High Octane Aviator
South African wrestler, Justin Gabriel made shockwaves in his debut for the WWE when unveiled as one of the contestants on its new, invigorative, reality based show NXT.
Joining the cast, eight rookies, with a WWE pro wrestler from the main shows of Raw and Smackdown would guide, nurture and teach talent how to make a name for themselves and gain a wresling portfolio of greater standing.
Called up from the developmental territory’s training ground based in Florida at FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling) Gabriel, who began in 2008, after spending two to three years there, finally gained the call up to NXT. Here, he had the expertise of the extreme Matt Hardy.
Billed as a high flying risk taking daredevil, Gabriel was perfectly suited to Hardy, most felt. Their partnership on the show added a feel of reality and correctfullness in sense, which added to the core values of the production brief.
With his high flying style and instantly captivating an audience, while holding his own in a pool full of bulky hunks, Gabriel stood out more than the rest on show. So much so that Gabriel was eliminated after reaching the final three. He was behind David Otunga and winner of season one, Wade Barrett on June 1st 2010.
One week later, Gabriel would resurface on the June 7th episode of Monday night Raw, accompanying all former members of the show, as contestants, to interrupt, interfere and intrude on the match between John Cena and CM Punk causing raucous havoc.
Gabriel and his NXT counterparts turned on all of WWE after the NXT show had finished and all were eliminated with no prospects on anywhere to go. They even attacked ring announcer Justin Gabriel, which caused the grouping to lose Daniel Bryan due to the infamous incident, which did not fit with the PG tone of shocking brutality.
At the Fatal 4Way PPV, as a part of the new supergroup, known as Nexus, cost Cena a title opportunity to retain the gold against the lukewarm victor, Sheamus. Gabriel gained his most notable standing to date, pinning John Cena in a tag match with Darren Young on the July 12th edition of Raw. Locked into a tense feud with company favourite Cena, a seven on seven tag transfusion occurred at Summerslam. Cena, teaming with people he liked and disliked, with the shock addition of former Nexus stablemate Daniel Bryan, defeated the group on the big show. Gabriel lasted until the end before being pinned and eliminated by Cena, before leader Wade Barrett. It would be a strong uphold in a bulky dominated roster for limited Gabriel.
With October surfacing, Cena, forced to join Nexus as a member once losing to leader Barrett at Hell In A Cell, was launched into a tag team with the hapless David Otunga, where both captured the tag team championship, to validate the Nexus credibility.
Gabriel and Heath Slater, infuriated, found themselves opposing the team and challenged for the titles on Raw’s October 25th. Leader Barrett enforced the match. Furthermore, using his bullish attitude, Wade laid down the law to Otunga, whom was causing problems in the group, ordering him to lay down for Heath Slater, who conceded and took the pin to crown Gabriel and slater new tag champs. They would hold the title for two months in a fair and pleasing showing that fans thought WWE was changing and utilising other rising stars responsibly. They lost the titles to comedy duo Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. No one was laughing.
Gaining a rematch at TLC (Tables, Ladders and Chairs) in December, both lost when Michael McGuillicutty, a recently new member added after numerous fell to injuries, interfered.
Led by new leader CM Punk, the duo refused to follow the lead. Adding to dissolution in the ranks, fans felt a new scene of intent would arrive for the young upstarts. It was continuing to head downhill.
Numbers decreasing, the two remained at Barrett’s side, with newcomer Ezekiel Jackson. Forming a new group, and shifted to Smackdown, as Nexus remained on Raw with a rehash of rookies, the new supergroup would be called The Corre. Supposedly at the centre of everything. The heartbeat faded once locked into a week feud with Santino Marella, in order to use a comedy angle of Apple/Corre battling. This would be Gabriel’s last nail in the coffin. How could he come back from this?
Both lifted their spirits in February at the Elimination Chamber, where the pair regained the tag championships for the second time in their career only to drop those titles the very next night on Raw in a useless decision to form the storyline team of John Cena and The Miz in 2011, for their upcoming Wrestlemania collision, which truly fell flat on its face.
|Here's Randy Orton, working favourably with Nexus members|
As a member of The Corre, Jackson, who never fitted in, and with his proportional body, ruined any chances the three leaner stars could have, eventually ousted Big Zeke from the group, causing a mini feud, until the group fully disbanded once Barrett walked out on Slater and Gabriel in a tag match on Smackdown, on June 10th.
On the July 8th episode of Smackdown, Gabriel's biggest move to date was set. He chose to turn to a fan favourite, which saw a smooth and pleasing transition to the WWE Universe, who always felt Gabriel was this way inclinded. This ended his teaming with Slater.
Gabriel then had the biggest match of his career. As a participant of the annual Money in the Bank match, at the very named PPV, as a part of Smackdown’s briefcase battle, many felt had no chance, though the option was minimal he could potentially grab the case. This would be one of Gabriel’s finest outings in fluid success, though Slater and himself cancelled one another out. Daniel Bryan secured the case, to mass shock and delight.
|Grabbing Maxine on NXT|
Gabriel would continue rising slightly, until Wade Barrett neutered him for good defeating him on Smackdown’s September 23rd showing.
Gabe would enter random appearances and matches now and then as fodder to Jinder Mahal, in disastrous losing choices.
In 2012, he competed for Jack Swagger’s then United States championship to no avail at Elimination Chamber’s PPV event. Since then, Justin has teamed up another small but excellent flyer in the form of Tyson Kidd. Both were participants of the pre match before the main opening of Wrestlemania XXVIII for the tag titles, which saw Gabe twist his ankle putting him on the shelf for numerous weeks.
Bouncing back on May 30th, Justin returned, with the winning pin over at NXT in a team collaboration with Percy Watson and Derrick Bateman over Johnny Curtis, JTG and Michael McGuillicutty. Gabe reformed with Kidd defeating Curtis and Heath Slater back on June 6th’s NXT broadcast. The latest notable showing for the duo of Kidd and Justin was at the No Way Out 2012 PPV from the Izod Centre in East Rutherford, New Jersey, seeing a loss in a Fatal 4 Way, number one contender match for the tag titles, which were the only standout team.
|Battling Tyson Kidd, now tag partners so far...|
As a new high flyer with potential talent in WWE's big bulked superstardom ethos, Gabriel, popular with fans, remained in WWE's mindset as one of the few to remain to the final three on the groundbreaking new "reality" based theme of NXT. While a small following compared to Raw and Smackdown, the yellow brand maintained interest, the format now has peaked, though interesting characters evolved from the series at the beginning of the brands' starting periods.
Gabriel become the attractive luchador on many levels. After prospects dipped to the big boys, as eventually all do, many assume a wasted opportunity occurred, which WWE Universer's wish to see altered and still hold out minimal hope. It is uncertain whether Gabriel will become the star everyone hopes for, though can contribute to the ailing tag division or high spot matches.
Whichever path set out on, Gabriel has slight opportunities. It is now up to him to impress with his skills when he does receive the small air time he gets. otherwise, there many be nothing else for the little man to climb above.
© Max Waltham 07th July 2012