With his recent release; Cook takes a look back at some highlights of AxelMania!
Curtis Axel is a third-generation professional wrestler. His father, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig is widely regarded as one of the best wrestlers of his era. His grandfather, Larry “The Axe” Hennig was considered one of the toughest wrestlers of his era. Following in their footsteps was never going to be easy, and it was always going to be tough to live up to their standards.
Nobody’s going to say that Axel shined at the same level that his father or grandfather did. His WWE stint won’t be as well-remembered as Mr. Perfect’s. He won’t be remembered as one of the best in-ring talents of his era, or as one of the toughest. However, Axel did spend more than a decade in the WWE system and had some highlights to his credit. Here are five of them!
5. Joining The Social Outcasts
Axel was part of a number of groups over the years. The New Nexus. The Paul Heyman Guys. One of my favorites was this rag-tag band of folks that had been overlooked by management. Heath Slater, Adam Rose & Bo Dallas joined Axel in an attempt to get noticed. It had somewhat limited results, as Rose ended up leaving the company soon after the faction formed, but the other three did get roles in “The Marine 5: Battleground” out of it. Those roles would lead to better things for Axel & Dallas down the road.
4. Joining the Miztourage
After the Social Outcasts disbanded, Axel & Bo Dallas continued their association with little in the way of success coming to either man. Enter The Miz, who noticed their talent on the set of The Marine 5 & offered his help in making Axel & Dallas the stars they deserved to be. A deal was made & the Miztourage was formed. Miz has always been at his best with a supporting cast around him, and Axel & Dallas (along with Maryse) helped make Miz seem like an even bigger deal.
3. Never being eliminated from the 2015 Royal Rumble
The 2015 Royal Rumble was one of the most critically-panned Rumbles of all time. People had lots of complaints. Daniel Bryan got eliminated too early. Roman Reigns shouldn’t have won. Most of these complaints were debatable, but Curtis Axel’s was 100% legitimate.
He was never eliminated! Erick Rowan attacked during Axel’s ring entrance and took his slot 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 get together and protest the non-elimination of a competitor. Given peoples’ general disgust towards the outcome, it was only natural that #AxelMania took off online as an ironic reaction. Axel got a little bit of run and some amusing segments out of it, but that WrestleMania main event slot never came his way.
2. Winning the Raw Tag Team Championship with Bo Dallas
The Miz got drafted to SmackDown while his Miztourage remained on Raw. With their meal ticket gone, Axel & Dallas had to find a way to keep themselves busy. After failing to attract a new leader, they decided to go into tag team competition as the B-Team. Expectations were very low, but Axel & Dallas shocked the world by defeating Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt for the Raw Tag Team Championship. This was 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 closed, but he & Bo proved that they still had something left in the tank. This reign would only last fifty days, but it reminded us all that on any given night, people we had previously counted out could rise to the occasion.
Honorable Mention: The Genesis of Michael McGillicutty?
Looking back, I’m not sure Joe Hennig ever really had a chance after NXT. He went into Season 2 as one of the favorites, even with a dire new ring name. McGillicutty made it to the finals, losing to the man temporarily known as Kaval. (Compared to what some of those Season 2 guys got served up by the random name generator, Low Ki got off pretty easy, right?) Michael didn’t take his loss very well, and delivered a barely coherent diatribe that sounded like somebody who read a script and completely forgot the lines. He was inexperienced, so you want to cut him a little slack. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the moment Vince McMahon decided that this kid wasn’t exactly Perfect.
1. Winning the Intercontinental Championship
When I first started watching the WWF, Mr. Perfect was the Intercontinental Champion. I thought he carried the title well, and looking back years later after I gained a little knowledge, I realized 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 and 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 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 celebration 46 seconds into the video above and it tells you all you need to know. Axel never won a world championship, but that championship was probably just as important to him on an emotional level, if not more so.