Last month, the ever likable and multi-talented Big E was thrust into the main event scene in WWE.
Fans rejoiced at one of their favorite guys being given the big push and an “opportunity” to become a top-tier star. But the reality of the situation is that new WWE champion Big E is fighting against the odds to become the next true main event player in modern WWE. And through no fault of his own.
It’s no secret that Big E is a fan favorite to many and he is very much appreciated by fans across the board. I love him. His is simply infectious, whether it’s his booming yet easy on the ears vocals, or his wide range of facial comical expressions, Big is captivating. You rarely read anything negative about him and he appears universally respected. And he’s pretty, pretty, pretty good in the ring too. On paper, he has the tools to be a main eventer.
He has used his skills and abilities to shine bright as an ultra-charming, larger-than-life character in the sea of sterile blandness that is modern-day WWE. He’s naturally charismatic, and he has shown that given the right platform that he is as entertaining as they come.
Since New Day got over following their formation in 2014, which is nothing short of a miracle considering how most WWE mid-card acts fail to get a sniff of long-term credibility, he has shown that his larger-than-life personality is capable of grabbing the attention of audiences. Whether heel or face, I don’t think anyone can really disagree that he has an aura about him, a presence that makes you at the very least appear captivated by what he’s about to do next.
As an in-ring performer, he certainly proved he was a fine tag team competitor, with many fine matches under his belt since New Day came to prominence. Matches against Cesaro and Sheamus from August 7, 2018 Smackdown, the battle against Cesaro and Tyson Kidd from Extreme Rules 2015, and the brutal battle with Jimmy and Jey in Hell in a Cell being standouts in his fine tag team resume. Until this recently, I would have had my doubts regarding his singles in-ring career, but his recent matches with Drew McIntyre and Kevin Owens, as well as the triple threat from the September 20, 2021 RAW have helped convince me that he can hang as a top singles competitor from an in-ring perspective.
When you add it all up, Big E appears to have the skills to take advantage of a big push, right?
For me, while he has the capability of becoming the next top star, history has told us that it is never that simple in WWE. The list of men in WWE that have won world championships but never can be considered bonafide main eventers is long, and in many ways very sad to read. From 2000 to 2010, you can point to Jeff Hardy, Chris Benoit and Sheamus as three guys who were given the chance but failed to deliver as a top-tier talent in WWE.
In Jeff Hardy’s case, he was in a pretty similar position to Big E. He was over with the fans and could excite crowds with his work between the ropes, yet he just never seemed to click as the top guy. One advantage Big E has over Hardy is his ability to be comfortable on the mic, with his promo delivery skills appear to be extremely competent. So maybe Big E will have a better chance to succeed than those who failed before him.
Well, as you know, Big E is not the first member of his faction to be given the main event opportunity. Kofi Kingston, who was in a pretty similar position to Big E, attempted to break through WWE’s glass ceiling in 2019. Nearly three years later, Kofi has seen his chance come and go, with Kingston back down the card after seemingly failing to make the grade. And why? Well, it wasn’t Kofi’s fault.
Kofi was arguably as talented and as over with the crowd in 2019 as Big E is right now. When Kofi claimed his WWE title win, he ticked a lot of boxes: Kofi is an accomplished in-ring performer and on his day he can be electric inside the squared circle. He had the fans truly behind him, with very few members of the audience begrudging Kingston a shot at being a main eventer. He also had the unselfish Bryan Danielson playing the role of foe in the initial win, who no doubt did his best to shine Kofi up for his big moment. At WrestleMania, Kofi had his big moment and it was a success. But what followed was anything but.
So what went wrong for Kofi?
Modern-day WWE views their mission as one to make moments and at the end of the day, this ethos cripples the product in terms of being enjoyable week to week. WWE basically goes through the motions until the next “moment” occurs, much to the detriment of the talented performers it employs. So, Just like Big E’s cash in, Kofi was given his moment of glory when he pined Daniel Bryan on the grandest stage of them all. But while he got his moment, and such a heart-warming moment it was, it was sadly all he really got as the next half a year was anything but memorable. And in my opinion, very little of the blame can be delivered to Kofi’s door.
As is common with WWE, forward planning is not their strong suit. Like countless others who got the push before him such as Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose and Sheamus, they seemingly did not know what to do with Kofi once he won the gold. Kofi gave it his all, an ever-present hard worker, and while the fans didn’t reject him like they rejected Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns, Kofi’s run was lackluster and drab. Whether it was being fed unattractive PPV bouts against Dolph Ziggler or booking him in a formulaic feud with an unmotivated Randy Orton, WWE did Kofi no favors with how he was presented. I don’t care if you’re Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a Dolph Ziggler feud in 2019 was never going to boost your career.
He also suffered, as champions in WWE do, from being overshadowed by the champion on the other brand, and Kofi always appeared to be less important than the main guy on RAW. Nothing did more to ram home that point than how Kofi’ Kingston’s run ended, making him a footnote in the Brock Lesnar legacy. Kofi was just keeping the title warm for Brock in WWE’s eyes and he was tossed to the side to make Lesnar look strong.
Kofi was never THE guy in WWE creative’s eyes, no matter what title he held and regardless of how talented he is. He was capable of being the guy in my eyes, hell I will go as far as to say he was a slam dunk if used correctly, but WWE never truly strapped the rocket to his back. For shame. Kofi deserved so much better.
So I ask the question? Will Big E’s run mirror that of Kofi?
