When I write these columns I’ve always strived to be honest in what I say and never to attack something I dislike or disagree with in a personal manner. So with that being said, I’ll be honest in saying that when James Ellsworth began to regularly appear on WWE TV, I hated him. I couldn’t understand why he was on the show, what he brought to the product or why he was even given airtime. Surely he was just a fad that would disappear in a week or two. There was no way this guy was going to stick around for any length of time.
How wrong I was.
Ellsworth started out in WWE as a jobber to Braun Strowman. The match wasn’t eventful and poor Ellsworth was eaten alive by the monster. He then began to regularly appear on TV either in ring or in backstage segments. He looked so out of place amongst the Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins’ of this world. He looked like a fan had snuck backstage to get a glimpse of his favorite wrestlers. Surely this silly gimmick couldn’t last.
How wrong I was.
His presence on TV continued and my dislike for him grew to new heights when he began to pair up with Carmella. No longer the meek, shy whipping boy in the men’s division, he’d switched over to the Women’s Division and become the only male manager on the roster – indeed, perhaps the only male manager in recent memory who didn’t actually compete himself. This ‘experiment’, as I thought it was, surely would be seen as a poorly thought-out gimmick that would be derided by the WWE Universe and fans across the globe. What nonsense was this? It’ll never work out.
How wrong I was.
It was around this time that I noted in a column on TJRWrestling that I didn’t much care for the James Ellsworth character and saw little point in him continuing as a feature on WWE TV. I believed he took something away from the Women’s Division. He was a distraction that took the spotlight away from the women and I thought he hurt the product. My mention of this drew a reply from someone on Twitter, or in the comments (sorry if that’s you and I can’t remember exactly), that said Ellsworth was great and him being the creepy heel amongst the women was a great character, and the fact that I hated him meant I’d bought into it all. I took a step back and thought about that comment for a second and concluded…
How wrong I was.
The epitome for me, on the incredible impact James Ellsworth had in WWE, came at Money in the Bank, namely the Smackdown Women’s Ladder Match. When he snatched that briefcase and gifted it to Carmella, I was incensed. I was livid. I was angry. I was… invested. I was sold on him and the story. James Ellsworth had drawn me into a WWE story-line more than Roman Reigns or AJ Styles had done any time in 2017. James Ellsworth had brought that little kid out of me that still believed, even if just for a second, that I was investing my feelings and emotions into a WWE wrestling match. He’d caused outrage in the company. He forced Shame McMahon to take decisive action against him due to his abuse and callousness of all things holy. Ellsworth was highlighted as a traitor or a pariah on Smackdown Live. He’d besmirched not only the Women’s Division, but entire WWE. Would Ellsworth be contrite from hereon in? Would he be apologetic and remorseful for his actions? No, he’d become more obnoxious, more devious and more disrespectful. And I bloody loved it.
You see, here’s where Ellsworth once again harked back to a bygone era in professional wrestling – much like he did when he made me feel like a child again. All the pomp and grandeur he’d show on TV, all his whining and moaning. All his complaining and interference in matches he’d do would inevitably lead to one thing; that he was going to get what was coming to him. He was building our anger and annoyance week after week to deliver a final crescendo that would see him sail off into the sunset. That final fall came on Smackdown Live where he lost a match against Becky Lynch and was the unceremoniously dumped by Carmella like a piece of garbage. His usefulness fulfilled, his role complete, it was time to put down this pet and hang him out to dry.
And so it was that the Ellsworth Era came to a fitting end. He came in with a whimper and went out with a bang. He made us curious with his appearance and quickly drew our rage and hate with his despicable actions. It’s only now, looking back on the impact he made in his brief stint in WWE, that we see his importance and effort. James Ellsworth was never going to headline Wrestlemania. He was never going to main event Monday Night Raw against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Heavyweight Title, but as Zack Ryder said on Twitter, James Ellsworth did what every fan dreams of doing in WWE. He stole the spotlight, interacted with legends in the business, had his own merchandise, walked down the ramp at Wrestlemania and even got his own action figure.
To James Ellsworth, if he ever reads this, I apologize for not buying into you at the beginning. I apologize for thinking you’d be a fad we’d all forget about in a few weeks. You were so much more and you made me invested in a way I hadn’t been in years. I wish you the very best in your future, sir. I think you will be missed both by your friends in WWE and by the fans more than you think.