10 years ago, WWE seemed to make a dramatic change to its landscape. A change that was needed. On the June 7th, 2010 edition of Monday Night Raw, the company could have changed forever. The eight members of NXT Season 1 debuted united, led by the winner Wade Barrett. With John Cena in the middle of the ring, they attacked and brutalized Cena and anyone in their way. The ringside announcer Justin Roberts was even a part of the fray as he was destroyed at the hands of Daniel Bryan. The eight men left a lasting image that WWE had not experienced by a new batch in over a decade. It was fresh, exciting, and a spark to the product. Eight, but following this episode, seven men had an opportunity to change the biggest wrestling company in the world. This moment proved to be a “what could have been.”
10 years ago today: June 7th 2010.
Thank you to the other seven men who helped make it happen.
History will be written by the victors, but those who were there to witness it are forever immune to their revision.
You’re either Nexus or you’re against us. ⚫️🟡 pic.twitter.com/g5Wx0U0rz6
— Stu Bennett (@StuBennett) June 7, 2020
One decade later, we look at the events that could have changed WWE, what actually ended up happening, and comments from the members of the group and how they feel about everything that went down. A look at Nexus 10 years following their debut.
The Rise: Nexus Leaves Their Mark (Monday Night Raw – June 5, 2010)
The idea of one group with wrestlers that most fans were not aware of taking over is something unexpected for the WWE. For a long time, their mold was to utilize their top stars and slowly build new ones to eventually be in the main event spot. Then the Nexus debuted. It was something so unexpected and executed so perfectly that it seemed there was no way to mess it up.
Wade Barrett. Daniel Bryan. Darren Young. Heath Slater. Michael Tarver. Skip Sheffield. David Otunga. Justin Gabriel.
Eight men there to bring change to WWE. Attacks on the announce team, the ring announcer, CM Punk, Luke Gallows, and the biggest name in the company, John Cena. You cannot have a bigger impact on the night one than attacking the franchise of the company. The Nexus beat down everyone and ripped apart ringside and the ring itself. Finishing off with the 450 Splash by Justin Gabriel to top off the night.
A shock to the company that needed it. The attacks did not end and all was leading to SummerSlam. The match that would decide the standing of Nexus once and for all. They would face a team of WWE legends and with a win would leave as a legendary faction on the rise.
The Beginning of the End: Nexus vs Team WWE (SummerSlam 2010)
Team Nexus vs Team WWE would main event the 2010 edition of SummerSlam. It was a massive spot for the Nexus as they would face Cena, Edge, Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, John Morrison, R-Truth, and an original, now returning member – Daniel Bryan. While the match should have gone one way, it instead went the complete opposite direction. Wade Barrett, as the leader, eventually took the final fall as Cena was able to eliminate him and Gabriel as the final competitor in the match. It was a moment where the WWE really could have established Barrett as a main event player, the Nexus as a serious force, and changed the future for good. Instead, it marked the beginning of the end for the Nexus instead.
So much potential for a group that many fans believe looking back could have brought serious change. It was an incredible, tempting angle that the company was in dire need of at the time. They would get luck the following year with a certain Punk’s popularity, but this was a chance for change and establishment. Instead, it led to only one man becoming a world champion from the group. It happened to be the one released after night one.
The Aftermath (Cena Joins, New Nexus, The Corre, Completely Disbanded)
The aftermath of this devastating loss led to some “make-up” work by the company that was not enough. Two months later, Barrett won a Hell in a Cell match vs. John Cena to have him join the group. That really changed nothing. Barrett had a number of WWE Championship matches that were followed by failure. New members in Michael McGillicuddy (aka Curtis Axel) and Husky Harris (aka Bray Wyatt) were added while others like Young and Sheffield were removed due to injury. Their feud with Cena eventually died off after Cena defeated Barrett at the TLC PPV. It was from there that the group begin to experience cracks and eventually found a new leader.
At the beginning of 2011, CM Punk defeated Wade Barrett in a Steel Cage match. In doing so, that would form the New Nexus. Some original members, including Barrett, moved over to SmackDown where they would form a group of equals known as The Corre. The magic was never close to being the same. Both groups came to a head in the Royal Rumble, but other than that not much else came of it. Eventually, both groups would completely disband, some lost in the shuffle, others released. An opportunity to reshuffle the entire company was completely gone, being botched almost from the start.
Members, Others Remember What Could Have Been
Since the disbanding of the Nexus, all but two of the original members have left the company. Being out of the company gives them that opportunity to speak on the group as a whole and it’s mishandling – whether it was from upper management or even a fellow wrestler.