Big E has similar challenges ahead of him. He is not THE guy in WWE no matter how much I want him to be. As long as Roman Reigns is the top dog in Vince’s dim, 76-year-old eyes, Big E and everyone else in WWE stands in his shadow. While Roman may not be squashing Big E in eight seconds, the fact remains that when it comes to WWE PPVs, Big E will always be the afterthought compared to his Smackdown counterpart unless things change. The two top-tier belt system in WWE will always hamper one performer over the other and Big E is the secondary Champion, whether I like it or not.
Booking-wise, Big E is already on the back foot.
Besides winning the Money in the Bank briefcase in July, I would argue that Big E has done nothing of real note prior to his cash-in attempt. Short, repetitive and lazy matches with Sami Zayn, Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin did nothing to elevate Big E on his ascent to championship gold. I, and most fans, always wanted more from Big E’s Intercontinental Title run. I was always left deflated by the cumbersome booking and again, none of this is Big E’s fault, he can only work with what is given to him and what was given to him was nothing interesting. And while I was happy for Big E, he truly deserves all the good fortune in the world, I never felt his character did anything to warrant the push and his status as WWE top face feels forced.
The blame should be laid at WWE’s door once more and not Big E’s.
Big E was never really given the opportunity to shine, to be presented as the next big thing prior to his big win. Furthermore, I personally think his cash in didn’t work for me, they haven’t worked for me since 2009 if I am honest. In 2021, it’s predictable and downright languorous. It’s a heel plot device, and it did nothing to push Big E to the next level beyond giving him an excuse to face a wounded champion. To quote George Harrison in his Simpsons cameo, it’s been done. The Money in the Bank gimmick is tired, overdone and well past its sell-by date. Nothing about it feels spontaneous or fresh, which added a layer of disinterest in Big E’s win. Again, not Big E’s fault but a problem he has had to overcome.
Let’s be honest for a minute, we all know that Big E’s win was a reactionary move by WWE anyway after AEW beat them in the key viewership demo for the first time in history the previous week.
His cash-in was a rushed, almost compulsory move by WWE and it showed as Big E just wasn’t positioned as the man in the build to the manufactured moment. I say build, but in reality the build consisted of a tweet issued on the day of the show by Big E. Seriously. Half arsed bullshit is what the build was and Big E, as well as the audience, deserved so much better.
It also remains to be seen just how WWE book Big E going forward. While his face v face feud with Drew McIntyre wasn’t bad, it was also bland and hampered by the worn-out “can they coexist?” booking that WWE continues to inflict on every single top babyface. On that short evidence, Big E is battling against the odds and any of the “let it play out” brigade can come at me.
WWE appears incapable of pushing a top good guy for the best part of a decade at least and it shows no signs of deviating from their script. So if Big E is to make it, things need to change in some manner. On the evidence we have, it’s hard to see Big E being pushed differently to Kofi. But I am not saying anything that hasn’t been repeatedly said by perhaps millions of wrestling fans worldwide over the past 10 years. I personally don’t have faith in WWE getting their act together in this regard unless a “Dream Team” (English Sky One football soap opera from the ’90s, not Honky Tonk Man and Beefer)-esque bus crash occurs that wipes out all of the creative team. (Jokes aside, I don’t wish death on anyone).
What needs to happen for Big E to win against the stacked odds ahead of him? One suggestion that’s been lobbied at Big E since he went solo is that he needs to stop clowning around. I read articles and messages about Big E needing to act more seriously in order to be taken seriously as a top guy. I don’t agree with this thinking myself. Most successful characters in wrestling are real personalities turned up to 11 and Big E can continue being himself. The Rock made a Hollywood career off the back of his WWE comedy antics, so I don’t feel Big E needs to quit being himself.
That said, I do feel like character evolution and progression needs to occur for him to truly solidify himself as a top guy. Little changes though, nothing outrageous.
One thing I do worry about is the absence of Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods by his side. I have felt during his Smackdown run this past year that without his two buddies to bounce off of, Big E is a bit exposed. I’m not saying he is incapable of surviving and thriving alone, but I feel the New Day as a collective had so much chemistry that Big E as a character feels lacking without them. Kofi and Woods are fine because they have each other to bounce off of, while Big W is facing his future alone. It just doesn’t feel right for me, but again it’s still early and hopefully what he lacks from the absence of Woods and Kingston can be made up for in other ways.
Big E’s latest challenger is the utterly unlikeable “Drip God”, Seth Rollins and while I feel these two will be capable of a decent feud, it doesn’t scream main event story to me. At least not yet. Seth himself isn’t a main eventer in my eyes but is still grade above Big E as a star, so a win against Rollins will hopefully be a step in the right direction.
Big E is still in the infancy of his reign and he needs to appear as he belongs here. Going over Rollins and Owens in nothing short of a strong way is a must for Big E and their build to their PPV match is vital in Big E associating with the top of the card. Any missteps here can be detrimental to Big E and the heights he can potentially reach as a top talent. From what I’ve seen so far, the feud was been passable and mildly enjoyable. It needs some juice, which to be fair may come down the road. But it’s fine, if anything.
I’m sure Big E will be hand-delivered similar awful storylines and situations to what his predecessors have received. In my heart of hearts, I hope he gets dealt a better hand than what WWE is most likely going to deal him. He deserves better than the hand Seth Rollins and Kofi were dealt two years ago.
His WWE Championship run is in its infancy and while I want to be optimistic about Big E’s chances of becoming the next top star in WWE, I fear history is destined to repeat itself unless something fresh or drastic occurs. Right now the margins are tight for Big E, will he beat the odds and be the face that WWE sorely needs or will he become Kofi 2.0 and fall to the wayside? I hope it’s the former but I have zero faith in WWE accomplishing this based of past experiences.
Regardless, I am rooting for Big E. I won’t be sour, I will clap for him and I know I can feel his power.