Mojo Rawley defeated former tag team partner Zack Ryder at Clash of Champions on Sunday in Boston, setting the stage for a potential move up the card.
Despite winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33, Rawley has largely been an afterthought on SmackDown Live for the past several months. Even when Ryder was out with an injury, Rawley was rarely utilized on a weekly basis.
Ryder's return didn't do much to help him either, as The Hype Bros floundered in a stacked tag team division.
Rawley finally established himself as a threat by attacking Ryder after a loss to The Bludgeon Brothers and turning heel in the process.
Since adopting a villainous persona, Rawley has become more serious and ditched the "hype" gimmick that prevented him from making significant strides as a face.
The turn comes at an ideal time for Rawley since SmackDown is severely lacking when it comes to midcard depth and talent.
Baron Corbin, Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler are battling for the United States Championship, and they essentially make up the entire midcard.
SmackDown's tag team and women's divisions are strong, and it has some top-end talent in or near the main event scene, including AJ Styles, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura.
That doesn't leave much opportunity available for a guy like Rawley, but pursuing the U.S. title could be his ticket to relevancy.
Rawley still has plenty of development left to undergo in terms of refining his character, mic work and in-ring performances, but it is clear he is making strides in comparison to what he used to be.
Although Rawley isn't likely to ever be a great pure wrestler, he seems confident in what he is saying and how he is acting, which is often the biggest battle for a WWE Superstar when it comes to getting over and becoming established in the company.
Since SmackDown is in dire need of some mid-tier talent to step up, the opportunity is present for Rawley to carve out a niche and become an important part of the blue brand.
Rawley may not have main event potential due to his in-ring deficiencies, but if he continues to progress as a heel and possibly has a quality run with the United States Championship, SmackDown may have an asset on its hands in a part of the card that has been lackluster as of late.
Listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot wrestling topics. Catch the latest episode in the player below (warning: some language NSFW).