Pushed to Punished: How Tyler Breeze Went from WWE NXT Stud to Main Roster Dud
In WWE Pushed to Punished, I analyze the controversial careers of past and present WWE Superstars who were once in the good graces of management but ultimately met their downfall for one reason or another. No one has fit that description quite as well as Tyler Breeze has as of late.
Signed by WWE in 2010, Mike Dalton spent several years floundering down in developmental before settling on the Tyler Breeze character in mid-2013. It was then that he struck gold and won over the Full Sail faithful on NXT with his above-average wrestling ability and entertaining gimmick.
Although he never fulfilled his goal of winning the NXT Championship, he shined in various feuds with Neville, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami. It was apparent that he would be bound for the main roster before long.
Breeze finally made his main roster debut in October 2015, but it wasn't long after that WWE seemingly lost all faith in his push. He may have seasonal residences all over the world, but he currently resides on Main Event and WWE Superstars.
Here, I'll break down every peak and valley in the career of Breeze in an attempt to discover where WWE went wrong with him.
Arriving on NXT
As documented on WWE Network's hit show Breaking Ground, Mike Dalton was on the chopping block for many years during his time in developmental. Although he was an impressive hand in the ring and a former FCW heavyweight champion, he lacked charisma and an overall connection with the crowd.
Fairly early on in NXT's revamped run, Dalton made sporadic appearances but was largely utilized as an enhancement talent. But even longtime viewers of the program had a tough time realizing it was him when he made his re-debut on the July 24, 2013, edition as Tyler Breeze.
Entering to the most generic yet strangely awesome entrance music in NXT history, Breeze made his way to the ring, never taking his eyes away from his phone. It was shades of Shawn Michaels and Rick "The Model" Martel, with the biggest difference being he represented the current narcissistic generation, which made it so perfect.
In making quick work of his opponent that night, he showed off his skill set more than he was ever able to as Dalton. It quickly became evident that he was as great in the ring as he was playing his character.
Shortly thereafter, he moved into a feud with CJ Parker, but because the crowd took a liking to Breeze, the fans cheered him over the environmentalist, who later went heel as a result. Breeze built a fan following in Full Sail University that would later lead him to a title match for the NXT Championship.
Chasing the NXT Championship
At the dawn of 2014, Breeze set his sights on the NXT Championship. He engaged in a short-lived feud with future NXT champion Neville, and while Breeze came out on the losing end, he proved in defeat that he could hang with NXT's most elite competitors.
By May, he was perceived to be a legitimate threat to NXT's top prize. In surprising fashion, he beat Sami Zayn in what many considered his breakout performance at NXT TakeOver to become the new No. 1 contender to the title.
In the summer that followed, he debuted all-new entrance music and began incorporating more serious elements into his character. He finally contended for the championship on the Aug. 14 episode but had his golden opportunity thwarted following interference from Tyson Kidd.
He took part in a Fatal 4-Way match also involving Neville, Kidd and Zayn for the NXT title at the next TakeOver special in September. He, along with the other three up-and-comers, put forth an amazing battle and contested one of the best bouts of the year.
Once again, Breeze was unsuccessful in taking home the title, but it didn't matter; he proved he didn't need gold to get over. With or without the belt, he was already on the rise in NXT, and fans took notice of his talent during the time he spent in the championship picture.
After a white-hot 2014, the subsequent year for Breeze wasn't as prosperous. He entered a fun feud with Hideo Itami in the first few months of 2015, and despite coming out on top on two separate occasions, it didn't do much in terms of upping his status in NXT.
He had the chance to go back after the NXT Championship by facing Finn Balor in a No. 1 contender's match at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, but he fell short of victory once again. From that point forward, he was virtually directionless in the brand for the remainder of his run.
Officials teased turning him babyface over the summer, but nothing ever came of it. He was given the distinct honor of wrestling Japanese legend Jushin Liger's one and only WWE match, and although the loss wasn't a total missed opportunity, he was back to being marginalized following TakeOver: Brooklyn.
TakeOver: Respect was the same story as he was unsuccessful in handing Apollo Crews' his first singles defeat. All of his outings at these specials were impressive, but his constant losses were causing his stock to dip each time.
Then again, some might argue that the way he was handled toward the end of his NXT stint would be an improvement over what the main roster has reduced him to.
Feuding with Dolph Ziggler and Aligning with Summer Rae
On the Oct. 22 edition of SmackDown, Breeze made his premier appearance on the show, being introduced as Summer Rae's latest squeeze. Breeze wasted no time in making an impact by viciously laying out Dolph Ziggler and declaring he and Summer to be the most dominant duo in WWE at that time.
Conspicuous by his absence at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, Breeze made his official Raw debut the following week to kick off his rivalry with Ziggler. It had the potential to be entertaining, but the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament put their program on the back burner for a few weeks. In addition, they received minimal mic time.
At long last, they went one-on-one at the Survivor Series, where they contested an average match. Breeze scored the "upset" victory, and while it should have been a sign he was bound for greatness in WWE, that was the last time he was considered credible.
The rivalry resumed in the weeks that followed, but their next two meetings saw Ziggler pick up the win. Essentially, any momentum the former NXT standout scored from his first win over the former world champion went to waste.
Furthermore, their feud was blown off on the episode of SmackDown before TLC and not at the event itself—a strong indicator that plans to push Breeze as an upper-midcard competitor had been scrapped.
Fall from Grace
Breeze wasn't at all ruined by his back-to-back losses to Ziggler, but they certainly didn't do him any favors. A rivalry with Goldust seemed to be in the works for a week or two, but that was abruptly dropped after the former intercontinental champion beat him on the Dec. 17 edition of SmackDown.
It was all downhill from there for Breeze, who has yet to recover. He hasn't been involved in anything of note since his feud with Ziggler was cut short and hasn't been featured nearly as prominently on WWE TV.
Whenever he is on TV, it's almost always in a losing effort. In the last month alone, he has suffered losses at the hands of Neville, Titus O'Neil and Jack Swagger, even on WWE Superstars, which all but confirms he's in the doghouse with WWE.
There was always a fear among fans that the WWE wouldn't utilize him properly once he joined the main roster, and that has proved to be true, but not because he isn't cut out to be a successful singles star. His gimmick could use some tweaking, but because he wasn't producing results from the get-go as officials hoped he would, they pulled the plug on his push.
And that's it, folks: the good, the bad and the uggo of Tyler Breeze's six-year stint with WWE. At the age of 28, there is hope for him yet in WWE, but the longer he is at the level of an enhancement talent, the harder it will be for fans to take him seriously if he is ever repackaged (see: Curtis Axel).
Be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on how Tyler Breeze has been utilized over the course of his career, both in NXT and WWE. Also, include any potential Superstars or Divas you would like to see featured in upcoming editions of Pushed to Punished.
Read every archived edition of Pushed to Punished here.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.