Pro wrestling has always been home to underdog stories – from “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and his everyman battle against the flamboyance and “genetic superiority” of Ric Flair to Daniel Bryan‘s surge into WrestleMania 30, fans love to rally behind someone deemed unfit for the spotlight. And while forced underdog stories can have the complete opposite effect (such as Roman Reigns‘ recent bookings), when done following organic trends, either via audience reaction or internet support, they can do wonders for rejuvenating (or starting) a wrestler’s career. Last night on Monday Night Raw, we saw the spark of what is apparently a new angle for Raw’s latest tag team, The B-Team (short for “The Best Team”), featuring long miscast (and misused) talents Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. When the B-Team defeated Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) last week on Raw from London, England, it was initially viewed as a one off victory for the team formerly known as The Miztourage. But after their second win in a row last night, it appears that the B-Team is in the midst of a small push to help move past the foils of their past few years. While the underdog story is a far cry from Daniel Bryan’s heartfelt run towards winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 30, it’s got the potential to be this year’s feel good story, in much the same way as Heath Slater‘s 2016 angle where he went undrafted in the WWE Brand Draft and had to fight and claw his way for a WWE contract, before ultimately teaming with Rhyno and winning the Smackdown Tag Team titles in September of that year.
THE B-TEAM: BOLIEVE
A former high school wrestling and football star, Bo Dallas took to professional wrestling when a college scholarship for football fell through. In 2008, he signed with the WWE’s developmental in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) as an 18-year old, and began training under Steve Keirn. A third generation wrestler, Bo Dallas had wrestling in his blood – his father is former WWE Superstar Mike Rotunda (more widely remembered as Irwin R. Shyster) and his maternal grandfather is WWE Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan (his uncle is also a WWE Hall of Famer, former NWA World Heavyweight Champion and Four Horseman, Barry Windham). It’s also no secret that he’s the younger brother to current Raw Tag Team Champion Bray Wyatt. When WWE moved their developmental to Orlando and their new system, NXT, Bo Dallas not only moved with them, but flourished. In May of 2013, he defeated Big E for the NXT Championship, holding it for 280 days – only Finn Bálor (292 days) and Neville (287) have had a longer title reign. The younger Rotunda was like a fish to water when it came to professional wrestling – he may not have had the indie experience that many other NXT hopefuls had, but he was a fast learner and became arguably NXT’s most interesting star. Bo Dallas’ NXT Championship feud with Neville became the stuff of NXT legend (which Neville finally won at NXT’s first special event, NXT ArRIVAL, in February of 2014).
On May 20, 2014, Bo Dallas finally made his main roster debut, with a victory over Sin Cara on Smackdown. Now positioned as a motivational speaker type gimmick, Dallas encouraged everyone to “Bolieve” as he went on a winning streak that saw him score victories over the likes of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder, Santino Marella, Tyson Kidd and Titus O’Neil. While originally a face, he turned heel after a beat down on Los Matador’s diminutive mascot El Torito on Raw that July. His WWE career for the next four years became a series of stops and starts, never truly finding the momentum he had in NXT. In January of 2016, he was repackaged as part of a new stable, The Social Outcasts, lead by Heath Slater and featuring other misused low card talent like Curtis Axel and Adam Rose. The stable had a brief run until Bo was drafted to Raw as part of the 2016 Brand Draft that July, where he returned briefly to his “Bolieve” gimmick, but a modified and more vicious version. But once again, no real push seemed to result from the change and it stayed more of the same. Finally, last summer Dallas, along with Axel, were hired by The Miz to be a part of his new “Miztourage”, where Miz promised to make the two ” “the stars (they) deserve to be”. For nearly a year, the two were the perfect foils for Miz’s antics, until Miz was moved to Smackdown Live as part of the most recent Superstar Shakeup. Now on their own, Bo and Axel seemed destined to become enhancement on Main Event, but instead, they appear set for at least a small push thanks in part to their comedic ability to win over the WWE audience in spite of the gimmicks or stories given.
THE B-TEAM: THE PERFECT SON
Much like his tag partner, Curtis Axel is also a third generation WWE Superstar, being the son of WWE Hall of Famer “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and the grandson of AWA Legend Larry “The Ax” Hennig. Unlike Dallas though, Axel got his start in the indies with World League of Wrestling (WLW), the home promotion of his trainer, WWE Hall of Famer and 8x NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race. Also trained by his father and former AWA and NJPW wrestler Brad Rheingans, Axel spent a year working with WLW (as Joe Hennig), before signing with the WWE, where he was sent to FCW and paired alongside future Social Outcasts member Heath Slater in a tag team. Axel became a star with FCW, winning the FCW Heavyweight Championship, as well as a 4x FCW Tag Team Champion. In January of 2011, he was called up to the main roster, now named Michael McGillicutty, where he joined The New Nexus, lead by CM Punk, alongside new Nexus recruit Husky Harris (now Bray Wyatt). While gold struck early on the main roster for Axel (alongside David Otunga, they won the WWE Tag Team Championship for three months in the summer of 2011), The New Nexus fizzled out and when they dissolved in the fall of 2011, he was sent back to NXT.