“It all goes down to the SummerSlam as that was the death of us. With [Cena] beating everyone at the end, it’s just one of those things where it’s like, ‘C’mon man.’ We could have easily took over, ran with it, made it interesting and then made a mega-group to destroy us at ‘Mania or something. It could have been so good but it got ended shortly. But then again there’s been a lot of storylines that ended shortly.” — Heath Slater said in an interview with WRESTLINGINC
Slater was the most recent departure from the original Nexus. Along with the rest of his group, that is where he got his start. Most of their members put the blame on Cena, who held control of the feud from the beginning. Slater believes a return of the group could work someday, but of course, a lot of work would have to be done to make that even a possibility. Slater added that he wishes they would have spoken up, as maybe something would have changed for them. It wasn’t until a little after the loss that he felt nothing was the same from before. Perhaps another company could see it return under another name. SummerSlam continues to come back and haunt that group.
“We couldn’t say anything, but it didn’t make any sense for us to lose. Edge and Jericho had basically talked to John Cena and said that Nexus should win and keep the momentum going, but John insisted on beating us, then he realized it was a mistake. Him taking a DDT on a concrete floor, then popping up and beating 5 of us. I have respect for John Cena, but yes, Nexus definitely should have won. I think they should have carried it out to Mania and pulled out some stops, bring back DX or something. It was one of the most memorable things of the past decade.” — michael Tarver TOLD WRESTLINGINC
Once again, the blame goes back to Cena. Clearly, the group saw they could be something special if they could have at least had the big payoff at WrestleMania 27 the following year. If you remember, that was a WrestleMania to forget in a lot of fan’s eyes. Tarver was the first one in the group eventually released from the company. What is most telling is that both Jericho and Edge confirmed Cena’s decision on Talk is Jericho.
“John wanted to do things a certain way and we told him ‘you’re wrong’. Remember that? And he did it anyways, and it sucked. Then afterward he came over to us and said ‘I should have listened to you, but I wasn’t seeing it that way. And sometimes you just don’t see it that way, you know,” Jericho said
Both Jericho and Edge agreed that a win for the Nexus was the right move. Jericho also pointed out the fact that a win for Barrett would have risen him to the main event. Finishing the Nexus topic by asking where was Barrett now. These two speaking out on this only confirms the botch of the Nexus at the hands of John Cena.
“Yeah, it did, and we tried to fight that – Edge, Jericho, guys like that fought for us and knew where the storyline was supposed to go. But unfortunately, one guy had a lot of power and made the change. He admitted he was wrong after that and there’s nothing more we could do about it.” — Justin Gabriel said in a reddit ask me anything
A lot of the upset comments come at the hands of blaming Cena’s involvement and reasonably so. Gabriel, aka as ROH’s PJ Black, was one of the biggest shining stars of the group who may have had a completely different career in the company had that group went differently. Besides Barrett, he had the chance to be something special considering the emphasis they put on his 450 as the mode of execution for the group.
“It was not used properly mainly because of John Cena. f**king marks, that’s your headline for the f**king week. And it’s a fact across the board. Everybody knows it and he did not want that to go any further than what it was going to go passed because it was working, because it was eight guys getting over naturally. That’s why. God forbid guys get over naturally. That’s what happens when you get a noncompetitive athlete in the top position who’s not used to competing in real life. That’s what happens,” Ryback said on his podcast
Ryback has been a big basher of the WWE in recent years, but he was one of few to get a real second chance following the end of the Nexus. The injury that took him out of action could be the main reason for that, of course. But he held back no punches and it’s hard to disagree. WWE has gotten better at pushing organic rises in recent years, but this was definitely a real problem for them and that may be at the blame of Cena. There’s a reason they are one of wrestling’s biggest “what if’s.”
Unfortunately, Wade Barrett has been quiet regarding the Nexus group since he left the company. One has to believe his thoughts could be even more enhanced, as Barrett was certainly the one most involved from the group. Maybe someday.
What WWE Learned From This
The landscape of the WWE could have been a lot different in the past decade if they didn’t completely mess up the handling of the Nexus. Different stars could have been made, for certain. Something important is that WWE learned from the Nexus mishap, as just two years later saw the debut of The Shield. A group that perhaps had more certain in terms of star power, but the handling made three huge main event stars from them. The Shield very well can be seen as a result of what the Nexus could have been. No one may ever confirm or deny that, but there are definite comparisons to be made.
10 years later, all fans can think about is the hopes and possibilities that could have followed a win at SummerSlam. They had everything to succeed, and it was ripped away when they were just getting started. One of WWE’s biggest mishaps to date.
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