamic on Monday's Raw holds up.
This alliance would thrust all three men into a tag team division that is lacking in teams.
The hunt for the tag team titles is far less competitive, with just a few relevant duos around. Stardust and Goldust, The Usos, The Wyatt Family and RybAxel don't make a full division on their own.
There's a lot of space available for Woods' squad. RybAxel needs rivals. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are going to need someone else to clash with other than The Usos.
Woods, Kingston and Big E will provide the booking team with additional options. That can potentially lead to rivalries that wouldn't be possible with those Superstars as individuals.
The Power of Factions
The Shield ended up producing three of the top stars in the company right now. Would Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose all be in the spots they are now if they had all come from NXT as individuals?
Factions have been boosting stars for years. Orton and Batista rode their association with Evolution to headlining status. The Rock emerged from the Nation of Domination a bigger name as well.
WWE has seemingly returned to that formula with The Shield, The Wyatt Family and now perhaps whatever Kingston, Big E and Woods want to call themselves.
Being in a group together allowed The Shield to feud with The Wyatt Family and Evolution, each rivalry resulting in a number of career-boosting matches.
Woods didn't get the benefit of entering a stable when he debuted. He may get a crack at it now, though.
Should he, Big E and Kingston charge ahead together, WWE can have them battle all three members of The Wyatt Family. If WWE wants to play up the anti-establishment angle, the trio can go to war with The Authority.
Suddenly, a match featuring Woods, Kingston and Big E vs. Triple H, Orton and Kane is possible.
Survivor Series now looks more enticing for the three midcarders. Instead of being a pay-per-view that they would be tossed onto randomly, it can be the proving ground for their burgeoning stable.
Rather than ask WWE Creative to book a singles feud for Woods, Kingston and Big E separately, it can now write a single story opposite another group. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family wasn't complicated—just one gang looking to push another one from its territory.
WWE can tell a similar story with Woods, Kingston, Big E and their foes.
Rather than be forgotten members of the roster, these three men are now part of an enticing narrative with great potential, one that will have WWE's writing team looking for foils to fight them and battles to place them in.
That's a major upgrade over wilting at the bottom of the pile, which is what Woods, Kingston and Big E were set to do without this alliance.