Alex Riley Could Have Been NXT’s Next Major Heel - Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

A hot WWE topic is the talent the company recently cut ties with. On that list was Alex Riley. Many who follow their product disagreed with his release. They began to see his potential as a major player in their future storylines.

Riley was never going to work as the clean-cut good guy. WWE made two attempts to make that work.

First they broke Riley away from The Miz. While doing so they previewed his hot-tempered, reckless side. The crowd reaction he received for beating down The Awesome One suggested they believed him as the aggressor, a vicious attack dog fueled by inner rage.

This side of him, however, was quickly abandoned; replaced by the stereotypical smiling, high-fiving babyface. It got him nowhere.

Removed from the main roster, Riley developed into a respectable commentator and pre-show analyst. He fit the role comfortably until former Ring of Honor champion Kevin Owens arrived in NXT.

KO, then the NXT champion, was itching powder in Riley’s suites, and didn’t take long to provoke Miz’s former protégé back into the squared circle. In order to exact in-ring revenge on Owens, NXT general manager William Regal advised Riley would have to surrender his desk job without a return option should he fail. Riley accepted those terms.

His feud with Owens was short-lived and one-sided. Again, WWE made Riley the good guy. Owens’ mistreatment left him angered, a bit edgier too, yet he was nothing like the animal who bit Miz’s hand.

Once inside the roped off yard Riley was nothing more than a stone in Owen’s walkway to the main roster.

This brought us to Alex Riley of late; scruffy, his hair and disposition both a mess, and he’d grown tired of being stepped on. His vastly-improved backstage promos were full of bite, in the ring he mauled opponents. There was no trace of a smile. No one got a high-five. The crowd reactions he received suggested they believe this side of him.

Apparently, WWE didn’t.

There’s too short a list of impressionable villains. Alex Riley was becoming quite impressive. Before he followed his own cracked path back to RAW or Smackdown, his character needed to step on as many NXT good guys as the creative team would allow. If this happened they were going to have themselves a major heel. Instead, they sent Riley packing after a loss to Shinsuke Nakamura.

Imagine if they’d let a reckless, hated Riley feud with the flamboyant, ultra-popular King of Strong Style, and what their rivalry could have done for NXT’s current era.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

By: Mr. Joe Walker

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