WWE Payback 2016: Are Enzo Amore, Big Cass and The Vaudevillains Being Pushed too Quickly?


Is it too much too soon for WWE’s latest NXT tag team callups with their pushes at Payback?

For far too long, WWE’s glass ceiling has held down hardcore fan favorites like Cesaro–who Vince McMahon once claimed wasn’t “connecting to the fans”…who can be constantly seen waving their “Cesaro Section” signs directly at the Raw cameras on a weekly basis. The Wyatt Family couldn’t win a feud if Steve Harvey asked Braun Strowman to name a type of mask. And if that fan favorite’s not actually being held down, we’ll make it look like they are.

Dean Ambrose? Sure, he’s been pushed to the top of the card, but he’s lost every World Title shot he’s been given! Kevin Owens? He keeps jobbing on Raw! Sure, he was in the main event last Monday, but he had to put over Dean Ambrose–a man who has lost every World Title shot he’s been given!

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Thank God for Shane McMahon and his kayfabe mandate to push new stars and mix things up on Monday Night Raw. Finally, fresh faces and crowd favorites are being booked strongly in storylines that make sense! In fact, just this past Monday, Enzo Amore & Big Cass, a team that could never win the NXT Tag Team Titles, took down 9-time former WWE Tag Team Champs the Dudley Boyz, and the Vaudevillains, a team that was steamrolled by American Alpha during that team’s run to the NXT straps, absolutely cruised over the Usos. Enzo & Cass will collide with Aiden English and Simon Gotch at Payback in the finals of a tournament to determine the No. 1 contenders to the New Day’s WWE Tag Team Championship!

Wait, what?

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OK, it’s perhaps a bit counterproductive to gripe about this so soon after a WrestleMania where a retired Attitude Era relic beat a Wyatt Family member in six infuriating seconds. Raw has legitimately been more exciting than it has been in years thanks to a fresh influx of hot talent from NXT and New Japan. Seeing Sami Zayn and AJ Styles near the top of the card is not only fun, but it’s not all that much of a stretch, considering Styles’ rep as a former multi-time World Champion and Zayn’s history with KO (who is firmly entrenched in the top tier of WWE talent right now whether ya want to admit it or not).

But let’s be real here–seeing Enzo and Cass dispatch the Dudleys after months of coming up short in title shot after title shot in WWE’s developmental turf was…not logical. And for all the Vaudevillains’ potential, to put them over the Usos–two-time WWE tag champs and the John Cena of the tag division–in roughly five minutes without breaking a sweat was downright head-scratching. Take nothing away from either team; the Realest Guys in the Room and the manly throwbacks are talented, entertaining, and deserve a shot on main roster television. But is this too much, too soon?

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Had either team taken a loss in the tournament, it could have easily been positioned as a new team looking strong against established contenders but just coming up short. Which would be fine for a tag team that’s been on the main roster all of three weeks. Had both teams lost on Monday, that would have been a sad instance of the glass ceiling rearing its head after Shane-o-Mac’s promise of new opportunities.

But by rocketing both tandems over a pair of heavy hitter duos like the Dudleys and Usos, WWE is risking an early flameout by one of these teams. Sure, it’s unlikely that either team will unseat the New Day at their first opportunity. And thank their lucky stars for that–ask Carlito what good his immediate Intercontinental title win did for his character, or worse, ask Jack Swagger how that World title run worked out for him.

It’s likely we could be just nitpicking here, or looking for things to gripe about. Overall, WWE’s current emphasis on fresh faces is a very good thing and resulting in a build toward a Payback card that already looks worlds better than the lineup for what should have been WWE’s biggest and best show of the year just three weeks ago.

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But we’ve seen overeager pushes backfire in WWE before (again, hi Swagger! You beat Rusev yet?). While realistically, we probably don’t have to worry about Enzo and Cass (they debuted to an absolutely nuclear reaction and Enzo’s promos will keep them interesting as a team as long as he can come up with new catchphrases), it’s the Vaudevillains we should be worried about. Their gimmick walks a fine line between Raw mainstays and Raw jobbers, and if they’re overexposed early, we may be seeing them feuding with the Social Outcasts on Main Event sooner than we’d like.