michael dworkis looks at two wrestlers that on the make-or-break list…
This week on Superstars Spotlight we look at two wrestlers who have tasted success but can’t seem to find a place at the big boy’s table. They have talent, whether it be in the ring (Riley) or on the mic (Otunga), but for some reason sustainable success hasn’t come there way. This means one of two things — they’re on the ‘endangered species list’ on the verge of being released or it’ll be a matter of time before their number is called.
Wait, this guy is still employed? Yes, yes he is (and is currently working WWE house shows). Before we figure that out, let us figure out who he is. Kevin Kiley was not Alex Riley from the start. Beginning his training in FCW he competed under his real name throughout 2007 and 2008. In September of that year he became Carson Oakley, but still needed a good gimmick. Just two months later he reinvented himself as Alex Riley, a varsity jock. Varsity Club gimmick ring a bell to anyone? In took some time to climb the ladder, but in 2010, Riley won the FCW Championship in a triple threat match, defeating Wade Barrett and Justin Gabriel.
In the summer of 2010, he signed on to the second season of NXT, under the guidance of The Miz. He made it all the way to the finals, but came in third place as Kaval (Low Ki) would go on to win the competition. Clearly Riley possessed the talent and skills needed to be a big star. Regardless of the loss on NXT, he immediately debuted on Raw alongside The Miz and was instrumental in many victories for the Awesome One. He remained with Miz until losing the WWE Championship, and was soon fired by The Miz for failing to help him regain the title. Riley then snapped and turned on The Miz, instantly making Riley and fan-favorite. Their feud saw Riley gain the upper hand over The Miz, defeating him at the Capitol Punishment pay-per-view. He went on to participate in the Money in the Bank match that year and in a championship tournament, but came out unsuccessful in both bids. In 2011 he feuded with then mid-card mainstays Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger, even challenging for the United States title at one point, but also came up short of victory. An injury sidelined Riley and upon his return was kept on Superstars and pre-show dark matches.
2012 did not improve as he then began competing on NXT regularly, with having only one successful match on Raw against Dolph Ziggler, with interference from Chris Jericho. Shortly after Riley was out due to undergoing knee and elbow surgery.
Current Status: Unknown
Riley made his return from surgery, appearing on the Monday Night Raw before the Royal Rumble to participate in the all-out brawl which traditionally concludes the show before the Rumble pay-per-view. As of now, we do not know where Riley is going from here. He could be back on Rawor SmackDown, or possibly sent back down to the minor leagues of NXT. The latter might not be a bad idea after all. Give him time to brush off the ring rust and make a successful return at a later date. However, I really do not see much for him to do otherwise. Perhaps his days are numbered.
Future Outlook: NXT or Good Luck In Your Future Endeavors
Wait, this guy is still around too? To figure out why, we need to know how. The real-life husband of Jennifer Hudson and father to, get this, David Daniel Otunga Jr. was first a reality-TV star on the show I Love New York 2 before being signed to a WWE Developmental deal in 2008. He began wrestling in 2009, and by 2010 he would appear on the first season of NXT. Showing more mic skills than wrestling, he nonetheless managed to make it all the way to the finals of NXT, losing to winner Wade Barrett.
Throughout 2010 and into 2011, Otunga was a major player within the Nexus faction led by Barrett. Serving as the second-in-command, he often antagonized fan-favorites like John Cena, but often wound up on the wrong side of a fight. His first title run came when the enslaved John Cena was forced to team with David Otunga to challenge Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre for the WWE Tag Team Championships, and were successful in winning. Barrett ordered Otunga to lay down for challenging Slater and Gabriel because he did not want Cena with a title. The gimmick later had Otunga wrestle leadership of The Nexus away from Barrett, only for CM Punk to step in and take over. Otunga remained with The New Nexus and won his second tag team title with Michael McGillicutty, defeating Kane and Big Show. When Punk left WWE for a short time, the New Nexus disbanded and the duo would soon lose the titles to Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne.
Current Status: Time-Off
Since the demise of the New Nexus, Otunga was involved with John Laurinitis as his advisor during his reign as Raw General Manager. When Laurinitis got the boot from Vince McMahon, Otunga has sporatically competed in singles matches, mostly losing. He had a short feud with Sheamus, and by short, I mean two weeks. Maybe three. In other words, he really has not done a whole lot in 2012.
Having lost to a number of jobbers such as The Great Khali, the real-life Harvard graudate and real-life attorney was taken off television, possibly to come back with a new gimmick. Otunga has great mic skills, no question. His wrestling skills are severely lacking. His finisher is a poor man’s spinuster, and last I saw, a bodyslam is his signature move. A bodyslam. Body. Slam.
I hate saying it, but my guess is Otunga is kept around because of the Jennifer Hudson connection. With that in mind, he is likely not going to ever be released, but probably given some sort of behind-the-scenes job, or back to NXT.
Future Outlook: NXT or Mid-Card Hell