Matt Korklan is a man known by many names and titles, but unfortunately for the young St. Louis native, world champion will likely never be one.
Fans of IWA-Mid South, Wrestling Society X, Ring of Honor and even old Total Nonstop Action Wrestling know Korklan as Matt Sydal, while modern mainstream wrestling fans recognize him as his World Wrestling Entertainment-issued identity Evan Bourne.
To WWE fans, Bourne is a high-flyer presented with the gift of being allowed to use the dangerous yet beautiful shooting star press as a finishing maneuver. He's the guy with the flashy moves called upon to put on a spectacle before ultimately ending the match flat on his back with a referee executing a three count.
In short, Bourne's career in WWE has amounted to little more than enhancement talent. In a past issue of WWE Magazine, however, he said he's as happy as could be, as his dream has always been to perform in WWE, even if he wore a mask and constantly jobbed to the stars.
While Bourne may be satisfied with his current standing in the company, he has potential to do so much more. Despite his small stature and lacking skills on a microphone, the company has many opportunities to push Bourne to the next level.
Like many of his counterparts, Bourne has become a victim of corporately implemented limitations. The 26-year-old star has a set of moves and skills that far exceed what he's showcased during his tenure on the now defunct WWECW and Monday Night Raw.
He's completed several tours of Japan, sharing a ring with international superstars including CIMA, Masato Yoshino and Genki Horiguchi. During one tour, he won Dragon Gate's lightweight title, the Open the Brave Gate Championship, from Yoshino. Bourne, competing under his Matt Sydal moniker at the time, became the first gaijin (non-Japanese star) to earn that honor.
By his mid-20s, Bourne had become an internationally recognized superstar, appeared on national pay-per-view with TNA Wrestling, won multiple championships including the Ohio Valley Wrestling Heavyweight Championship while under a WWE development contract and made his way onto WWE programming.
Each one of these accomplishments represented a major milestone for the young wrestler, who had begun his career in the Midwest, becoming the first person under the age of 18 to earn a wrestling license in Missouri, one of the most restricted states in the U.S. for performing.
Now, with all that under his belt, Bourne finds himself in a position where his destiny is in the hands of Vincent Kennedy McMahon, a man with reported visions of idoltry for muscle-bound freaks of nature and not lightweight performers. Unless Bourne can find a way to break the glass ceiling placed above all cruiserweights, the life and death of his career remains in the control of WWE.
TNA wasted Bourne while they had him in 2004 and 2005, not even allowing him to win a match during his entire tenure with the promotion. As of late, WWE has been putting Bourne over in matches, though this string of success can likely be attributed to his upcoming appearance in the Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania.
In two weeks, Bourne enters the most famous ladder match of the year against opponents including Christian, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Kane, and MVP, amongst others. Competing against these more established stars—as well as other climbing stars like Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre—gives Bourne an opportunity to shine, and hopefully he will be more than a walking spotfest when the match rolls around.
Very few people realistically expect Bourne to be the one to emerge from WrestleMania with a world title shot, but there's still a chance for him to walk away from the match with less doubters and more momentum.
Bourne has become a star lost in the shuffle on Raw and would benefit greatly from a brand switch. Creating tension between him and McIntyre during Money in the Bank would be a good way to tease a trade to Smackdown during the annual WWE draft, and Bourne would appear to be a legitimate threat for the Intercontinental Championship.
Being on Smackdown would also allow Bourne to compete against the likes of John Morrison, Rey Mysterio, CM Punk and Tyson Kidd, who he worked with in his days at developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling. With Mysterio expected to take time off following WrestleMania, Bourne could also be the one to step into the "ultimate underdog" role, squaring off against larger superstars like Ezekial Jackson.
Smackdown also offers a solution to Bourne's biggest weakness: his charisma, or lack thereof. Former ECW Tiffany has proven herself on the microphone and developed a character, and this past Friday night, she showed promise for a successful in-ring career. Aligning Tiffany with Bourne, playing the role of a love interest, manager and mixed-tag tag team partner, would aid both performers.
Tiffany would benefit from being aligned with a very popular star, and Bourne would get the proverbial rub from having a gorgeous and talented woman by his side. Tiffany could work the microphone for him, much as Lizzie Valentine did on the short-lived Wrestling Society X program.
Even with a manager and a voice, Bourne's chances of obtaining a world title at any point during his WWE career remain almost non-existent. But the young star can put on midcard title-caliber matches and performances, and seeing him with the Intercontinental, United States or even Unified Tag Team title around his waist would be a pleasant reward for his dedication to the craft and ability to appeal to a PG Era audience.
Saying Bourne has limitless potential would be a very unfair statement, as there are obvious boundaries to how far he can go in WWE as long as McMahon and like-minded individuals remain at the helm. But there's no reason Bourne and his legions of fans should rest on their laurels, watching weekly programming wondering if their favorite superstar can even manage to pick up a win, let alone a meaningful one.
WWE's usage of Bourne post-WrestleMania will be the true indicator of whether or not the company will inevitably lead to the end of his legacy. The company has an opportunity to push Bourne in an underdog role and breathe new life into the star, but whether or not they'll take the risk on a star of such small physical stature remains to be scene.
If they push Bourne, it will be a smart move. If they continue to utilize such a talented performer as enhancement talent, it will be a downright shame.
Adam Testa is the administrator and founder of The Wrestling Digest, coming soon to www.thewrestlingdigest.com. He will be cheering for Evan Bourne from the stands of the University of Phoenix Stadium during WrestleMania. He also serves at the president of the unofficial fan club for Bourne's younger brother, Midwest wrestling star and Pro Wrestling Illustrated's 2009 Rookie of the Year Mike Sydal.
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