I hate to break it to The Miz and R-Truth, but they have a pretty recent example to prove that their latest bid for relevance may be more short-lived than they currently imagine. They may think “making a statement” by beating up other wrestlers will help their careers, but my next subject would probably beg to differ:
LV. The Nexus
Now, hopefully, I shouldn’t have to explain what exactly the Nexus was, but just in case, it was a direct product of the first season of WWE’s NXT program, which aims to short-cut introductions to developmental talent (sometimes the inclusion of someone like Daniel Bryan will leave fans scratching their heads).
Let me just make a digression about the NXT strategy. I think it’s a little bit of backwards thinking. NXT is basically exactly the opposite of what WWE typically does, and demands of its talent. It’s a program that provides potential new talent for the regular rosters of the Raw and Smackdown brands a chance to expose themselves to fans in a soft setting, not demanding too much of them except to simply showcase their current capabilities. In essence, it’s a professional version of Tough Enough (which only complicated things when Tough Enough itself returned). Maybe NXT was a result of WWE having a hard time introducing new stars the old way, but I’m not sure it’s been entirely successful, even with the Nexus angle that followed its inception (to its credit, WWE may have finally realized that).
Typically, you’ll see a new star in what’s supposed to be a finished or near-finished form, a wrestler who’s already supposed to know how to handle themselves on the grand stage, or will be able to quickly refine themselves (or gradually see their exposure and prospects diminished). What NXT did was expose wrestlers in their basic ingredients, in their developmental phases, whether they were really at that point or otherwise (Daniel Bryan). It is and was a curious experiment.
Anyway, from that first season of NXT came the angry band of the Nexus, which quickly focused on the central figure of Wade Barrett, winner of the first season and most capable of expressing himself in a WWE-caliber capacity. That was all well and good. The Nexus made a bold impact and spent months emphasizing their unique position as rookies who immediately wanted their piece of the pie, and chose John Cena as their biggest target. This was both a good and a bad thing, because they would either get what they wanted or be vanquished and consigned back to relative obscurity. Barrett had feuds with Cena and then-WWE champion Randy Orton, and it was interesting to watch because he came from a position of strength defined almost exclusively by the numbers game. On his own he might have excelled just as far, but he constantly had the Nexus around him to explain how and why he was in that spot. In fact, without the others, none of the Nexus really meant anything.
It was a unique way to introduce new stars, but it also stunted their growth considerably, and the longer it went on, the more it fed itself at the expense of itself. When Cena finally got the big win over Barrett, the question became, What comes next? Faced with failure, change was inevitable. Barrett departed with a small faction to Smackdown and transformed into the Corre. CM Punk laid claim to the remnants and basically repeated his strategy from the Straight Edge Society. As a movement in WWE, the Nexus came to a head at the 2011 Royal Rumble, in which both factions dominated for much of the 40-man elimination match. Once dispatched, however, that was the end of the group’s effectiveness, in any form.
Faced without individual identities, the members of the Nexus soon found that they were no longer stars, even Wade Barrett, who had been such a visible presence for months, challenging the top names on Raw and WWE in general. Now they would have to sink or swim on their own. Original members were released or forgotten, stuck in tag team wrestling, or asked to develop other potential stars. The Nexus, once it had been defeated, dissipated and lost all its power. Subsequent NXT graduates more often than not opted not to participate.
Barrett remains a viable presence, though he has to fight for himself much more often now, and finds it difficult to distinguish himself, now that he lacks a de facto position of influence. Maybe that’s exactly the way most stars end up once they join the WWE roster; they’re given a chance to shine, and either make it work in the first attempt, or are given others down the road, which they must fight all the harder to maintain.
The Nexus, then, would be an outsized version of the journey every superstar faces. Maybe that example is something other graduates of NXT are meant to exceed, to build on, to learn from. Maybe the best is yet to come.