In May of 2013, he made his return to the main roster, this time as the newest “Paul Heyman guy”. Paul Heyman brought him into his fold after seeing his potential wasted, changing his ring name to the family inspired Curtis Axel (Curtis in tribute to his father Curt, and Axel reflective of his grandfather’s nickname “The Ax”) which he continues to use to this day. While his brief alliance with Heyman resulted in a run as WWE Intercontinental Champion, it also resulted in the failed tag team, Rybaxel, which saw him and tag partner Ryback be reduced to tag team enhancement. It wasn’t long before Axel was back to being low man on totem – he may not have been McGillicutty by name, but he still was in booking. He saw a brief surge in popularity following the 2015 Royal Rumble, when Axel was attacked by Erick Rowan during his entrance and failed to enter the match. In the months that followed, Axel went on a campaign to have the history books show that he was never eliminated, resulting in “Axelmania” sweeping the WWE Universe. He slowly began to adopt Hulk Hogan mannerisms, and was soon paired with Damien Sandow – who was now imitating Randy Savage – as The Mega Powers 2.0. But just as the team was finding its groove, Hulk Hogan’s infamous Gawker incident and racial slur surfaced and the Hogan gimmick was dropped immediately. Soon after, Sandow was released and Axel was once again on his own. He joined with his former FCW tag partner in The Social Outcasts in 2016 and then joined with Miz’s Miztourage last summer, leading to he and Dallas’ current pairing in The B-Team.
THE B-TEAM: ON THEIR OWN
Two third generation stars who, despite adversity and handcuffed booking, have consistently risen to make the best of their situations, Bo and Curtis are continuing to do just that. The two have long been pariahs for the internet wrestling fans, two shining examples of wrestlers stagnating due to a lack of creative vision, despite accolades from WWE Superstars past or present. On a June 2016 episode of his Sharpshooter podcast, WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart had this to say about Curtis Axel. “I’ve never understood it from the beginning. Even the name McGillicutty or whatever that gimmick was. It just seems almost like impossible odds to turn that in to any kind of successful storyline,” Bret said. “What do you do with that? It never made a lot of sense to me. I think that he’s really a wasted talent. I think he’s a real talent. He’s every bit the athlete and the performer that his Dad was. I just always thought that he was a little bit like Cody Rhodes where it’s like they never quite gave him the right things to book him to be the star that he was.”
The B-Team has recently also drawn the attention of the current Raw Tag Team Champions, The Deleters of Worlds (“Woken” Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt). Just last month, Wyatt made a plea to both of them to come and find the light and be “woken” like he is.
Quit trying to coincide with those
A Woken World awaits you
Let us fix you@MATTHARDYBRAND
— Bray Wyatt (@WWEBrayWyatt) April 24, 2018
As of now, it appears the WWE is going to give The B-Team a small push and so far the WWE Universe is responding. While they were making their own shirts as they walked down the aisle last night to the ring, WWE cameras caught fans already in attendance with their own homemade sharpie shirts. It’s this kind of organic following that often leads to greater things (unless of course you create a Cesaro Section).
OH MY GOD THEY ARE FILLING THE B’S IN THE SHIRTS IN WITH SHARPIES.
THERE ARE FANS WITH HOMEMADE SHIRTS.
— Pro Wrestling Sheet (@WrestlingSheet) May 22, 2018
But last night after Raw, “The Woken One” responded to the victory of the B-Team telling them that the light at the end of the tunnel of their darkness was not the Tag Team Championships, but “DELEEESHUN”. If the WWE was to do another Final Deletion style video, the antics of The B-Team would be perfectly suited for the bizarro Broken/Woken World of Matt Hardy. But if they end up in the Lake of Reincarnation, let’s hope that NXT Bo Dallas emerges – but maybe keep Curtis Axel out of it. While we may be lucky enough to get Joe Hennig, just our luck it would spit back out Michael McGillicutty.
[EXCLUSIVE VIDEO] B-Team, be careful what you wish for..
— #WOKEN Matt Hardy (@MATTHARDYBRAND) May 22, 2018