WWE's South African Sensation, Justin Gabriel, has been on a roll since his split from Heath Slater. After three reigns as Tag Team Champions, WWE Creative finally realized that Justin Gabriel possesses the qualities of a natural face. A swift examination of Gabriel’s look, move set and his finishing maneuver would justify my claim
Now that Mr. 450 is on his own, I feel it's time for the WWE to set long-term plans in motion. The WWE should build Justin Gabriel up as one of its future stars. Before you question my opinion and Gabriel’s potential as a top star, I’d like to bring a number of recent occurrences.
A few weeks ago, Justin Gabriel returned to his hometown of Capetown, South Africa for a series of live events/house shows. The tour proved successful when each live show sold out. According to legendary commentator, Jim Ross, the WWE earned millions because of the three shows in South Africa.
And who headlined each show? You guessed it, Justin Gabriel. Normally, most fans wouldn't consider this a big deal. However, SmackDown live shows have suffered a drastic decrease in revenue. Because of this, the WWE decided to (temporarily) end the brand extension and allow their talent to cross over to the opposing brand.
As a business, the WWE should capitalize on Gabriel’s popularity in South Africa by allowing him to prosper and appeal to American audience.
Being the opportunist that I am, I decided to analyze Gabriel and what can be done to prepare him for the main event level. Like I stated above, he possesses the wrestling ability, charisma, and believe it or not, passable mic skills to become a top star.
In the end, it comes down to WWE Creative and their plans for the South African Sensation.
However, given that WWE Creative has the tendency to botch mid-card pushes, I created a booking plan for Gabriel. Simply put, if I were orchestrating Gabriel’s singles run.
Before I begin, I’d like to mention that I would use Black and White by Bleeding in Stereo as Gabriel’s theme song. The name may sound familiar as Gabriel used the theme while teaming with Heath Slater. Personally, I feel as if, with a superstars theme, you define its user, and while Gabriel’s current theme is to my liking, Black and White worked for Gabriel.
For starters, place Justin Gabriel in a solid mid-card feud.
The WWE has done an "OK" job of establishing Gabriel as a solid mid-card face with the multiple vignettes from South Africa. They're putting the Sensation on display for the live audiences who enjoy Gabriel's unique in-ring style. Thing is: besides meaningless matches with Tyson Kidd and JTG, the WWE has no apparent direction for Gabriel.
If I were booking Gabriel's singles run, I would go two different directions. First, I'd place Justin in a mid-card feud with Kidd. I would have the feud revolve around "one upsmanship." Simple, but it would be as if Kidd were telling Gabriel "anything you can do, I can do better."
It would benefit both men as Tyson is another subject of the WWE's botched pushes. I would place the two in a series of matches that would allow them to display their unique styles of wrestling. Despite the popular opinion, wrestling does matter when it comes to getting over. In turn, fans would get behind Gabriel as a face while despising Kidd as a heel.
For the feud to be effective, the WWE should allow it to prosper for months. For example, allow it to reach the length of Randy Orton vs. Christian. While I am one of the fans who opposed Christian/Orton after the third occasion, SmackDown revolved around the angle while the same can’t be said for a potential Gabriel/Kidd feud.
In the end, the WWE should set up a gimmick match for the No. 1 contendership to the Intercontinental or World Championship. This allows Gabriel to come off as a winner in one feud while immediately inserting him into program with one of SmackDown’s champions.
However, I would have Gabriel face Cody Rhodes instead. This allows Gabriel to continue his run without overwhelming him with a main event run too early on. This also allows Ted DiBiase to come into his own as a face while remaining by Cody’s side. The fall of Alex Riley is a worthy notion to the fact that this Rhodes/Dibiase feud should progress slowly instead a spontaneous face turn that will lose its steam down the line.
On the other hand, Cody has a worthy challenger while Gabriel is facing a seasoned superstar in Rhodes.
Cody has the power to aid Gabriel in getting over as a face. Rhodes and Gabriel are both great workers and allowing them to wrestle a 10-minute match is beneficial to both superstars.
Rhodes wants to reestablish the relevance of the Intercontinental Championship. The best way to do so is to have him face strong opponents like Gabriel. I'm not saying Justin should win the championship but allow him to establish himself as a worthy contender to any championship.
I would set up a tag match with Gabriel and Daniel Bryan facing Rhodes and DiBiase. Gabriel would pick up the win at a 450 to Rhodes. This would sell the feud to casual fans as most would give Gabriel a chance at defeating Cody in a title bout.
Cody Rhodes would win the feud (with DiBiase assistance), but I would add one twist. Rhodes and Gabriel would face off in one last match. This time, the winner would face Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Instead of Rhodes picking up a predictable victory, DiBiase would inadvertently cost Rhodes the match. In turn, the Rhodes/DiBiase feud could boil over while Gabriel steps up as a main event competitor.
The face vs. face card hasn't been played for some time now. Like the Hardy/Triple H feud from 2007, have Gabriel and Orton assist the other on a constant basis. The WWE should establish the mentor/protégé angle before the impending matchup. Ultimately, Orton would win a great match with Gabriel coming close on occasion.
By the time everything listed should come to fruition, the Royal Rumble pay-per-view should be approaching.
I would book Gabriel to enter at No.1. The South African Sensation would remain in the bout until only two competitors are left.
Gabriel should be eliminated after some back-and-forth action between the two.
This allows Gabriel's relevance to stay intact leading up to WrestleMania 28. The Elimination Chamber pay-per-view should have another valiant performance by Gabriel, only to have Gabriel come up short once again.
In case you haven’t noticed, I want to establish the “close, but no cigar” angle.
After the pay-per-view, I would reinstate the WWE Money in the Bank ladder match. While the MITB pay-per-view is great, it doesn't provide a stage like WrestleMania. It also gives the winner a choice of choosing between the World and WWE Titles. This would be Gabriel's breakout moment. After months of slow buildup and shortcomings, Gabriel would win the MITB ladder match.
By this time, Gabriel should be one of the WWE's most beloved Superstars. Thing is, I would have Gabriel cash in on the WWE Champion instead.
While Daniel Bryan continues his run on SmackDown, Gabriel would become the WWE Champion on RAW. In turn, there would be two fresh faces in the main event scene.
Gabriel's reign would last no longer than five months, allowing him to become a staple to the main event scene.