Ah... the curious case of Curtis Axel. A supremely talented, technical wrestler who was never really given the opportunity he deserved to shine. Axel is one of few third-generation professional wrestlers, and his father “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig is widely regarded as one of the best wrestlers of his generation. Going even further back, his grandfather Larry “The Axe” Hennig was considered one of the toughest bruisers of his time. Following in their footsteps was never going to be easy, and it was always going to be tough to live up to their lofty standards.
Nobody could even pretend that Axel shined at the same level that his father or grandfather did. His WWE stint will be remembered less for his Championship glories and more for his foolish characters. He won’t be remembered as one of the best in-ring talents of his era, or as one of the toughest, though with more time who knows what could have been. However, Axel did spend more than a decade in the WWE system and had enough highlights to see his run as somewhat of a minor success.
Following on from his unfortunate recent release from WWE, here are my personal Top Five Curtis Axel Moments!
5. Joining The Social Outcasts
Axel was part of a number of groups over the years. The New Nexus, The Paul Heyman Guys and The B Team. One of my favorites, although short lived, was this rag-tag band of mid-carders that had been overlooked for a long time by management. Heath Slater, Adam Rose & Bo Dallas joined Axel in a desperate attempt to get noticed. The group was almost entirely known for it's failures and shortcomings over anything else, but it did lead to a few moderately funny moments along the way. Overall the group had somewhat limited results, as Rose ended up leaving the company soon after the faction formed, but the other three did get small roles in “The Marine 5: Battleground” out of it. Those roles would lead to much bigger and better things for Axel and his compatriot Dallas down the road...
4. Joining the Miztourage
After the Social Outcasts disbanded, Axel & Dallas continued their association with little in the way of success coming to either man as they spent considerable time jobbing out to other teams. Enter The Miz, who kayfabe noticed their talent on the set of The Marine 5 & offered his help in making Axel & Dallas the stars they were destined to be. A deal was made & the Miztourage was formed. Miz has always been at his cowardly best with a supporting cast or cronies around him, and Axel & Dallas (along with sporadic appearances from wife Maryse) helped make Miz seem like an even bigger deal. They absolutely thrived in this role and it even led to a few singles bouts from Axel, showcasing his genuine talents.
3. Never being eliminated from the 2015 Royal Rumble
Simply put, the 2015 Royal Rumble was one of the most critically-panned and disappointing in the events storied history. People had a tonne of complaints across the board. To name just a couple of them. Red hot favourite Daniel Bryan got eliminated far too early and Roman Reigns shouldn’t have won. Most of the complaints and criticisms could be debated to an extent, but Curtis Axel’s unhappiness and grievances were 100% legitimate.
He was never eliminated from the match! Erick Rowan attacked from behind during Axel’s ring entrance and for no reason at all took his spot in the match. This wasn’t an unprecedented moment in Rumble history, but it was the first time during the social media era that fans were able to group together and protest the non-elimination of a competitor. Logic put forward by those protesting would dictate that as he was never eliminated... he should actually have been declared as the winner. Given peoples’ general disgust towards the outcome and eventual winer, it was only natural that the hashtag "#AxelMania" took off online as an ironic act of defiance. Axel got a little bit of a push and some amusing segments as a result, but that coveted WrestleMania main event slot never came to be.
The power of AxelMania turned out to be something that would be replicated over the years, most notably with KofiMania leading to one of WrestleMania's greatest moments ever.
2. Winning the Raw Tag Team Championship with Bo Dallas
When The Miz was drafted to SmackDown, fans feared the worst for his Miztourage buddies. They trio had spent the last few months establishing themselves as a group and becoming fan favourites, but the concern now was that Axel & Dallas would fade away as so many regularly do. With their meal ticket gone now, they had to find a way to keep themselves busy and relevant.
After failing to attract a new leader, they decided to go into tag team competition as the B-Team. Expectations were understandably very low, but Axel & Dallas shocked the world by defeating Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt for the Raw Tag Team Championships. This was actually Axel’s second reign as a WWE tag team champion, as he & David Otunga had held gold during the dying days of the New Nexus in 2011. Seven years later, it seemed like Axel’s door had almost closed, but he & Bo proved that they still had something left in the tank. This reign would only last fifty days and was more fondly remember for their fun backstage skits and never say die attitude, but it also reminded us all that on any given night, superstars previously counted out could rise to the occasion.
Honorable Mention: The Genesis of Michael McGillicutty
Looking back, I’m not sure that Joe Hennig ever really had a chance of making it after NXT. He went into Season 2 as one of the favorites, even with his uninspiring new ring name. McGillicutty made it to the finals, losing to the man temporarily known as Kaval (Compared to what some of those guys got served by the random name generator, Low Ki got off pretty easy, right?). Finishing second, Hennig didn’t take his loss very well and delivered a barely coherent diatribe that sounded like somebody who had read a script and completely forgotten the lines. He was inexperienced, so you want to cut him a little slack but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the moment where Vince McMahon decided that this kid wasn’t exactly Perfect...
1. Winning the Intercontinental Championship
When I first started watching the WWF many years ago as a young boy, Mr. Perfect had not long lost the Intercontinental Championship. My first real memory of the belt was seeing Shawn Michaels as champion but I was always aware of how well Mr Perfect was received as the champ. Looking back years later after I gained a little more knowledge, I realised he had indeed been one of the best Intercontinental Champions of all time. The championship’s importance has certainly had its ups and downs over the years but people of a certain age still hold it in high regard, with myself at the top of that list, and we yearn for the days when the IC Championship matches were often the highlight of the show.
Mr. Perfect was one of the guys that made a “secondary title” mean as much as anything else going on. For Curtis Axel to hold the same prestigious championship that his father held during one of the most well-remembered periods of his legendary career had to mean everything to him. You can see his emotional celebration 46 seconds into the video above and it tells you everything that you need to know. Axel has never won a world championship, or even come close, but that championship was probably just as important to him on an emotional and personal level, if not more so. It was a touching moment and one the fans will never forget.
Are there any Curtis Axel moments that stick out to you? Let us know in the comments...
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