The Slain Wolf: How WWE Killed Baron Corbin

Baron Corbin
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There was a time in history when Baron Corbin appeared on the television screen and people didn’t collectively complain at his existence. The scary part is that it feels like an entire lifetime ago due to the handling of Corbin since being called to the main roster. Most will blame Corbin for his own handling of his character, but it was the company he works for that put down the one time “Lone Wolf.” Here is the story of the once-promising, but now slain wolf of the WWE.

Natural Rise In NXT

Baron Corbin

When Baron Corbin debuted in NXT, he appeared as this no-nonsense man who didn’t get paid by the hour but instead the match. “The Lone Wolf” was finishing his opponents in mere seconds with the End of Days finisher. In Full Sail, they began a count for his matches to see how quickly they would be. By all accounts, Corbin was over. His matches were anticipated and interesting, setting him up as a clear future world champion with this gimmick. One of the most notable matches from his run in NXT was a part of the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic when he teamed with Rhyno vs. American Alpha. This was the start of his interesting history with Chad Gable, as the former football player and Olympic wrestler seemingly had great chemistry. Corbin won the match with a beautiful End of Days.

His final TakeOver match was at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, where Corbin suffered defeat to Austin Aries. His final bout on NXT TV saw him destroy Tucker. It was a rise that NXT was once known for. Growing wrestlers from the ground up and letting them find their character and themselves. “The Lone Wolf” gimmick got over, as the idea of Corbin being champion made sense considering his build and character. He was handled on the main roster in a strong manner from the start, but it all came crashing down a year and a half later.

Debuts With A Splash At WrestleMania 32, Big Match The Following Year

Most will agree that the Andre “The Giant” Battle Royal has taken a hit since the first match at WrestleMania XXX, but when you debut and have. a good showing in the first few matches, it was a solid leaping point. Corbin made his main roster debut at WrestleMania 32 in the battle royal and ultimately won the match. It was a huge stepping point for Corbin, showing that his career could be rising at a rapid pace. What followed, however, was a rather mediocre year for Corbin on the main roster where most of his matches were just him winning non-important matches but was being set up for something better.

Corbin was set in a rivalry with Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship heading into WrestleMania 33. It was a decent place to be one year following his main roster debut the year prior. Unfortunately for Corbin, he came up short and failed to capture the first championship of his career. It was a mere few months later that everything seemed to be falling into place for “The Lone Wolf.”

Mr. Money In The Bank

Baron Corbin

The 2017 Money in the Bank PPV served as Baron Corbin’s chance to make the step into the world title picture. In a star-studded SmackDown cast of talent, Corbin was the one who climbed the ladder to bring down the Money in the Bank for the first time in his career. Most agreed that he wouldn’t be one to fail, but succeed and be WWE Champion sooner rather than later. The champion, Jinder Mahal, was the perfect option to cash-in on and win. WWE thought differently.

The Fall Of “The Lone Wolf”

The fall of “The Lone Wolf” is a long winding road to the point that he sits at now. People no longer want to see him on TV. And despite his long-time featured role, get has one championship run to show for it. The Money in the Bank proved to be the beginning of his fall instead of the peak of his rise. Shocking, considering how most felt when he won.

Failed Cash-In Of Six Seconds

Nothing demoralizes a talent not named John Cena more than a failed Money in the Bank cash-in. Especially when the champion is not recognized as a legitimate threat. Baron Corbin has the worst cash-in in the history of the Money in the Bank and it’s not even close. Aug. 15, 2017, heading into SummerSlam, Corbin saw his opportunity following a match where WWE Champion Jinder Mahal faced off against John Cena. Corbin had his chance and once the bell rang, he was distracted by Cena. Mahal came up from behind and rolled Corbin up, losing his briefcase and seemingly his future all in one. If you watch the video, you can remember the fandom that Corbin still carried mixed in with him being the one to possibly dethrone Mahal. With that loss, he became a joke in the eyes of the fans.

Five days later, he lost a very one-sided match to John Cena at SummerSlam. One of the worst weeks for a competitor in years could stand as the reason why Corbin is where he is now. “The Lone Wolf” gimmick was supposed to make him look strong, intense, and intelligent knowing when to strike but instead this whole week killed that and simply made him look like a dork instead.

