When you hear the name PAC, it doesn’t exactly jump out as something noteworthy, or something to discuss. It isn’t the name that would create fear, or even suggest a person that is a force to be reckoned with. In all honestly, the name itself is reminiscent of the video game PAC man. Should the person with that name be someone to discuss? The name itself doesn’t seem to do that. However, if it is the name of a person who has spent time developing in the ring, strengthening their ring acumen while travelling around the world, the perception would unquestionably be different. When they have travelled around the world competing against the likes of Prince Devitt or Samoa Joe, you know they have unquestionably done something special. What adds to this special recipe is PAC joins the WWE’s developmental system as part of NXT is branded with the name Adrian Neville, and thus the wrestler has now been given an identity. It seems as though they have been given him a new lease on life in the ring. The ‘Man That Gravity Forgot’ has earned his time to shine.
During his time in NXT, Adrian Neville captured the NXT title and held it for a record 287 days. The title record still stands today. Neville used exhilarating and high flying moves in and out of the ring with ease. But the road hasn’t been easy; one of the biggest challenges that he has to face, and will throughout the duration of his career, is his height. While it isn’t something that he can change that isn’t to say that it needs to be a hindrance to his success either in the WWE. When you consider how he has built up his physique and developed a greater mass, it is clear to see that Adrian Neville wanted to stand out and worked hard to do so.
At 28 years of age, now known affectionately as Neville since transitioning to the main roster, his future is quite bright, as his unique wrestling style and muscular look are a great combination for the WWE to promote. His matches in NXT stood out as match of the year candidates, and how could they not. Whether it was the emotion he created in his rivalry with Sami Zayn or his battles with Tyler Breeze, Neville raised the bar while creating incredible matches. The reason was simple: he can.
If there is a criticism about Neville, it is that like a lot of young talent he is focussed on doing a lot of spots. But here’s a newsflash: it’s what fans want to see. The days of slow methodical moves that result in chin lock after chin lock are gone, as that template no longer resonates. Instead, we have a less than six foot, less than 200 lb English wrestler that is able to hit move after move, and captures the audience’s attention in the process. If that doesn’t speak volumes about what he can do in the ring, then I’m not sure what we can say. He is fast, exciting, and has the look of someone that should be a champion. So where does that put him, exactly, in relation to the rest of the roster?
Unfortunately, others are seen as having other intangibles that he does not. His thick Welsh accent may make delivering promos a challenge to a North American audience to understand. He hasn’t been able to overcome that obstacles like Sheamus or King Barrett’s have by projecting angst and arrogance, and seemingly fans have had less difficulty understanding what they are saying. Would Neville be the first wrestler that was great in the ring and weak on the mic to succeed? Certainly not. And, if a company has invested time and effort in seeing their investment succeed, why not really stand behind the effort? There has to come a time when you sign someone, develop them, and follow through on the idea of having them do something impactful.
There are ways to ensure that Neville does achieve. First, would be having him compete for an individual title. While the WWE Heavyweight championship may not be a short-term or even long term goal, there are still two other prominent singles titles to have him compete for. Whether it is for the United States title or, to an even greater extent, the Intercontinental title, both could prove to be usable in booking Neville for a successful title reign. Neville has shown that he can actively defend the NXT title against a number of more than capable opponents. While some may argue that Neville was a large fish in the small pond in NXT, I argue that even a big fish has to constantly fight off a number of obstacles swimming through an ocean.
As mentioned earlier, the names and faces he defended the title against were seasoned and capable veterans that could have unseated Neville’s rise. Could he defeat Sheamus? No doubt. A nice long feud against a former WWE champion that results with a Neville pay off a win would work, so why not a title feud against an Alberto Del Rio. While he has faced Kevin Owens and has been unsuccessful, more match ups as part of an ongoing feud between the two would be a great way to help elevate him as well. A program that has Neville on the verge of winning several times only to have Owen use nefarious means to come up with the win or get himself disqualified also helps. A concern we addressed earlier were his promo skills because of his accent. It’s an issue that plagues other English wrestlers like Paige and Becky Lynch. That may come with time, and coming to understand how to enunciate different consonants and vowels that they would normally not pronounce. There were several smaller wrestlers with shaky promo skills that were Intercontinental champions. For example, Bret Hart, Owen Hart and Chris Benoit all were incredibly talented and among the best technical wrestlers in the world, but their ability to convey a message in the most convincing, cohesive, and articulate manner wasn’t always evident.
Go back to Survivor Series. Neville was part of a group of five men who were facing Stardust, The Ascension, The Miz and Bo Dallas. The result of this match saw Neville eliminated first for his team, and in fact he was the only one eliminated from his team, a group comprises of Titus O’Neil, The Dudley Boyz and Goldust. While I don’t want to disrespect the contributions that the remaining members have made, but having Neville be the only one eliminated from his team is baffling. When Neville first appeared on the main roster he won. However, after he lost his second match, some fans were up in arms that he lost. Some jumped to the conclusion that he is being ‘buried’. A loss never spelled the end of anyone’s push, and there is no reason to think Neville would have been any different. Was the assumption that he would have some meteoric rise to the top like Kevin Owens? If that was the expectation, then we need to reassess our perception of how Neville should be used.
Prior to making it to the main roster, rumors had circulated that Neville was going to be given a ‘Mighty Mouse’ type of gimmick. Whether or not that was true, the idea of having someone small with such athleticism having a superhero quality attached to him wasn’t a stretch. Can he jump over buildings in a single bound? It isn’t likely, but what he can do is use a variety of kicks and punches along with an innovative aerial moveset that taps into some inhuman characteristics. When he did arrive, he came to the ring with a cape, and fans were given the impression that his feats of athleticism defy the laws of gravity.
Wrestlers will often say that the most effective characters are ones that are a reflection of themselves, when the character is an extension of whom they are, and that portraying them on the screen isn’t a stretch because that is who they are. When you see Neville in civvies and not dressed to compete, he does have what an alter-ego quality about him. Whether or not it can be attributed to his glasses and buttoned up golf shirts, he is often very unassuming. Why not try and capitalize on that? This suggestion may seem as though we are trying to take from the Gregory Helms/The Hurricane character that took place in the past, it may very well be the best way to have fans see that the man that gravity forgot is a relatable, mild-mannered guy when he isn’t in the ring. Can fans connect with a character that is in a lot of ways ordinary, while at the same time extraordinary? Why not? The difference between Neville and the common person outside the ring is the fact that his talents are clear to see on a grand stage.
Now take a minute to think about the reaction of Mark Henry after the November 23rd edition of Raw. Was it indicative of what is to come for Neville? The size difference between the two was enormous. But, despite that, Neville was able to defeat Henry using his patented Red Arrow finisher. While the outcome may have been somewhat predictable, what took place after the match was interesting. As Neville was preparing to leave the ring and head back to the locker room, Henry stops him, shakes his hand and congratulates him on their match. In doing so, he was quick to point out Neville’s future and how bright he believes it will be. Was that part of the script? If it was, then bravo to the writers for giving fans even the idea that Neville is on the trajectory to bigger and better things. Maybe that is a program with others on the roster, a title reign, or as part of a tag team in pursuit of a title. Fans hope that the promotion will use his talents to the best of their ability because he continues to defy the odds and give us hope.
Check out my new podcast with John Curry on TheMemNetwork (Wednesday’s @ 8pm ET). Our interview this week will be a pre-recorded interview with former TNA Knockout and current ROH wrestler ODB.
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