Ricochet and WWE Stars Struggling for Relevancy on The Road to WrestleMania 37February 13, 2021
Ricochet and WWE Stars Struggling for Relevancy on The Road to WrestleMania 37
While some Superstars are making waves on The Road to WrestleMania 37, others are hitting roadblocks stopping them from reaching success.
For some, it may be a matter of patience. Perhaps WWE does have plans but is waiting until after the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view on February 21 before kicking them into gear. For most, though, WWE does not consider them important enough for its creative efforts. Not everyone can get a featured spot on the biggest show of the year, which will leave many wrestlers with nothing to do April 10-11.
Let's take a look at some of the men and women who are struggling to find roles to play on The Grandest Stage of Them All this year.
Perennial Enhancement Talent
There are a number of Superstars who are only used as enhancement talent and won't have prominent spots at WrestleMania 37.
Some occasionally break out of that bubble, but it's rare. More often than not, they are relegated to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal just to get spots on the card.
This is where you will find names such as Titus O'Neil, Tucker, Erik of The Viking Raiders, Reginald and Humberto Carrillo.
Lucha House Party have had more to do on NXT lately than on Raw but still failed to make it to the semi-finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament.
Drew Gulak was in a much more prominent spot this time last year, but for whatever reason, WWE has him handing Sheamus his bags instead of showing off his skills in the United States Championship hunt. Even Angel Garza, who helped keep WWE running at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, has been cast aside with nothing noteworthy to do for weeks.
It's not looking good for these Superstars, but there's always hope something magical happens at the last minute.
Ricochet's run on the main roster started out hot, earning tag team title shots before winning the United States Championship. Soon after that, though, things fizzled out, and he's yet to recover from dropping the title to AJ Styles in 2019.
Late last year, The One and Only was feuding with Mustafa Ali, who was desperate to recruit his former friend into Retribution. Ricochet refused to give up on his ideals but showed some doubts in that decision.
Instead of following through with that, WWE cut off the storyline and hasn't used Ricochet in a meaningful capacity since. He lost to Styles in a match to qualify for the Royal Rumble, but he happened to be in the match anyway and made no significant impact.
Ricochet should be a stable member of the midcard title scene or higher. In 2021, though, he's only wrestled on Raw once. He's made more appearances on Main Event and couldn't even win two of those bouts.
That isn't a sign that good things are coming. WWE acts as if Main Event doesn't even exist—it isn't listed on the shows page and never receives any promotion. Accordingly, anyone appearing on the program is clearly not a priority.
Retribution is a textbook example of how WWE shouldn't start an angle with no direction. It will invariably end in failure.
The faction went from an interesting idea to a laughable mess and hasn't bounced back, particularly as WWE hasn't bothered to rehabilitate the group.
The storyline with Ricochet was dropped with no clear resolution, and they have since moved on to feuding with The New Day.
Although this story has a good foundation in Mustafa Ali's frustration at being replaced by Kofi Kingston in the build to WrestleMania 35, it doesn't seem to be leading toward anything significant for this year's Show of Shows.
WWE is just cycling through variations of singles and tag team matches involving Kingston, Xavier Woods and members of Retribution. It's the simplest but also least inspired way to fill up months of programming.
Each week features another match, but the story doesn't progress, so there's diminishing interest going forward rather than building hype.
Nikki Cross and Peyton Royce
Despite being two of the best Superstars in the Raw women's division, Nikki Cross and Peyton Royce are considerably less involved in weekly programming than others.
With Cross, it's gotten to the point where she appears to be hinting at an exit. All she does is sit on the sidelines until Alexa Bliss beats her once a month before busying herself with Randy Orton.
Royce has struggled since The IIconics split last summer. Billie Kay has found a niche as the butt of a joke on SmackDown, but Royce hasn't found a new role to play. Her uninspired tandem with Lacey Evans has been put on hold as Evans' feud with Charlotte Flair overshadows everything else on Raw.
Since Cross and Royce aren't in the Raw women's title chase or the Women's Tag Team Championship scene, they have been left with nothing to do.
The feud between the Mysterio Family and King Corbin hasn't been the most thrilling, but it's at least something.