A Short United States Championship Run

WWE’s thought in redeeming Corbin was to give him a championship run. Two months after his mishap of mishaps, “The Lone Wolf” defeated AJ Styles and Kevin Owens in a triple threat to become the United States Champion, winning his first and only championship in his career. While a strong, powerful run could have been what redeemed him after a lousy handling months before, he instead had a short 70-day run that was ended in another triple threat when Dolph Ziggler walked out as champion. This is the same title run where Ziggler dropped the championship in the middle of the ring on SmackDown and left the building. If that is the best handling of Corbin the WWE could think of, then you understand why he is presently dead in the water.

The Constable Of Blame

When Baron Corbin was moved to Raw in 2018, it was a fresh start. He shaved his head and had a different look. But then was given the gimmick that ended him once and for all. As “The Constable” of Monday Night Raw, he killed the show almost single-handed through the creative he was given.  Not many segments would go by before we would see him again, and while he played his role well, he was overused. At the end of the year, the McMahon’s openly blamed him for the struggle of the show ratings-wise instead of blaming the simple idea of having him in every segment under this terrible gimmick that they had thought of.  Think about that, the people running the show publicly went out and called this man a failure IN KAYFABE! Corbin handed himself multiple world title matches on television but lost, and eventually was taken off of TV for a small amount of time before returning to be Kurt Angle‘s retirement match, which didn’t help matters at all. His overuse and the gimmick that didn’t work led to his fall to unwatchable levels.

Chasing The Universal Championship

After a small-time out of the spotlight, Corbin entered a feud with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship following WrestleMania 35. It was PPV after PPV of failure for Corbin, only giving him more “go away heat” in the eyes of fans. Fans couldn’t take seriously a man that they had been told just months prior was a massive loser.  Add in Rollins and Becky Lynch’s poor on-screen chemistry and this feud was a recipe for disaster.  Anything the WWE tried was almost impossible when it came to helping this man out on TV. Until a legendary tournament returned.

A Tourney For A King Ruined By Reigns Feud

Photo: WWE

The return of the King of the Ring in 2019 was one of the best parts of the entire year on the main roster. As it took place on both SmackDown and Raw from week to week, it delivered a number of excellent matches and helped grow some talents that were not given an opportunity prior to the tournament. Something quite notable was the fact that Corbin was giving solid match after solid match with The Miz, Cedric Alexander, Ricochet, and Samoa Joe. His best came in the finals when he faced Chad Gable and became the King. As he was dawned the crown as King Corbin, it allowed him to bounce back and get back on a roll that he hadn’t had in two years.

Roman Reigns Feud Puts Him Right Back Into “Go Away” Heat

When Corbin was moved to SmackDown on FOX, it was a chance for him to be on the biggest platform of his career and run with the momentum following his King of the Ring victory. They placed him in a feud with Roman Reigns, the face of the brand and company and it turned into a disaster. There was a mascot that barked. Dog food. So much dog food. And it went on for what felt like forever. The “go away” heat was all the way back for Corbin and it didn’t help the brand or Reigns either. He lost the feud to Reigns and came out of it weaker than before. Something that is usually telling of the writing team rather than the wrestler, as he carried out everything they asked of him.

Can Anything Save “The Slain Wolf” And His Career?

“The Slain Wolf” is a real thing when talking about Corbin. Since he stepped into NXT, a lot has happened. Multiple gimmick changes, countless world title opportunities (and losses), the list goes on. Can he be saved to the point where people can see him as a legit threat to be champion again? It’s hard to say. WWE had something in the former NFL lineman and went out of their way to make people despise the sight of him. Which, in a sense, is the goal for a heel especially in today’s wrestling climate. One thing Corbin has done is to make sure he isn’t loved by anyone and booed out of the building. But when it is getting to the point of fans wanting to tune out rather than take it in and watch the heel do his thing, you know the handling of the character has been bumpy for a long time.

A return to “The Lone Wolf” gimmick is something that could make him interesting again, as most would agree that it is the gimmick that people seemed to be most interested in. He has the signature and finisher to be a favorite, along with one of the best entrance themes in wrestling. A return to the one gimmick that he excelled in could be his greatest hope.

Otherwise, his one-time potential to be a world champion may never be fulfilled. And that’s one of the biggest botches WWE has had in the past five years. That’s saying something.

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