By Jared "JJF" Jackson-Ferrans
Every so often, there comes a talent with the ring ability and x factor to be a high level star, that the WWE just doesn't use correctly. These are the analysations of those talents. Welcome to Missed Connections.
Coming from Ring of Honor has always been a bit of a security blanket in the WWE that you could, at least, be a serviceable midcarder in the WWE. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Mickie James, aka the former Alexis Laree, all ascended as high as they could go in the company, and Cesaro, Evan Bourne and Kevin Owens have at least proven that a good midcard career was likely if you didn't have attitude problems.
This means good things so far for the recent acquisitions such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries. With that said, the very first Ring of Honor star that made it to WWE was, in fact, used poorly, and the WWE lost out on a man that possessed the skills to be much more than he was. With that, here is his file.
A graduate of the Texas Wrestling Academy under Rudy Boy Gonzalez, Paul London made his debut for Ring of Honor in 2002, embarking on a feud with fellow TWA graduate Michael Shane where London got a chance to use his often innovative high risk offense, becoming a crowd favorite, and perennial title contender who twice earned the No. 1 Contender's trophy, only to lose to then champion Xavier. He also briefly entered TNA in 2003, earning a chance at Chris Sabin's X Division championship, unsuccessfully. In October of that year at age 23, London entered the WWE.
Though struggling initially, a tag team with Billy Kidman proved fruitful in 2004, becoming the WWE Tag Team Champions to earn his first title, by defeating the Dudley Boyz, holding the titles from July to September of that year. The breakup of the team led to London's first PPV singles match, losing to Kidman. In late 2004, London returned to the WWE after taking time out to recover from injuries, and set his sights on a solo career, holding the Cruiserweight title from March until August 2005.
Following his Cruiserweight title loss to Nunzio, London began forming a tag team with Brian Kendrick, another TWA alumnus, and they earned the WWE Tag Team Championships, holding them for an impressive near year before a loss to Deuce 'n Domino. A move to Raw in 2007 negatively affected the team, though they did earn a World Tag Team Championship for a brief 3 days, before London was released after being used sparingly in 2008. His last matches were a pair of losses to Lance Cade and Chris Jericho, being used in an angle with TWA founder Shawn Michaels.
While WWE targeted London as a Cruiserweight solely there for his aerial tactics, he is much more than that. He backs up his in ring skills with a strong technical base and showed that he can keep up with the best of them in Ring of Honor, and showed this not only on the indies, but in his longer WWE matches as well. In addition, London has shown a proficience on the mic that WWE never seemed to take advantage of, both on the indies and his few opportunities to speak in the WWE.
London's biggest asset is his comedic potential. His off the wall sense of humour works well with his character, and when given the right straight man to play off of, like Bryan Danielson and El Generico in PWG, it can be funny. With that said, when given someone with another zany and manic sense of humour, it's downright hilarious. This is why things with Brian Kendrick worked, a willingness to be silly. If only they were in the current WWE where silly tag teams like American Alpha, Realest Guys and New Day are the norm, maybe they could have been stars.
London's really only issue at the time and today is his size. At 5'10 and 180 pounds, he's closer to the smaller end of the spectrum of talent, and with the Cruisereight division active at the time, it made it tough to move up, even in an era where superstars such as Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero were at the top of the cards, London was just a bit on the small side.
The only other issue with London was his lack of character. The only time we got any hint of his crazy and zany side was in his and Kendrick's unique ring attire, and rarely the announcer's perceptions of them. The lack of mic time hurt both him and Kendrick, and while WWE attempted to rectify this by giving Kendrick a new character, they did nothing with London.
Keeping London on Raw remains a major mistake, as the flagship show makes it easy to be lost in the shuffle. With the Cruiserweight title abolished at this point, the best option would have been to bring London back to SmackDown via free agent signing and putting him in direct conflict with the newly heel The Brian Kendrick, accusing him of abandonment. This would lead to a feud that ultimately would put both men over as potential stars, letting Kendrick move on to bigger things while putting London in the midcard.
The other fix I'd add would be weekly backstage segments or vignettes that allow London to show off his sense of humour, similar to John Morrison on The Dirt Sheet. Allowing London to show himself as an off the wall character while remaining an in ring threat is, in my opinion, the best way to have used him.
Paul London was never going to be "the next Shawn Michaels" as he set out to be. In fact, he was never likely to be a WWE Champion, but like several of his fellow Cruiserweights, he was far more than a high flyer. Though no longer a full time wrestler, London remains a personal favorite for many reasons, and the Intrepid Traveler is still mastering dolphins to this day.
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