Even with the loss of one of his Knights of The Lone Wolf with Steve Cutler's release from WWE, Corbin has provided a foil for Rey and Dominik Mysterio after they moved on from Seth Rollins.
However, Murphy has been absent for weeks. His storyline with Aalyah Mysterio has disappeared from programming, and there's no telling whether it's on hold or completely gone. Hopefully, it's the latter, as that would free him for something else, but that hasn't come along yet.
If the Australian is going to continue to be an ally of the Mysterios, he will have to insert himself into this feud soon or he will run out of time to develop anything meaningful with Corbin. Even if he does, though, it will push aside Rey and Dominik ahead of WrestleMania.
None of this seems worth saving for the biggest show of the year, so it's becoming more likely Murphy, Corbin and the others involved will just make up the numbers in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Elias, Jaxson Ryker and Jeff Hardy
Although the car accident that put Elias on the shelf happened in May 2020 and Jeff Hardy was largely exonerated from being responsible, WWE has continued stretching the story.
Despite The Charismatic Enigma having numerous blowoffs to end the story and even temporarily going in a different direction by teaming with Riddle, WWE keeps putting these two together.
Likely, that's because WWE has no idea what else to do with them. It's easier to keep rehashing than to think of something new.
At least Hardy is in the men's Elimination Chamber match, which gives him a chance to start a new journey. Elias and sidekick Jaxson Ryker have nothing going on at the moment.
It's doubtful any one of these three will have a prominent spot at WrestleMania in April, but hopefully they won't still be feuding with each other by then.
Chad Gable and Otis
Last year, Otis was on the rise. He had a major storyline for WrestleMania and won the Money in the Bank briefcase. In theory, he should have entered 2021 as a top star.
All that momentum was cast aside when he won the MITB contract, though. WWE couldn't follow up that win, and he lingered for months before dropping the contract to The Miz.
Since then, Otis has partnered with Chad Gable in his Alpha Academy, and they have been relegated to comedy jobber roles. They only pop up when extra hands are needed to bear the brunt of an attack or lay down for a pinfall.
With just a few wins and some proper attention, WWE could turn this team into title contenders or individual challengers for the Intercontinental Championship, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.
Instead, they are likely heading toward spots in the Battle Royal at WrestleMania.
Just because someone is feuding with the universal champion doesn't mean they are relevant.
Kevin Owens has fought with Roman Reigns for the past few months and lost on every opportunity to capture his title. Each time it seems their rivalry has come to an end, WWE renews it with less vigor than before.
This is clearly more about having no other options for The Tribal Chief to fight on SmackDown than pushing KO.
Such problems could have been avoided if WWE had realized how few babyfaces were on the blue brand, but the company's history of worrying about solutions at a later time continues to plague its creative potential.
Owens is one of the best talents going to waste here. Once WWE is done with using him as a prop to stall for time, he will be cast aside with no time left to build toward a decent storyline at WrestleMania 37.
Triple H regularly brings up Rhea Ripley's name when discussing the talent he sees as staples for the future of the industry, but the way she's been booked over the past year flies in the face of those words.
It's still unclear what WWE's intention was in having her drop the NXT Women's Championship to Charlotte Flair at last year's WrestleMania. All it did was derail the Australian's momentum.
Throughout 2020, she lost every important match she was in and spent most of her time without a solid feud to sink her teeth into.
It seemed Ripley might find relevance again when she finished in the final two of the women's Royal Rumble match. Being runner-up could have still led to something prominent for The Nightmare on Raw or SmackDown, but she's yet to be seen since that pay-per-view on January 31.
At some point, WWE will have to stop waiting for the next thing to come Ripley's way and instead start pushing her toward the success we know she's capable of having.
Braun Strowman was out for several weeks following Survivor Series in November, but he returned to action just in time for the Royal Rumble.
As a former world champion, he would have made perfect sense as a contender in the Elimination Chamber, but WWE chose five other Superstars over him. And with Keith Lee and Riddle in the United States Championship hunt, The Monster Among Men has been left with nothing to do.
There is still time for him to develop more of a purpose for WrestleMania following the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, but the clock is ticking.
If too much time passes without something developing, Strowman may go from beating Goldberg to win the universal title last year to struggling to find anything to do this year.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.